Lucid dreams: what they are, why they are made and how to induce them

Lucid dreams: what they are, why they are made and how to induce them

What if we could direct the plot of our dreams, influencing the narrative? This is what happens in lucid dreams, particular dream experiences lived in a state of consciousness. While not being able to reach the goal of Dom Cobb, the protagonist of the film Inception that manages to infiltrate the vulnerable mind of those who sleep to extract its secrets, each of us can experience lucid dreams, enter a fantasy world with awareness of what’s going on. According to studies, 40-50% of adults have experienced at least one lucid dream in their lifetime and 20% of people have lucid dreams at least once a month. But there are also more extreme cases, where these experiences are constant and regular ”, says the professor Lino Nobili of the University of Genoa, expert in sleep medicine and director of Child Neuropsychiatry at the Gaslini hospital in Genoa.

What are lucid dreams

«Normally, we are able to have perception of our dreams only upon awakening, when it can happen to remember what“ happened ”to us during sleep. During lucid dreams, on the other hand, the person is aware of the fact that he is dreaming and sometimes he even has the ability to control events ”, explains Professor Nobili. These experiences should not be confused with sleep paralysis, when – during awakening or shortly before falling asleep – it sometimes happens to be aware and conscious, but unable to move and speak: “These paralysis show that sleep and wakefulness are not two so sharply separated systems, so it can happen to wake up partially or completely while the body is still in a state of muscular atony, typical of REM sleep. This condition can be associated with hypnagogic hallucinations, which often involve different sensory organs including sight, touch and hearing: we can feel ourselves touched without being able to do anything to react, see one or more entities moving in the room, hear noises, footsteps, sighs , shouts or music. These are certainly potentially distressing and frightening experiences, but they have nothing to do with lucid dreams ».

How do you have a lucid dream

Lucid dreams occur in the stages of REM sleepconcentrated in the second part of the night, where dreams are more frequent and well structured: “Compared to what happens during traditional dreams, here there is a greater activation and connection of the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain, which somehow reproduce the state of wakefulness during rest ».

On the web there is an indication of different techniques that can train to induce these dreams. For example, some experts suggest reality tests, which consist of carrying out a few steps several times a day: asking yourself “Am I dreaming?”, Checking the environment to confirm if we are dreaming or not (examining your reflection in the mirror to check if it seems normal, push your hand against a wall and see if it passes, etc), set an alarm every 2 or 3 hours to remind you to do a reality check. Others suggest a breathing test, pinching your nose to see if you can still breathe (which only happens in dreams), while others recommend setting the alarm five hours after going to bed, so that you wake up in the middle of the night. , stay awake for 30 minutes enjoying a quiet activity such as reading and then try to go back to sleep. “They are all ways to increase the likelihood of having lucid dreamsbecause they point to maintain a level of activation of consciousness greater when one enters a dream », explains Professor Nobili.

Some advantages

On the market, there are even devices in the shape of glasses or goggles which, through particular sensors, reveal the REM phase of a sleeping subject and at that point they make light LEDs flash or emit a sound that partially awakens him, making him understand that he is dreaming. ‘In the laboratory, the researchers found that even a drug commonly used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, the galantaminecan favor the induction of lucid dreams in subjects already “trained”.

These are experiments, of course there is no pharmacological indication for lucid dreams “, the expert points out. Why all this interest around the topic? There are several studies showing how lucid dreaming can perform positive effects even during wakefulnessbecause – having the ability to intervene on the “plot” – the person could improve his creativity, strengthen his memory, acquire a proactive attitude to be adopted in reality, overcome trauma, perfect cognitive skills and even reduce some ailments, such as post-traumatic stress, because dreams can be exploited to create powerful mental images, capable of preparing for a more conscious approach to real life. “On the other hand, having lucid dreams too often can also be deleterious, because sleep is less restful,” warns Dr. Nobili.

How long is the time in lucid dreams

The notion of time also changes from traditional dreams. In the lucid ones, in fact, the duration of facts and actions is very similar to what they would assume in reality, even if it can undergo cuts, jumps and variations typical of dream experiences. «Each individual can experience different situations, very subjective and without general rules. Not to mention the fact that lucid dreams are more frequent in some pathologies: just think of narcolepsy, where patients often report unusual dream experiences characterized by high emotional intensity, perhaps also due to a creative personality. Furthermore, in subjects suffering from narcolepsy, lucid dreams can occur not only in rest, but also during the day, because in this disorder the boundary between sleep and wakefulness is very blurred. At first this can frighten patients, who fear they may be hallucinating ».

How to get out of a lucid dream

In summary: there is no formula that is valid for everyone, but certainly a mental status can be created that predisposes to having a lucid dream. “And we can also get out of this quite easily, because we have good control over events,” concludes Professor Nobili. A good control, yes, to the point that some researchers have managed to have small “conversations” with lucid dreamers, to whom they have asked questions and math problems. The results showed that we can receive and process complex external information while we sleep, so in sleep our brains are not as disconnected and unaware of the external world as we think. So, starting tonight, good lucid dreams everyone!

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