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Dreams are mysterious, often like riddles or stories without context. Lucid dreams differ in that the dreamer knows they are dreaming and maintains some degree of control over what they do while in the dream. It is possible to teach yourself to lucid dream as an exercise in accessing the unconscious mind and alleviating stresses and symptoms of other disorders.

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How Lucid Dreams Feel

Dreams can occur during any stage of slumber, but lucid dreams happen during REM sleep. Short for Rapid Eye Movement, REM is the stage of sleep when the brain is most active. During a lucid dream, the dreamer is aware of their emotions and may find themselves adjusting the environment and narrative as they proceed. The experience of being hyper-aware in a thought-responsive environment sometimes feels more real than being awake.

Lucid dreaming during deep sleep LaylaBird / Getty Images
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Causes of Lucid Dreams

Lucid dreams occur with enhanced awareness due to higher cognitive function. Researchers find that areas of the brain normally inhibited during sleep are active during lucid dreams, areas that control voluntary action and decision-making. Though people without medical conditions can lucid dream, those with narcolepsy and nightmare disorders are prone to them because of their irregular sleep patterns.

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Can Lucid Dreams Affect Sleep?

Virtual reality games and immersive experiences have awakened more people to the possibilities of lucid dreaming. Those interested in achieving awareness in dreams can train themselves to become lucid during sleep, but experts warn that the process could disturb sleeping patterns. Certain techniques, like the mnemonic induction of lucid dreams, or MILD, involve forced awakenings and intermittent periods of wakefulness. Sleep deprivation could cause other health issues to appear or worsen existing concerns.

Lucid dreams can hinder sleep Motortion / Getty Images
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Is Lucid Dreaming Dangerous?

Lucid dreaming alters consciousness without the use of psychoactive substances.It does not inflict damage upon the physical body, but the boundaries between reality and fantasy are subject to disruption. Lucid dream therapy can help with anxiety issues and psychological trauma, as long as it is not abused. It is also not possible to be "stuck" within a dream or nightmare.

Lucid dreams aren't scary suteishi / Getty Images

Why People Choose to Lucid Dream

Many consider lucid dreaming a form of therapy for psychological issues, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. People with PTSD may experience recurring nightmares, but in a lucid dream state, they can acknowledge that the situation is not truly occurring at the moment, and steer the narrative to an emotionally safer place. Lucid dreaming is also an effective way to get in touch with creativity. Some dreamers use the opportunity to explore artistic ideas or to hone their skills in a controlled environment.

Lucid dreams are safe spaces Tim Robberts / Getty Images

Can You Learn to Lucid Dream?

We spend roughly six years of our lives dreaming. Lucid dreams aren't rare, but it is uncommon to have them regularly. It is possible to encourage lucid dreams, and people have tried many techniques, from yogic meditations to dietary supplements, to increase their chances. No one method is foolproof, but with practice, people do see positive results. Some experts agree that dream journaling is an effective method.

We spend hours dreaming Andy Ryan / Getty Images

Keeping a Dream Journal

It's easy to remember dreams when they are vivid or emotionally significant, but recalling them each morning takes practice. In addition to recall, recording dreams also cultivates an attitude of awareness about what's going on in our minds. Not just an opportunity for jotting down words, a dream journal can also be a sketchbook of images you remember. The act of filling out the journal each day boosts creativity since most dreams are imaginative and unpredictable.

Dream journals help lucid dreams Jenny Elia Pfeiffer / Getty Images

Cultivate Daytime Mindfulness

There has been a renewed interest in meditation and mindfulness in recent years. The act of being mindful requires maintaining awareness of thoughts and experiences within each moment. Being in the present encourages us to slow down and live life more consciously. It can also pave the way toward lucid dreamings.

Mindfulness assists in lucid dreaming. RunPhoto / Getty Images

What to Do While Lucid Dreaming

Dreams can help us deal with personal issues or sort through memories. They can also help us hone sports and motor skills. Studies show that dreamers who consciously rehearse movements while sleeping perform better in wakefulness. Practicing physical maneuvers in a controlled environment allows for more freedom and confidence in performing tasks. It also improves confidence and self-esteem during waking hours.

Practice physical feats in dreams Martin Puddy / Getty Images

What Not to Do

While lucid dreaming can be an effective therapy for anxiety, it is never recommended to obsess over stressful issues while awake. Such negative thoughts may lead to bad dreams and possibly interfere with attempts to gain lucidity. Lucid dreaming will occur much more easily with meditation and calming visuals.

Don't get too excited. East Road/ Ascent Xmedia / Getty Images

Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.