The Science Behind Lucid Dreaming


Lucid dreaming involves being awake and aware of one’s dream state

How often are you aware of your dreams? The term “lucid dreaming” refers to the state where someone knows they are in a dream, while asleep. This “hybrid state” incorporates both waking (where people can control their actions) and dreaming. Recent studies show that 51% of people have experienced lucid dreaming at least once, and 20% of people experience it one or more times in a month. 

Lucid dreaming begins early in childhood, around 3-4 years old. However, people naturally lose this ability as they grow older, so these dreams start to become infrequent. When experienced, lucid dreams usually occur during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep state. REM (quite literally) lives up to its definition, characterized by “rapid eye movement” and fast breathing during sleep. This happens around 90 minutes after you go to sleep. Increased brain activity in the prefrontal cortex (an area of the brain associated with decision making and self-consciousness) can be observed in this state, explaining the autonomy in a lucid dream. 

Now, I’m sure you wonder how or who can experience this state. To help answer that question, research was done and factors associated with lucid dreams were elucidated. For example, it was  found that people who are open to new experiences and feel strong emotions (including anxiety and depression) tend to have more lucid dreams. Also, certain medical conditions can make someone better able to have a lucid dream. According to the Journal of Sleep Research, there is “A significant positive correlation between sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming.” 

However, there are ways to improve the skill of lucid dreaming which don’t involve medical conditions or a specific personality. One way to do this would be through meditation. Research has shown that people who have been meditating (or are mindful) have a high rate of lucid dreaming. Diet also plays a role. For example, vitamin B6 ( found in fruit, bread, and some types of fish and poultry) helps achieve this state. This vitamin promotes healthy brain function and has been known to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s! B6 also aids in remembering dreams, which can then be used to have a lucid experience. 

There is a specific way to do this. First, write down what happened during the dreams on paper if you can remember your dreams. Frequently, dreams share common elements, meaning there could be a recurring location, person, event, or another object. These are referred to as “lucidity triggers”. With time, you will be able to recognize these unique triggers while you are in a dream.With this association, you will have the awareness that you are dreaming, and thereby control your actions in the dream!

Research has shown that practice helps people become better lucid dreamers. Developing this skill will help in having more vivid life experiences in both the waking and sleeping state.  And for another benefit, this unique experience has also been known to enhance creativity and problem-solving skills! Who wouldn’t love that?