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Lucid Dreaming

One of the most interesting studies being done on sleep and dreaming has to do with the ability to train yourself to rewrite your dreams. This practice is known as lucid dreaming, and it provides a combination of both psychological and physiological solutions to the problem of experiencing bad dreams.

The leading scientific figure in the study of lucid dreaming is Stephen Laberge, a Ph.D. in psychophysiology, which is a field that studies the way that the mind interacts with the body. A professor at Stanford, Laberge has come to believe that our dreams are not as separate from our waking life as we have come to believe that they are. He also believes that with the proper training, we can manage our dreams and have an effect on their content.

As Laberge explains it, the principal seems relatively simple. He believes that if people write down their dreams in a journal every morning they will eventually train themselves to recognize that they are dreaming as it is happening. The research that he has done, however, was not as simplistic. Using sleep science technology he would study subjects who were sleeping, and once they had entered into the deepest sleep cycle, high REM-sleep activation, he would watch to see whether their eyes were moving left and right or whether their breathing became rapid. When the eyes started moving rapidly he would flash bright white lights directly over their eyes, thus training the rain to recognize when it was in its deepest sleep. According to Laberge, once this recognition is achieved the patient is able to begin taking control of their dreams.

The light, called a DreamLight, is the physiological aspect of his study. The psychological part involved having patients question themselves several times during the day as to whether or not they are awake or dreaming. By asking the question on a constant basis, Laberge believes that the brain will continue asking itself the same question as the body falls asleep, as well as when it is in the process of waking up. Eventually the training reaches into the deepest sleep cycles.

The idea that the time that we spend sleeping and the time that we spend awake are more closely tied together than we realize is supported by research being done by others, and at point there is no question that sleep is a biological necessity that is directly tied to our performance when we are awake, and even to our survival.

The idea of lucid dreaming is fascinating, but it still has a long way to go. As interesting and compelling as Laberge’s theories are, there are no controlled studies that have been done to prove or disprove any of it scientifically, but it holds more appeal than some of the other solutions being offered by sleep researchers who believe that nightmares can only be controlled via the use of unwieldy CPAP machines strapped to our faces, intensive cognitive behavior therapy or the use of prescription medications.

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