Have you ever wondered what dreams are or why do we have them?
Dreams can be explained as a series of images, sounds, memories and feelings that occur while we sleep. Most of our dreaming happen in REM stage of our sleep, during which swift movements of our eyes are quite noticeable. Those movements can even be recorded and monitored, so we can learn more about the intricate process of dreaming. REM is an abbreviation for “rapid eye movement”. This is a stage of our sleep when our mind is most active and when we usually feel as if we are awake. Dreams can also occur during other stages of sleep.
Lucid dreaming is a thrilling form of intense dreaming in which we are completely aware that we are in a dream. This means that we are, to some extent or even completely, able to control our dreams and everything that happens while we are dreaming.
Sometimes, we have difficulty distinguishing dream from reality, but sometimes we are fully conscious when we are dreaming.
Why We Dream?
Dreams cannot be fully explained. When we go to sleep, our body basically restores itself so it can be fresh and ready for the following day. While sleeping, our body temperature drops and all of our functions go to some sort of a silent and rejuvenating mode. The body rests, but at the same time continues to operate. When we sleep:
- Body gets rid of the toxins accumulated during the day.
- Muscles restore their energy.
- Cells repair themselves.
- Food in our body is digested.
Similar things happen with our mind when we are dreaming. In a way, dreams are restoring our mind so it can be fresh in the morning. You can think of it as a cell phone turned off during the night and plugged in to be charged and ready for the next day.
Usually, there is very little we remember about our dreams. This is not the case when it comes to vivid and lucid dreaming, especially if we write down our dreams.
Who invented the term “lucid dreaming” is to this day open to debate since both French sinologist Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denys and Dutch psychiatrist Frederik Willem van Eeden used the same phrase in their books about dreams. De Saint-Denys speaks of the state of the mind where “dreamer is perfectly aware he is dreaming“, which corresponds with the way lucid dreaming is described throughout history.
Lucid dreaming is almost infamous for its characteristics of absolute awareness, a unique state of consciousness that we acquire during our sleep. Lucid dreaming can be viewed as a bridge between REM stage of our sleep and being entirely awake. If you just think about the word lucid itself, it becomes obvious that lucid dreaming simply means clearness of the mind.
These are the features of lucid dreaming:
- Self-awareness while dreaming
- Sense of absolute freedom and creativity
- Feeling of physical presence
Lucid dreaming can be so powerful and engaging that your mind becomes addicted to it. Lucid dreaming is a generally positive experience for most of the people, but there are those who feel that lucid dreaming can, in fact, be dangerous.
Dangers of Lucid Dreaming
- Accidental physical harm
- Distancing one’s self from the society or reality; lucid dreaming can be something of a stigma for some people, something that makes them feel ashamed because they think it’s not normal
- Having troubles waking up or having troubles falling asleep
- Feelings of claustrophobia; sometimes we are afraid to go to sleep because we feel imprisoned in our dreams
- Impatience, restlessness and anxiety
- Changing the narrative of our dreams can backfire on us; sometimes it is better to let the dream play itself out
However, let’s not forget that lucid dreaming can help you overcome night terrors, sleeping disorders and some of your greatest fears, like talking in public, meeting that special someone or even standing up to your boss. Lucid dreaming boosts* your temperament and elevates organic chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and melatonin. These neurotransmitters regulate your sleep and help you feel pleasure, reward and desire.
When we go to sleep we need to feel safe. And when we wake up we want to feel refreshed. Our dreams should be a safe house where we can be protected from anything.
There are many studies still left to be done, but lucid dreaming continues to fascinate neuroscientists. It is a therapeutic tool that can be used to improve* and mend our sleeping cycles, but it can also disrupt them. The human mind is complex but fragile. It should be treated with care and respect, especially when we dream lucidly.
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