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What Is Lucid Dreaming?

Lucid dreaming is a unique and fascinating phenomenon in which the dreamer becomes consciously aware that they are dreaming while still immersed in the dream world. In a lucid dream, the dreamer is not merely a passive observer but an active participant who can exercise varying degrees of control over the dream’s narrative, setting, and actions. This state of heightened self-awareness within the dream offers a profound and empowering experience for those who can achieve it.

Lucid Dream Characteristics

Lucid dreams are different from traditional dreams in their vividness and perceived realness. Characteristics of lucid dreaming include:

  • Awareness — Lucid dreamers possess self-awareness during the dream, understanding that they are in a dream state rather than experiencing reality.
  • Control — Lucid dreamers may have varying degrees of control over the dream environment and their actions within it. They can influence the dream’s storyline, manipulate objects, and even change the dream scenery at will.
  • Senses — Lucid dreams can feel vivid and immersive, engaging multiple senses similar to waking experiences. Vision, touch, sound, taste, and smell may be as clear and intense as in waking life.
  • Emotional Intensity — Emotions experienced in lucid dreams can be just as intense as real-life emotions. Lucid dreamers can feel joy, fear, excitement, and love with a similar level of depth.

The Physiology of a Lucid Dream

Lucid dreaming is associated with specific brain activity patterns that distinguish it from non-lucid dreaming and other sleep stages. Lucid dreams typically occur during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which is a stage of sleep characterized by vivid dreaming and rapid eye movements. During REM sleep, the brain exhibits distinct patterns of neural activity that contribute to the unique experience of lucid dreaming. Here are some of the key physiological aspects of lucid dreaming:

  • Increased Brain Activity — During a lucid dream, the brain’s activity is comparable to that of waking consciousness. Neuroimaging studies have shown increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with higher-level cognitive functions such as self-awareness, decision-making, and planning.
  • Prefrontal Cortex Activation — The prefrontal cortex is involved in self-monitoring and introspection. In lucid dreaming, this region becomes more active, allowing the dreamer to become aware of their dreaming state and recognize that they are within a dream.
  • Enhanced Working Memory — Working memory, responsible for temporarily holding and manipulating information, is heightened during lucid dreaming. This allows lucid dreamers to maintain their lucidity and cognitive abilities within the dream.
  • Decreased Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Activity — The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, involved in critical thinking and logical reasoning, exhibits decreased activity during lucid dreaming. This decline in rational thinking can contribute to the surreal and imaginative experiences within the dream.
  • Activated Visual Cortex — The visual cortex is highly active during REM sleep, giving rise to the vivid and immersive visual experiences of both regular and lucid dreams.
  • Suppressed Skeletal Muscles — Like in non-lucid REM sleep, the body experiences muscle atonia or temporary paralysis during lucid dreaming, preventing physical movements to protect the dreamer from acting out their dreams.
  • Variable Heart Rate and Breathing — Physiological measures like heart rate and breathing tend to fluctuate during REM sleep and lucid dreaming. These variations can be influenced by the dream content, emotions, and the dreamer’s level of awareness.

Techniques for Lucid Dreaming

Various techniques have been developed to help individuals increase their likelihood of experiencing lucid dreams. While not everyone may achieve lucid dreaming through these methods, consistent practice can enhance the chances of success:

  • Reality Checks — During waking hours, individuals perform periodic reality checks to determine whether they are awake or dreaming. Common reality checks involve looking at clocks or texts and then looking away and back to check if the text has changed, or trying to push a finger through the opposite palm. In a dream, these checks often yield unusual or impossible results, signaling that the person is dreaming.
  • Dream Journaling — Keeping a dream journal involves recording dream experiences immediately upon waking. This practice improves dream recall and may help individuals recognize patterns or dream signs that indicate they are dreaming.
  • Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) — Before sleep, individuals visualize themselves becoming lucid in a dream. They repeat affirmations like “I will realize I am dreaming” to set the intention of becoming lucid during the dream. Try meditating while gazing into the Humanist Beauty Self-Reflecting Mirror, breathing in the aroma of Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom Facial Oil, or rolling a Humanist Beauty Mini Crystal Mushroom between your fingers.
  • Wake-Back-To-Bed (WBTB) — This technique involves waking up after several hours of sleep, staying awake for a short period, and then returning to sleep. This method takes advantage of the increased likelihood of experiencing REM sleep during the second half of the night, enhancing the chances of having a lucid dream.

