Is Lucid Dreaming Dangerous? The Truth Unveiled
You get into bed at night, fall asleep and start dreaming. In your dream, things suddenly become very vivid, much like real life.
You see yourself doing things you cannot in your real life, such as flying, or controlling your environment using your mind.
When you realize that you can fly, you decide to fly off to the beaches of Caribbean, one of your dream vacation destinations, and you instantly find yourself there.
That is when you realize that this is no ordinary dream. You realize that you are dreaming, and your dream self is responding to input from your conscious mind.
In this state, you can do whatever you want to do or go wherever you want to go, with no constraints at all.
You might not know it, but you are having a lucid dream. If you have never experienced such a thing, it might sound like fantasy.
However, this is a very real phenomenon that you can also experience through lucid dreaming.
WHAT IS LUCID DREAMING?
According to medicinenet.com, lucid dreaming refers to an experience where you become aware that you are dreaming.
When you are lucid dreaming, you gain the ability to observe your dream with the conscious realization that it is actually a dream.
You can even control the activities and outcomes of your lucid dream. Lucid dreams occur when your brain switches into wakefulness while you are inside a dream.
One study found out that when a person is lucid dreaming, there is increased activity in the pre-frontal cortex, a region of the brain that is associated with cognitive abilities and a sense of agency. This shows that lucid dreaming is a hybrid state of consciousness.
When you are having a normal dream, your consciousness is usually shut down. You are not self-aware, neither can you think or make decisions.
Despite being the one in the dream, things happen in autopilot mode. You have no control over what your dream self does.
With a lucid dream, you are self-aware, you have the ability to make decisions within the dream, and you have control over what happens in the dream. Your brain can distinguish between the dream world and your reality.
In a lucid dream, your brain knows that the dream world is a fantasy world where everything is possible. If things go against your expectations in a lucid dream, you have the ability to tell yourself to wake up. Lucid dreams are usually very vivid – you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel things the same way you do in your real life.
The term lucid dream was coined by 1911 by a Dutch psychiatrist named Frederick van Eden to describe the experience where one takes an active role in a dream.
In such a state, the dreamer can engage in activities which defy logic and the laws of nature, gravity, and even morality.
This perhaps explains why many people use lucid dreaming to either fly or fulfill their sexual fantasies. Lucid dreaming can also help you find solutions to complex problems you have been grappling with.
HOW TO HAVE LUCID DREAMS
Lucid dreaming is not a gift that is reserved for a chosen few. About half of the world’s population have or will experience at least one lucid dream in their lifetime.
To majority of these people, lucid dreams occur naturally.
The lucid dreams are sporadic and unpredictable. However, it has been scientifically proven that lucid dreams can be induced, and there is a growing community of enthusiasts who use different techniques to get into lucid dreams at will.
The good thing is that anyone can learn these techniques and use them to get into lucid dreams.
While there are several techniques of inducing lucid dreams, in this article we are going to look at the three most popular techniques.
This technique involves performing several reality checks throughout the course of your day to determine whether you are awake or dreaming. These checks could be anything, such as:
- Jumping in the air
- Reading some text
- Looking at a clock
- Pushing a finger through your opposite palm
Before attempting the reality check, ask yourself if you are awake or dreaming. In the dream world, when you jump in the air you might float in the air for a while since your dream body will not be affected by gravity.
Text appears scrambled or blurry in a dream, while a clock will show different times every time you look at it. Similarly, your finger will go through your palm if you are dreaming.
Performing these reality checks does two things. First, the more you do it, the more the habit gets ingrained into your mind, and with time, you will find yourself performing these reality checks even when you are dreaming. Second, the checks will make it possible for you to distinguish between your dream self and your real self. These two factors will make it possible for you to realize when you are dreaming, thereby making you lucid.
When using this technique, it is also helpful to keep a dream journal where you write down your dreams in detail immediately you wake up.
This will train your mind to remember your dreams more clearly and recognize dream signs. Dream signs are events, things or situations that recurrently appear in your dreams.
Once you become familiar with your dream signs, your mind will recognize them in a dream and therefore help you realize that you are in a dream.
Wake Back To Bed (WBTB)
This method involves waking up after about five or six hours of sleep and then going back to sleep. You can do this by setting an alarm to wake you up.
The aim here is to wake up while you are in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of your sleep, and then fall back to sleep.
Since most lucid dreams happen during the REM stage, waking up for a short moment before going back to sleep makes your mind alert and then quickly takes you back to a dream world.
By going back to REM sleep when your mind is more alert, you will have a higher chance of lucid dreaming. When you wake up while trying this technique, try as much as possible to keep your eyes shut.
Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD)
This technique is done in bed, right before you fall asleep. Once you are comfortable in bed and ready to fall asleep, tell yourself that the next time you dream, you will know that you are dreaming.
