Sleeping and dreaming are big parts of our lives. How big? We spend about six years of our lives dreaming. Many times, when people dream they are unaware that they are actually in a dream. I once had a dream that I was part of a black and white horror picture world. Everything was stormy and dark, but it felt entirely normal. This is more prevalent than you might think.There is also lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is where the dreamer is not only aware of dreaming, but the person also has some control over the direction and content of the dream. Although lucid dreaming comes easier for some, it is a learnable skill and most people can achieve it with practice. (Source)
Only about half of us will experience a lucid dream in our lifetime. I hope I fall into that category because having a lucid dream sounds fantastic.
“A recent study that asked participants to report in detail on their latest dream found that lucid (compared to non-lucid) dreams were indeed characterized by far greater insight into the fact that the sleeper was in a dream. Participants who experienced lucid dreams also said they had greater control over thoughts and actions within the dream, plus the ability to think logically, and were even better at accessing real memories of their waking life.” (The Conversation)
It is clear that dreaming and lucid dreaming are different and would, thus, stimulate different areas of the brain. Scientists are aware of this fact, but the ability to study the differences has been hindered due to the fact that it is hard to tell when a person is lucid dreaming.
Measuring lucid dreaming is difficult because the participant needs to wear a brain scanner while sleeping, and there must be some way for the participant to communicate to the researcher that he or she has entered lucid dreaming.
This is where REM comes in. It is known that our eyes are the only parts of our body that move while we dream. This is called rapid eye movement or REM sleep. Before the participant goes to sleep, he or she communicates with the researcher about a particular eye movement they will perform, while in REM sleep, that would signify lucid dreaming. For example, two clear eye movements right and two clear eye movements left. (Source)
Researchers found that lucid dreaming displayed increased activity in the frontal portion of the brain, an area normally inactive during sleep.
“Significantly, these areas are associated with “higher order” cognitive functioning such as logical reasoning and voluntary behavior which are typically only observed during waking states. The type of brain activity observed, gamma wave activity, is also known to allow different aspects of our experience; perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and memories to “bind” together into an integrated consciousness.” (The Conversation)
Scientists now believe that lucid dreaming is a hybrid form of consciousness, and this is exciting because how consciousness arises in the brain is still unknown and is unable to be studied. Some scientists believe that the studying of lucid dreaming could lead to a greater understanding of the neuroscience of consciousness. (Source)
What is consciousness? We all have a fundamental understanding of what it is but cannot put it into words. Basically, consciousness is what makes us human, makes us sentient.
Scientists and philosophers have been studying consciousness in theory for years and have come up with more questions than answers. (Source)