The Skill of Lucid Dreaming
Every night when we lay down on our mattresses and close our eyes, we often wonder what kind of story our brain will come up with when we finally drift off to sleep. Will you be falling endlessly into an bottomless pit? Will you be alone on a private island with your favorite hollywood starlet? Will you accidently push that starlet into a bottomless pit?
“I would have let you do anythiiiiiiiiii”
The point is you don’t know what wacky things your brain will throw together in the mysterious abyss of the dream-world. Unless of course, you are able to somehow become conscious of the fact that you are dreaming in the midst of doing so. This well-established phenomenon is referred to as lucid dreaming and has been studied and debated upon for decades in pseudo-scientific circles across the globe.
Lucid dreams, and dreams in general, occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of the sleep cycle. Studies have been done showing that the direction in which your eyes move during this stage corresponds with the direction you may be looking in the so-called dreamscape. While this eye movement is occurring the first stage to dreaming lucidly is becoming aware that you are, in fact, dreaming. The recognition has been theorized to occur in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is where working memory occurs and is one of the few areas of the brain that is typically shut off during REM sleep. After the initial recognition stage, the dreamer must walk a mental tightrope in between being careful enough to let the dream continue and being conscious enough to be aware that he or she is dreaming.
There are several tried and true methods for achieving lucidity in dreaming, the most popular of which include Dream Induced Lucid Dreams (DILD), Mnemonic Induced Lucid Dreams (MILD), and Wake Induced Lucid Dreams (WILD). In the DILD method the dreamer must simply have a high level of awareness when going to sleep in order to actively identify clues in the dream that give away the fact that they are dreaming. The MILD method can be utilized in four easy steps:
- Work on your dream recall by writing down at least one of your dreams each morning as soon as you wake up. The more you remember your dreams, the more vivid they were which increases your chances of attaining lucidity.
- Commit constant reality checks to your memory by actively thinking to yourself, “Am I dreaming”, at various times throughout the day.
- When you lay down to go to sleep, program commands to your memory by repeating in your mind, “I am dreaming”, which will affirm your lucidity when you actually are dreaming.
- When you are deeply relaxed and feel you could fall off to sleep at any moment begin to visualize a recent dream, but change the ending slightly. This will put you in the mindset you were in when you were dreaming last but now you have prepared yourself to achieve lucidity.
In order to use the WILD method you have to achieve sleep paralysis which can be done by lying completely still. If you do this until you fall asleep you will most likely be able to dream lucidly.
Above all, the most important step to lucid dreaming is achieving the appropriate amount of REM sleep. The best way to do this is sleeping on a mattress that is comfortable enough to keep you properly suspended between the dream and waking worlds without the tossing and turning that comes with an uncomfortable mattress. In all reality, the difference between sleeping on, say, a memory foam mattress as compared to an old spring mattress, could be the difference between lucid dreaming in a wonderful cloud world and a lumpy WWI battlefield.