Common Lucid Dream Themes

Experiences from our past and desires for our future help shape the narrative of lucid dreams. Common lucid dream themes and scenarios include:

  • Flying Dreams — One of the most popular lucid dream experiences involves flying. Lucid dreamers often revel in the freedom of flight, soaring through the skies, and exploring the dream environment from a bird’s-eye perspective.
  • Exploring Unfamiliar Places — Lucid dreamers frequently find themselves in new or exotic locations. They may explore fantastical landscapes, ancient cities, or even fictional realms, enjoying the adventure and novelty of these dreamscapes.
  • Meeting Deceased Loved Ones — Some lucid dreamers use the opportunity to interact with deceased loved ones, seeking comfort or closure through dream encounters with people who have passed away.
  • Superpowers and Abilities — In lucid dreams, individuals often discover that they possess superhuman abilities like telekinesis, time manipulation, or mind reading, allowing them to bend the laws of physics and reality.
  • Interacting with Dream Characters — In lucid dreams, dream characters can become more vivid and interactive. Lucid dreamers may engage in conversations with dream characters, seeking insight or enjoying the dream’s social aspects.
  • Reliving Past Memories — Some lucid dreamers intentionally revisit past memories or important events from their lives, allowing them to relive moments from a different perspective or process unresolved emotions.
  • Meeting Famous Figures — Lucid dreamers may choose to meet historical figures, celebrities, or fictional characters, enjoying unique encounters with personalities they admire or find interesting.
  • Time Travel — Lucid dreaming can create a sense of timelessness and enable dreamers to explore different historical periods or future scenarios, blurring the boundaries of time in the dream world.

Benefits of Lucid Dreaming

Beyond the novelty of conscious control within dreams, lucid dreaming offers several potential benefits and applications, including self-awareness, creativity, improved mental health, and skill enhancement:

  • Personal Growth and Self-Discovery — Lucid dreams provide a safe and controlled environment for exploring fears, personal limitations, and unresolved issues, enabling personal growth and emotional healing.
  • Creative Inspiration— Artists, writers, and innovators can use lucid dreaming to tap into their subconscious minds, accessing new ideas and creative insights.
  • Overcoming Nightmares — Lucid dreaming techniques can be employed to confront and transform recurring nightmares, promoting better sleep and mental well-being.
  • Skill Improvement — Some studies suggest that practicing physical skills in lucid dreams can lead to modest improvements in real-life performance. By rehearsing challenging situations, practicing sports or musical instruments, and focusing on abilities in the dream environment, one can potentially benefit waking life skills.
  • Spiritual and Transcendent Experiences — Lucid dreams can offer a sense of connection to something greater than oneself, exploring profound questions about the nature of reality and consciousness.

Lucid Dream Research

Studies have indicated that a significant percentage of the general population experiences lucid dreaming at least occasionally, while a smaller percentage may experience it more frequently. One of the landmark studies on lucid dreaming prevalence was conducted by Dr. Stephen LaBerge, a pioneering researcher in the field of lucid dreaming. In his research, he found that about 55% of people report having experienced at least one lucid dream in their lifetime. However, the frequency of lucid dreaming varied among individuals, with some experiencing lucid dreams more frequently than others.

Other studies have reported similar findings. A 2016 study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition found that approximately 23% of the respondents reported having lucid dreams at least once a month. Another study from 2017, published in the journal Dreaming, reported that 82% of the participants reported having experienced lucid dreaming at some point in their lives.

