Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Ty. Ty Wonders, “What is Lucid Dreaming?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Ty!

What happens in your dreams? Do you fly? Breathe underwater? Visit beautiful places? Most people are at the mercy of their brains during sleep. It decides whether a dream is happy or scary. But what if you could control your own dreams?

Then you would be experiencing lucid dreaming! What is lucid dreaming? It’s when a person is aware that they are dreaming. They may even be able to control the events of a dream. According to sleep experts, about 30 percent of people experience lucid dreaming naturally.

What causes lucid dreaming? Studies have shown that it takes place in the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain affects many things, including attention, impulse control, and cognition. During lucid dreaming, the prefrontal cortex acts much the same way it does when a person is awake.

Can anyone experience lucid dreaming? Experts aren’t sure. However, several strategies may help a person achieve lucid dreaming. Many of these involve simply being more aware of dreams. After all, the average person has between five and seven dreams each night—but not everyone remembers theirs.

That’s why many people seeking to experience lucid dreaming start by keeping a dream journal. Each morning, they write down their dreams. They record as many details as they can recall. If they can’t remember dreaming, then they simply write that they don’t know what their dreams included. This helps them become more aware of their dreams.

For many, the next step is to do a reality check. This is done while awake. The point is to do a reality check every couple of hours to build the habit. A reality check is when a person checks a situation to make sure what they’re experiencing is real life. This helps people train their brains to check reality during sleep. Often, this leads to dreamers realizing when they’re asleep, leading to lucid dreaming.

What kind of reality checks work? Many people simply ask themselves, “Am I dreaming?” Others practice looking at a clock, looking away, and then checking the clock again. If the time is the same both times they look at the clock, then the person is awake. If the time changes drastically, they are likely dreaming.

Many people also use the MILD method. This stands for “Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams.” To use MILD, people think about a recent dream as they’re falling asleep. They identify something about the dream that was a sign they were dreaming. Examples could be the ability to fly or breathe in outer space. Then, they think about going back to the dream. They repeat, “The next time I dream, I want to remember that I am dreaming” in their minds. This sometimes helps people experience lucid dreaming.

Does lucid dreaming have health benefits? Some experts think so. They say studies have shown lucid dreaming can help improve symptoms caused by anxiety, stress, PTSD, and other conditions. It may also help with physical rehabilitation by improving motor skills.

However, there may also be risks to lucid dreaming. One is the loss of the ability to distinguish dreams from reality. This can be very dangerous. If you ever have difficulty telling whether or not you’re awake, talk with a trusted adult. 

Lucid dreaming may also cause sleep problems. It may lead to insomnia or less restful sleep, both of which can cause even more health issues. Attempts to experience lucid dreaming may also result in sleep paralysis, which many find frightening.

Have you ever experienced lucid dreaming? Do you know anyone who has? If you’re interested in trying to achieve the experience, ask an adult family member to help you. Changing your sleep habits without talking with a grownup can be harmful to your health.

Standards: CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.SL.3, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.W.10

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