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Lucid dreaming research

Written by Tim Post

Although in most dreams we are not aware of the fact that we are dreaming, a remarkable exception occurs in "lucid dreams" (the term is derived from Van Eeden, 1913) in which the dreamer attains a clear cognition that he or she is dreaming while dreaming (LaBerge, 2000, 2007). In this remarkable state, one can think and reason clearly, is able to recall circumstances from waking life and can intentionally act upon self-reflection while experiencing it all within a dreamworld that is often not distinguishable from the "real world" (Green, 1968; Kahan et al., 1997). Phenomenologically viewed as being awake while dreaming, lucid dreams are physiologically defined as a form of dissociation in which one part of the brain is in the waking state while the other is in the dreaming state (Hobson, Pace-Schott & Stickgold, 2000; Voss, Holzmann, Tuin, & Hobson, 2009). Increasingly more researchers claim that lucid dreams can be used as test cases for theories of dreaming to investigate the nature of consciousness and/in dreaming (Hobson, Kahn, & Pace-Schott, 1994; Hobson, 2009; LaBerge, 2000).

Scientific evidence

Evidence for lucid dreaming was first found by LaBerge et al. (1981), based on earlier studies showing that some of the eye movements of REM sleep corresponded to the reported direction of the dreamer's direction of sight (e.g., Fenwick et al. 1984; Roffwarg et al., 1962). Subjects were asked to carry out distinctive patterns of voluntary eye movements at the onset of lucidity while they were dreaming. The polygraph records during REM showed the prearranged eye movement signals, proving that the subjects had indeed been lucid during uninterrupted REM sleep (Kahan & LaBerge, 1994; LaBerge 1990; LaBerge et al., 1981).

A number of studies have been carried out to classify different personality traits that are concerned with people who seem to have a natural talent for lucid dreaming. A comparative study of Gackenbach (1994) showed that frequent lucid dreamers are less stressful and are more able to focus their attention as to the gross of the population (see also Schredl & Erlacher, 2004). Lucid dream frequency is also positively related to one's search for controlling situations from waking life (Prescott & Pettigrew, 1995), and related to higher levels of 'need for cognition' than people who have never experienced a lucid dream before (Blagrove & Hartnell, 2000). These results suggests a continuity between styles of waking and dreaming cognition, and so also of opportunity to explore and rehearse new experiences and behaviors in lucid dreams that can be enjoyed and put to good use in the waking state.

Dream control

The reason why more people are attracted to the practice of lucid dreaming is because dream awareness enables a form of control in which the lucid dreamer can intentionally manipulate and direct any element of the dream experience to his or her personal desires (LaBerge & Rheingold, 1990). It offers an opportunity for adventure, unhampered by the laws of physics or society, and is free of risk. This flexibility enables a vast range of personal applications that with the high level of realism of the dream state, ranges from exhilarating adventures, rehearsing problem-solving situations for improving waking life circumstances and even to overcome personal fears and recurrent nightmares (e.g., Kuiken et al. 2006; LaBerge & Rheingold, 1990; Spoormaker, Schredl & Van de Bout, 2006). Although the therapeutic value of employing lucid dreaming in psychiatric practices remains relatively absent, studies show the potential of lucid dreaming for personal gains. However, a prerequisite for conducting additional research and carrying out the application of findings is an effective form of educational support in which lucid dreams can be frequently and reliably induced.

Learning lucid dreaming

A study conducted by Snyder & Gackenbach (1988) shows that only about 20% of the population reports having lucid dreams spontaneously once a month or more. Lucid dreaming is however learnable, but difficult to master (LaBerge, 1980a). Initiated by a dedicated research institute founded by Stephen LaBerge and located at Stanford University, the Lucidity Institute has made lucid dreaming not only accessible to academic but also to non-academic practices around the world by publishing grounded techniques by which lucid dreams can be systematically induced. The internet has in addition provided the means in which large communities of lucid dream enthusiasts can easily share their lucid dream experiences worldwide. Like here at

