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Lucid Dreams​

Can Lucid Dreaming Harm You?

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You may be wondering if consistent lucid dreaming can have any negative impacts on your sleeping patterns or mental health. Lucid dreaming is in fact a fascinating, helpful, or pleasant experience, but you should consider why you are interested in achieving it and what you expect to get from it. This makes for a more mindful and intentional practice that is woven into your daily life in a way that brings growth and clarity. Entering the dream world with knowledge and preparation will result in a more powerful and positive experience. 

What is our brain actually doing while we are sleeping?

Our sleeping brains are actually very active. Instead of resting, our brains take advantage of the absence of the rational waking mind in order to form creative and illogical solutions and perspectives. While sleeping, the human brain forms new connections and strengthens existing connections to help us grow. Dreams are an integral part of this physical and mental growth. Scientists now know that we can dream in any phase of sleep, not just REM. Dreams help us process emotions and consolidate memories of our waking experiences. Dreams and nightmares are very vivid, and realistic simulations of reality that can impact our psyche in positive or negative ways. Our dreams also offer us an opportunity to work through our life challenges by paying attention to them and bringing our consciousness into that space. When we are able to recognize that we are dreaming, this is known as a lucid dream. Some lucid dreamers can even control the plot or narrative of the dream and seek answers to life’s problems. 

What are the benefits of lucid dreaming?

Lucid dreaming is known to help people achieve psychological and spiritual 

growth in many unique ways. Studies have also found that lucid dreaming can help reduce nightmares in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. Becoming lucid is a cure for nightmares which can have a significant impact on someone’s quality of life. Lucid dreaming is also good for helping people overcome phobias through exposure therapy in a safe environment.

On the fun side of things, lucid dreaming is also an attractive and unusual form of entertainment similar to a fully immersive virtual reality video game. An experienced lucid dreamer might be able to go on an adventure, interact with people and do things in ways they may not be able to in real life. 

How does lucid dreaming affect sleep quality?

Many lucid dreamers report feeling more refreshed and rested after a successful lucid dream. However, everyone's brain is different, and there are lucid dreamers who say they feel tired after multiple consecutive lucid dreams. A lucid dream can provide the dreamer with inspiring and positive messages and motivation, which usually allows us to wake up feeling refreshed and inspired. Lucid dreaming can sometimes require focus and effort, which some people say takes away from their ability to effortlessly fall asleep. Some methods of inducing a lucid dream may interrupt the natural sleep cycle, such as WBTB, causing fragmented sleep. If you decide to try and induce lucid dreaming through methods that disrupt your sleep, be sure you still obtain an adequate amount of sleep overall. It is recommended that adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night. Also, not all lucid dreaming induction techniques involve intentionally disrupting sleep. If you want to try lucid dreaming, consider beginning with techniques that are less likely to wake you up during the night.

Is lucid dreaming safe?

If you’re a first-time lucid dreamer, you should know that lucid dreaming is not dangerous and is generally considered safe. No matter how exciting or exhilarating the experience of lucid dreaming is, it’s still just a dream. Lucid dreaming is a natural phenomenon that can occur spontaneously, although anyone is capable of inducing one with practice. Lucid dreaming is even more common in children because it occurs naturally in developing brains. Knowing that lucid dreaming is a normal human ability tells us that it is not unnatural to experience or induce it. However, like many things in life, balance and moderation are beneficial. This should be a fun habit rather than an obsession. Many people get very frustrated and obsessed with trying to induce a lucid dream, that they forget to pay attention to all their dreams and their waking life as well. When a dreamer becomes lucid, they are able to exert their ego into the dream, and control aspects of the dream, which can cause them to miss any messages in the dream, and the bigger picture. While lucid dreaming is a fun and healing experience, it is important to also remember to take time to observe and take it in by appreciating all dreams as they are, even the non-lucid dreams. The ancient Tibetan dream practices say that lucidity is a gift that begins with waking life mindfulness.  

How does lucid dreaming affect mental health?

Using lucid dreaming as an escape from reality is not the healthiest way to cope with life. Researchers of one study found that intentionally attempting to induce lucid dreams is positively correlated with depression, dissociation, OCD, and other mental health struggles. This is likely because people with mental health conditions are more likely to attempt lucid dreaming as a healing practice. Another study found that the prefrontal cortex, the site of high-level tasks like making decisions and recalling memories, is bigger in people who have lucid dreams. This suggests that people who lucid dream often are deep thinkers.

It has also been considered that people with schizophrenia may have a difficult time differentiating between reality and dream states. Some scientists ask whether or not encouraging lucid dreaming might blur the line between sleep-wake psychological boundaries. They call for more research into how it might affect certain vulnerable people, including those who experience dissociation. Reality checks are a good way to continuously practice lucid dreaming while separating the dream world from the waking world. 

Can you get stuck in a lucid dream?

One common concern people have when trying to induce a lucid dream is whether or not they will be able to wake up. Lucid dreaming expert and scientist Dr. Denholm Aspy has explained that our brain can only sleep and dream for a set period of time each night, so you will eventually wake up as normal. You can feel safe knowing that everyone who has ever had a lucid dream woke up in the safety of their bed. This fear often results from a “false awakening” experience where a dreamer attempts to wake up but realizes that they are still dreaming. False awakenings are confusing and frustrating, but they are also a great opportunity to become lucid and explore an alternate reality. 

Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon that many people may experience at some point in their life, especially while trying to induce lucid dreaming using the WILD method. This is the most common negative experience associated with lucid dreams. Sleep paralysis can be very frightening and may sometimes feel like you are stuck in a half-sleep state. However, sleep paralysis is also a normal part of sleep that happens every night without our minds realizing it.  Sleep Paralysis is a brief inability to move or speak just before falling asleep or on awakening accompanied by hallucinations. This happens each night as a natural side effect of sleep, protecting you from sleepwalking in your sleep. Sometimes we are mentally awake during this process and experience powerful dreamlike hallucinations while feeling paralyzed. Once the dreamer learns to overcome the fear and embrace the effects of sleep paralysis, they will find that it is in fact a launch pad for incredible lucid dreams and Out-of-Body-Experiences. Fear perpetuates sleep paralysis and makes it intensify and continue. If you experience sleep paralysis, say a positive affirmation and remind yourself that sleep paralysis is a temporary phase experienced while preparing your brain for a lucid dream. Sleep paralysis, while realistic and scary, is not dangerous and will not harm you.

Sources

National Sleep Foundation: “What is Lucid Dreaming?” “Do Lucid Dreams Affect Sleep Quality?”

Scientific Reports: “Frequent lucid dreaming associated with increased functional connectivity between frontopolar cortex and temporoparietal association areas.”

International Journal of Dream Research: “Lucid dreaming during NREM sleep: Two case reports,” “An exploratory study of creative problem solving in lucid dreams: Preliminary findings and methodological considerations,” “Applications of lucid dreams: An online study.”

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