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Although we're mostly unaware of our dreams while we're dreaming, "lucid dreams" are dreams in which you know that you're dreaming.1,2,3
Lucid dreaming might seem paradoxical, but in fact it's a scientifically studied and recognized state of dreaming. Potentially, lucid dreamers can attain full awareness of their dreams while dreaming.
In their lucid dreams, they are able to reason according to the dream context, access waking life memories, and act out any plans that they have set out to embark on prior to sleep.4,5,6,7 Lucid dreamers are dream explorers, also known as oneironauts.
But hold on, there's more...
Once lucid in a dream, lucid dreamers are able to control what they dream about. Unrestricted by external physical laws and free of any social consequences, they are able to reshape their dreams while dreaming and, by doing so, live out extraordinary dream experiences. Only their imaginations limit what is possible in their dreams.8
Fly like your favorite superhero, explore vast imaginary worlds filled with beautiful and wise dream characters, relax on a tropical island, rehearse that romantic dinner, or battle dream monsters to test your dream powers. Whatever you desire to dream about, all is possible in your lucid dreams.
Imagine the range of thrilling dream experiences that you could intentionally pursue every night during sleep as a lucid dreamer. Perhaps you could even enhance your psychological growth to help you face your everyday challenges and achieve your goals. Imagine yourself reaching your fullest potential and living out any desirable dream experience that you can imagine while asleep.
Lucid dreaming wouldn't be that useful if lucid dreams only occurred spontaneously during sleep. Lucid dreaming is a learnable skill. Scientific studies have led to the development of cognitive techniques that anyone can learn to apply in order to have lucid dreams deliberately.
Learn how to have lucid dreams yourself by starting our Online Course in Lucid Dreaming tonight. Or, browse through our site to learn a bit more about the potential uses of lucid dreaming before you do (have you seen our TEDx video talk yet?).
A lucid dream is not just a vivid dream that you remember in the morning. It's not a dream in which you foresee future events that come to pass. It's also not a dream in which you feel that you’re floating outside of your body, which is referred to as an out-of-body experience or astral projection.
A lucid dream is strictly defined as a dream in which you have become aware that you're dreaming while the dream is still happening. Once you're aware in your dreams, you can learn to manipulate dream content and control your dream content.
There's nothing harmful about lucid dreaming. Many people experience lucid dreams spontaneously as part of their ordinary sleep habits.
Physiologically, it seems that it is only REM sleep that our brain needs to remain healthy and functional. Whether you manipulate and transform dream imagery when you're lucid in a dream or not, you are still experiencing REM sleep and that is what counts.
Psychologically, it is important to know that we control our dreams all the time, whether we are lucid or not. All of our dreams are controlled by our thoughts and feelings while we are dreaming. Lucidity doesn't change this. When we become lucid in a dream, we are able to apply our thoughts and feelings to the dream more effectively because we have become aware of the dream context.
If we accept that lucid dreams can have beneficial effects on our mental health, we must also accept that negative lucid dream experiences can influence our mental health negatively. Having lucid dreams in which you intentionally hurt yourself or other people would not be a healthy use of lucid dreaming.
A good analogy for this is playing video games: it is not the game console (the lucid dream) that will affect your psychological health, but the particular kinds of games you play (the dream experiences you pursue in your lucid dreams). We strongly recommend that you use your lucid dreams to have positive and rewarding experiences.
We control our dreams all the time, no matter whether we are lucid or not. In this way, lucid dreaming doesn't make you wake up more tired because we control our dreams as much as do as when we're not lucid.
Also, when you're lucid, you're able to shape dream experiences that potentially are much more emotionally rewarding. These lucid dream experiences will often lead lucid dreamers to wake up with more energy and feeling emotionally satisfied.
Lucid dreaming is as natural as meditation or the practice of mindfulness. However, if you're currently undergoing any psychiatric treatment or have undergone treatment in the past, we recommend you discuss your condition and your intentions to practice lucid dreaming with your doctor before you continue.
The effect of lucid dream training on psychological well-being seems to be quite the opposite. In order to have lucid dreams, one has to be precisely able to recognize dreams as dreams and not mistake dreams for waking life reality. Therefore lucid dream practice explicitly requires the development of reality awareness and so inherently wards off reality disorder.
Lucid dreaming is not inherently addictive. While individuals who are sensitive to addiction can in theory become fixated on lucid dreaming, most of us do not.
Furthermore, lucid dreams require time and effort to induce and cannot be easily indulged in like other potentially addictive behaviors such as playing video games or eating chocolate. Even if you wanted to become addicted to lucid dreaming, it would be nearly impossible.
Let us know your questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
1 LaBerge, S. (2000) Lucid dreaming: Evidence and methodology. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23(6), 962-3.
2 Hobson, J. A. (2009). REM sleep and dreaming: towards a theory of protoconsciousness. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(11), 803-813.
3 Voss, U., Holzmann, R., Tuin, I., & Hobson, J. A. (2009). Lucid dreaming: a state of consciousness with features of both waking and non-lucid dreaming. Sleep, 32(9), 1191.
4 Barrett, D. (1992). Just how lucid are lucid dreams? Dreaming, 2(4), 221–228.
5 Kahan, T. L., & LaBerge, S. (1994). Lucid dreaming as metacognition: Implications for cognitive science. Consciousness and Cognition, 3, 246–264.
6 Moss, K. (1986). The dream lucidity continuum. Lucidity Letter, 5(2), 25–28.
7 Tart, C. (1985). What do we mean by lucidity? Lucidity Letter, 4(2), 12–17.
8 LaBerge, S. (1985). Lucid dreaming. The power of being awake and aware in your dreams. Los Angeles: Tarcher.
9 Erlacher, D., Stumbrys, T., & Schredl, M. (2011–2012). Frequency of lucid dreams and lucid dream practice in German athletes. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 31(3), 237–246.
10 Gavie, J. & Revonsuo, A. (2010). The future of lucid dream treatment: commentary on “The neurobiology of consciousness: Lucid dreaming wakes up” by J. Allan Hobson. International Journal of Dream Research, 3(1), 13-15.
11 Stumbrys, T., & Daniels, M. (2010). An exploratory study of creative problem solving in lucid dreams: Preliminary findings and methodological considerations. International Journal of Dream Research, 3(2), 121–129.
Learn to lucid dream at home, in your own time and at your own pace. Bring home our complete 30-day Online Course in Lucid Dreaming delivered through scheduled emails.Try a lesson for free
On top of the mountain, I looked out over the outstretched landscape beneath me. From here, my house was only a small speck. 'How strange,' I thought, 'in my local town mountain ridges like these do not exist.' Then I realized: 'This must be a dream!'
I remember feeling struck by the fact that my real body was actually lying in bed asleep. Never had I felt such a feeling of presence before, even though I was dreaming. My dream surroundings seemed so real. The overwhelming feeling of freedom I had was exhilarating. I yelled from the top of my lungs: 'I am dreaming! This is a dream!'
Feeling bigger than myself, I jumped off the mountain ridge and soared several meters down before I rose up and flew high up into the sky. I started to lose the dream, perhaps because of my excitement.
I woke up in bed a few moments later and knew that I just had my first lucid dream. Up to this day, I have never forgotten the exhilarating sense of freedom I felt that night while being aware in my dreams.
Jessica E, Netherlands. Former student of our Online Course in Lucid Dreaming.