Lucid Dreaming Made Easy. Your Quick-Access Guide to Lucid Dreams

Pre-University Paper, 2011

56 Pages



1 Introduction

2. Theory
2.1 Life
2.2 The sleep
2.2.1 The phases of sleep
2.2.2 Sleep activity
2.3 The dream
2.3.1 The dream/night dream
2.3.2 The daydream
2.3.3 Two types of night dreams
2.3.4 The dream content
2.4 The lucid dream
2.4.1 „Lucid and clear“
2.4.2. Scientific evidence
2.4.3. From theory to practice
2.5 The lucid dream vocabulary
2.5.1 Techniques
2.5.2 Other concepts

3 Practice
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The lucid dream workshop
3.2.1 Thematic areas
3.2.2 Lucid dream workshop: results
3.2.3 Conclusions
3.2.4 Impact
3.3 Future perspective

4. Final considerations
4.1 Summary of the results in relation to the central question
4.2 Personal opinion

5. Appendix
5.1 The lucid dream workshop

Introduction to the lucid dream workshop Introduction to critical awareness in DILD

Weeks 1 + 2

Week 3 + 4 Weeks 5 + 6 Weeks 7 + 8

7 Bibliography

1 Introduction

Let us conduct a thought experiment: we assume that the average life span of a Swiss citizen is around eighty years. A day lasts 24 hours. We know the length of one’s sleep per night and how many days there are in a year. A fact that is anything but a secret emerges: we ”doze away“ around somewhere between twenty and twenty-five years of our life!

If the assumption made by dream research that we spend around one fifth of the night dreaming is correct (cfr. Chapter 2.2.1 The phases of sleep and Chapter 2.2.2 Dream activity), we spend between four and five years of our life dreaming!

Couldn’t we be productive at night instead? Use our dreams in a more meaningful way, so that we could e.g. improve in a sport while dreaming? Is it possible to ”wake up“ in our dreams and to build their content freely? Thus, we would be actors and directors at the same time. In a world that exists only in our minds, but which can be equally as real and intense as in our waking life. This phenomenon, which you have probably only seen in science fiction movies until now, exists for real. It is known as lucid dreaming. In a lucid dream, we are aware of our state of consciousness. We also know that weare just dreaming. Consequently, the possibility of single-handedly constructing the course of the dream emerges.

In a dream there are no laws of physics, no rules. There is nothing impossible in a dream! The fascination induced by the idea of freedom that can be lived by one in a lucid dream finally led me to choosing this topic for my study.After prolonged thought on an adequate central question for this paper, I have decided in favor of the following question: Can people learn lucid dreaming?

To answer this question, I will proceed as follows: The first part of the study provides the necessary theory.This is systematically described under the topic ‘Lucid dream’.In the theory part you will find the foundations on sleep phases, dream activity, various types of dreams and dream content. Then the topic of lucid dreams is explained precisely based on the definition given by Paul Tholey; the most important concepts will be made available to you in the lucid dream vocabulary section.

The second and practical part of the study consists of a lucid dream workshop, which should make practicing and mastering lucid dreams as accessible as possible. You will be presented various techniques and exercises that are designed to help you induce a lucid dream.

For this study, the lucid dream workshop has been carried on by a test subject and tested by the author himself in a self-experiment, in order to verify the accessible character of the workshop. The full workshop is available to you in the Appendix (cfr. Appendix).

The results and findings obtained during the workshop, the implications in real life as well as a small view on the future perspective of lucid dreams are furthermore presented. In the final part, the most important findings that serve to answer the main question of the study are collected succinctly and presented together with my own view of the topic of lucid dreams and its future prospects.

2. Theory

2.1 Life

In our life we move in a self-repeating cycle. We are awake or we are asleep. During the day, we go to work, we practice sports and meet friends. But our body eventually needs relaxation and so we lay down in bed to induce sleep. Still, what is the actual difference between wakefulness and the state of sleep? The difference seems clear at first: as soon as we lay down, we gradually lose activity, our consciousness becomes increasingly blurry and after six to eight hour of sleep we come back to our daily selves, without having realized what went on during the last hours. Then, we wake up and move anew into the world that is ”real“ to us, and which everyone of us can perceive in a subjective manner. Nevertheless, is this difference between wakefulness and sleep indeed so clear? Or could it be that a world perceived as “real”, which one’s consciousness can enter, could also come into existence during sleep? What do dreams and reality have in common?

