What is lucid dreaming?

Lucid dreaming is not experienced by everyone and is not as common as other things like snoring or sleepwalking. It happens when you know you’re having a dream and some people can control what happens during the dream, like the storyline or the people in it. The condition can affect both adults and children.

Many lucid dreamers are able to recognise their own thoughts and emotions as the dream unfolds. Some researchers believe that this type of dreaming can help reduce symptoms of mild emotional problems like depression and anxiety.

When does lucid dreaming occur?
Sleep is made up of repeated cycles of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep consists of three separate stages and during this time your heartbeat, eye movements and brainwaves gradually slow down. Conversely, during REM sleep your brain is very active and your eye movements and heartbeat speed up. Like most dreams, lucid dreaming generally occurs during REM sleep.

What are the benefits of lucid dreaming?
It is said that lucid dreaming has a number of potential benefits, not least as this type of dreaming can reduce the chances of you having a nightmare. While nightmares that happen occasionally are normal, repeatedly having nightmares can become a big problem as they reduce your sleep quality.

Frequent nightmares often affect people suffering with:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Sleep disorders, like narcolepsy
  • Depression
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Illnesses or conditions that require certain types of medication

During a lucid dream, you’re able to realise that the nightmare isn’t real. There is also an element of control, which gives you the opportunity to make the nightmare less frightening or more neutral.

Lucid dreaming is also said to help people in other ways, as well as reducing their overall anxiety levels. Some lucid dreamers have noticed:

Improved motor skills
Visualising physical movements can boost the actual ability to do them. Lucid dreams can actually offer the chance to the dreamer to practice certain motor skills they use when they’re awake. This is because when you perform motor skills when dreaming, it activates your brain’s sensorimotor cortex which controls movement. This can prove useful for people with certain physical disabilities for example, especially after an illness or operation. It can also help improve sporting skills and co-ordination in activities like driving.

Enhance creativity
Having a lucid dream regularly may even super-charge your creativity and imagination. Typically, individuals who are more creative are more likely to lucid dream. This could be due to their increased ability to recall dreams and visualise events.

Lucid dreaming, especially when not accompanied by sleepwalking, is harmless but some people can find it distressing. If it’s something that happens to you or your child regularly you may find certain medications or therapy helpful so it’s worth having a word with your doctor for advice.

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