Ice cream & Helicopter Rides: the Possibilities of Lucid Dreaming
When I was younger I used to dream a lot, or more precisely, remember my dreams a lot. I could wake up and recall whatever crazy experiences I have had that night and tell my family all about them. I could even make drawings of the things I had seen in my dreams. However, the most extraordinary thing that ever happened to me in a dream was realizing that I was dreaming. This is what a lucid dream is. In a lucid dream, since you know you are dreaming, you can control everything in it; the location, the people, the things and what happens next. In my first lucid dream, for example, I snapped my fingers and made a strawberry ice cream appear in my hand. I was so shocked that it had worked that I then snapped my fingers again and appeared a helicopter which I got on and traveled to the top of a tower. I even made my elementary school crush appear in the tower with me. It was a pretty cool experience. After that first lucid dream I had a couple more but less clear as the first one. However, because I had that experience I know for a fact that lucid dreaming is possible and I have made some research on them to train my brain into having more.
One way to do so is to constantly have reality checks. This reality checks can be almost anything that makes you question whether you are in a dream or awake. You can count your fingers (in a dream you wont be able to). You can see a clock, turn around and then see it again (in a dream you won’t see the same time twice). You can pinch your nose and try to breath through it (in a dream you will be able to). This concept is famously portrayed in the movie Inception where Leonardo Dicaprio’s character uses a spinning tractricoid to determine if he is dreaming (if it continues spinning without toppling over then he is dreaming). For this technique to work you must do multiple reality checks throughout the day and perform the action even though you think you are awake, you never know when you’ll be surprised and see that you are actually not. This way you will become accustomed to question your state of consciousness and will at some point do it while dreaming thus making you realize you are dreaming and being able to enjoy a lucid dream.
Lucid dreaming can be used for creative purposes as stated by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold in their 1990 book Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. They believe lucid dreaming is "conscious access to the contents of our unconscious minds” and how we can obtain information that we already know but don’t know that we know, or things that we know but can’t explain. Lucid dreaming can also be used as a form of therapy, where the dreamer can heal past trauma, gain new insight about problems in their life and grow as a person. Lucid dreaming therapy can also help ease nightmares, sleep paralysis or PTSD.
However, there could be some potential downsides too. Constant lucid dreaming can disrupt your sleep quality given that in a lucid dream you are nether asleep or awake but in a sort of in between. Another downside could be a blurred boundary between reality and dreaming, so lucid dreaming is not recommended for psychotic people since it may worsen delirium or hallucinations often having more internal influence than external reality. So, lucid dreaming can be a very cool experience to have once in a while but doing it every night is not recommended.
Personally, I have found that reading helps a lot. The days on which I read I have crazier dreams and I remember them more than days were I don’t. Same thing goes with meditation. Recently I have remembered a lot of my dreams and so I feel I am getting close to lucid dreaming again, if I do I will write an update on my lucid dreaming process. For now I will keep on reading, meditating and doing constant reality checks. I’ll help you on your first one…are you sure you are awake right now?
Lucidity Sleep & Psychiatry. “Lucid Dreaming Therapy” Sleep Medicine & Mental Health Counseling.
Soffer-Dudek, Nirit. (2020) “Are Lucid Dreams Good for Us? Are We Asking the Right Question? A Call for Caution in Lucid Dream Research” Department of Psychology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2019.01423