Lucid Dreaming - What is it?

A: Hey! I’m Amelia!

C: I’m Cecilia! This is 1800Dreamzz!

A: That’s Dreamzz with two zz’s

C: Happy Aquarius season, everyone!

A: *this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius* You turn 30 next week!

C: I do! If you are so inclined, you can give me a fabulous birthday present by sending us a cash tip via “Buy Me a Coffee” or dropping some money in our Venmos which are listed in the show notes, or donating monthly at our patreon,

A: Hot tip, don’t stop listening to the episode, but take a screenshot of this point in the podcast so it will be a reminder to come back and share the love!

C: We are also super excited to announce our new minisode series called “How to Sleep” which starts this first week of February!

A: Yes! So we spend a third of our life sleeping and we know that a good night’s sleep is an incredibly important component to overall good health, but a lot of us have trouble with getting all of our zzz’s.

C: So every Thursday, we will be answering your burning questions related to sleep, like what are binaural beats? Or what’s the difference between white noise and pink noise, and which one helps me sleep better?

A: Join us for our first episode this week where we talk about melatonin!

C: We’ll be talking about what melatonin is, how it affects our sleep, and the pros and cons of taking melatonin supplements.

A: If you know a friend who sleeps really crappily, send them the podcast and have them subscribe so the episode will automatically download into their preferred podcast app. Now, on to dreams! Okay so this is a weird question - Cecilia, do you ever realize you’re dreaming in a dream? Like that you consciously recognize “This is a dream”?

C: Yes! *riff riff* What’s your experience with this?

A: Since I was a kid, I’ve been able to recognize when a dream is too scary and then I make the conscious choice to wake up.

C: And that, my friends, is lucid dreaming!

A: Whaaat!?

C: Oh yes! The day has come. Today Amelia and I have prepared what we call a “heavy hitter” of an episode. All of the topics we cover are interesting and related to sleep and dreams, but every so often we like to talk about something with a little extra oomph. Let’s jump right in!

Amelia, what are lucid dreams?

A: Well, Cecilia, in a lucid dream, a dreamer becomes aware that they are conscious while in a dream state.

C: Oooh! Ahhh!

A: Mmmm! Yes! In her book The Dream Game, Ann Faraday says that dreams and the ability to lucid dream is “one of the most exciting frontiers of the human experience.” Apparently lucid dreams have a unique sensory nature and people have reported seeing and hearing better. Patricia Garfield is a psychologist and talks about the mind blowing orgasms she achieved through lucid dreaming in a lot of her books.

C: *riff riff* How long have people been lucid dreaming?

A: A looong time. Just a quick note on historical notation, Cecilia and I use the terminology BCE and CE to denote calendar years. BCE stands for Before Common Era and replaces “BC” or “Before Christ” and CE stands for Common Era, which replaces “Anno Domini” or the “Year of our Lord.”

Now! Onto the history! Well the first recorded lucid dream that I could find is 415 CE, but we know that dream manipulation has been around for a long time.

C: Dream manipulation might include going to a dream temple in ancient Egypt in order to have a dream that would answer a question in the dreamers like - like if they would have a bountiful harvest. If you want more information on that, I highly encourage you to check out our episode about the Ancient Egyptians and dreams! That is Season 1 Episode 7, and it aired on July 12, 2020.

A: You know that was a fave of mine! They dreamed of their teeth falling out too, y’all! And you’re absolutely right, using dreams to gain clarity on a part of a person’s life or to predict the future is nothing new. For instance, according to an article by Eleanor Rosch at UC Berkeley titled “Tibetan Buddhist Dream Yoga and the Limits of Western Psychology”,“Lucid dream, lucid dreamless sleep, and lucid death practices are an inherent part of advanced Tibetan Buddhist meditation.”

Do you like that one? It’s from the first page of her abstract.

C: Oooh wow you really tried on that one!

A: I did! It is a super interesting read, and it’s only 33 pages. We’ll have it linked in our notes!

C: I can’t wait! So there is evidence of lucid dreaming having been around for a while, when does the term “lucid dream” a thing?

A: The Dutch physician Willian Van Eden is credited with coining the term in 1913, but upon reading Our Dreaming Mind by Dr. Robert L. Van de Castle, I would like to say that dream researcher Hervey Saint-Denys had used the term “rêve lucide” in 1867 “to describe those dreams in which ‘I had the sensation of my situation.’”

C: How charming and French!

A: Oui!

C: What do scientists think of lucid dreaming?

A: Good question. Not surprisingly, there is beaucoup de skepticism surrounding lucid dreaming.

C: That does not surprise me at all. Dreams are already difficult to measure, and verbal testimonials about a dream are not hard evidence for .

A: Boom! That said, there has been and continues to be a lot of interesting research conducted on lucid dreaming! I read about studies in the 1970s where a test subject was hooked up for a sleep study and they tested their brainwaves. Once the test subject was lucid dreaming, they had to move their eyes from right to left a few times to let the testers know.

C: WHAAAT? So the testers would see the eyes moving under the eyelids? Did that really work?

A: It did. Because they were looking at the brainwaves, it always happened when the subject was in REM sleep, and the eye movements were very deliberate.

C: *riff riff* that is bananas.

A: It is! There is a lot more information on studies about lucid dreaming that I would encourage folks to check out if they’re interested. Oh I do want to share this one - listeners, pause and get out a pen and paper or something because I want you to try something and for you to report back to us.

