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Heal Yourself While You Sleep Through Lucid Dreaming

By Jacob Andreae

Lucid dreaming is a state in which you are asleep and dreaming, but aware, and can control your dreams. Sounds pretty cool, right?! Apart from being cool, it could be used to heal yourself, and it might be easier than you think.

 

As soon as I read about this, I was excited, but a little apprehensive and scared. It’s pretty freaky to be mucking around with your mind in altered states of consciousness. But the child-like scientist in me wanted to know more and learn how. Let’s hope curiosity doesn’t kill the cat in this case.

 

Learning how to control your dreams brings a sense of power and control to your waking life.

 

Lucid dreaming is a state between REM sleep. As your brain waves slow as you drift off to sleep, there are five phases to sleep. The first phase is stage one and is the “nodding off” stage. The second phase is stage two and is the “light sleep” stage. The third and fourth phases are stage three and four respectively and are the “deep sleep” stage. The fifth phase is stage five and is the “REM (rapid eye movement)” stage. In terms of voltage and brain wave frequency, this fifth stage is  similar to stage one; however, is accompanied by rapid eye movement (as the name suggests) and muscle atonia.

 

Dreaming occurs during the REM phase. Your brain becomes surprisingly active during this time and oxygen consumption, indicating that energy is required for brain activity, is often higher than when you’re awake. Muscle atonia also occurs — the relaxation of skeletal muscle. This may be a defence mechanism of the body to prevent you moving around and hurting yourself while you’re asleep and dreaming. If the body has established a defence mechanism to moving while you sleep rather than just evolving out of dreaming, it goes to suggest that dreaming must be very important.

 

Lucid dreaming is a stage between REM sleep and awake. Unlike normal dreaming that occurs during REM sleep, lucid dreams involve brain activity in areas associated with working memory and other regions of higher cognitive functioning, such as planning and behavioural control.

 

Healing yourself through dreams is used in psychological therapy by employing a strategy known as Imagery Rehearsal Therapy. This is a common form of treatment for people who experience recurring nightmares, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this form of treatment, patients discuss their dreams during therapy and attempt to rewrite them. Patients are encouraged to rehearse this new scenario in their mind so that it plays out in their dream. People who are capable of lucid dreaming make this therapy more effective. In fact, the ability to control your dreams like this not only helps to overcome a disorder, but it also brings a sense of power and control that is translated into waking life.

 

How to Initiate Lucid Dreaming

 

Perform reality checks throughout the day. According to experienced lucid dreamers, the best way to learn how to lucid dream is to perform reality checks throughout the day. As often as possible, ask yourself: “Is this a dream?” As this becomes a habit, it will become incorporated into your dreams and one night you’ll ask yourself this in a dream, and it will be.

 

The wake-back-to-bed technique. According to sleep experts, the best way to initiate lucid dreams is the wake-back-to-sleep technique. In this technique, you set an alarm for about 2 hours before you normally wake up. This will put you in a phase of the sleep cycle when REM sleep is longer and more intense. You’ll need to be awake for approximately 20 minutes. During this time, think about anything you could have been dreaming about and pay attention to anything that indicates you were dreaming. When you go back to sleep you should start dreaming, and your recently awake mind should follow.

 

Technology. The first two techniques are effective, but they can be complemented by technology. You can buy headbands that pair with an app to track your sleep and wake you up at the best point in your sleep cycle. These headbands use EEG (and other biosensors) to detect when you are in REM sleep and trigger LED signals to wake you up.

 

Lucid dreaming is a natural therapy that can be used to heal yourself. Some people may be a bit apprehensive — I certainly was — but this is simply learning to control your own mind to better your own mind. Learning to lucid dream is much easier than you might think. You can learn how to lucid dream through two very simple techniques, and you can use technology to complement these techniques.

 

Have you ever had lucid dreams? Would you practice learning how to improve the ability to lucid dream?

 

Leave your answer to that question in the comments section below. 

 

Photo by Bruce Christianson on Unsplash

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