What is a Lucid Dream Like And Mean?
WHAT IS LUCID DREAMING MEAN & LIKE?
Lucid dreaming means dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming. The term was coined by Frederik van Eeden who used the word "lucid" in the sense of mental clarity. Lucidity usually begins in the midst of a dream when the dreamer realizes that the experience is not occurring in physical reality, but is a dream. Often this realization is triggered by the dreamer noticing some impossible or unlikely occurrence in the dream, such as flying or meeting the deceased. Sometimes people become lucid without noticing any particular clue in the dream; they just suddenly realize they are in a dream. A minority of lucid dreams (according to the research of LaBerge and colleagues, about 10 percent) are the result of returning to REM (dreaming) sleep directly from an awakening with unbroken reflective consciousness.
The basic definition of lucid dreaming requires nothing more than becoming aware that you are dreaming. However, the quality of lucidity can vary greatly. When lucidity is at a high level, you are aware that everything experienced in the dream is occurring in your mind, that there is no real danger, and that you are asleep in bed and will awaken shortly. With low-level lucidity you may be aware to a certain extent that you are dreaming, perhaps enough to fly or alter what you are doing, but not enough to realize that the people are dream representations, or that you can suffer no physical damage, or that you are actually in bed.
IS LUCID DREAMING THE SAME AS DREAM CONTROL?Lucidity is not synonymous with dream control. It is possible to be lucid and have little control over dream content, and conversely, to have a great deal of control without being explicitly aware that you are dreaming. However, becoming lucid in a dream is likely to increase the extent to which you can deliberately influence the course of events. Once lucid, dreamers usually choose to do something permitted only by the extraordinary freedom of the dream state, such as flying.
You always have the choice of how much control you want to exert. For example, you could continue with whatever you were doing when you became lucid, with the added knowledge that you are dreaming. Or you could try to change everything—the dream scene, yourself, other dream characters. It is not always possible to perform "magic" in dreams, like changing one object into another or transforming scenes. A dreamer's ability to succeed at this seems to depend a lot on the dreamer's confidence. As Henry Ford said, "Believe you can, believe you can't; either way, you're right." On the other hand, it appears there are some constraints on dream control that may be independent of belief.
HOW ARE LUCID DREAMS RELATED TO OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCES (OBEs)?A mysterious and highly controversial phenomenon sometimes occurs in which people experience the compelling sensation that they have somehow "left their bodies." The "out-of-body experience" or "OBE", as this fascinating phenomenon is usually termed, takes a variety of forms. In the most typical, you are lying in bed, apparently awake, when suddenly you experience a range of primarily somatic sensations, often including vibrations, heaviness, and paralysis. Then you experience the vivid sensation of separating from your "physical body" in what feels like a second body, often floating above the bed.
It is important to note the distinction between the phenomenal reality of the OBE and the various interpretations of the experience. What is really happening when you feel yourself "leaving your body"? According to one school of thought, what is actually happening is just what it feels like: you are moving in a second body out of and away from your physical body—in physical space. But this "explanation" doesn't hold up very well under examination. After all, the body we ordinarily feel ourselves to be (or if you like, to inhabit) is a phenomenal or mental body rather than a physical body. The space we see around us is not physical space as "common sense" tells us, but as modern psychology makes clear, a phenomenal or mental space. In general, our consciousness is a mental model of the world.
OBE enthusiasts promote lucid dreaming as a "stepping stone" to the OBE. Conversely, many lucid dreamers have had the experience of feeling themselves "leave the body" at the onset of a lucid dream. From a laboratory study, we have concluded that OBEs can occur in the same physiological state as lucid dreams. Wake-initiated lucid dreams (WILDs) were three times more likely to be labeled "OBEs" than dream initiated lucid dreams. If you believe yourself to have been awake, then you are more likely to take the experience at face value and believe yourself to have literally left your physical body in some sort of mental or "astral" body floating around in the "real" physical world. If, on the other hand, you think of the experience as a dream, then you are likely to identify the OBE body as a dream body image and the environment of the experience as a dream world. The validity of the latter interpretation is supported by observations and research on these phenomena.
