Lucid Dreaming

What is Lucid Dreaming? It’s the moment when — in a dream — your dream-self looks around and suddenly realizes that this is not reality. This is a dream. At that moment, your logical conscious brain begins to inject thoughts and ideas into the subconscious part of the brain that is responsible for the dream world. In effect, you — the real daytime-you — take over in the dream and can control some aspects of it.

The movie Inception was based on the concept of Lucid Dreams. In fact, there’s an entire subculture of Lucid Dreamers — Oneironautics. In the past two weeks, I’ve been reading up on the science behind lucid dreams, and I’m very interested in this aspect.

Now, there are several plot mechanics in Inception that are Hollywood-inspired nonsense. With hundreds-of-thousands of dream hours logged by many very respected psychologists in controlled lab experiments, there are somethings that are very well documented. No, you don’t die if you die in your dream. Dream sharing is not feasible (at least, not YET!), and lucid dreaming isn’t something that happens every time you sleep or dream. It is a bit more sporadic than that, and can’t always be triggered.

So, why am I interested in Lucid Draming? After hearing a news story on a phone app that helps you control your dreams, I wondered if such a thing were possible at all. I mean, dreams are airy-floaty-nonsensical things. Who could trap a dream and make it do anything? That’s all Hollywood fantasy stuff, right?

Well, apparently it is not only plausible, but many people do it all the time. People who do this as a hobby call themselves Oneironauts (like astronauts, but for a dream space, not outer-space). Now, keep in mind that most of them do this for spiritual reasons; new age, out-of-body-experiences and reaching some new plane of spiritual enlightenment. But science is taking this aspect and looking at it in a new way. Can we really inject our conscious mind into our dream worlds? Does this — scientifically — hold any benefits or attributes to our body or subconscious mind that we can learn from? Taken from a purely clinical, psychological point of view, this does intrigue me.

I’ve downloaded an app on my phone that tracks and graphs my sleeplessness– that is to say, it tracks how deeply I sleep. When we are coming out of sleep, the body is freed from sleep paralysis (the thing that keeps you from actually moving your limbs when you “run” in your sleep). When this happens, the body naturally moves in some way or form, be it a raising of the arm, or just a shifting of the hips to “get comfortable”. If you bounce in and out of this state often, but never dive deep into REM state, you move a lot and your brain never has a chance to really dream. The app uses the accelerometer on the phone to detect these movements. The longer you lay absolutely, perfectly still, the deeper it can assume that your brain is diving into REM state.

Now, I’m naturally a skeptic on most things like this. So I’ve put the app to the test, but I have to admit that it doesn’t seem “bogus”. On the days it has reported that I didn’t enter a deep sleep (a sleep deep enough to encounter dreams), I also woke feeling groggy with no recollection of dreaming. On the days that it reported that I slept deeply, I woke feeling very refreshed with a very vivid dream still bouncing around in my conscious mind. With this in mind, I can see that the science I’ve read about online seems to line up with dream states. There are several steps for realizing you are in a dream and bringing your conscious mind into the picture, and I’m trying some of these mental excercises to see if I can bring my conscious mind into this unique playground where anything is possible. I haven’t experienced a lucid dream yet, but it is something that has piqued my interest.

Note that the app on my phone doesn’t inject anything into my mind. It just lays on the edge of the bed and logs the movements of my body to know if I’m in that paralysis state. You could fake it out by leaving it on your nightstand where it won’t move all night. But that kind of defeats the purpose of the tool. I want to know if I ever had a chance to really rest fitfully. (Just to note: to test if the app was just generating random numbers, I did leave it on my nightstand one night to prove that everything was kosher. It passed with flying colors.)

If I ever have a lucid dream, I’ll post and let everyone know what it was about. =)

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