April 14, 2021
The Psychology and Science Behind Lucid Dreaming

The Psychology and Science Behind Lucid Dreaming

Neuroscientists haven’t determined a definite reason why lucid dreaming occurs but they have ideas of how brain activity makes it possible.

Dreams are some of the most interesting things that happen to humans when we are asleep, supposedly unconscious, vivid, often wild scenes play out in our heads, made up entirely by our brains. Most of the time, you can’t control what happens in your dreams. But every so often, people become aware they are dreaming while they are still in the action of doing so, and can even gain some control over the events. Although this phenomenon may seem rare, it is believed that at least fifty-five percent of people have at least one lucid dream in their lifetime, during the REM phase of sleep.

How the Brain Impacts Lucid Dreaming

For example, it has been shown that people who have had a lucid dream have a larger prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is at the very front of the organ, and it is responsible for complex tasks like making decisions and recalling memories. An additional study that consisted of solving puzzles makes scientists believe that people who are more insightful and thoughtful, along with those who have a larger opportunity for higher-level thinking because of their brain structure, are more apt to lucid dream than those who don’t have these characteristics.

Benefits of Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming isn’t just a fascinating phenomenon-it is thought to provide some actual psychological and physical benefits, as well. One major reason neuroscientists and people, in general, are interested in lucid dreaming is because it provides relief from anxiety, nightmares, and PTSD. The control that you have over your dreams tends to stay with lucid dreamers, and gives them more peaceful, empowering feelings. Additionally, lucid dreaming can help with smaller things, such as improving simple movements and motor skills and helping to develop the prefrontal cortex, which in turn improves and enriches creative thinking.

Ways You Can Lucid Dream

Lucid dreams usually happen spontaneously, but sometimes you can make them happen. If controlling your dreams sounds like an interesting prospect, or you believe it could be beneficial in some way, there are several things you can do to increase your likelihood of experiencing a lucid dream. One way to do this is by doing a reality test. This consists of trying to do something simple, such as touching a solid object or looking to see if your face and hands look normal, to test if you are dreaming or awake.

This makes you more aware of the differences in your surroundings between dreams and reality and will make you more likely to recognize when you are dreaming.  Another method of encouraging lucid dreaming is often referred to as wake-back-to-bed, or WBTB. It involves disrupting your sleep cycle so you can enter a REM cycle more conscious than you usually would. To engage in WBTB, wake yourself five hours after you go to bed, and stimulate your brain with an activity that requires your full attention. Then, go back to sleep.

If WBTB is successful, you will have a lucid dream because you were more alert when you fell back into your REM cycle. A third way to cause a lucid dream is mnemonic induction of lucid dreams, sometimes abbreviated to MILD. MILD relies on psychological positive affirmation, where you repeatedly tell yourself that the next time you have a dream, you are going to realize you are dreaming. You can use this technique before you fall asleep, or if you wake up in the middle of a dream.

The ability to control your dreams has captivated ordinary dreamers and neuroscientists alike, and while researchers still aren’t positive about why some people lucid dream, they have some ideas relating to brain structure and personality traits. If you are interested in being able to lucid dream, try one of the three techniques above, and sweet dreams.