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Lucid dreaming controlling your dreams

Lucid Dreaming: Asleep and Aware

Lucid dreaming is an issue that has been studied as far back as 1896. A Lucid dream

is one in which the dreamer is aware that he/she is dreaming and is sometimes able to take

control. Lucid dreams are an actual phenomena that do occur in REM sleep.

Dr. van Eeden was the first recorded person to study dreams in which the dreamer is

aware they are dreaming. In 1896 he began recording his dreams. Over a period of one

year he recorded 352 dreams, but only eight were lucid (Dreams 784).

The actual definition of a lucid dream, is a dream in which the dreamer mentally

awakens in the dream and becomes aware that it is only a dream. This "awakening" is

usually triggered by the dreamer noticing something in the dream that is far too unusual to

be real (Blackmore 362). The actual term lucid dreaming was first used by the Dutch

psychiatrist Fredrick van Olen in 1913. It simply means "clear dreaming" (Blackmore


Surveys and research have shown that 50 percent of all Americans have had at

least one lucid dream in their life that they could recall (Lucid Dreaming 365). When a

dreamer becomes lucid there are physical changes on the outside of the body and brain

patterns also change. There are usually pauses in breathing and changes in heart rate. The

amount of brain activity is more heightened than that of a regular dream, but less than

when waking. It has also been observed that a person having a lucid dream shows more

brain activity than a waking person under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs such as

LSD (Lucid Dreaming 364).

A lucid dream is usually provoked by an earlier day of heightened stress or anxiety

(Lucid Dreaming 364). They usually occur at the end of an eight or nine hour sleep

(Horgan 50).

Several methods have been developed for inducing lucid dreams. The simplest and

most common method is known as the MILD method, or Mnemonic Induction of Lucid

Dreaming. This method consists of waking in the early morning from a dream and

remembering what the dream was about. Then as the dreamer returns to sleep he or she

should remind themselves that the dream is not real as they return to the original dream

(Lucid Dreaming 366).

The second method involves work during the day. The person should constantly

ask them self when they are awake, "Am I dreaming?", then look for a clue to prove they

are. Then when the person falls asleep they will be reminded to ask the same question and

in turn realize the dream is not real (Lucid Dreaming 366).

Another method involves the use some kind of an external device that will create a

signal to the dreamer that they are dreaming. Keith Hearne was the first person to

incorporate this strategy. He would watch the dreamers eyes for rapid eye movement

(REM) to show that they were dreaming. He would then spray them with water to signal

to them that they were dreaming. This method was fairly unsuccessful (Blackmore 366).

In 1989 Dr. Steven La Berge invented the "Dream Light". This device is a mask

that the dreamer wears that contains a small LED for signalling dreams and a small

computer that detects when dreams begin. The "Dream Light" is available to the public

and over 2,000 have been sold. It retails for about $900. This is the most simple method

but few can experience it due to the cost (Blackmore 366).

Once the dreamer becomes lucid they can do many interesting things such as

communicating with the outside waking world. This can be done with the eyes or through

breathing. When a person falls asleep, all their muscles are paralyzed except for the eyes

and internal organs. By moving the eyes from left to right a predetermined number times,

a person can signal things to the outside world. Keith Hearne first discovered this in 1978

and used it to prove that lucid dreams are real and happen in REM sleep. He used a

polygraph to determine that when his subject moved his eyes left to right eight times, he

was indeed in REM sleep, and aware of the fact. A person can also signal that they are

dreaming by breathing rapidly (Blackmore 366).

With the ability to communicate while dreaming and being able to control the

dream, many questions that have remained unanswered about dreams can finally be solved.

It has been proven that in the deep state of REM sleep, all muscles except for the eyes are

paralyzed. Using lucid dreaming and eye movements, it has been shown that when actions

are performed in a dream, the brain still sends electrical impulses to the muscles to

correspond to those actions. The impulses just have no effect (Blackmore 367).

This same principle also applies to the use of different brain hemispheres. Dr.

Steven La Berge performed experiments involving the use of different sides of the brain in

dreams. It has been proven that when waking, the right side of the brain is used for

artistic things such as singing, while the left side is used more for technical actions like

math. La Berge had dreamers sing and count in their dreams and a polygraph showed that

the same side of the brain shows more activity than the other, just like when

waking.(Blackmore 367).

Another similarity between lucid dreams and a waking state is the ability of the

eyes to track smoothly from left to right. When a person closes their eyes and tries to

move them smoothly from left to right, the motion is naturally jerky. The eyes need

something to physically follow for them to move smoothly. Another of La Berge's

experiments showed that when the eyes follow something moving in a dream they are just

as smooth as if they were following something in reality (Horgan 51).

One myth that has been disproved by La Berge's research is that dreams occur in

an instant. This is not true. The time that elapses in a dream is the same length as the time

that elapses in the physical world. La Berge showed this by having his subject signal with

their eyes, count to ten, then signal again. La Berge observed that the time between the

two signals was eight seconds, the same time it took the person count to ten when they

were awake (Blackmore 366).

In addition to learning more about how actual dreams work, there many more

advantages to lucid dreaming. Dreamers can perform tasks in their dreams before they

must actually be done. Take for example an athlete. A runner can run his race in his

dream over and over and win. A business man who has to give a speech the next morning

can practice his speech in his dreams in front of a dream audience. The possibilities are

endless (Colt 49).

Many great leaders have been influenced by their dreams. Samuel Coleridge

claims that he wrote the great poem "Kubla Kahn" in a dream. Friedrich Kekule, the

discoverer of the molecular structure of benzene, said it came to him in a dream (Horgan


Study of lucid dreams continues today mostly at the Lucidity Association, founded

by Dr. Steven La Berge. La Berge is the leading authority on lucid dreams today

(Blackmore 368).

Lucid dreams have been studied for over 100 years and still not everything is

known about them. Thanks to the work of people like La Berge and Hearne, more is

becoming known each day. Also technological advances such as the polygraph have

helped to prove that lucid dreams are real. All may never be known but at this rate,

everyone could be a lucid dreamer by the millennium.

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