Upon hearing about lucid dreaming for the first time, people often ask, "Why should I want to have lucid dreams? What are they good for?" If you consider that once you know you are dreaming, you are restricted only by your ability to imagine and conceive, not by laws of physics or society, then the answer to what lucid dreaming is good for is either extremely simple (anything!) or extraordinarily complex (everything!). It is easier to provide a sample of what some people have done with lucid dreaming than to give a definitive answer of its potential uses.
Adventure and FantasyOften, the first thing that attracts people to lucid dreaming is the potential for wild adventure and fantasy fulfillment. Flying is a favorite lucid dream delight, as is sex. Many people have said that their first lucid dream was the most wonderful experience of their lives. A large part of the extraordinary pleasure of lucid dreaming comes from the exhilarating feeling of utter freedom that accompanies the realization that you are in a dream and there will be no social or physical consequences of your actions. One might think that this is a rather intellectual concept, but an ecstatic "rush" frequently arises with the first realization that one is dreaming.
Overcoming NightmaresUnfortunately for many people, instead of providing an outlet for unlimited fantasy and delight, dreams can be dreaded episodes of limitless terror. As is discussed in the books Lucid Dreaming (LaBerge, 1985), Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming (EWLD) (LaBerge and Rheingold, 1990) and Lucid Dreaming: A Concise Guide to Awakening in Your Dreams and in Your Life (LaBerge, 2004), lucid dreaming may well be the basis of the most effective therapy for nightmares. If you know you are dreaming, it is a simple logical step to realizing that nothing in your current experience, however unpleasant, can cause you physical harm. There is no need to run from or fight with dream monsters. In fact, it is often pointless to try, because the horror pursuing you was conceived in your own mind, and as long as you continue to fear it, it can pursue you wherever you dream yourself to be. The only way to really "escape" is to end your fear. (For a discussion of reasons for recurrent nightmares, see "Overcoming Nightmares" from EWLD.) The fear you feel in a nightmare is completely real; it is the danger that is not.
Unreasonable fear can be defused by facing up to the source, or going through with the frightening activity, so that you observe that no harm comes to you. In a nightmare, this act of courage can take any form that involves facing the "threat" rather than avoiding it. For example, one young man dreamt of being pursued by a lion. When he had no place left to run, he realized he was dreaming and called to the lion to "come and get him." The challenge turned into a playful wrestling match, and the lion became a sexy woman (NightLight 1.4, 1989, p. 13). Monsters often transform into benign creatures, friends, or empty shells when courageously confronted in lucid dreams. This is an extremely empowering experience. It teaches you in a very visceral manner that you can conquer fear and thereby become stronger.
RehearsalLucid dreaming is an extraordinarily vivid form of mental imagery, so realistic that the trick is to realize it is a mental construct. It is no surprise, therefore, that many people use lucid dreaming to rehearse for success in waking life. Examples of such applications include public speaking, difficult confrontations, artistic performance and athletic prowess. Because the activity of the brain during a dreamed activity is the same as during the real event, neuronal patterns of activation required for a skill (like a ski jump or pirouette) can be established in the dream state in preparation for performance in the waking world.
Creativity and Problem SolvingThe creative potential of dreams is legendary. The brain is highly active in REM sleep and unconstrained by sensory input, which together may contribute to the novel combinations of events and objects we experience as dream bizarreness. This same novelty allows thought to take on forms that are rare in waking life, manifesting as enhanced creativity, or defective thinking depending on one's point of view (as Roland Fisher put it, "One man's creativity is another's brain damage."). The claim of enhanced creativity of the dream state is supported by LI research: One study found word associations immediately after awakening from a dream to be 29% more likely to be uncommon compared to word associations later in the day (NightLight, 6.4, 1994). Another study comparing a variety of kinds of experience including daydreams, memories of actual events, and dreams, found that dreams were judged as being significantly more creative than both daydreams and memories (NightLight, 4.1, 1992).
