In this issue I’ve decided to talk about a fascinating subject that is gaining real credence within the scientific and health world. Lucid dreaming – have you heard about it? It refers to being consciously aware of your dreaming self, what and when you are dreaming. Studies suggest that one in five people actually experience a lucid dream at least once a month. These lucid dreamers tell us that they know they are in a dream and are often able to redirect and alter that dream, whilst remaining asleep. It’s almost as if they act as a film director instructing their characters, or themselves, to fly or jump over buildings or any other impossible thing the imagination can conjure.
A recent study from Germany has shown that during lucid dreaming the brain shows activity of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, our normal state when dreaming, as well as aspects of waking consciousness. There is increased activity in the frontal and temporal lobes during lucid dreaming compared with normal dreaming. And, as if being the architect of your own dreams isn’t fabulous enough, researchers are now finding health benefits: reduced depression or minimising the symptoms of conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The effects of lucid dreaming appear to translate into tangible physical benefits too. For instance, it seems that athletes who are able to implement lucid dreaming and train whilst dreaming may be able to improve their performance in reality. In one study, participants were told to practise throwing balls into a cup whilst lucid dreaming. Those who were able to master the lucid dreaming, and practice, performed better on the exercise the following day than those who were unable to do so.
You can teach yourself to lucid dream, although I suspect it is harder than the numerous internet self-help guides and YouTube videos would have you believe. However, electric stimulation of the brain at 40 Hertz does appear to trigger lucid dreaming and is being used therapeutically. Still, if you don’t fancy that, try repeatedly telling yourself that you will recognise when you are dreaming, before falling asleep. This mind training technique is thought to facilitate the process. So, here’s to being the master of your own dreams. If you want help with better breathing, exercise or to stop smoking, contact physiotherapy lecturer and counsellor Rachel Garrod at: Tel. (+34) 652 281 122; rachelgarrod1@gmail.com