What are lucid dreams
Lucid dreams are those in which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. Those who have studied lucid dreams describe them as a state of consciousness that allows the dreamer to guide the direction of their visions.
Van Eeden coined the term "lucid", however many consider the term to be a misnomer. Van Eeden meant lucid in the term of having insight but many believe that "conscious dreaming" would have been a better description for the phenomenon. Lucidity usually begins in the middle of a dream when the dreamer realizes that the experience is not actually occurring, but is merely a dream. Being in a lucid dream is not dream control, however experts feel that becoming lucid in a dream is likely to increase the extent to which one can influence the course of events within the vision.
There are two states of quality assigned to lucid dreams. High level refers to the state a dreamer is in when they know for certain that they are dreaming. They know that they will awaken shortly but do not rouse themselves from their dream state but allow themselves to enjoy their visions.
Low level refers to a dreamer only being somewhat aware that they are dreaming. Most of us have had this experience of being somewhere between asleep and awake at one time or another.
Remember your dreams
Although many people will experience lucidity as a rare spontaneous occurrence, it is believed that lucid dreams can be achieved through practice.
The best predictor of the ability to have lucid dreams is the ability to remember regular dreams. Tips to achieve a lucid state include getting plenty of sleep and being familiar with the way your dreams work.
Try to recall at least one dream every night. The first dream of the night is the shortest and is perhaps ten minutes long, while after eight hours of sleep, dream periods can last as long as forty five minutes to an hour. While many believe they do not dream because of their inability to recall their visions, scientists have determined that everyone dreams while asleep, usually at ninety-minute intervals. Studies show that keeping dream journals can help you to remember your dreams. Another tip to reach lucidity is to stay still upon awakening and try to hold onto your dream for as long as possible.
When do lucid dreams occur?
Lucid dreams occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is the fifth stage of sleep and occurs approximately ninety minutes after one falls asleep. Scientists have shown that these eye movements correspond to the direction in which the dreamer is looking into his or her dreamscape. In addition to rapid eye movement, this stage of sleep is characterized by sleep paralysis during which the voluntary muscles of the body are paralyzed by a mechanism in the brain. This is important; otherwise during sleep the movements that occur in the dream would cause a like response of the body. Studies show that the beginning of lucidity causes additional physical changes such as pauses in breathing, brief changes in heart rate and skin response alterations.
Why lucid dreaming matters
Those who have experienced lucid dreams say that they are a wonderful experience and allow for a feeling of utter freedom while feeling safe and secure in the knowledge that they are only dreaming. In addition to being enjoyable, lucid dreams can be used to overcome certain afflictions. Nightmares can be overcome by achieving control over one's dreams. If you can achieve lucidity within a dream and maintain awareness that you are dreaming, you can awaken yourself if need be, or consciously alter the subject of the dream to include visuals that aren't frightening.
Lucid dreams are also used for creativity and problem solving or as a healing tool for visual imagery to improve physical health. Lucid dreams can help to overcome phobias, work through grief, and to decrease social or sexual anxieties. In addition to being able to guide yourself through your dreams via lucid dreaming, you can also discover what your dreams mean and get a deeper look into your emotions and thoughts.