HealingThe effects of visual imagery on the body are well-established. Just as skill practice in a dream can enhance waking performance, healing dream imagery may improve physical health. Medical patients have often used soothing and positive imagery to alleviate pain, and the dream world offers the most vivid form of imagery. Thus, some people have use lucid dreams in overcoming phobias, working with grief, decreasing social and sexual anxieties, achieving greater self-confidence and by directing the body image in the dream to facilitate physical healing. The applications, which are described in greater detail in EWLD, deserve clinical study as they may be the greatest boon that lucid dreaming has to offer. Other potential healing applications of lucid dreaming include: practice of physical skills by stroke and spinal cord injury patients to encourage recovery of neuromuscular function, enjoyment of sexual satisfaction by people with lower body sensory loss (fully satisfying dream sex requires only mental stimulation!), more rapid recovery from injury or disease through the use of lucid dream imagery, and an increased sense of freedom for anyone who feels limited by disability or circumstance.
TranscendenceThe experience of being in a lucid dream clearly demonstrates the astonishing fact that the world we see is a construct of our minds. This concept, so elusive when sought in waking life, is the cornerstone of spiritual teachings. It forces us to look beyond everyday experience and ask, "If this is not real, what is?" Lucid dreaming, by so baldly baring a truth that many spend lives seeking, often triggers spiritual questioning in people who try it for far more mundane purposes. Not only does lucid dreaming lead to questioning the nature of reality, but for many it also has been a source of transcendent experience. Exalted and ecstatic states are common in lucid dreams. EWLD presents several cases of individuals achieving states of union with the Highest, great peace and a new sense of their roles in life.
The overwhelming majority of lucid dreams are positive, rewarding experiences. Moreover, lucidity in unpleasant dreams or nightmares can transform habitual fear into conscious courage. The simple state of lucidity is frequently enough to elevate the mood of a dreamer in a nightmare. In a study of the effect of lucid dreams on mood, college students reported that realizing they were dreaming in a nightmare helped them feel better about 60 percent of the time. Lucidity was seven times more likely to make nightmares better than worse. Probably the only people who should not experiment with lucid dreaming are those who are unable to distinguish between waking reality and constructions of their imagination.
A parallel concern is that dying in a dream can cause death in reality. If this were true, how would we know? Anyone who died from a dream could not tell us about its content. Many people, after awakening alive, report having died in their dreams with no ill effect. Dreams of death can actually be insightful experiences about life, rebirth, and transcendence.
Some people believe that dreams are messages from the unconscious mind and should not be consciously altered. Modern research on dreaming, discussed further in chapter 5 of EWLD, suggests that dreams are not messages, but models of the world. While awake, sensory and perceptual information governs our model. While dreaming, our bodies are paralyzed and our brain builds a world model based on a secondary source; namely, our assumptions, motivations, and expectations. These biases are difficult to identify while awake, so a world based entirely on such biases, the world of dreams, can help us to recognize them. Thus, dreams are not messages, but are more like clues into the inner workings of our minds. The conscious and critical awareness that accompanies lucid dreams allows dreamers to thoughtfully interpret their dreams while they happen.
Finally, some people worry that lucid dreams are so exciting and pleasurable that they will become addicted and "sleep their life away." There is a biological obstacle to living in lucid dreams: we have a limited amount of REM sleep. More importantly, lucid dreams can be inspirations for how to act and improve in reality. Your behavior strongly influences your experience in both worlds. Lucid dreams can be signposts for how you can make your waking reality more exciting and enjoyable.
CAN EVERYONE LEARN TO HAVE LUCID DREAMS?Lucid dreaming is a skill you can develop, like learning a new language. A few individuals may have an innate talent for achieving lucidity, yet even they can benefit from instruction and practice in making the most of their lucid dreams. Many more people experience lucidity as a rare spontaneous event, but need training to enjoy lucid dreams at will. The best predictor of success with lucid dreaming is the ability to remember dreams. This, too, is a skill you can develop. With specific techniques, you can increase the quantity and quality of your dream recall, which will in turn greatly increase your ability to have lucid dreams.
HOW DO I LEARN TO HAVE LUCID DREAMS?The two essentials to learning lucid dreaming are motivation and effort. Although most people report occasional spontaneous lucid dreams, they rarely occur without our intending it. Lucid dream induction techniques help focus intention and prepare a critical mind. They range from millennium-old Tibetan exercises to modern methods developed by dream researchers. Try the following techniques and feel free to use personal variants. Experiment, observe, and persevere—lucid dreaming is easier than you may think.
