Guiding our dreams may appear to be farfetched; however, the phenomenon of lucid dreaming provides evidence that, even in our sleep, we can control our brains. By definition, a lucid dream is an experience where a person is asleep yet cognitively aware they are dreaming. The person can exert some sort of control or direction over the characters, setting, and events of their dream. Frederick van Eeden devised the term “lucid dreaming” to describe this spectacle in 1913, and conducted a variety of observations to study these dreams.
During a lucid dream, a person can become enveloped in a detailed fantasy world with total control over the actions of the characters and environments. It is associated with REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep and “false awakenings”. This type of awakening is usually when a person wakes up suddenly and his body flails around as if he were falling. According to Neuroscientist J. Allan Hobson, the brain recognizes its dreaming through the prefrontal cortex and once the dreamer understands he is dreaming, the brain has full control over what occurs. However, some argue that lucid dreaming is not a real occurrence but simply a brief fantasy in a sleepy state.
Historically, lucid dreaming was thought to be an intellectual gift from the gods that separated certain humans from the rest. Once studies continued with a broader population, however, results showed that just about anyone was capable of lucid dreaming. The experiments conducted have evolved only slightly since the early 1900s due to difficulty testing participants. The “results” recorded are strictly subjective recounts of those being tested.
So why do some people lucid dream more than others?
Lucid dreaming is far more common in children and young adults with active imaginations rather that older generations. An article in the Huffington Post states that lucid dreamers tend to be more insightful overall because they can recognize their brain’s actions even while asleep. The Post did a study following 68 young adults who claimed to be sufficient “lucid dreamers”. A lucid dreamer must have had multiple experiences in this state and provide vivid recounts for the researchers. Following the dreams, the participants were told solve various puzzles and analogies. Those who were consistent lucid dreamers solved 25 percent more puzzles than those who have never experienced a lucid dream. Other studies have shown that lucid dreamers perform better on psychological tasks that require “outside of the box” thinking.
Lucid dreaming proves the vast capabilities of our brains and all it can accomplish even while we are sleeping!