Keep repeating this to yourself and drift off to sleep with that thought in mind.
As you repeat your mnemonic phrase, you can also think about the last dream you had and picture yourself in the dream. Look for the dream signs that signaled that it was a dream and not reality, such as the ability to fly.
If you fall asleep with these thoughts and affirmations of your mnemonic phrase, there is a chance that you will achieve lucidity once your sleep gets to the REM stage.
THE DANGERS OF LUCID DREAMING
With the rising popularity of lucid dreaming, many people are eager to try it out, but many also have reservations about any dangers or negative side effects of the practice.
These fears are not entirely baseless. While lucid dreaming has a lot of benefits, it also has some side effects which can put you off the practice for good.
Some of the dangers usually associated with lucid dreaming include:
Many people who practice lucid dreaming use it as a technique to experience an alternative reality, and like anything that is used to escape reality (drugs, sex, games, etc.), lucid dreaming can quickly become addictive.
This is especially true in the first stages as you start experimenting with your new-found skill, and more so in cases where the dream world is more exciting than your reality.
Once you learn how to lucid dream, you might find yourself looking forward to nighttime so that you can go to sleep and explore your dream world.
You might also start waking up late so that you can spend more time in your dream world. Lucid dreaming becomes somewhat of an obsession, and if unchecked, it can have a negative impact on other things such as your work, your love life and social involvement.
If you are always looking forward to sleep so that you can visit your dream world, then this is definitely going to affect your waking life.
Getting Trapped In A Dream
This is a common fear that many people who have experimented with lucid dreaming experience. This fear results from something known as false awakenings, where someone who is having a lucid dream, in a bid to get from the dream, dreams about waking up.
While it seems like you have actually woken up, something happens that makes you realize that you are still dreaming, that you are not fully awake. If this keeps recurring, it can get to a point where you do not know whether you are really awake, or if you are dreaming of waking up.
This makes you feel like you are trapped in the dream world.
Experiencing false awakenings can be very scary, especially if you are new to lucid dreaming. While you are aware that you are dreaming, you feel like there is nothing you can do to pull yourself from the dream world.
While false awakenings are frightening, there is nothing to be worried about. You cannot get trapped in a dream.
Eventually, you will wake up from the dream into reality.
Once you realize this and stop fearing the false awakenings, you will even be able to enjoy your lucid dreams better.
The loss of control over your limbs while asleep is one of the scariest aspects associated with lucid dreaming. Sleep paralysis is a normal part of sleep that happens to everyone.
When you get into deep REM sleep, your body typically gets into a state of paralysis.
The paralysis is a result of neurons in your brainstem blocking signals between your brain’s action-generating regions and the nerves in your spine and muscles.
This keeps you from sleep walking at night or actually performing the activities playing out in your mind as you dream. Since most of us are usually not conscious during REM sleep, we do not realize that our bodies are in a state of paralysis.
However, when lucid dreaming, you have some level of consciousness, therefore you might attempt to move your limbs in response to whatever is happening in your dream. However, since your body is in sleep paralysis, it seems like you have lost control over your body movements, which can be very frightening.
For instance, if you dreaming that something is chasing you and you try to run, it can be very terrifying to realize that your body is not responsive to your brain’s commands.
Luckily, sleep paralysis is a normal and natural occurrence, so it something you should be scared of. Once you accept it as a natural part of your sleep, you will overcome the fear and allow yourself to enjoy the experience of lucid dreaming.
The key thing is to remember that nothing will happen to you, even if you seem to have lost control over your body.
Fighting it, on the other hand, can intensify the feeling and make it even more terrifying.
Sleep is typically supposed to leave you feeling fresh and rejuvenated when you wake up in the morning. Similarly, since lucid dreaming happens when you are in REM sleep, your body and mind should be able to get the amount of rest needed to ensure you wake up feeling fresh. S
ome lucid dreamers claim that they wake up feeling better after a night of lucid dreaming.
However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, a night of lucid dreaming can leave you feeling very exhausted. This is mostly associated with the techniques used to induce lucid dreaming.
Some people induce lucid dreaming using techniques that might tamper with their sleeping patterns, which in turn means that they do not get adequate sleep.
If you wake up feeling exhausted every time you have a lucid dreaming experience, you should examine your techniques and find out if they affect your sleeping patterns.
For instance, some techniques induce lucid dreaming by interrupting your sleep in the early hours of the morning, when you are more likely to be in REM sleep. While these techniques might be an effective way of getting you into lucid dreams, they might also be contributing to your exhaustion.
Changing your techniques can get rid of the exhaustion.
Alternatively, you can reduce the amount of time you spend trying to get into lucid dreams, ensuring that you get adequate, uninterrupted sleep for most of the week.
Lucid dreaming is still dreaming, and like happens with ordinary dreams, your lucid dreams will sometimes turn into nightmares.