Dream RecallThe most important prerequisite for learning lucid dreaming is excellent dream recall. There are two likely reasons for this. First, when you remember your dreams well, you can become familiar with their features and patterns. This helps you to recognize them as dreams while they are still happening. Second, it is possible that with poor dream recall, you may actually have lucid dreams that you do not remember!
The procedure for improving your dream recall is fully detailed in EWLD and A Course in Lucid Dreaming in addition to many other books on dreams. A brief discussion of the methods involved is available on the Lucidity Institute website. The core exercise requires writing down everything you recall about your dreams in a dream journal, no matter how fragmentary your recall. Upon awakening, remain absolutely still while you recall the essential elements of the dream, paying particular attention to the dreamsigns (see 3.2.3 below). Then record the dream immediately in your journal. If you wait until morning you are likely to forget most, if not all, of the dream. In A Course in Lucid Dreaming we advise that people build their dream recall to at least one dream recalled per night before proceeding with lucid dream induction techniques.
Reality TestingThis is a good technique for beginners. Assign yourself several times a day to perform the following exercise. Also do it anytime you think of it, especially when something odd occurs or when you are reminded of dreams. It helps to choose specific occasions like: when you see your face in the mirror, look at your watch, arrive at work or home, pick up your NovaDreamer, etc. The more frequently and thoroughly you practice this technique, the better it will work.
Do a reality test.
Carry some text with you or wear a digital watch throughout the day. To do a reality test, read the words or the numbers on the watch. Then, look away and look back, observing the letters or numbers to see if they change. Try to make them change while watching them. Research shows that text in dreams changes 75% of the time it is re-read once and changes 95% it is re-read twice. If the characters do change, or are not normal, or do not make sense, then you are most probably dreaming. Enjoy! If the characters are normal, stable, and sensible, then you probably aren't dreaming. Go on to step 2.
Imagine that your surroundings are a dream.
If you are fairly certain you are awake (you can never be 100% sure!), then say to yourself, "I may not be dreaming now, but if I were, what would it be like?" Visualize as vividly as possible that you are dreaming. Intently imagine that what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling is all a dream. Imagine instabilities in your environment, words changing, scenes transforming, perhaps you are floating off the ground. Create in yourself the feeling that you are in a dream. Holding that feeling, go on to step 3.
Visualize yourself enjoying a dream activity.
Decide on something you would like to do in your next lucid dream, perhaps flying, talking to particular dream characters, or just exploring the dream world. Continue to imagine that you are dreaming now, and visualize yourself enjoying your chosen activity.
DreamsignsAnother dream-recall related exercise introduced in EWLD and further developed in A Course in Lucid Dreaming is identifying "dreamsigns." This term, coined by LaBerge, refers to elements of dreams that indicate that you are dreaming. (Examples: miraculous flight, purple cats, malfunctioning devices, and meeting deceased people.) By studying your dreams you can become familiar with your own personal dreamsigns and set your mind to recognize them and become lucid in future dreams. The Course also provides exercises for noticing dreamsigns while you are awake, so that the skill carries over into your dreams. This exercise also applies to lucid dream induction devices, which give sensory cues—special, artificially-produced dreamsigns—while you are dreaming. To succeed at recognizing these cues in dreams, you need to practice looking for them and recognizing them while you are awake.
Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD)
The MILD technique employs prospective memory, remembering to do something (notice you're dreaming) in the future. Dr. LaBerge developed this technique for his doctoral dissertation and used it to achieve lucid dreaming at will. The proper time to practice MILD is after awakening from a dream, before returning to sleep. (Modified from EWLD, p. 78)
Setup dream recall.
Set your mind to awaken from dreams and recall them. When you awaken from a dream, recall it as completely as you can.
Focus your intent.
While returning to sleep, concentrate single-mindedly on your intention to remember to recognize that you're dreaming. Tell yourself: "Next time I'm dreaming, I will remember I'm dreaming," repeatedly, like a mantra. Put real meaning into the words and focus on this idea alone. If you find yourself thinking about anything else, let it go and bring your mind back to your intention.
See yourself becoming lucid.
As you continue to focus on your intention to remember when you're dreaming, imagine that you are back in the dream from which you just awakened (or another one you have had recently if you didn't remember a dream on awakening). Imagine that this time you recognize that you are dreaming. Look for a dreamsign—something in the dream that demonstrates plainly that it is a dream. When you see it say to yourself: "I'm dreaming!" and continue your fantasy. Imagine yourself carrying out your plans for your next lucid dream. For example, if you want to fly in your lucid dream, imagine yourself flying after you come to the point in your fantasy when you become lucid.
