In the simplest terms, lucid dreams are dreams that you can control.
Though this ability sometimes evolves naturally and begins with suddenly having vivid dreams, you can also learn how to create lucid dreams for yourself, even if you have no prior experience of the phenomenon.
The question is whether you should. So, is lucid dreaming dangerous?
In other words, what are the costs and benefits of changing your sleep in this way?
For example, while there’s an undeniable allure to the creativity that lucid dreaming opens up for you, you might also be worried about whether it has long-term impacts on your health or quality of sleep.
Let’s take a balanced look at the major benefits and dangers of lucid dreaming so that you can decide how to approach this opportunity. And if you ultimately decide that lucid dreaming is for you, you’ll know how to maximize your safety and happiness in the process.
Lucid dreams are particularly vivid dreams in which you have the power to watch and influence what happens. In essence, your dreams become a kind of virtual reality environment where everything feels as real as it does when you’re awake.
In typical dreams, you’re unaware of the fact you’re asleep.
There’s a clear distinction between your dream world and the waking world. In contrast, when you’re in a lucid dream your brain shifts into its waking mode.
This is what allows you to realize that you’re dreaming, and to shape the dreamscape according to your desires. This is a safe, scientifically explicable process, not something supernatural.
There are at least five massive benefits of lucid dreaming, some of which you may not have previously considered.
As you read through them, think about how each aspect of lucid dreaming would affect you (based on what you understand about your own personality, emotions, and responses). There is significant variability between different people’s desires and tolerance levels, and only you know whether these aspects of lucid dreaming would genuinely improve your life.
The most obvious attraction of lucid dreams is that you get to decide what happens in them. Your imagination sets the limits, making your dreams as mundane or fantastical as you like. So, whether you want to go into outer space, have a romantic encounter with a celebrity, learn a new skill, or travel the world, you can do it without any concern for practicality, money, safety, or morality.
Like virtual reality environments, lucid dreaming takes us beyond everyday limitations. Many of the things we want to do aren’t possible in real life, but they are possible in lucid dreams, and they’re immediately within reach.
One of the main reasons why people want to learn how to have lucid dreams is that they want a chance to be with people they have lost. If you yearn to have conversations with a grandparent you loved or make peace with a friend with whom you never gained closure, lucid dreams can simulate that for you. This can have a positive impact on your everyday life, bringing you feelings of peace and understanding.
Consider that you can also be reunited with people who are not dead but are no longer in your life, for example, perhaps there’s something you’ve always wanted to say to an ex.
Although you may not have thought of this, some of the best lucid dream stories involve overcoming major phobias and other sources of anxiety. When you’re controlling your dreams, you can face your fears in safety. Since fears are often related to the unknown, demystifying them through lucid dreaming can make them much less scary in your waking life.
Examples include holding a spider, flying in a plane, swimming, being in an enclosed space, and so on. In short, lucid dreams can empower you to broaden the experiences you have in everyday life, stopping old and irrational fears from holding you back.
Many lucid dreamers report that the experience reconnects them with their creativity. This is deeply enjoyable, whether or not you regularly do artistic or creative things in waking life. Lucid dreams can help you reconnect with the way you thought as a child, encouraging you to use your imagination more than you may have done in decades.
If you think of imagination as a muscle, this explains why lucid dreaming can also make you a lot more creative when you’re awake. In addition, the wealth of experiences you can have in lucid dreams can directly inspire you to try new things and think in different ways.
A final significant benefit of lucid dreaming is that it can provide a bridge between the conscious and subconscious parts of your mind. Normally, your subconscious is out of reach, and processes like hypnosis are required to access the information stored there.
So, why is it important to talk to your subconscious? In short, this part of you often knows more about what you want and need, and it can help you understand the blocks that stand between you and a more satisfying life. It’s common for lucid dreams to prompt changes in career, beliefs, and lifestyle, helping the dreamer express themselves more authentically.
Now that we’ve explored some of the reasons why you might want to lucid dream, let’s tackle some of the most common worries about the process. Whether you’re figuring out how to lucid dream tonight or are still in the early stages of your research, it’s important to have a balanced view of what lucid dreaming involves.
There are side effects for some people, and you should always keep these in mind. However, many of these risks are reversible, so note that it may be worth trying lucid dreaming before deciding whether it’s for you.
Like anything that feels good and offers a measure of escapism, lucid dreaming can be addictive. Since you can do and feel anything you want in lucid dreams, you may start to prefer your dream world to your reality. This can lead to a lack of engagement with your job, friends, partner, and hobbies.
If all you can think about is what you want to do when you’re asleep, you’ll miss out on the many jobs that this imperfect, real life has to offer. Keep an eye on how you’re feeling about lucid dreaming, and consider taking a break if you think you’re becoming obsessive.
You can also become fed up with having vivid dreams every night, tired and unrested after essentially being awake during large portions of the night. In addition, a lot of the techniques used to develop or enhance lucid dreaming involve deliberately waking and then going back to sleep, which can itself disrupt your rest.
However, some people claim not to notice any negative results. The smartest idea here is to try lucid dreaming and just see if it has a negative impact on your everyday energy levels. If it does, it may be something to restrict to special occasions or to cut out entirely.
Lucid dream techniques can be so powerful that you might begin to think that some of what you’ve experienced is real. You may end up confused, struggling to recall whether you really did something or it was just something you enacted in a dream. With certain lucid dreams, this can be quite distressing, as you may find yourself unsure about whether you did something that might be inappropriate in real life.
One thing you can do to get around this is to keep a lucid dream journal, writing a summary of each one. This will help you get clear about what is real and what is imagined.
In some cases, lucid dreamers end up fearing sleep. This usually happens when you're not quite mastered the lucid dreaming process and what you’re experiencing are more vivid dreams that you can’t yet control. Understandably, some of these dreams can be frightening, and this can make sleep itself seem scary and psychologically dangerous. If you preserve through this stage, you’ll usually hone the lucid dreaming techniques required to gain control and reduce fear.
If you have vivid nightmares for a long time, it may be worth abandoning your quest to lucid dream, returning to it when you have more energy or are feeling more emotionally stable.
Finally, there is the possibility of sleep paralysis; you can be unable to move during part of sleep. It can be quite a frightening experience, and can sometimes involve confusing imagery that blends with your real surroundings. However, this is actually a natural element of all dreaming experiences, it’s just marginally more likely to happen for longer times (and be remembered) when you lucid dream.
The main thing you need to do is be aware that it isn’t harmful, it happens so your body can’t move in unsafe ways during dreams. In time, you may get used to this as part of the beginning stages of lucid dreaming.