What is a lucid dream and how can you have one?

Lucid dreaming has been practised for centuries (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The term ‘lucid dream’ was coined by a Dutch psychiatrist in the 20th century, but the practice itself has been around since ancient times.

Lucid dreaming was a central theme in the ancient Indian and Tibetan Yoga practices, and is referenced in ancient Greek writing by leading figures like Aristotle.

But, what exactly is a lucid dream, how can you have one and is it dangerous? Here’s everything we know.

What is a lucid dream?

A lucid dream is when the dreamer is aware of the fact that they are dreaming.

During lucid dreams, dreamers have the opportunity to use this awareness to gain some control over what their dream entails.

They could impact the characters in it, the environment the dream is set in and what unfolds.

Lucid dreaming is when you’re aware of the fact that you’re dreaming (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

However, the dreamer doesn’t have to succeed at controlling their dream for it to be considered a lucid dream. The awareness alone makes it lucid.

Lucid dreaming is considered to have many benefits.

Some researchers believe it can help people feel less anxious and more empowered through renewing their sense of control.

Successful lucid dreamers will also be able to control or at least be aware enough to not be scared of their nightmares, which could potentially improve their mental wellbeing and sleep quality.

Some studies have suggested that those who are able to lucid dream become better at problem-solving and are more creative.

How to learn to have a lucid dream

Lucid dreams often happen spontaneously. However, it is possible to learn the skill of lucid dreaming.

Some lucid dreaming methods ask dreamers to set an alarm clock and wake up a few hours after falling asleep (Picture: Getty Images)

Here are some well-known lucid dream methods:

1. Wake back to bed (WBTB)

There are many versions of WBTB, but a commonly used one involved setting an alarm for 5 hours after your bedtime.

You then go to sleep as usual until the alarm goes off.

When the alarm wakes you up 5 hours into your sleep, you stay up for half an hour, engaging in a calm and quiet activity like reading, then fall back asleep.

Some report that this makes them more likely to lucid dream as they fall asleep more alert.

2. Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD)

The MILD method was created by Dr Stephen LaBarge and is based on prospective memory.

The prospective memory tactic asks the dreamer to work to create a memory that they’ll remember while asleep.

If you wish to try this technique out, all you have to do is think of a recent dream as you’re falling asleep and identify a ‘dreamsign’, something odd or irregular that makes it obvious that your dream isn’t real. This could be flying in your dream or seeing a talking animal.

Then, focus your mind on wanting to return to that dream and condition your mind to pay attention to be aware by reciting: ‘the next time I dream, I want to remember that I’m dreaming’.

3. Keep a diary of your dreams

By keeping track of your dreams and their patterns, you’re more likely to recognize the common ‘dreamsigns’ your dreams contain.

This will increase your chances of spotting the signs when you’re dreaming and becoming aware.

4. Wake-initiated lucid dreaming (WILD)

WILD sees participants try to enter a lucid dream while they’re awake. This is done by making your body fall asleep while you keep your mind conscious.

Some lucid dreamers are able to control what happens in their dreams (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

To practice this technique, you need to lay down in a relaxed position until you slowly start to fall asleep and experience pre-sleep hallucinations.

While the technique’s steps are simple, WILD is a difficult method to master.

Are lucid dreams dangerous?

Lucid dreams aren’t known for being significantly dangerous in a particular way.

However, medical professionals highlight that having vivid dreams where your mind is conscious might get in the way of your brain resting and lead to decreased sleep quality.

Some have also highlighted that those with mental health disorders which already cause confusion and hallucinations, might be troubled by lucid dreams. This is because the act of lucid dreaming might further blur the lines between what’s real and what’s imaginary.

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