As you fall asleep tonight, there is a good chance you will have a dream. But what if you could “wake up” in that dream and realize that you were still dreaming? Lucid dreaming is a strange and exciting phenomenon that allows you to be fully conscious while you dream and exert control over situations, people, and yourself while still dreaming. It sounds fantastic, but are there any potential downfalls to lucid dreaming? Is lucid dreaming dangerous? Is lucid dreaming even real?
These questions are all important things to consider when you research the topic of lucid dreaming. If you want to learn more about lucid dreaming and if it’s even possible to induce yourself, this guide is a great starting point. Unlock the potential that lucid dreaming has to offer and avoid any dangers it might present.
Quick, What is Lucid Dreaming?
Perhaps you have never heard of lucid dreaming. Most of the time when you dream, you aren’t aware that you are dreaming. It’s almost like you are observing the dream from a distance. Everything in the dream is happening to you, and you have little to no control over what happens.
Lucid dreaming, on the other hand, is when you become aware that you are dreaming while you are still in the dream. People who have had a lucid dream describe it as waking up and realizing they are still in the dream.
Lucid dreaming also allows you to have total control over the dream. If you want to fly from your house to a hut in Africa in 2.5 seconds flat, you can do that. You can meet celebrities, make dinner for 5,000, ride a giant tarantula, or compete in the Hunger Games. You are orchestrating the entire dream, and you can do anything you would like.
Because of this ability to manipulate the world around you in any way and the freedom you can experience while in a lucid dream, this form of dreaming receives a lot of attention. Some people still doubt the validity of a lucid dream and others believe it wholeheartedly.
The Reality of Lucid Dreaming
Dreams, in general, are a widely researched area. We want to know what our dreams mean, and we want to know their purpose. Lucid dreaming is an entire subsection of dreams and one that has only recently come to light.
The first study on lucid dreaming came in 1975 under Dr. Keith Hearne. Dr. Hearne was a British parapsychologist and used REM (rapid eye movement) to study lucid dreaming. He worked with a subject that self-reported experiencing many lucid dreams. Dr. Hearne hooked an EEG to the head of the subject to study brain waves, and they had an agreed upon eye signal the patient would use if he realized he was in a lucid dream.
Throughout the night, Dr. Hearne monitored the EEG as well as the subjects eye movements. When signals on the EEG showed the subject was in a dream, Dr. Hearne looked for the eye signals they had chosen. Sure enough, the subject used the eye signals and when he woke up wholly reported being in a lucid dream.
This was just the very first study of lucid dreaming, but it did provide some insight that this phenomenon might be real. Still, there are some who don’t believe that lucid dreaming is a real thing and instead think that these people are not in fact sleeping but somewhere between an awake state and a sleeping state allowing them to have control over their daydreams. Whether the science is there to back up the claims or not, many people insist they have experienced a lucid dream, and others believe they can even induce lucid dreams.
Are There Advantages or Disadvantages to Lucid Dreaming?
You can find pros and cons for every scenario, and that is certainly no different with lucid dreaming. While it might seem like there are no disadvantages to being able to control your dreams, there could be a few. This is especially true for people with some mental health issues. But first, let’s look at the advantages and find out, is lucid dreaming dangerous?
Pros of Lucid Dreaming
The most significant advantage of lucid dreaming is the total freedom and control you have. You can literally do anything you want, and that is exciting. Reality obviously has specific rules and boundaries, but that isn’t true in dreams.
Lucid dreams give you the ability to test out situations you might not be able to in real life. You can practice giving a nerve-wracking speech to a large audience or stand up to the school bully without worrying about failing. If there is an adverse outcome, it’s alright because it’s just a dream.
You can also work out problems or overcome creative difficulties in a lucid dream. Your dreams essentially become your research lab, and you can see what works and what doesn’t. You can then translate those outcomes into your real life. Also, lucid dreams are fun, and that is a huge advantage.
Cons of Lucid Dreaming
Overall, lucid dreaming is safe and doesn’t present a risk to most people. But there are a few things that could happen that are negative or only affect certain groups of people.
