Lucid Dreaming: Asleep and Aware

Lucid dreaming is an issue that has been studied as far back as 1896. A Lucid dream
is one in which the dreamer is aware that he/she is dreaming and is sometimes able to take
control. Lucid dreams are an actual phenomena that do occur in REM sleep.
Dr. van Eeden was the first recorded person to study dreams in which the dreamer is
aware they are dreaming. In 1896 he began recording his dreams. Over a period of one
year he recorded 352 dreams, but only eight were lucid (Dreams 784).
The actual definition of a lucid dream, is a dream in which the dreamer mentally
awakens in the dream and becomes aware that it is only a dream. This "awakening" is
usually triggered by the dreamer noticing something in the dream that is far too unusual to
be real (Blackmore 362). The actual term lucid dreaming was first used by the Dutch
psychiatrist Fredrick van Olen in 1913. It simply means "clear dreaming" (Blackmore
363).
Surveys and research have shown that 50 percent of all Americans have had at
least one lucid dream in their life that they could recall (Lucid Dreaming 365). When a
dreamer becomes lucid there are physical changes on the outside of the body and brain
patterns also change. There are usually pauses in breathing and changes in heart rate. The
amount of brain activity is more heightened than that of a regular dream, but less than
when waking. It has also been observed that a person having a lucid dream shows more
brain activity than a waking person under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs such as
LSD (Lucid Dreaming 364).
A lucid dream is usually provoked by an earlier day of heightened stress or anxiety
(Lucid Dreaming 364). They usually occur at the end of an eight or nine hour sleep
(Horgan 50).
Several methods have been developed for inducing lucid dreams. The simplest and
most common method is known as the MILD method, or Mnemonic Induction of Lucid
Dreaming. This method consists of waking in the early morning from a dream and
remembering what the dream was about. Then as the dreamer returns to sleep he or she
should remind themselves that the dream is not real as they return to the original dream
(Lucid Dreaming 366).
The second method involves work during the day. The person should constantly
ask them self when they are awake, "Am I dreaming?", then look for a clue to prove they
are. Then when the person falls asleep they will be reminded to ask the same question and
in turn realize the dream is not real (Lucid Dreaming 366).
Another method involves the use some kind of an external device that will create a
signal to the dreamer that they are dreaming. Keith Hearne was the first person to
incorporate this strategy. He would watch the dreamers eyes for rapid eye movement
(REM) to show that they were dreaming. He would then spray them with water to signal
to them that they were dreaming. This method was fairly unsuccessful (Blackmore 366).
In 1989 Dr. Steven La Berge invented the "Dream Light". This device is a mask
that the dreamer wears that contains a small LED for signalling dreams and a small
computer that detects when dreams begin. The "Dream Light" is available to the public
and over 2,000 have been sold. It retails for about $900. This is the most simple method
but few can experience it due to the cost (Blackmore 366).
Once the dreamer becomes lucid they can do many interesting things such as
communicating with the outside waking world. This can be done with the eyes or through
breathing. When a person falls asleep, all their muscles are paralyzed except for the eyes
and internal organs. By moving the eyes from left to right a predetermined number times,
a person can signal things to the outside world. Keith Hearne first discovered this in 1978
and used it to prove that lucid dreams are real and happen in REM sleep. He used a
polygraph to determine that when his subject moved his eyes left to right eight times, he
was indeed in REM sleep, and aware of the fact. A person can also signal that they are
dreaming by breathing rapidly (Blackmore 366).
With the ability to communicate while dreaming and being able to control the
dream, many questions that have remained unanswered about dreams can finally be solved.
It has been proven that in the deep state of