Ever woken up sweating and your heart beating hard? The jarring images of a nightmare flashing before your eyes? Or has your sleep brought a euphoric memory and a wide exuberant smile on your face? Whatever it is, some dreams make us happy and some leave a bitter residual feeling.
Dreams give us an amplified sense of the emotions projected and the realism is interrupted only when we wake up. However, what if we were aware of the “realism” being a dream while dreaming? What if you could control the nature of your dream? Within the creative confines of your mind, what if you could write the realism that you wish to see? A spectacular phenomena gives an insight into this intriguing ability of the mind.
Being aware that you’re dreaming is called lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming has been found to ease the mind by controlling the exact effect the dream has on the emotional factor of the human being. It is believed to also help in handling traumatic memories and frightening experiences. In 2017, an Australian study took a big step in that direction, and what they found out can help you lucid dream, too.
According to a 2016 meta-analysis, about half the population has had at least one lucid dream in their lifetime, and a quarter experience them once a month or more. Since 1975, when the first lucid dream was confirmed in a lab, researchers have discovered the potential benefits of lucid dreaming in areas such as practicing skills and intriguing aspects of the subconscious.
The University of Adelaide in Australia recruited 169 people to put three lucid-dreaming techniques to the test. Those included:
Participants of the study were expected to question the present reality and ask themselves “Am I dreaming?” ten times throughout the day, every day. They were instructed to examine their immediate surroundings and observe if any aspect of it was out of the ordinary. Reality tests were performed where the participants were asked to try and inhale through a closed mouth. (When you’re dreaming, you can inhale through your closed mouth because the real you likely has your mouth open.)
WAKE BACK TO BED (WBTB):
Participants were made to set and alarm for five hours of sleep, then read a 700-word document about what to do if they have a lucid dream. (It said that after performing a reality test, they should “stabilize the dream by rubbing the palms of their hands together vigorously and focusing on the physical sensations while repeating ‘this is a lucid dream'”).
After this procedure, they were free to sleep again. Lucid dreams happen during REM (Rapid eye movement) sleep, and REM sleep happens more easily after you’ve already been asleep a while. Rapid eye movement sleep is a unique phase of sleep in mammals and birds, distinguishable by rapid movement of the eyes, accompanied with low muscle tone throughout the body, and the propensity of the sleeper to dream vividly.
MNEMONIC INDUCTION OF LUCID DREAMS (MILD):
As they lay in bed to sleep, participants were told to repeat the phrase “next time I’m dreaming, I will remember that I’m dreaming.” They were asked to focus attentively on the phrase so that it was the last thing they were thinking about when they finally fell asleep.
Rather than using each of these techniques individually, the study had one group use only reality testing, one group use both reality testing and WBTB, and the final group use all three: reality testing, WBTB, and MILD. The dream frequency was measured accordingly and an analysis was made depending on the normal nature of sleep and after the implementation of these techniques.
The three groups had vastly different and rather surprising results. The group that had not employed any of the techniques, reported that about eight percent of their dreams was lucid. In the second week, the reality-testing-only group actually had slightly fewer lucid dreams whereas the group which had an addition of WBTB reported an increase to about eleven percent.
The group that implemented all three techniques observed just a slight increase in lucid dreaming at a reported seventeen percent. However, participants who fell asleep within five minutes while using the MILD technique reported that nearly 46 percent of their dreams were lucid.
“The MILD technique works on what we call ‘prospective memory’ — that is, your ability to remember to do things in the future,”said co-author Denholm J. Aspy. “By repeating a phrase that you will remember [when] you’re dreaming, it forms an intention in your mind that you will, in fact, remember that you are dreaming, leading to a lucid dream.”
We are still a long way from controlling all aspects of lucid dreaming and implementing them according to our needs. However, the progress in this rather enigmatic phenomena has been stellar and is paving way for a better understanding of our mind and conscience. However, we can count on the uncovering and subsequent application of lucid dreaming in the real world to be a journey that is beyond riveting!