Since you are self-aware, coupled with the fact that lucid dreams are usually more vivid than ordinary dreams, lucid nightmares can be extremely terrifying.
Luckily, the fact that you are lucid also means that it is possible to exert some control over the nightmare.
Therefore, if you are skilled at lucid dreaming, you can turn your lucid nightmares into pleasant dreams.
You can also consciously remind yourself that you are in a dream, therefore making the nightmare less frightening.
Fear of Sleep (Somniphobia)
Sometimes, when learning how to lucid dream, you might end up having very vivid dreams but without the awareness that you are dreaming or the ability to control the dream.
In such cases, having a nightmare means that the nightmare would seem very realistic, yet you would have no control over the nightmare or have the ability to remind yourself that it is only a dream.
In the event that the nightmares occur frequently, it can lead to a somniphobia, a situation where you become afraid of going to sleep because of the possibility of having nightmares.
Inability To Distinguish Between Reality And Dreams
This is one of the most common side effect of lucid dreaming, and one of the leading reasons as to why many people are afraid of attempting lucid dreaming.
Since you experience the events in your lucid dream world the same way you experience events in your real world, your mind might get mixed up about events that happened when you were lucid dreaming and that those actually happened in the real world.
Memories from your dream world and your real world might become jumbled. For instance, if you are walking in your home town and you bump into a friend in your lucid dream, you might remember it as something that actually happened, even though it did not.
In extreme cases, your conscious mind might tell you that you are in a dream even when you are awake, leading to irrational behaviors.
A good way to prevent this is to have a dream journal where you record every single dream you have.
This way, if you are unable to distinguish something that happened in your dreams from something that happened in real life, you can always refer to your dream journal.
HOW TO AVOID THE DANGERS OF LUCID DREAMING
While there are some side effects associated with lucid dreaming, the good part is that you can take some action to prevent these side effects.
Some of the ways you can avoid the dangers of lucid dreaming include:
Learn The Right Way To Lucid Dream
Some techniques such as WBTB might affect your sleeping pattern if you are unable to fall back to sleep after waking up in the early hours of the morning, leading to exhaustion and daytime drowsiness. The key, therefore, is to mix up your lucid dreaming techniques.
For instance, you might only decide to attempt WBTB on weekends, while using reality checks and MILD for the weekdays. This way, you will be guaranteed of adequate sleep every week.
Meditating every day is also a good habit that will make you more alert when you are awake and improve your chances of lucid dreaming without affecting your sleeping patterns.
Keep In Mind That It’s Just A Dream
Whatever you come across during your lucid dream, always remind yourself that it is just a dream and that you will eventually wake up.
Doing this will help keep you from getting frightened by your lucid dreams and will make it easier for you to become more experimental and explorative.
Avoid Making Lucid Dreaming An Obsession
Learning how to lucid dream can be very exciting, and it is possible to find yourself looking forward to lucid dreaming every night. If unchecked, this can quickly become an addiction.
The key is to realize that, like everything else in life, lucid dreaming should be done in moderation. Instead of attempting to lucid dream every night, aim for just one or two nights every week.
You should also be active in your waking life and try to make some achievements and have some fun. If your waking life is dull, lucid dreaming can quickly become an obsession, a way for you to escape your reality.
Give In To The Process
One of the reasons most people experience some of these side effects of lucid dreaming is because they try to fight them. The way our brains are wired, worrying about something actually attracts these very thing.
Therefore, if you worry about false awakenings every time you attempt to lucid dream, you are actually more likely to experience the false awakenings.
The key, therefore, is to give in to the process and let things come to you. After all, you are just dreaming, and no harm can come to you from a dream.
Therefore, even when you experience a nightmare while lucid dreaming, instead of trying to fight it, acknowledge that it is a dream and face your fears in your nightmare.
Giving yourself to the process is the only way you will be able to gain control over your lucid dreams.
Use Reality Checks
Using reality checks is the best way to avoid being unable to distinguish between your dream world and your real world.
Making it a habit to perform reality checks every morning when you wake up can help you avoid false awakenings.
When you perform a reality check in your false awakening, you will realize that you are still dreaming, therefore your false awakening will not leave you disoriented.
Reality checks will also help you know when you are dreaming and when you are awake, which is important for achieving lucidity.
You can perform reality checks by performing actions that defy physics or trying to affect your environment with your mind.
For instance, you can try to make something disappear from your environment using your mind. This will succeed in a dream world, whereas it is impossible in the real world.
There are some dangers associated with lucid dreaming, the phenomenon where you gain awareness while in your dreams. Luckily, most of these side effects are only minor.
They will not cause any huge impacts in your life. In addition, you can avoid most of them by learning to lucid dream the right way, keeping in mind that it is only a dream, practicing in moderation, giving in to the process and using reality checks.