Repeat until your intention is set.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 until either you fall asleep or are sure that your intention is set. If, while falling asleep, you find yourself thinking of anything else, repeat the procedure so that the last thing in your mind before falling asleep is your intention to remember to recognize the next time you are dreaming.
NappingTwo observations led LaBerge in the late 1970s to develop morning napping as a method of lucid dream induction. First, he noticed that lucidity seemed to come easier in afternoon naps. The second suggestion same from several lucid dreamers who noted that certain activities during the night appeared to induce lucid dreaming. The diverse qualities of these interruptions: sex, vomiting, and pure meditation, piqued LaBerge's curiosity regarding what feature each might possess conducive to lucidity. The answer proved to be quite simple: wakefulness interjected during sleep increases the likelihood of lucidity. In fact, the nap technique, refined through several NightLight experiments, is an extremely powerful method of stimulating lucid dreams. The technique requires you to awaken one hour earlier than usual, stay awake for 30 to 60 minutes, then go back to sleep. One study showed a 15 to 20 times increased likelihood of lucid dreaming for those practicing the nap technique over no technique. During the wakeful period, read about lucid dreaming, practice reality checks and then do MILD as you are falling asleep. Lucidity Institute's training programs include this technique as an essential part of the schedule, one of the reasons why most participants have lucid dreams during the session.
The speed with which you develop the skill of lucid dreaming depends on many individual factors. How well do you recall dreams? How much time can you give to practicing mental exercises? Do you use a lucid dream induction device? Do you practice diligently? Do you have a well developed critical thinking faculty? And so on.
Case histories may provide a more tangible picture of the process of learning lucid dreaming. Dr. LaBerge increased his frequency of lucid dreaming from about one per month to up to four a night (at which point he could have lucid dreams at will) over the course of three years. He was studying lucid dreaming for his doctoral dissertation and therefore needed to learn to have them on demand as quickly as possible. On the other hand, he had to invent techniques for improving lucid dreaming skills. Thus, people starting now, although they may not be as strongly motivated as LaBerge or have the same quantity of time to devote to it, have the advantage of the tested techniques, training programs, and electronic biofeedback aids that have been created in the decades since LaBerge began his studies.
Lynne Levitan, staff writer for Lucidity Institute, describes her experiences with learning lucid dreaming as follows:
"I first heard of lucid dreaming in April of 1982, when I took a course from Dr. LaBerge at Stanford University. I had had the experience many years before and was very interested to learn to do it again, as well as to get involved in the research. First, I had to develop my dream recall, because at the time I only remembered two or three dreams per week. In a couple of months I was recalling 3 to 4 or more per night, and in July (about three months after starting) I had my first lucid dream since adolescence. I worked at it on and off for the next four years (not sleeping much as a student) and reached the level of 3 to 4 lucid dreams per week. Along the way, I tested several prototypes of the DreamLight lucid dream induction device and they clearly helped me to become more proficient at realizing when I was dreaming. During the first two years that we were developing the DreamLight, I had lucid dreams on half of the nights I used one of these devices, compared to once a week or less without. In considering how long it took me to get really good at lucid dreaming, note that I did not have the benefit of the thoroughly studied and explained techniques now available either, because the research had not yet been done nor the material written. Therefore, people now should be able to accomplish the same learning in far less time given, of course, sufficient motivation."
WHAT TECHNOLOGY IS AVAILABLE TO ASSIST LUCID DREAMING TRAINING?Lucidity Institute offers electronic devices that help people have lucid dreams. They were developed through laboratory research at Stanford University by LaBerge, Levitan, and others. The basic principle behind these devices is as follows: the primary task confronting someone who wishes to have a lucid dream is to remember that intention while in a dream. One of the best ways to increase a person's chances of having a lucid dream is to give a reminder to the person during REM sleep. In the lab, we found that flashing light cues worked well in that they tended to incorporate into ongoing dreams without causing awakening. You may have noticed that occasional bits of sensory information are filtered into your dreams in disguised form, like a clock radio as supermarket music or a chain saw as the sound of a thunderstorm. This is the same principle used by our lucid dream induction devices: the lights or sounds from the device filter into the user's dreams. In cases of very deep sleepers, we found that it was sometimes necessary to use sound as well as light to get the cues into dreams. The dreamer's task is to notice the flashing lights in the dream and remember that they are cues to become lucid. Because we could not possibly accommodate everyone who wants to come into the sleep lab for a lucid dream induction session and most people would rather sleep at home anyway, we worked for several years to develop a comfortable, portable device that would detect REM sleep and deliver a cue tailored to the individual user's needs.
