Lucid dreams can improve quality of life

by Erik Dobko

Lucid dreams bear the awareness that one is actually dreaming. Both therapeutic and entertaining, they serve as a portal to your own virtual reality, one that can feel just as real as the waking world.

Since the term “lucid dream” was coined in 1913 by Dutch psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden, extensive scientific research has been conducted to further validate the existence of these conscious dreams. It’s been discovered that the eye movements one makes in a dream are actually physically performed by the eyes. In 1975, British parapsychologist Keith Hearne provided the first scientific proof of the lucid dream via analysis of these eye movements. After teaching his subjects a series of eye movements to be consciously performed while dreaming, Hearne was able to successfully develop a mode of communication between the dreamer and the outside world.

More recent research now harnesses      electroencephalography machines to analyze brain wave frequencies in dreamers. The frequencies detected during lucid dreams are much higher than those of regular dreams. During regular dreaming, the brain releases theta waves which typically range from 4-8 Hz. But, in lucid dreaming, EEGs have detected Gamma waves that can measure up to 40 Hz. This is greater than the brain activity that’s exhibited when awake, meaning that through lucid dreaming, one can achieve a higher state of consciousness.

Lucid dreaming is remarkable in that it allows people to enter into their own fantasy world, a place without corporeal limitations or lasting repercussions. One of the stirring realizations in a lucid dream is that, in this dream world, the regular laws of physics don’t apply. For example, some dreams will initially feature the gravity that enables the dreamer to walk, but as soon as the whole experience is registered as a simulation inside your head, there is nothing to stop you from lifting off of the ground like a hot air balloon. Flying, teleportation and even moonwalking are all viable forms of transportation within the lucid dreaming realm. No longer is solidity a nuisance either—if you’ve found yourself trapped inside a room with no apparent exit, then just sashay right on through the wall and see what kind of world your mind fabricates for the other side. If the dreamer feels disadvantaged by size, there’s always the freedom to grow larger than the most colossal mountain or shrink down to the size of an atom. Metamorphosing into a cane-twirling, monocle-sporting penguin is even a possibility—the only limitation is the extent of your imagination. Be the master of your mental domain.

Lucid dreaming can also be harnessed as a tool for artistic creativity. If you’re a painter, try focusing your mental energy to produce a canvas and allow your unconscious to fill that canvas with whatever colors come to mind. If you’re a composer, see what melodies you can produce with your new altered state of consciousness. If you’re a porn star, see if you can come across an innovative new position for your next skin flick. Through this unusual application of the central nervous system, one can gain greater insight into both the world and themself.

An innate awareness that dreams are just products of the mind has been documented as an effective method for overcoming nightmares. A 2006 study published in the scholarly journal, “Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics” confirmed lucid dreaming therapy treatment can effectively lessen nightmare frequency. Those awful dreams when you’re being chased by a deranged ax murderer as your legs melt into gluten-free strawberry gelato lose most of their terror when you’re able to remember that it’s just a nonsensical sleep-hallucination, (Unless that’s what you’re into, in which case maybe this article isn’t for you).

But it’s easier said than done. Many people have never experienced lucid dreams, let alone been able to remotely remember the details of a regular one. Personally, one of the major steps that led me to the wonderful world of lucid dreaming was the habitual documentation of my dreams. By writing down my dreams each morning immediately after waking, I rapidly improved my ability to remember my dreams and to recognize when I’m having them. Another effective method is to perform reality checks on a regular basis. Are you dreaming right now? Perhaps your experience reading this article is imaginary. You may not even go to San Diego State and could actually be an impoverished Persian tow-truck driver named Fajid Umerani just trying to make a living. The more regularly you perform these reality checks, the more often you’ll find yourself gaining awareness and control of your dreams.

It’s also important to understand that your experiences throughout the day will directly affect the content of your dream world. If you’ve spent your whole day on the couch watching “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” marathon on TV, chances are your dreams won’t be filled with giggly lollipop-wielding Care Bears. By staying mindful of your intake of sensory stimuli—be it sight, sound, smell, taste or touch—you can improve the quality of your unconscious mind and, consequently, the quality of your dreams. It’s really no coincidence that the brain looks like a giant sponge.

The average person spends about one-third of their life sleeping and about one-quarter of that sleep dreaming. If you end up living to be 80 years old, you will have spent almost seven years of your existence as a human being trapped within your inner-dream realm. You can spend the rest of that time stuck inside the blur of unconsciousness or finally resolve to remove the veil … The choice is up to you.