Although lucid dreaming can be a profoundly positive experience for many, it is not without its downsides. Intense lucid dream experiences can sometimes lead to confusion between dreaming and waking life, causing disorientation or dissociation. Focusing too much on lucid dreaming or attempting techniques too frequently may disrupt regular sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation and potential negative effects on health. And prolonged indulgence in lucid dreaming can lead to escapism and avoidance of real-life responsibilities and challenges.

Lucid dreaming offers a unique and valuable exploration of the subconscious mind, creativity, and personal growth. While achieving lucid dreams may require practice and dedication, the potential benefits and insights it provides make it a compelling area of study and personal exploration.

Sweet Dreams and Sleep Hygiene: 4 Tips for Better Sleep

Sleep is essential for your physical and mental health, but despite its importance, many people find themselves with a sleep schedule that causes daily fatigue and irritability. In a study administered by The Sleep Foundation, it was revealed that 40% of adults say that feeling sleepy has caused interference with their daily activities, while nearly 25% report this happening sometimes or often. However, 55% of Americans say that their fatigue is due to their quality of sleep, as opposed to the 44% who blame the lack of time.1

Healthy sleep habits, also known as sleep hygiene, are obtainable but don’t feel overwhelmed by trying to alter your nightly routine all at once. Instead, take one step at a time, and as with most things, knowledge is a wonderful place to start.

Sleep Deprivation

For young adults, the recommended sleeping duration is 7 to 9 hours, but for older adults, 8 to 9 hours is suggested.2  Children and teens, though, require more sleep at night. When it comes to sleep deprivation, it’s important to note that quality is just as important as quantity. If you get low-quality sleep at night, then you’ll feel tired the next day regardless of the amount of time you slept.

While feeling drowsy the next day is an obvious sign of sleep deprivation, there are more factors at play. Your health, and even your skin, feel the ill effects of sleep deprivation.

Your Health Suffers

Sleep deprivation has a multitude of effects on health. Missing out on the recommended amount of shut-eye can cause more than just grogginess.

Sleep deprivation affects your:

  • Hormone levels: An insufficient quantity of quality sleep can affect hormones, while also releasing stress hormones that are known as norepinephrine and cortisol. This could result in infertility.
  • Brain: Sleep deprivation can make it difficult for a person to make new memories. It also affects the prefrontal cortex, which controls reasoning, and the amygdala, which is responsible for emotion.
  • Immune System: Sleep deprivation could cause a person to be more susceptible to infections and respiratory diseases.
  • Weight: The feelings of hunger and fullness can be negatively impacted by sleep deprivation. It can also cause a release of insulin, resulting in a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Cardiovascular System: Sleep helps the heart vessels heal and rebuild. Additionally, it affects the processes that maintain blood pressure, sugar levels, and inflammation control. Sleep deprivation could increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Beauty Sleep is Real

Getting high-quality sleep recharges your skin and helps to heal, restore, and eliminate toxins. If your sleep is compromised, your body can’t carry out the essential skin functions.

Here are a few ways your skin suffers from sleep deprivation:

  • Dull Skin. Missing sleep increases your cortisol levels, which triggers inflammation.
  • Collagen Production. Collagen is important for the structure and elasticity of the skin, so when collagen is broken down, it shows more signs of aging.
  • Dry Skin. Your PH levels drop when you don’t sleep, causing your skin to not produce the moisture it needs.

4 Tips to Revitalize Your Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to healthy habits that improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Maintaining good sleep hygiene is vital for your health and quality of life. If you have trouble sleeping well, here are a few steps you can take to build good sleep hygiene:

1.   Take Control of Your Sleep Schedule

Try getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep cycle, known as your circadian rhythm. It’s one of the most important strategies for getting better sleep at night. By keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule, you’ll feel more refreshed and energized than if you had slept the same number of hours on a skewed schedule.

Napping is a wonderful way to make up for lost sleep. However, try limiting naps to around 15 to 20 minutes to maintain your circadian rhythm. If you get drowsy before bedtime, attempt a mildly stimulating activity. This could include calling your friend to chat about your day or washing the dishes.