Educational support for learning how to lucid dream has expressed itself in three distinct approaches over the years: a) auto-suggestion (i.e. reaffirming clear and strong intention to want to lucid dream), b) prospective remembering (i.e. prospective cue-based recall of intention to remember that one is dreaming), and c) supplements (e.g. chemical, induction devices). LaBerge and Rheingold (1990) argue that the approach of prospective remembering (reflection-intention) yields the most promising and reliable results in inducing lucid dreams (LaBerge, 1980a,b; LaBerge & DeGracia, 2000; LaBerge & Levitan, 1995). Reflection-intention techniques rely on gaining skill in prospective remembering (in contrast to retrospective memory), a localized memory faculty in the brain that specializes in recalling intentions that should be executed at the time of recognizing a predetermined signal sometime in the future (Einstein et al. 2005; LaBerge & Rheingold, 1990). In context of lucid dreaming, this power of recognition is aimed towards recognizing typical anomalies or "incongruences" of the dream experience which are called "dreamsigns" (e.g., pink flying elephant, being able to walk through walls, meeting your passed away grandmother on the streets, etc.). Once a dreamsign is recognized, the dreamer attains the knowledge of knowing that he or she is in fact currently dreaming.

The MILD-technique (i.e., Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams) has proven to be the an effective means to induce lucid dreams (LaBerge, 1980a,b; LaBerge & DeGracia, 2000; LaBerge & Levitan, 1995). A study by Levitan and LaBerge (1989) with 84 subjects showed an average increase of number of lucid dreams per week for each subject by 76 percent (from 0.21 to 0.37 lucid dreams per week) over a baseline condition, using MILD to induce lucid dreams. An integral mental exercise within this same study, concerning Reality Testing in which subjects were asked to continually question the state in which they were present in combined with visualization of dreaming, increased the average number of lucid dreams by 152 percent (from 0.21 to 0.53 lucid dreams per week). LaBerge, Phillips and Levitan (1994) additionally learned that interrupting morning naps with a brief period of wakefulness makes lucidity even more likely to occur. The impact of different lengths of wakefulness were studied (i.e., varying from 10, 30 to 60 minutes) and showed that subjects were significantly more likely to have a lucid dream after 30 or 60 minutes of wakefulness rather than after 10 minutes of being awake. Applying the MILD-technique during a brief interrupted period of wakefulness in morning sleep (napping), is currently viewed as the most effective means for inducing lucid dreams (LaBerge, 2004; LaBerge, Phillips & Levitan, 1994).

For many people however, lucid dreams are still challenging to induce, even while having acquired knowledge of these kinds of lucid dream induction approaches (see also Paulsson & Parker, 2006). Anyone who has taken the time to browse through just a few popular lucid dream forums on the web, knows that many students are unable to induce lucid dreams for at least after months of repetitive trials.

That is why Lucidipedia aims to support the practice and teaching of lucid dreaming by providing grounded and original educational resources. Please find an elaborate article of Lucidipedia's Lucid Daydreaming technique (LDD). We hope you love our passionate work so far.

Since the launch of Lucidipedia, we were privileged enough to receive kind acknowledgments of a few well-respected lucid dreamers in support of our lucid dream project. Would you like to encourage us as well? Please feel free to contact us.

  • You guys have created a great website. Although Janice and I don't do much lucid dreaming ourselves anymore, we're happy to see others looking into the possibilities of this fascinating area of study and experience. There are so many implications of lucid dreaming for how the mind creates dreams, and for human psychology in general, that only a larger group of enthusiastic people like yourselves could really do it the justice it deserves. Good luck with your efforts.

    Jay Vogelsong
    Co-author of The Conscious Exploration of Dreaming

  • As an active lucid dreamer for the past 33 years and a former psychology student, I want to commend Lucidipedia for creating a thoughtful and engaging website! Lucid dreaming has the capacity to be a revolutionary psychological tool to explore the dreaming mind and consciousness, and Lucidipedia is a wonderful resource to help lucid dreamers experience this important point. Much like hypnosis helped early psychologists comprehend the idea of a subconscious or unconscious, lucid dreaming, I believe, will help science understand much better the workings of the mind, the layers of Self, and how we mentally assist in the perception and construction of our experience. Best wishes, Lucidipedia!

    Robert Waggoner
    Author of Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, and President-Elect of the International Association for the Study of Dreams


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