Lucid dreams: what they are, why they happen and how to induce them – Feel Good

What if we could direct the plot of our dreams by influencing their narrative? This happens in lucid dreams, in specific dream experiences that are experienced in a state of consciousness. Although he failed to reach the goal of Dom Cobb, the protagonist of the film Inception that manages to penetrate the vulnerable minds of those who sleep to extract its secrets, each of us can experience lucid dreams, enter a fantasy world with awareness about what’s going on. “According to studies, 40-50% of adults have experienced at least one lucid dream during their lifetime and 20% of people lucid dream at least once a month. But there are also more extreme cases, where these experiences are continuous and regular,” says the professor Lino Nobili of the University of Genoa, specialist in sleep medicine and director of Child Neuropsychiatry at the Gaslini Hospital in Genoa.

What are lucid dreams?

“Normally, we can perceive our dreams only when we wake up, when we can remember what ‘happened’ to us during sleep. During lucid dreaming, however, the person is aware of the fact that they are dreaming and sometimes even has the ability to control the events,” explains Professor Nobili. These experiences should not be confused with sleep paralysis, when – on waking or just before falling asleep – it sometimes happens that we are aware and conscious, but we cannot move and speak: “This paralysis proves that sleep and wakefulness are not so clearly separate systems, so it can happen that you wake up partially or completely while the body is still in a state of muscle weakness, typical of REM sleep. This condition can be associated with hypnagogic hallucinations, which often involve various sensory organs such as sight, touch and hearing: we can feel being touched without being able to react, see one or more entities moving around the room , to hear noises, footsteps, sighs, voices or music. These are certainly potentially painful and frightening experiences, but they have nothing to do with lucid dreaming.”

How to have a lucid dream

Lucid dreams occur during REM sleep phasesconcentrated in the second part of the night, where dreams are more frequent and well-structured: “Compared to what happens in traditional dreams, here there is greater activation and connection of the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain, which somehow reproduce the situation of alertness at rest”.

On the internet you can find clues to various techniques that can train you to induce these dreams. For example, some experts recommend reality tests, which consist of performing certain steps several times a day: asking yourself “Am I dreaming?”, checking the environment to confirm whether or not we are dreaming (looking at your reflection in the mirror to check if it feels normal, push your hand against the wall and see if it goes away, etc.), set an alarm every 2 to 3 hours to remind yourself to do a reality check. Others suggest a breath test by pinching your nose to see if you can still breathe (which only happens in dreams), while others recommend setting your alarm five hours after you go to sleep so you wake up in the middle of the night, stay awake for 30 minutes enjoying a quiet activity like reading and then try to go back to sleep. “These are all manners they increase the likelihood of having lucid dreamsbecause they show you maintain a level of consciousness activation bigger when you enter a dream,” explains Professor Nobili.

Some advantages

On the market there are even devices in the shape of glasses or masks that through specific sensors detect the REM phase of a sleeping subject and at that point flash bright LEDs or emit a sound that partially wakes him up, making him realize that he is dreaming. “In the laboratory, researchers discovered that even a drug commonly used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, la galantaminecan favor the induction of lucid dreaming in already “trained” subjects.

These are experiments, of course there is no pharmacological evidence for lucid dreams,” the expert hotly emphasizes. Why all this interest around the subject? There are several studies that demonstrate how beneficial lucid dreaming can be positive effects even when you are awakebecause – being able to intervene in the “plot” – the person could improve his creativity, strengthen his memory, acquire a proactive attitude to be actually adopted, overcome trauma, perfect cognitive skills and even reduce some disorders, such as post-traumatic stress, because dreams can be used to create powerful mental images, able to prepare for a more conscious approach to real life. “On the other hand, lucid dreaming too often can also be harmful, because sleep is less restful,” warns Dr. Nobili.

How long does lucid dreaming last?

Even the concept of time changes compared to traditional dreams. In lucid reality, the duration of events and actions is very similar to what they would take in reality, even if it may undergo cuts, jumps, and variations typical of dream experiences. “Each person can experience different situations, which are very subjective and without general rules. Not to mention the fact that in some pathologies lucid dreams are more common: just think of narcolepsy, where patients often report unusual dream experiences characterized by high emotional intensity, perhaps also due to a creative personality. In addition, in people suffering from narcolepsy, lucid dreams can occur not only during rest, but also during the day, because in this disorder the boundary between sleep and wakefulness is very unstable. This can initially frighten patients, who fear they are hallucinating.”

How to get out of a lucid dream

In summary: there is no one-size-fits-all formula, but there definitely is you can create a state of mind that predisposes you to lucid dreaming. “And we can also get away with it very easily, because we have good control over the events,” Professor Nobili concludes. Good control, yes, to the point where some researchers have been able to have small “conversations” with lucid dreamers, asking them questions and math problems. The findings showed that we can receive and process complex external information while we sleep, so during sleep our brain is not as disconnected and unaware of the outside world as we think. So, starting tonight, happy lucid dreams everyone!

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