The NovaDreamerThe NovaDreamer lucid dream induction device works by giving flashing light or sound cues when the user is dreaming. Users modify the device settings to find a cue with the right intensity and length to enter their dreams without causing awakening. In addition, device users practice mental exercises while awake to enhance their ability to recognize the light cues when they appear in dreams. The NovaDreamer includes a soft, comfortable sleep mask, which contains the flashing lights, a speaker, and an eye movement detection apparatus. The NovaDreamer's electronics are all inside the sleep mask. The NovaDreamer uses REM detection to time the delivery of lucidity cue and provides feedback on the number of cues given. It includes the "Dream Alarm" feature to boost dream recall. Users have a choice of a wide selection of cues and receive feedback on the number of cues they receive during a sleep period.
The lucidity cues of the NovaDreamer are intended to enter into ongoing dreams. This can occur in several ways. Cues can be superimposed over the dream scene, like a light flashing in one's face, or they can briefly interrupt the dream scene. The most common (and most difficult to identify) incorporation of cues is into dream stories. Little brother flashing the room lights, flash bulbs, lightning, traffic signals, police car lights: all are real examples of incorporations of NovaDreamer cues. The trickiness of cue appearances underscores the need to thoroughly prepare one's mind to recognize cues via waking practice.
The NovaDreamer offers a second method of lucid dream stimulation. This method arose out of the discovery that while sleeping with the NovaDreamer, people frequently dreamed that they awakened wearing the device, and pressed the button on the front of the mask to start the "delay," a feature that disables cues while you are drifting off to sleep. Ordinarily, a button press would cause a beep to tell you that you had successfully pressed it. However, people were reporting that the button was not working in the middle of the night. Actually, they were dreaming that they were awakening and pressing the button, and the button did not work because it was a dream version of the NovaDreamer. Dream versions of devices are notorious for not working normally. Once people were advised that failure of the button in the middle of the night was a sign that they were probably dreaming, they were able to use this "dreamsign" reliably to become lucid during "false awakenings" with the NovaDreamer. Research suggests that about half of the lucid dreams stimulated by the devices result from using the button for reality tests.
HOW WELL DO LUCID DREAM INDUCTION DEVICES WORK?Lucidity Institute's lucid dream induction devices are designed to help people achieve lucidity by giving them cues while they are dreaming and also by providing a reliable means of testing one's state of consciousness. They do not make people have lucid dreams any more than exercise machines make people develop strong muscles. In both cases the goal, strength or lucid dreams, results from practice. The machines accelerate the process. Several factors enter into success with one of these devices. One is how accurately the cues are coordinated with the user's REM sleep. The devices' REM detection systems are adjustable to individual variables. Another success factor is how well the cues enter into the dream without awakening the sleeper. A third factor is how prepared the user is for recognizing cues in dreams and becoming lucid. Finally, the user's commitment to performing a reality test on each awakening with the device influences success. All four of these factors are, to some extent, controllable by the device user: adjustment of eye movement sensitivity to catch REM sleep, selecting a cue that enters dreams without causing awakenings, mental preparation to recognize cues in dreams, and resolution to do reality tests. Therefore, it is difficult to obtain a truly accurate measurement of the effectiveness of the devices. Nonetheless, research with various versions of the DreamLight (previous lucid dream induction device that is no longer in production) have shown that it definitely helps people have more frequent lucid dreams.
