I find the phenomenon of lucid dreaming to be very fascinating. In short, lucid dreaming is the ability to control your own dreams and be consciously aware that you are in a dream. I have taught myself to have lucid dreams occasionally (there are many tutorials on this, it can be learned by anyone) and read many books related to physiology of sleep.
But none them really answer what is the mechanism behind lucid dreaming. From my perspective lucid dreams allow me to have a direct (but protected from any self harm) access to my subconsciousness. For example, it allowed me to reprogramm and eliminate my fears and discover many things about myself. Plus it is always fun to fly like a superhero.
I have many questions that I was able to gather during these experiences and one them is this:
For what purpose evolution could invent the ability to control dreams? We have dreams during sleep, and there are many studies on why we have them. But why do we have the ability to control dreams?
If we assume that one of the reason for dreams is to learn by replaying of memory sequences (there have been suggestions that cats sometimes dream about hunting a mouse etc., so in dreams we might replay procedural memory ) could it be that ability to control a dream is given by evolution so we can do learning in a safe “virtual” environment? Also are there any known neural circuits or architecture that could potentially allow dream control?
I am asking because scientifically area of lucid dreaming is usually expolred from psychological side. And since there is an unbelievably great potential of using this ability (seriously, imagine yourself in a world where you are the creator) I wonder what neuroscience can tell about this?
It is not easy to have lucid dreams on consistent basis (at least it was this way for me). But you can learn this ability or at least have your first LD even the next night. From my expirience I found out that the highest probability to have the LD is during 4-5am. You set your alarm for this time and after waking up you do some activities that do not completely wake you up, but that keep you out of bed for 30 min. After 30 min you come back to bed at the main thing here is to block any thoughts. You just stare in darkness with eyes closed for a minute or two and the dream will start appear by itself (you will notice that you beging to have thoughts that are not directly initiated by you, that’s how you know that the dream begins). During this entrance state you might hear random noises, like someone is calling you etc, that seem to come from real world, but they really come from inside - the key here is to not buy into this and continue to sleep further. The next state is the sleep paralysis: once you enter that, you know you succeeded, because after this you begin to have the lucid dream.
What I find fascinating is that during this whole transition state to LD you can see/create different 3D objects and it is possible to mentally rotate them (and also you can do the same in LD itself). And the objects are very vivid, I would describe this as having a thought process, but with a very vivid images (as if you are really looking at your thoughts). And people who practice LD report having similar expiriences. This is why I am so interested in this, becasue for me it is not easy to keep this process consistent. But just imagine applications of that: you can run thought experiments in a vivid 3D environment, instead of our usual way of “seeing” our thoughts. So I really wonder if neuroscience can give a clue on how this works, so you could learn to have these expiriences whenever you want. Imagine, for example,how easy it would be to create scientific theories not only by thinking of them, but also seeing them in front of your eyes very vividly. This is why I created the topic
I’m going to try this. Thanks for the suggestions.
I might have two problems though:
I rarely get to bed before 2AM. Sometimes as late as 3AM. So setting a clock at 5AM seems like sleep deprevation. To estimate how deep asleep you are when your alarm rings, could you tell me what time you fall asleep on average?
It is extremely difficult for me to have no thoughts. Nearly impossible. I’ve tried this for several reasons and I always fail. The longest I can not think is about 5 to 10 seconds and that requires special conditions. These are not always interesting thoughts, but they keep distracting me.
Regarding the first point the idea here is to set the alarm and have approximately 4 hours of sleep, which results in almost 3 complete sleep cycles (1.5 each). Almost. The last phase of sleep cycle is the REM phase (where most dreams actually occur) and so by waking up after 4 hours of sleep you actually interrupt your sleep right on the REM phase. And after waiting for 30 minutes (or less, the key here is to become concious enough to be able to block your thoughts and not get into a non lucid dream) you return to sleep and get inside the REM phase which was not completed. If you wait more that 30 min the sleep cycle resets and starts from the beginning. During each subsequent 1.5 hour cycle the amount of deep sleep (where it is believed brain does the memory consolidation and so there are rarely any dreams here) decreases and amount of REM sleep increases. So you don’t have a full rest in 4 hours, but you don’t deprive yourself from sleep. This way you have a motivation to sleep and have a large REM phase that is enough to practise lucid dreaming. Then after the lucid dreaming practise you can have the rest of sleep you usually require.
Regarding the second point try to color every incoming thought you see with a black color, or imagine black color constantly. Or even more simple, concentrate on looking at the interanl side of your eyelids
I have been studying (imagination routed to primary visual and audio area) hallucinations and (impaired frontal cortex activity) delusional thinking associated with spiritual psychosis, also called spiritual awakening or other nice sounding name by those who believe it’s a good thing to develop.
From what I read the interruption of sleep to achieve lucid dreaming has caused some people to develop a little schizophrenia, which has warning signs that include loss of normal sleep pattern. It is also possible to have very frightening experiences. Years ago, after having gone a couple of days with no sleep due to dinosaur tracksite work I was excited about I experienced a brief waking/lucid audio that scared the crap out of me. I then stopped forcing myself to stay awake for that long. Never reoccurred.
Soon after going to bed my visual mind’s eye is on occasion very vivid and I can move objects around. Unfortunately that led to shocking visuals and I now normally squelch them before they get too real and jump in me face, or morph into something gruesome. When I was younger I did what I could to develop the ability, then after reaching ~45 I was happy with what I had for a brightness/realism level.
Your lucid dream experiments are at least neurologically interesting. Exactly how that happens is one of the mysteries I’m trying to solve. Sleep interruption methods have a small risk that you might not totally come back, to reality, but otherwise I would in either case be interested in your results. So pleasant dreams guys…
I absolutely agree that lucid reaming should be praticed only if person is ready to deal with whatever might be expecting him or her inside of the dream. When I started to pratice this sometimes I had scary images as well. And what helped me to resolve this is keeping in mind that everything I see is created by me and I always ask a quesiton why I might see this. So when I become curious about it or accept these things as part of me, they either dissapear or transorm into something else. I’m actually glad when something in my dream can surprise me