The practice of lucid dreaming is quite old — ancient, in fact. The phenomenon has been documented since classical antiquity (Aristotle himself mentioned the phenomena in his 350 B.C. treatise, On Dreams), with interest steadily increasing over time. Since then, sleep and its phenomena have become a popular topic in modern science. And now that the conversation is more mainstream — with growing support from the scientific community — the practice of lucid dreaming is no longer reserved for those experienced in the supernatural. 

Why would someone want to control their dreams?

Each day, we encounter innumerable pieces of stimuli, and lucid dreaming can help you unlock the door of your subconscious where these encounters are often retained. We also tuck away some of our most life-changing memories, powerful emotions, and creative musings in this subconscious landscape, so ironically, accessing your dream world can actually help you realize your honest reality. 

The subconscious may seem dangerous and unpredictable, but for many, lucid dreaming is actually a lot less scary than regular dreaming. During a normal dream, you cruise into your emotional inner world as if you’re strapped to a rollercoaster. It could be fun, but it also could be terrifying. And unlike sleep paralysis — an often frightening phenomenon when the body remains paralyzed in a half-dream, half-awake state if abruptly woken out of REM sleep — Daniel A. Barone MD, an associate attending neurologist at New York-Presbyterian and associate professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College, explains that lucid dreaming refers specifically to a style of dreaming, not a sleep experience at large.  While lucid dreaming, you’re the one in the driver’s seat. What’s the theme? Where does dream take place? Who is part of the story?

In addition to deepening your relationship with yourself — and possibly your own psychic abilities —  lucid dreaming can potentially help those who are spiritual to communicate with loved ones who have crossed over. In many cultures and religions, spirits rely on conduits to deliver messages. But since your subconscious world isn’t tethered to form, loved ones more often visit us in dreams. During a lucid dream, you can actually engage with these entities — and, because your senses remain engaged, you may even enjoy the comforting feeling of a warm embrace.

What does a lucid dream feel like?

Because you’re aware that you are both sleeping and dreaming in your lucid dream (and that you are actually able to influence what happens in that dream), Cheung says that the experience may feel intense and that your emotions might run high. The dream may feel too real and vivid, which may cause the lucid dream to collapse and result in you waking up. 

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