“Sharpen Your Dream Skills—Tips For Lucid Dreaming” by Shirley S. Wang. The Wall Street Journal, 8/12/2014
“Lucid dreaming” is a new term, but an old concept. It means a dream where you realize you are dreaming, and was first mentioned by Aristotle. It has been common throughout history, but not especially common for individuals. Surveys suggest only half of us will ever have a lucid dream, and only 10% of us have them routinely.
About a year ago, I was happily enjoying a cruise on a large ocean liner, except it was traveling along a flooded Fifth Avenue in New York City. (There was a similar TV ad for a stock broker at the time that must have stuck in my mind.) I was watching the buildings pass close by the railing, when I suddenly realized this is impossible, and it must be a dream. The impossible cruise continued, even though I knew it was a dream. It was all very enjoyable feeling in control.
Now, as reported in this WSJ article, studies have shown sleepers who commonly have lucid dreams are better problem-solvers when awake. Sounds reasonable. Not only that, but lucid dreaming can be learned, and we can control the course of the dream (they say). Some people claim they can dream lucidly at will, but the data is impossible to confirm. Are they dreaming lucidly, or only dreaming they are dreaming lucidly? As far as being problem-solvers, was one of the problems they solved that of convincing the investigators they were dreaming lucidly? (Whew!)
Recently, a German psychology professor reported she induced lucid dreaming using an electric current too small to be felt, but tuned to the gamma brain wave frequency. Gamma waves originate in the thalamus, and if that is damaged, no gamma waves, no consciousness. The person is in a coma. Fortuitously for the German professor, gamma wave frequency is about the same as ordinary 60 cycle house current. Further studies are planned. (On the Ocean City, NJ, boardwalk’s Playland, there was once a machine that gave you a shock for a penny. You held onto two knobs and slowly turned one to increase the voltage to as high as you could stand. You could join hands with others to see who could stand the most. This was 60 cycle, but I don’t remember it affecting my dreams. Obviously, it is no longer there. Playland is now Wonderland.)
None of the dream data seems very precise. The sample sizes are small, and the reports use “suggests” and “perhaps” a lot. They are psychologists, remember.
If you are serious about controlling your dreams, try playing video games before going to sleep. Before drifting off, tell yourself firmly what you want to dream about. (These come from anecdotal reports.) Keep a pencil and paper handy on your bedside so you can record the dreams before they disappear from memory, and maybe you can find a pattern.
(See the August 9 posting to correctly pronounce the WSJ author’s name.)