2.2 The sleep

2.2.1 The phases of sleep

According to the contemporary perspective of science, we assume that humans pass through five stages during sleep. These are the stages 1-4 and the REM phase. Stage 1 designates a lighter sleep. The opposite of stage 1 is stage 4, where the sleep is extremely deep. Stages 2 and 3 build intermediate steps, where the sleep activity in stage 2 is lighter than in stage 3. These four stages (sleep stages 1-4) together comprise the Non-REM-Phase (nREM phase), also known as non-REM sleep. During these phases of varying depths of sleep, the brain activity is reduced, the brain temperature is lower than usual and the muscles are slightly tensed up. Blood pressure and heartbeat remain constant. This is also referred to as orthodox sleep.[1]

The fifth stage is referred to as the REM phase. REM stems from English and is the abbreviation for Rapid Eye Movement. The name is due to the fact that during this phase, quick movements of the eyeballs beneath the eyelids are noticeable. Moreover, brain activity is very high during this phase, both blood pressure and heartbeat appear inconstant and erection may occur. The muscles are flaccid.[2] This is also often referred to as sleep paralysis is, which I will cover in detail later (cfr. Chapter 2.5.2 Other concepts, Sleep paralysis).

The REM phase takes up roughly 20-30% of our sleep. The first REM phase lasts only a few minutes. The REM phases gradually become longer resp. the non-REM phases gradually become shorter during the course of the night. The REM phase is also known as paradoxical sleep. This type of paradoxical sleep occurs in people around five times per night, for intervals of approximately 90 minutes each.[3]

Thus, a sleep cycle appears that is shown in the graphic below:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: The sleep cycle[4]

The time is represented on the x-axis, the depth of sleep is shown on the y-axis. Everything that refers to the non-REM-Phase is depicted in light blue and the REM phases are depicted in red. During the night the REM phases becomelonger resp. the non-REM phases become shorter. A sleep cycle emerges, throughout which non-REM sleep and REM sleep interchange.

Figure 1 is a very schematical representation. I intend to illustrate the appearance of the sleep cycle in practice based on one of my nights. With help from the ZEO Personal Sleep Coach, I can measure my cerebral activity and detect the sleep phase that I am currently in. ZEO divides in Wake (red), REM (light green), Light (grey) and Deep (dark green). The tendency of REM phases towards taking up longer time intervals at nightis visible here:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2: ZEO Personal Sleep Coach

The x-axis represents time, the y-axis represents the depth of sleep. The REM-phases, which tend to become longer during the night are depicted in light green. The grey and dark green areas show here the non-REM phases, whose activity decreases at night in favor of the REM phases.

2.2.2 Sleep activity

Dream research assumes that we exhibit a high dream activity during the REM phase above all other phases. This assumption is based on the fact that people remember their dreams better after waking up from a REM phase. According to prior knowledge, there should also be non-REM dreams ”but these are structured much more simply than REM dreams“[5] and have less emotional significance.

2.3 The dream

2.3.1 The dream/night dream

In a dream, or what is also known as a night dream, we experience fantasies. These images develop into scenery on it own and seem real to us. Usually, we only realize after waking up that these images/scenes were solely the products of our dreams. During a dream/night dream we cannot perceive or indicate the time and place in an exact manner.[6] Thus, if I find myself in a dream/night dream in a schoolhouse, I do not know where I am, why I am there, what I have previously done and how I got there.

The dream/night dream is often filled with irrational content. However, I wish to elaborate on dream contents in a later chapter (cfr. Chapter 2.3.4 The dream content). C.G. Jung wrote: ”The dream is a piece of involuntary psychic activity, which involves enough consciousness at the moment to make it reproducible in the alert state.“[7]

Another definition for the dream/night dream comes from the Pupil’s Dictionary of Psychology: ”Fantasy experiences mainly of optical and acoustic type during sleep, which are accompanied by diminished consciousness.“[8]

The question posed by the function of dreams/night dreams has not been hitherto answered.Are they only the residues of our brain? Do dreams/night dreams process our daily problems? Or do they exist to „vacate“ our brain? Further on in the paper the concept of dream will be used as synonym for night dream.

