All people experience dreams; however, not all people have dream control abilities with lucid dreams. One day you may have a bad dream, while other nights you experience calm, peaceful sleep, leaving you to wonder how to overcome nightmares, and if dream control is possible. Not only is it difficult for many to understand what makes up dreams, but it is also more often wondered if you can influence your dreams, or experience lucid dreams?
There are many factors that come into play in regards to lucid dreams, and how to achieve this - We are here to answer your most pondered questions.
Dreams are created when your brain splices both strange and familiar scenarios together to create weird, or interesting, midnight movies while you sleep. The purpose of dreams still has not been entirely agreed upon by researchers, but there are some widely held beliefs and theories. Dreams may be a way of confronting emotional dramas in your life. Your brain may make connections with emotions or feelings that your conscious self would not make.
As we all know there are different types of dreams, peaceful dreams, vivid, intense, and even nightmares. Nightmares can be caused by anxiety, stress, and even a reaction to certain medications. However, continuous or regular nightmares could be related to a sleeping disorder. Regularly occurring nightmares that have been linked to a sleeping disorder can cause you to be anxious about going to sleep, lead to frequent disruptions of your sleep, or even bring about other sleeping or psychological problems.
Let’s get more into the scientific side of why and how we dream.
Most dreams occur during rapid eye movement sleep (aka REM), which our bodies cycle through periodically throughout the night. Some sleep studies have shown that our brain waves are almost as active during REM cycles as they are whenever we are awake. The brain stem generates REM sleep, and if the brain stem was to be injured, that person would not go into REM sleep. If the forebrain is injured, the person will go into REM sleep, but will not dream.
Have you ever asked yourself “why was my dream so bizarre?” Dreams have been proven to be altered as a result of certain neurotransmitters and chemicals within the brain. Some can be more pronounced, while others may be suppressed during REM sleep.
Some studies even show that dreams stem more from your imagination than from perception. There is still far more to learn about what goes on physiologically during dreams. For example, we do know that nightmares are a manifestation of tension for people who suffer from PTSD because they recur around their traumatic experiences. For others, dreams can be related to good moods or bad moods.
Now that we have covered some of the science behind how and why we dream, let's move on.
A dream expert from Harvard medical school says that certain techniques have proven, through sleep experiments, to work when it comes to controlling or influencing your dreams. Being in control of your dreams, or influencing your dreams, is also known as lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming can be defined as knowing you’re dreaming while you’re asleep. Some things come along with lucid dreaming that can benefit your waking life as well.
Much of the scientific research surrounding dream control has centered around anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to extensive research, when the unconscious mind can induce lucid dreams, there is significant anxiety relief. You may feel a sense of control during lucid dreaming that can stay with you. During lucid dreaming, you can shape the story and the ending, which can serve as a type of therapy for people who have nightmares.
Some researchers found evidence that lucid dreams can help people who are struggling to solve problems with creativity, like a conflict with another person.
Nightmares or bad dreams significantly impact the quality and quantity of sleep a person experiences, in turn impacting their well-being. Lucid dreaming research has been shown to provide relief by reducing recurring nightmares.
A lucid dream has shown positive improvements in physical rehabilitation. Visualizing physical movements during lucid dreams can help increase the ability to do them. During the dream, lucid dreamers can practice motor skills mentally.
Many things can factor into what you dream about, such as some foods you eat, some vitamins you take, and even some of the positions you sleep in.
Many different foods have been proven to affect the way we dream. For example, any rich, sugary, or spicy foods too close to your bedtime can cause upsetting dreams.
In some sleep experiments, people who ate blue cheese before bedtime experienced bizarre dreams, whereas people who ate Cheddar Cheese dreamt more about celebrities. This has to do with the amino acid, tryptophan, in cheese which is helpful to normalize sleep, and reduce stress levels. Foods such as cherries and nuts can potentially make you have more vivid or intense dreams. This is due to them being a natural source of Melatonin. Bananas and sunflower seeds are said to aid in more calm and peaceful dreams.
Different things you hear and smell while sleeping can also influence what happens in your dreams. For example, studies show that people who smelled a rose scent while sleeping had more pleasant dreams than people who smelled rotten eggs, who had weird dreams. Stress caused by traumatic events in your life can result in more vivid or intense dreams, whereas anxiety can cause more disturbing and intense nightmares, or frightening dreams.
Falling asleep in certain sleep positions can determine what kind of dream you have as well.
Researchers found that some people who sleep on the right side of their body experience more positive dreams and fewer nightmares than those who sleep on their left side.
People who slept on their stomachs reported restlessness caused by a frequent tossing and turning. It is also said that sleeping on your stomach can cause erotic dreams. Lying on your back may lead to snoring, and encourage sleep apnea. People who sleep on their backs in the face-up position reported more nightmares, and a hard time remembering their dreams.
There are many effective techniques to induce lucid dreaming, and we will take a look at those shortly. First, what exactly does ‘controlling dreams’ mean? Controlling your dreams through lucid dreaming is a fascinating technique in which a person is aware they are asleep while dreaming. Some people may find it easier than others to experience lucid dreaming; these are the people who find it easier to remember what they dreamt about.
Now that we know what ‘controlling dreams’ means, let’s take a look at some techniques that can help get lucid dreamers started with their dream recall experience.
As mentioned above, lucid dreaming can be defined as knowing you’re dreaming while you’re asleep, or being conscious while dreaming.
Lucid dreaming induction techniques are also designed to help you regain or maintain consciousness as you fall into REM sleep.
A wake-initiated lucid dream (WILD) is one induction technique of lucid dreaming, and can happen when you directly enter a dream from your waking life. WILD is said to help your mind stay conscious, while your body goes to sleep.
Reality testing is another induction technique used to induce lucid dreaming. Reality testing is a form of mental training, it increases metacognition to train your mind to notice your awareness. Many reality check options that are utilized to induce lucid dream are:
Wake back to bed (WBTB) happens when you enter REM sleep while you’re still conscious.
Although there are many different techniques for WBTB, give this one a try by following these steps:
Last but not least, having a dream diary, or dream journal is a common method for initiating lucid dreaming. When you keep a diary or journal of your dreams, it is said to help you recognize dream signs, and enhance awareness of your dreams.
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A good night’s sleep is one of the most important things we can allow ourselves each day. With all of the information stated above in regards to “Can you influence sleep?”, the answer is “Yes!”. From the foods you eat, the comfort of sleeping positions, stress, anxiety, or even the temperature in your room - dreams can be influenced in a wide variety of ways.