Can you engineer your own dreams?
They seem random and totally bizarre sometimes. A new study looks at people trying to initiate lucid dreams.
Many mornings, we wake up puzzled as we think back to the dreams we had the night before. Your high school boyfriend shows up 20 years later and still looks like he did when he was 16? Your long-deceased grandmother gets behind the wheel of a car even though she never drove when she was alive? Your teeth start falling out in the middle of your college exams?
(And yes, those are my actual dreams. Writers are weird people.)
But what if we could engineer our dreams so that we're conscious when we have them?
That's a real thing, and some people actively try to reach that state. It's called lucid dreaming, and it basically means that you're aware while you're dreaming but not necessarily awake, and might be able to control what happens in your dreams. And now, scientists are even getting in the game.
Two researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel, set out to determine whether a person can actually control their dreams in this mixed-sleep-wake state, and whether previous research on LD has yielded any benefits for people who try to be more proactive in their dreams.
In the study, they instructed subjects to ask themselves whether they are awake or asleep at several points throughout their days and nights. If they thought they were dreaming, the subjects were instructed to examine said dream – can they push their hand through a wall, for example? Or fly like a bird?
Sounds like a fun experiment, right? But don't close your eyes just yet; the researchers concluded this practice might not be such a good idea after all. Rather, they noticed that some of the subjects of their study reported increased stress, even though they're sleeping more frequently.
“Many people are tempted to try and reach an alternative state of mind by reaching lucidity, but it seems they may be paying a price. We know from hundreds of studies how much sleep is critical to functioning, health and mood," said Dr. Nirit Soffer-Dudek of BGU’s Department of Psychology, and one of the leaders of the study. “My recommendation is to be careful and consider carefully before deciding to fool around with our sleep and dreaming."
Wishing you sweet (not necessarily lucid) dreams.
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