Some people might experience sleep paralysis during a lucid dream. Sleep paralysis happens to pretty much everyone at some point during a dream to keep you from acting out what’s going on in your dream. When this occurs between a waking and dreaming state, typically during a lucid dream, it can be frightening not to be able to move and know that you’re awake. You might also still experience some of the hallucinations or scenes from your dream. If you do experience sleep paralysis while lucid dreaming, keep in mind, it will pass, and you won’t be immobile forever.
Lucid dreams can be very realistic, and while that can be a considerable advantage, it can also be a disadvantage. Along with experience positive emotions like happiness or joy you might also vividly experience negative emotions like pain or sadness. Again, it’s important to understand that you are still in a dream and even though it feels real it will end.
Finally, some individuals with mental health problems like borderline personality disorder might not be well suited for lucid dreaming. These people might have a challenging time discerning between reality and fantasy and a lucid dream might only further complicate the problem.
A Word on Lucid Nightmares
While it doesn’t happen very often because in a lucid dream you control the situation, a lucid nightmare could occur. If you find yourself in the middle of a lucid dream and it starts to turn into a nightmare, you can use a lucid nightmare guide to come out of the dream.
Tell Yourself It’s a Dream
It might sound simple or silly, but amid a lucid nightmare, everything can feel very real. In the moment, tell yourself that this is just a dream and none of it is real. If you must, perform a reality check (like trying to hover over the ground) to prove to yourself that it isn’t real.
Have A Good Sleeping Routine
Lack of sleep or poor sleeping habits can influence your mental state while dreaming. Try to have a consistent bedtime and get enough sleep each night. It might seem like a small detail, but adequate sleep can have a positive effect on lucid dreaming.
This last tip is a little harder but can help the most. Try to take control of the nightmare before it gets too out of hand. Remember, in a lucid dream you’re aware that you’re in a dream and you can control the situation. The same holds true for a nightmare. Step in and take back control so you can navigate yourself out of the nightmare.
How to Have Lucid Dreams
After learning about lucid dreaming, many people want to know how they can do it. There is some debate about how you can dream about what you want to dream about, but there are certain steps you can take lower the threshold of having a lucid dream.
Visualize or Meditate Before Bed
Many lucid dream experts recommend visualizing what you want to dream about before you go to bed. Vividly picture it in your mind right before you sleep, and you might have a better chance of dreaming about it that night. You can also quite your mind and meditate before bed to give your brain a clean slate as you drift to sleep.
Create an Ideal Sleeping Environment
One of the best ways to induce a lucid dream is to have a good sleeping environment. Make sure your room is entirely dark, keep the temperature down, and get rid of any phone, computer, or TV screens. While you might not always have a lucid dream under these circumstances, they will greatly improve the quality of your sleep which is good for your overall health.
Perform Reality Checks
This is another common tip for experiencing lucid dreams. At various points throughout the day perform reality checks to differentiate between dreaming and not dreaming. A straightforward reality check is to hold up one hand and try to push your finger from the other hand through the center. Obviously, in reality, you won’t be able to do this but almost every time during a dream the finger will go through the palm of your hand.
Use External Assistance
You can invest in lucid dreaming devices or try lucid dreaming music to help induce this state. Lucid dreaming devices range from eye masks to headbands to light and brainwave manipulation. You should note that none of these devices can ensure they will induce a lucid dream, they just create an ideal environment. Some of these devices can also be costly and not everyone can afford them.
There are also tons of different lucid dreaming music websites and playlists that help put your brain in the right space to have a lucid dream. Again, playing certain tracks can’t promise a lucid dream but it can enhance your chances. These albums are also usually much more affordable, and some are even free.
Whether you believe in lucid dreaming or not, it’s an interesting topic to discuss. Maybe you have experienced a lucid dream or you’re curious to try and have one. Is lucid dreaming dangerous? For the most part, no. There are some individuals with mental illnesses that it might not be suited for and there can be some cons to lucid dreaming, but it isn’t inherently dangerous.
Netflix enthusiast, horrible speller, jiujitsu hobbyist, weekend drinker, and occasional poker player. Favorite quote is “[o]ut of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”