2.3.2 The daydream

Besides night dreams,one should also investigate daydreams: „By daydreams or reveries we understand the fantasy-driven depiction of unreal or desired visions in an alert state where the environmental cues, however, are shut off.“[9] This can occur, for example, if you want to address a person who is not listening to you at all and is in a completely different world. Once you nudge the person and call her name (a few times) he/she reacts.

2.3.3 Two types of night dreams

The night dream is most relevant to this study, since the lucid dream is a type of night dream. A small classification of night dreams should enable a better overview:

i. There are blurry dreams (BD). We all experience these dreams, only that we, in most cases, cannot remember them after we wake up. These are the „normal“ night dreams, as they have been described above (cfr. Chapter 2.3.1 The dream/night dream). Blurry dreams also include nightmares, which are distinguished by high stress and states of anxiety.

Nightmares are also classified as a particular type of night dreams. For this paper, however, it suffices to include nightmares in the group of blurry dreams. During blurry dreams, one is not aware that he/she is dreaming. One plays the role of a spectator in the dream world and the first thing to be noticed after waking up is that it was just a dream.

ii. Unlike blurry dreams, where the conscience, as the name says, is blurred, there are lucid dreams (LD). In lucid dreams one is completely aware of the dream state. A precise definition of the lucid dream will be provided later on in this paper (cfr. Chapter 2.4.1 ”Lucid and clear“). The clear dream is often used as synonym for the lucid dream; therefore, it will not be specified as a particular type here. Nevertheless, the clear dream might occasionally be differentiated from the lucid dream (cfr. Chapter 2.4.1 „Lucid and clear“).

2.3.4 The dream content

The dream content is significant to this study since the most frequently used technique for inducing lucid dreams (cfr. Chapter 2.5.1 Techniques, DILD) is based on the dream content. As in the case of the function of dreams, the development of dreams is also subject to discussions. There are various approaches to the formation of the dream content that deny the theory described below (cfr. Formation of the dream content). In an article that appeared in May 2011 (”Freud‘s Dream Castles“[10], NZZ) it was written that dreams express much less about a person than previously assumed until then. Some neuroscientists also claim: ”Dreams evolve as accidental concurrent nerve signals“[11] and consequently are nothing more than a type of ”electrical storm inside the head“[12]. According to this thesis, dreams and their content develop by sheer accident.

The following thesis on the formation of the dream content is based on Paul Tholey’s publication ”Creative dreaming“[13] and has been advocated by many psychoanalysts.

The unadulterated dream content is called latent dream content. This is composed of:

i. The overall life situation: It contributes to a large part of the content of a dream.For example, do you still go to school and go through a lot of stress or are you a retiree who enjoyshis/her life at the seaside?
ii. Childhood memories: Their childhood has shaped every human being. There are pleasant memories as well as less pleasant ones. Perhaps there are even complexes or traumatizing experiences, for example the sight of a man jumping in front of a train.
iii. Events of the day before: What has one experienced the day before? How has one felt? Was there complete frustration and rage? Or was the day filled with joy? This area is very important for learning lucid dreams, since one assumes that what one does during the day is also ”done“eventually in dreams. This assumption will play an important role in the practical part of this paper (cfr. Chapter 5.1 The lucid dream workshop, ”Am I awake or am I dreaming?”)
iv. Relevant environmental stimuli: While one sleeps, stimuli from the environment can influence the dream content. Thus the flushing of a toilet can lead to an airplane dream, where the swoosh resembles that of the motor of the airplane.

The latent dream content is then subjected to primary censorship. Primary censorship is the instance that combines the aforementioned criteria (overall life situation, childhood memories, previous day and current environmental stimuli) into a story. This concerns a psychological mechanism that censors certain things so that they do not reach the conscience as they are. The latent dream content is thus transferred or embedded into a narration. I would like to illustrate this process with a brief example: Let us assume that you are an author and write a story. The story must have a moral. As author, you are implementing the moral into the story by describing e.g. actions and reasonings of different persons. Ultimately, the moral is not directly described.The reader must extract it from the story by reflection. Withing an analogy to the dream content, the moral represents the latent dream content and the author is the primary censorship instance, transferring the latent dream content (the moral) into a story. The primary censorship also serves the purpose of keeping the dreamer from waking up. Should unacceptable, or even obscene dream contents, reach the consciousness, this would elicit the danger of interrupting both dream andsleep, and of waking up.

