The Psychology of Lucid Dreaming

This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham

In the last decade there has been a great deal of research conducted into the potential benefits of lucid dreaming with regard to our overall health and well-being, and there have been some interesting findings. This article will look at the role of lucid dreaming in regard to both mental and physical health.

What is lucid dreaming?

A lucid dream happens when someone reaches a state of conscious awareness while asleep, once in this state of conscious awareness it is possible to manipulate your dreams and ultimately decide what happens during the dream. Studies show that 55% of people have had at least one lucid dream in their lifetime. Most episodes of lucid dreaming occur spontaneously, however it is possible to self-induce a lucid dream with practice.

Dreams and mental health

Research has shown that dreaming is essential to a healthy mind. Dreaming happens during the REM sleep phase, and your waking dream recall is much stronger during the final phase of REM sleep when the brain is at its most active, which is also when lucid dreaming tends to happen. 

Studies show that REM sleep is important for brain development, and the more time that someone spent in REM sleep the better they are at dealing with anxiety, worry and fear and the less likely they are to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Overnight therapy for the mind

Mathew Walker, professor pf psychology at California University and author of the book Why We Sleep believes dreaming to be a form of overnight therapy he states that dreaming “provides a nocturnal soothing balm that takes the short edges off of our emotional experiences so we feel better the next day.”

Lucid dreaming and motor learning

The scientific and medical community has become much more interested in lucid dreaming since discovering that practicing motor skills during a lucid dream actually results in real life improvement. Scientist found through a brain imaging study that the neural mechanisms associated with physical movement in the brain lit up during a lucid dream, just as it would in waking life, this is enough evidence to demonstrate that motor learning had taken place. 

These findings show that it is indeed possible to practice certain motor skills during a lucid dream and see an improvement in your waking ability as a result, whether is be practicing a new sports manoeuvre, a new art form or playing a musical instrument.

Lucid dreaming and self-improvement

Lucid dreaming could therefore play a role in self-improvement by helping someone develop different skills and talents which is important to personal growth and self-image. A lucid dream episode could also be valuable in helping someone to visualise their goals and all the positive emotions that are associated with that, this can be a powerful experience that can boost confidence, self-image and improve your mood throughout the day. 

The lucid dream world holds the potential for someone to create their own real life scenarios in which they are happy, fulfilled and successful, which can help improve mood and wellbeing in waking life as well as help give someone the confidence and self-belief that they need to achieve different life goals.

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