Many of us have watched the blockbuster Inception based on lucid dreaming ideas and were all amazed on how Cobb and his team be able to alter other people’s dreams. In reality, it is almost impossible to visit someone else mind. The question is: can we alter our own consciousness, control our dream as we want ? And if yes, how do we do that ?
The answer is a technique called : “Lucid Dreaming”
What is lucid dreaming ?
Lucid dreaming is simply being aware you are dreaming while you are dreaming.
Studies suggest than about half of the population has experienced a lucid dream at some point in their lives. While most of those are spontaneous lucid dreams, some people train themselves to seek out lucid dreaming and can initiate lucid dreams several times per week. (This is where the float tank comes in—more on that in a minute.)
For experienced lucid dreamers, the ability to control a dream’s environment or action is what makes it so desirable. In an in-depth New York Magazine article, one longtime lucid dreamer described his favorite activities as flying, destroying cities, gorging on pastries at bakeries, flying space ships, and playing with his children, who live several hours away.
The Science of Lucid Dreaming?
Scientific research on lucid dreaming is not extensive, but a few studies have validated the experience and explored some possible explanations for how lucid dreams occur. In a frequently-cited study at Frankfurt University, experienced lucid dreamers were actually able to signal researchers that they were lucid by a designated pattern of eye movements detectable during sleep.
When a person is dreaming, the left hemisphere of the brain is shut down. The left hemisphere is responsible for logical thought, sequential thinking, rules, and understanding of time. This is why dreams are so often illogical, jump from one situation to the next with no continuity, and appear to take either no time at all or a surprisingly long amount of time. The right hemisphere, often considered to be the “more creative” hemisphere, is solely responsible for dreaming.
Lucid dreaming takes place during the REM sleep cycle—the final cycle of sleep before waking, when most dreams occur. But the brain behaves a little differently during a lucid dream: during the Frankfurt study, EEG recordings of six experienced lucid dreamers revealed that lucid dreaming “constitutes a hybrid state of consciousness with definable and measurable differences from waking and from REM sleep”.
Normal dreams are accompanied by a lack of self-consciousness, meaning an inability to recognize that the situations being experienced are not real. In lucid dreaming, the dreamer is self conscious; in other words, the dreamer is aware he or she is experiencing a dream. This means that he or she can make conscious choices in the dream, instead of simply moving through the dream as a programmed participant or spectator.
How Does a Floatation Tank Help?
Some experienced lucid dreamers report that while in an isolation tank, lucid dreams are more intense, easier to initiate, and longer-lasting than dreams they experienced outside the tank.
Well-known float therapy advocate Richard Bonk has even developed a system combining lucid dream initiation techniques with floating—and describes experiencing lucid dreams approximately 80% of the time he uses his system, with spontaneous lucid dreams increasing in and out of the tank as well.
Indeed, float therapy can aid the pursuit of lucid dreams even during regular sleep (i.e., not in the tank). For lucid dreaming, being able to reliably enter the REM state is crucial—and floatation therapy helps individuals who may struggle with insomnia or disrupted sleep experience REM more consistently.
Lucid Dreaming Techniques
There is a huge amount of literature available on lucid dreaming techniques—different ways to help initiate lucid dreams (often referred to as “going lucid”), make lucid dreams last longer, and experience a greater sense of control during the dream. There is also anecdotal evidence that meditation can improve your ability to have lucid dreams.
Most lucid dreaming techniques revolve around triggering the realization that you’re dreaming. The first steps often include keeping a dream journal to increase your awareness of your dreams, and identifying common themes or signs in your dreams. Many lucid dreamers recommend habitually questioning your waking state at all times—i.e., practice asking yourself if you’re dreaming or awake during the day, so that when you are sleeping the habit will pop up in your dreams.
That may seem a bit silly, at first, but just asking the question makes you aware of the moment you are in and all the reasons you know you are not dreaming. Likewise you will become accustomed to asking and being aware so that you will also ask yourself and become aware during dreams. If you are able to answer—in your dream—”Look, there’s a fuzzy clock, which I know is a theme in lots of my dreams. I am dreaming!”…then you have initiated a lucid dream.
Meditation is one of the best ways to aid lucidity in dreams because meditation is connected to self-awareness and “mindfulness.” This mindfulness is fundamental in becoming aware that what one is experiencing in a dream is not reality and at that point the dream becomes lucid.
Most lucid dreaming experts talk about “reality checks” throughout each and every day where you ask yourself: Am I dreaming?