The interpretation of dreams (the search for the latent dream content by deciphering the remembered dream) must be performed by each individual him/herself based on his/her life.The psychoanalyst can help to boost the analysis of the dream content (while helping from the perspective of the one asking questions), in order to eventually come across the latent dream content.

Next to the primary censorship a secondary censorship comes into play. It determines what we are to forget about a dream. This amounts to almost everything in most cases. Through therapy and intensive dream work one can withstand this oblivion. In our dreams, things may occur that we refuse to acknowledge or believe in. A woman dreams for example of her husband, of arguing with him.Only after intensive dream work and intensive reflection on the details she remembers that she had caught her husband with another woman and argued with him for that reason. Secondary censorship let her forget this scene, since it was so alarming that the woman did not want to believe it.

What we eventually still remember after waking up is called manifest dream content. The precise location of these censorships in the brain has not yet been resolved.

The dream memory can be increased to the same extent, as one focuses more on his/her dreams and assigns them a higher value. For doing so, keeping a dream diary is mandatory.

Why improve the dream memory after all? First, one must become fully clear on whether he/she belongs to the people that are interested in their dreams and ultimately in finding out more about themselves. If not, there is no reason for improving their dream memory. However, if they belong to this group, there are several reasons: From the start, the sole interest in their dream world and his/her dream journeys is a reason for wanting to improveone’s dream memory. A good dream memory (of around one dream per night) is a requirement for the topic of lucid dreaming, since even when someone has had a lucid dream, he/she will forget everything after waking up, unless he/she has a good dream memory.

For a better overview, here is the summary of the formation of the manifest dream content

2.4 The lucid dream

Now, the most important theoretical prerequisites with regard to sleep phases, types of dreams and dream contents should be clear enough in order to proceed with a focusing on the topic of lucid dreams. During the lucid dream, one is aware that he/she is dreaming. Paul Tholey defined the lucid dream very precisely (cfr. Chapter 2.4.1 „Lucid and clear“), and thus differentiated it from the clear dream. As already mentioned, many people consider clear dreams a synonym for lucid dreams. I intend to delineate these two concepts one from another, since within the concept of the lucid dream, as defined by Paul Tholey, the different degrees of lucidity come to surface.[14]

2.4.1 „Lucid and clear“

In a clear dream one is aware of his/her state of dreaming. The senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste, smell) are better than in normal dreams (blurry dreams). The person can remember the dream in its entirety after waking up.

At this point, the lucid dream, which, as its name says, is completely lucid and distinguishes itself in a few other points from clear dreams. Hence the definition of a lucid dream is equally quoted here:

i. The dreamer is completely aware of his/her dreaming state.
ii. The dreamer knows that he/she can act freely and possesses the ability to build the dream and do and induce what he/she wants.
iii. The consciousness of the dreamer is blurred or confused only to a slight extent compared to blurry dreams.
iv. The dreamer can taste, smell, see, hear and touch the same way as in real life.
v. The dreamer knows that he/she is in bed and is aware of his/her real life.
vi. The dreamer can remember the lucid dream in detail after awakening.
vii. The dreamer knows about the meaning of the dream.

According to Paul Tholey, at least the first four points must be fulfilled for the definition of a lucid dream. If more points are fulfilled, this represents a ”higher degree“ of lucidity. The aspect of being aware of the dreaming state is characteristic to clear dreams as well as lucid ones. In a blurry dream, however, one is not aware of his/her dreaming state.

