Daniela Asplin, reporter
Dreams are a regular vacation away from the reality of daily life. As the brain enters the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycle, it plunges into a universe all of its own. Fantasy and reality combine to fit to the subconscious mind. While normally this is an experience completely out of the control of the individual, 25 percent of people have mastered the art of manipulating a dream; this skill is called lucid dreaming.
During a lucid dream, anything is possible. Some choose to fly, while others choose to relive simple pleasures. Whatever is imagined is played out in the mind like an interactive film. This allows for a period of absolute freedom; an almost supernatural experience.
“My most interesting [lucid] dreams are when I can fly. I can fly over any part of the world I want, and see anything I want. It’s a pretty unique sensation.” Senior Hannah Kerres said.
Most people will experience lucidity at least once in their life. However, it is not an easy task to accomplish. There are ways to prepare beforehand, which usually involves specific exercises. Lucid dreamers perform what is called a ‘reality check’; they ask themselves if they are dreaming multiple times throughout the day. Since most people can’t decipher text during sleep, reading is an easy way to check this. Another way to increase the likelihood of lucidity is to simply be well rested. To some, these tips aren’t necessary, and it comes almost second nature.
“I don’t really have to prepare. I just get into a meditative state, find a Youtube video that I like, then I shut everything else off,” Kerres said.
Lucid dreaming isn’t all fun and games; it also is incredibly useful. Individuals suffering from post traumatic stress disorder are often plagued with recurring nightmares. These nightmares are so psychologically damaging that the person will avoid their bed at all costs, becoming dangerously sleep deprived in the process. By learning the art of manipulating dreams, they can finally find peace in sleep; it is the ultimate cure for nightmares. People also use it to solve problems they are wrestling with, testing out various solutions in their virtual reality. This method helps them become more grounded in real life.
“When I [lucid] dream, I don’t have to worry about anything. I can solve any problem and change any nightmare. It’s a way to get away from my issues,” Kerres said.
However, there is a hidden dark side to lucidity: it can often lead to sleep paralysis, a condition in which an individual is unable to move while waking up or falling asleep. While paralyzed, the person may experience intense hallucinations. Some are plagued with a sudden burst of paranoia; others picture evil or demonic figures. Hallucinations or not, most agree that it is a less than pleasant adventure. Senior Abigail Morrow experienced sleep paralysis while recovering from a foot injury, and had lost all ability to move for over a minute.
“I woke up and I could feel the pain, but I couldn’t move, so it was really freaky. It was the middle of the night and I must’ve been screaming because my mom came bursting in,” Morrow said.
Despite the horrific nature of sleep paralysis, many believe lucid dreaming is worth the risk. The experience is so powerful, in fact, that some have mistaken it for alien abduction or divine intervention. It is a way to escape from the reality of the world; to invent a life apart from your own and go where creativity takes you.
“It’s a nice escape,” Kerres said. “You can see everything from a new perspective. You can be anything you want to be.”