Lucid dreaming is dreaming while being aware that you are dreaming. The idea is that once you are aware you are dreaming you can alter your dreams and control what happens. Once perfected, it allows you to control the direction of your dreams. This is an enticing prospect for creative problem solving since when dreaming, you are restricted only by your imagination, not by the “realities’ of physical constraints or social customs. Imagine being able to develop new ideas, chat with Einstein, or get golf tips from Tiger Woods.
Can you learn to have lucid dreams?
Lucid dreaming is like any other skill—some people are naturally better at it than others but most can learn how to do it. To learn how, it’s important to first know a bit about the stages of sleep.
Our sleep patterns follow a repeating cycle that involves different levels of sleep having different brainwave activity. Each cycle lasts about 90 to 100 minutes so a person will typically experience 4 to 5 complete sleep cycles a night. The stages of this cycle involve four levels of Slow-Wave or Non-REM sleep followed by REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
Although some dreaming occurs during the other stages of sleep, the most vivid dreaming occurs during the REM stage. During this time, the higher frequency beta waves keep the mind active. As its name suggests, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is characterized by frequent bursts of rapid eye movement, along with occasional muscular twitches. The first REM period occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and lasts about 10 minutes. This REM period increases in subsequent sleep cycles during the night.
How do you start?
One of the first requirements for having lucid dreams is to be able to recall your dreams. This can be done with a little practice. A good method is to focus your intent on remembering your dreams. Before falling asleep, repeat to yourself over and over, “I will awake from my dreams and completely remember them.” If your thoughts wander, try to come back to this affirmation so that it is your last thought before drifting off to sleep. Another good technique is to keep a dream journal to record your dreams upon waking. Whenever you awake, immediately attempt to focus on what you had just been dreaming and write it down on a writing pad. Try to capture all the key points, such as what you were doing, where you were, and who was around you. Also, note anything strange such as things that wouldn’t normally happen in the waking world. If you find these strange events recur in your dreams, then they are your personal dream signs which you can use to recognize when you are dreaming.
Inducing lucid dreams
Lucid dreaming is usually induced by some sort of cue—something that indicates to the person that what they are experiencing is a dream, and not reality. These cues are often referred to as dream signs. Dream signs are usually things or events that would be impossible or very unusual in the waking world. Some examples of dream signs are breathing under water, flying, light switches that don’t work, suddenly returning to work at an old job, or being naked. Whenever a dream sign occurs in your dream, stop and ask yourself whether or not it is possible. If the answer is no, you are dreaming! With practice you can learn to recognize when you are dreaming by looking for these cues and doing a “reality check”.
Once you have “caught” yourself dreaming, you can start to control your dream. Try changing the scene or situation, or controlling your own actions. In order to be successful at controlling your dreams, you should believe that what you are trying to do is possible. So it’s important to remember that you are in control and anything you want is possible. Start with some small things and gradually work up to more challenging activities.
A good resource in this area is Dr. Stephen LaBerge's book Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming which is based on his extensive laboratory work at Stanford University. However, if you really want to speed up the learning process, there are audio CDs available that enable you to experience lucid dreaming in just days. One program that has had good reviews is Bradley Thompson’s The Lucid Dreaming Kit. The kit includes an Audio Stimulation CD that you play as you go to sleep which incorporates special beats and prompts to help you become lucid when dreaming.
Using Lucid Dreaming for Creative Problem Solving
Although lucid dreaming can be used for many applications, one of the most intriguing is to solve problems in your sleep. Lucid dreaming is a powerful tool that taps into your brain’s most creative state without the normal sensory distractions that disturb our focus during waking hours. Lucid dream offers the potential for truly creative thinking.
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