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The Science of Lucid Dreaming, Exploring the Sleeping Mind

The experience of knowing you're in a dream while you're still asleep is called “lucid dreaming.” Most people don't have lucid dreams, but some have tried techniques to become more self-aware in their sleep while dreaming.

Some lucid dreamers can control particular parts of their dreams like the setting.

Martin Dresler, a neuroscientist in the Netherlands who works at the Donders Institute says, “The special thing about lucid dreaming is that you can get even closer to dream content and in a much more controlled and systematic fashion.” Tests from small groups have found that lucid dreamers can also send signals to researchers while they’re asleep.

Lucid dreams typically occur during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle of sleep. Researchers examine if a person is asleep by measuring their muscle activity with other electrodes. During REM sleeping, the person's entire body is paralyzed. It's not possible to maintain that type of stillness when you're awake. Lucid dreamers find out whether dream imagery is more like real-life visuals than imagined ones, according to Benjamin Baird, a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Austin.

Studies with a few expert lucid dreamers could help us understand how dreams contribute to various mental tasks such as creativity and emotions. Any findings based on a handful of people must be viewed with caution, says Michelle Carr, a neuroscientist at the Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine. She says, “It needs to be studied in bigger samples.“

In 2020, Carr was part of a team that persuaded 14 of 28 nappers to become lucid in the lab, which included three people who'd never lucid dreamed before. Before napping, they learned to associate a cue, like a series of beeps, to be self-aware. Hearing this same sound while sleeping would remind them to become lucid. Another way to get more people to lucid dreams in the lab was to test people with narcolepsy. This condition is known for making people fall asleep during the day, but people who suffer from narcolepsy seem to experience other side effects too. In 201,8 Isabelle Arnulf’s team at the Pitie-Salpetriere University shared a study in which 18 of 21 narcolepsy patients became lucid during lab naps.

Some data suggests that lucid dreamers may have access to parts of the brain that normal dreamers don't. Lucid dreaming is important for scientists to understand how humans can have such extraordinary capacities even when they are not actively awake.

[Source: Science News Explore]

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