Because expectation makes lucid dreaming more likely, one might wonder whether the DreamLight is any more effective than a placebo. A study published in IASD journal Dreaming proved that it is. In brief, fourteen experienced DreamLight users were exposed to two conditions: light cues or no light cues. Subjects thought they were testing two different light cues and did not know their nightly condition (making motivation and expectations constant). Thus, the study examined how much the DreamLight's light cues specifically contributed to the achievement of lucid dreams. More people had lucid dreams on nights when they received light cues (73% versus 27%). Lucid dream frequency was three times greater on nights with cues (one lucid dream every three nights versus one in eleven nights without cues).
An earlier study with a different version of the DreamLight showed a five-fold increase in lucid dreaming frequency when people used the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming (MILD) mental technique in conjunction with the device, compared with using no device and no mental technique. Using the device without mental techniques worked about as well as just using the mental technique; both cases were an improvement over using nothing.
In summary, at this stage the lucid dream induction devices can definitely help people to have lucid dreams, or to have more of them. Important factors contributing to success are good dream recall (the DreamLight and NovaDreamer also can be used to boost dream recall with the "Dream Alarm feature"), diligent mental preparation, and careful adjustment of the device to meet individual needs for cueing and REM detection. No device yet exists that will make a person have a lucid dream.
ARE THERE ANY DRUGS OR NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS THAT STIMULATE LUCID DREAMS?A number of substances have been suggested to enhance the likelihood of lucid dreaming, from vitamins to prescription drugs. There are few good scientific studies to test such claims. Lucid dreaming is highly subject to the placebo effect; the belief that something will stimulate a lucid dream is very effective! This is not to say that there are not substances that do, in fact, promote lucid dreaming. We are interested in discovering such and welcome observations from fellow dreamers. At this time, however, we do not endorse any substances for inducing lucid dreams. Many prescription drugs as well as marijuana and alcohol alter the sleep cycle, usually by suppressing REM sleep. This leads to a phenomenon called "REM rebound," in which a person experiences intense, long REM periods after the drug has worn off. This can manifest as nightmares or, possibly, as lucid dreaming, since the brain is highly active. Drugs in the LSD family, including psilocybin and tryptamines actually stimulate REM sleep (in doses small enough to allow sleep), leading to longer REM periods. We do not recommend the use of drugs without proper guidance nor do we urge the breaking of laws.
HOW CAN I PREVENT WAKING UP AS SOON AS I BECOME LUCID?Beginning lucid dreamers often have the problem of waking up right after becoming lucid. This obstacle may prevent some people from realizing the value of lucid dreaming. Fortunately there are ways to overcome this problem.
The first is to remain calm in the dream. Becoming lucid is exciting, but expressing the excitement can awaken you. It is possible to enjoy the thrill that accompanies the dawning of lucidity without allowing the activation to overwhelm you. Be like a poker player with an ideal hand. Relax and engage with the dream rather than withdrawing into your inner joy of accomplishment.
Then, if the dream shows signs of ending, such as a loss of detail, vividness, and apparent reality of the imagery, the technique of "spinning" can often restore the dream. You spin your dream body around like a child trying to get dizzy. LaBerge developed this technique after experimenting with the idea that relaxing completely might help prevent awakening from a dream. When in a lucid dream that was fading, he stopped and dropped backwards to the floor, and had a false awakening in bed! After a few trials he determined that the essential element was the sensation of motion, not relaxation. The best way to create a feeling of movement, especially in the dream scene has vanished, leaving nowhere to move to, is to create angular momentum (or the sensation of it), by spinning around your axis. You are not really doing it, but your brain is well familiar with the experience of spinning and duplicates the experience quite well. In the process, the vestibular and kinesthetic senses are engaged. Presumably, this sensory engagement with the dream discourages the brain from changing state from dreaming to waking. Note that dream spinning does not usually lead to dizziness. Be aware that the expectation of possible awakening sometimes leads to a "false awakening" in which you dream of waking. The vividness of the spinning sensation may cause you to feel your spinning arm hit the bed. You think, "Oops, I'm awake in bed now." Think now—your physical body wasn't really spinning, it was your dream body—therefore, the arm is a dream arm hitting a dream bed! To avoid being deceived, recite, "The next scene will be a dream," until a scene appears. If you are in doubt about your status, perform a thorough reality test. If awakened, lie still and imagine the sensation of spinning while reminding yourself that the next scene may be a dream. This tactic can result in a return to dreaming with lucidity.
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