During the times of the pandemic, travelling was the last sort of entertainment that one sought. With the travel restrictions, virulent viruses, different strains, financial crisis, lockdowns, travelling would be categorized under another category of “a trip to remember”. One of my personal favourite lands that I could travel to without burning holes in my pockets was a trip to the Slumberland. Like me, many readers would agree that this would be the best trip ever that can even be made daily.
In medical school terms such as REM (Rapid eye movement) and phrases such as “adults need at least 7 hours of sleep daily” was something that we commonly hear. While I was browsing through YouTube one day, I came across a video that spoke about Lucid Dreaming. That made me ponder and wonder what Lucid Dreaming was all about. A researcher named Daniel Love once said that the pandemic has led to a new “influx of dream explorers”.
Scientists out there are making a connection between Lucid Dreaming and mental health. Some studies have even found that lucid dreaming may help reduce nightmares in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although not all studies on the topic have replicated this finding, others such as Holzinger, B., et.al have found lucid dreaming can reduce anxiety and depression in people who have both PTSD and nightmares in their intervention study done in the year 2020.
The burning question here is whether Lucid Dreaming makes us sleep better. Unfortunately, till today there are mixed puzzling answers regarding the above. When we sleep our brain cycles through REM (Rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep. Just as the name suggests, “rapid” or REM is a state where our brain is extremely active. Thus, our heart rate and brain activity rate also increase during this state. Most of our dreams occur during the REM state and so does Lucid Dreaming. On the contrary, during the non-REM state, our brain and heart rate slow down and so does our eye movement.
Although most people rarely have lucid dreams, the frequency of this phenomenon varies. Specifically, approximately 50% of people never have lucid dreams, 20% have them monthly, and a small proportion has them regularly or even daily. Such variances suggest the possibility that lucid dreaming is caused by differences in brain physiology and structure.
As of 2022, there are at least 14 or more top Lucid Dreaming Masks and Devices that have been created. Some sleeping masks have earplugs to block out noise, and some of them have pulsing lights that can be adjusted which apparently calms the mind and sets the mind in the state of hypnosis (although the main concern for me is whether pulsing light would trigger an epileptic attack for those with underlying conditions). Some devices even have artificial sunlight that would gently wake you from the land of slumber.
Forgive me for being pessimistic here but, it appears that we are fostering a shared blind spot by focusing entirely on the potential benefits of Lucid Dreaming induction without considering potential hazards. Is it possible that frequent induction is harmful to sleep hygiene and sleep-wake psychological boundaries? Is it worth it? If it is worth the risk, do such hazards only apply to vulnerable people, such as those with high baseline dissociation? More research is required before we can confidently answer these questions. I hope that future Lucid Dreaming researchers will examine these questions in their research and shed light on us regarding this area.
Let me leave the readers with an age-old question that my father once asked me, “Is the state of dreaming, reality or what we think as ‘reality’ the actual state of dreaming ?”