Here is a brief example of a lucid dream that I have experienced in the following way:

”I wake up in the morning and apply a certain technique straightaway for attaining a lucid dream. First, I am frightened, as I can suddenly detach from my body lying in the bed and I am standing in the room with my dream body. Yet I realize immediately that I am dreaming (point 2 in the definition), and that in real life I am lying in my bed and sleeping at that moment. Then, I voluntarily go through my room’s door (point 2 of the definition) and find myself immediately on a boat. I am feeling the wind, as it blows through my hair; I smell the salty seawater, just like I always have in my vacations (point

4 of the definition). I reflect on what I should do. Should I fly? No, I should use the dream for something meaningful.So I go to a boy whom I know from real life. At first he seems angry. However, as I ask him what he wants and what his problem is, he becomes much friendlier. I become curiouswhetherhe knowswho he is. I ask him: ”What is your name?“ He replies: ”My name is K.“ It is immediately clear to me that this is correct (there is no dreamlike confusion of the consciousness dominating: point 3 from the definition). Then it astonishes me that he also knows what position he plays in a football team in real life. While I ask him, I try intensely to think about another position. Yet, he answers correctly to this question as well. As I wake up, I am overjoyed and relaxed.” In this lucid dream the first four points of the definition have been fulfilled.

The blurry dream, clear dream and lucid dream in comparison:

*According to Paul Tholey, at least the first four points must be fulfilled to qualify a dream as a lucid dream.

2.4.2. Scientific evidence

During sleep activity, the eye movements can be plotted exactly with the EOG technique (Electrooculography). Thus, in a test, it has been previously agreed with the subject that as soon as he has reached the state of lucid dream, he would persistently look left, then right and then left again and then right again, all at certain time intervals that have been agreed upon previously. The oscillations are obvious in the evaluations and cannot be mistaken for anything else. Thus it can pe proved that it is possible to attain a conscious state during the dream. The process has been named LRLR for left, right, left, right.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 3: Recording of a lucid dream[15]

The LRLR movements that should mark the accomplished stages from a lucid dream task are clearly discernible (greybars, EOG). ”The lucid dreamer’s task was to perform 10 squats. We can discern a clear increase in breathing frequency (RESP) and heart frequency (ECG).“[16]

2.4.3. From theory to practice

Contemporary dream research assumes that lucid dreams can be learned. Similarly to learning a sport, there are also individuals who are more talented at lucid dreams than others. However, talented lucid dreamers can also improve and develop their ability by exercise.


[1] cfr. Tholey Paul et al.: “Creative dreaming: dealing with life in sleep“, 5th unchangededition, Eschborn, Frankfurt am Main, 2008, p.32.

[2] cfr. Tholey Paul et al.: “Creative dreaming: dealing with life in sleep“, 5th unchanged edition, Eschborn, Frankfurt am Main, 2008, p.32.

[3] Ibid. p.32.

[4], 11.07.2011, 18:12, CET.

[5] Tholey Paul et al.: “Creative dreaming: dealing with life in sleep“, 5th unchanged edition, Eschborn, Frankfurt am Main, 2008, p.32.

[6] cfr.„Brockhaus psychology“, Mannheim, 2001, p. 632 et seqq.

[7] („Der Traum ist ein Stück unwillkürlicher psychischer Tätigkeit, das gerade so viel Bewusstheit hat, um im Wachzustand reproduzierbar zu sein.“), Jung Carl Gustav: „On dreams and self-consciousness, knowledge and wisdom“ („Von Traum und Selbsterkenntnis, Einsichten und Weisheiten“), Olten, 1986, p. 13.

[8] „Student-Duden Psychology“ („Schülerduden Psychologie“), Mannheim, 2002, p. 414 f.

[9] („Als Tagtraum oder auch Wachtraum bezeichnet man das phantasiegeleitete Ausmalen von unrealen oder gewünschten Vorstellungen in einem Wachzustand, bei dem die Umgebungsreize jedoch weitgehend ausgeschaltet sind.“), 13.10.2011, accessed 15:51, CET.

[10], 13.10.2011, accessed 21:16, CET.

[11], 13.10.2011, accessed 22:42, CET.

[12], 13.10.2011, accessed 22:45, CET.

[13] cfr. Tholey Paul et al.: “Creative dreaming: how to deal with life in sleep“, 5th unchanged edition, Eschborn, Frankfurt am Main, 2008, p. 10 et seqq

[14] cfr. Tholey Paul et al.: “Creative dreaming: dealing with life in sleep“, 5th unchanged edition, Eschborn, Frankfurt am Main, 2008, p. 29 et seqq.

[15], 14.10.2011, accessed 16:06, CET.

[16], 14.10.2011, accessed 16:14, CET.

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Lucid Dreaming Made Easy. Your Quick-Access Guide to Lucid Dreams
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