2.   Create a Pre-Bedtime Routine

Keeping a consistent bedtime routine allows your body to unwind and recognize that it’s time for bed. A consistent routine, which should begin 30 to 60 minutes before bed, will decrease the time it takes you to fall asleep.

You can craft your routine around anything that makes you feel relaxed. Warm baths are a wonderful addition to your routine due to the drop in your body temperature while you’re cooling down afterward. Focusing on your breathing while listening to soothing music is also a good option.

Before bed, try to avoid screens that emit blue light. Late-night television, for example, suppresses your melatonin, which is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that aids in regulating your sleep schedule. If you work a night job that requires the use of bright screens, you can grab blue-blocking glasses to protect yourself.

3.    Optimize Your Bedroom for Comfort and Relaxation

Many believe that your bedroom’s environment is a key factor in getting a good night’s sleep. By optimizing your bedroom to meet your comfort and relaxation needs, you’re much more likely to feel rested the next day.

The temperature in your room should stay on the cooler side because it results in your body feeling more tired. Try setting your thermostat between 60°F and 67°F.

According to a study on the sleep environment of women, 50% of participants experienced better sleep at night when noise and light diminished. If your bedroom is impacted by these distractions, try purchasing blackout curtains and earplugs.

4.    Be Mindful of Your Habits During the Day

Ensuring high-quality sleep is an all-day affair. By fostering pro-sleep habits during the day, you’ll have fewer factors working against you at bedtime.

Our internal clocks are regulated by light exposure, so try to soak up the sun’s rays when you’re able. By getting a dose of daylight, you’ll also normalize your circadian rhythm. However, if you can’t make use of natural light, ask your doctor about a light therapy box.

Exercise directly correlates with quality sleep as it initiates a change in energy use and body temperature. However, experts do advise against a big workout before bed considering that you’ll be too energized to get adequate sleep. Exercising in the morning, though, promotes alertness and more overall energy throughout the day.3

What you eat and drink during the day matters. Try to avoid caffeinated beverages a few hours before bed, seeing as they provide you with an excess of energy. Also, if you are prone to eating late dinners, your body will have trouble falling asleep due to your body performing digestive processes. Additionally, while many believe alcohol causes drowsiness, the reality is that it lowers your quality of sleep by affecting your brain. Try skipping a nightcap and opt for herbal tea or water.

Still Can’t Sleep?

If you’re still having trouble sleeping, there are a few options that could further strengthen your sleep hygiene, such as:

  • A body scan meditation. By focusing your attention on different areas of your body, you can identify where you have pent-up stress or tension. One method consists of lying on your back, legs uncrossed, arms relaxed at your sides, and eyes closed. Focus on your breathing for 2 to 3 minutes, and you’ll begin to feel more relaxed. For more beginner body scan meditations, click here.
  • Keeping a sleep journal. A sleep journal is an important tool to understand and evaluate your sleep patterns. Every day, try opening up your journal to jot down your bedtimes/wake-up time, sleep distractions, how long it takes to fall asleep, and your perceived quality of sleep.
  • Getting out of bed. Tossing and turning usually result in stress, and when your mind is full of worry, sleep is off the table. Try getting out of bed to attempt a relaxation technique, such as deep breathing or yoga.
  • If your sleep hygiene is being severely compromised by various factors or if your sleep problems are worsening, try seeking the advice of a medical professional. It’s especially important to notify your doctor if your sleep issues are persisting over the long term, affecting your health and safety and if they occur alongside other symptoms. By talking with your doctor, you’ll be about to rule out a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea and insomnia.

Sleep plays a key role in all aspects of your health and wellbeing. By getting an adequate amount of quality rest every night, you’ll be a more vibrant you. Bid adieu to next-day drowsiness, and wave hello to sleep hygiene and good dreams.

Sleep well, beautiful humans.

 

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SIA-2020-Q1-Report.pdf [1]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29073412/ [1]

https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/working-out-in-the-morning#takeaway [3]