C: Ooh, Amelia is assigning you all some homework, crack that whip, you dream taskmaster, you!

A: Put me in a leather catsuit and say meow!

C: Lord. Okay so what is the homework?

A: So in their waking life, some people will assign an object or thing to be their trigger in a dream that they are dreaming, like “when I see a door in my dream, I will recognize that I am dreaming and that I can make conscious choices.”

C: That’s an interesting way to do it! What if you don’t see a door in your dreams?

A: Great question! I cannot remember from my research who did this, but I read about somebody using their hands as that trigger because you always have your hands on you.

C: HA! Unless it were some Looney Tunes type of dream where you pick up a land mine and your hands explode.

A: Well of course, that goes without saying. No, so REM sleep cycles, where dreams occur, happen every 90 minutes. This guy, who I cannot remember his name, would set alarms while he was awake that went off every 90 minutes. He would study his hands for a few minutes and ask himself if he was awake or asleep.

C: *riff riff* So did it work?

A: YES! After a day or two of setting timers, looking at his hands, and asking if he was awake or asleep, the same thing happened while he was sleeping and this triggered his ability to consciously recognize he was asleep and lucid dream.

C: That is so cool! Yes, dear listeners, try this out! Let us know how it goes? So what are the pros and cons of lucid dreaming?

A: Pros: it’s cool as hell. It’s like taking drugs without chemicals. You can do lots of neat stuff, like go to France! Or eat cheese! Or go to France and eat cheese! Lucid dreaming is cheaper and doesn’t burn fossil fuels!

C: Amelia, we live in Wisconsin, it’s not like we don’t have an overabundance of cheese.

A: Or cheese curds. Mmmm… Okay but seriously, it gives you an opportunity to check in with your subconscious on a much higher level. If you desire it to be, dreams can take you to a very spiritual realm. The guy who had the first recorded lucid dream in 415 CE? He wasn’t sure about what happened after death, and by asking this question to himself, he induced a lucid dream of sorts to communicate with the heavens and see what the afterlife looks like. If you’re having bad dreams, you can say hey! No more!

C: Are there any problems with lucid dreaming?

A: I think there’s a balance. The choices you make in a lucid dream can be a cop-out for dealing with a problem that your dream is presenting you with. Say I’m having a recurring dream where I’m chased by a faceless stranger. I develop the skills to lucid dream and I repeatedly find ways to kill said stranger - whether that is visualizing poisoned darts that I throw at him, or calling the Navy Seals to take the stranger on - you’re not dealing with the problem.

C: I mean, those are clever ways to use lucid dreams, but you’re right! That is not taking care of the problem at hand. How should someone take care of it?

A: If a dreamer is lucid dreaming and they have something like this, I would encourage them to pull an Emily and Amelia Nagoski and “turn toward the discomfort with love and gratitude.” Whether that is confronting the scary thing in the dream or waking up and diving into it - you and I both know you don’t need to lucid dream in order to do that, but the point is you could use lucid dreaming

C: Right, and that’s something you don’t even need to lucid dream to do! You just need to have an open mind and dream journal, or at least remember your dreams.

A: Yes! I just want to throw this out there, according to Gestalt theory, “to murder a dream character would be to commit a form of intrapsychic suicide.”

C: Well if Gestalt said it, it must be true! *riff riff* Now can our listeners lucid dream?

A: It is a practice that takes time for sure, but I think it’s a worthy endeavor. A lot of the books and articles I read discussed a dreamer needing to develop “mental discipline,” which can be honed through meditation or visualization practices. Like throughout the day, take note of sensory experiences (right now, in this moment, I smell___, I taste, I touch, I hear, I see).

C: I’ve heard of that one! That is a great mindfulness practice to help you slow down and really engage with your body.

A: Absolutely! It’s meant to center you and keep you focused in a specific moment, aka mindfulness, but it can be helpful with gaining this mental strength that is important to lucid dreaming. Another suggestion I read was, wait for it, “auto-suggestion” which is essentially intention setting as far as we know it.

C: Oh sure, okay, so the dreamer could say “I will be conscious that I am dreaming tonight when I sleep,” or something to that effect.

A: Exactly! We do that a lot when we want to visualize ourselves a certain way (“I want to see myself as kicking ass in a particular situation”) or we want some clarity on a real life scenario (“I want to know what the best path forward is”), and lucid dreaming gives you an even greater opportunity to engage with your psyche. Or go to France and eat cheese.

C: Or go to France and eat cheese. On to the second part of our show: I had a dream once!

Part 2: I had a dream once!

C: This is the part of the show where we read and analyze the dream of a listener. If you’re interested, you can send your dream to us through our website,, our emails - or, or even through our social media, which is how this dream came to us.

A: Let’s hear it!

C: “I was walking into school with two of my friends. We were just talking and then all of a sudden I was in a cave with my friends and my science teacher. Then my friends disappeared but my science teacher was still there and then he was just looking at me as I got stuck.

I’m not sure how I got there, but I did and then there was a black and white spider. When I got close to it, the spider would grow to the size of my head. Then when I went away, it got smaller. Then it was really big and it jumped on me and then I woke up. And then whenever I closed my eyes to go back to sleep, I just saw spiders, so then I just stayed awake. This all happened around 3:50am.

A & C: *riff riff*

A: Well, that’s all we have for today!

C: We hope you enjoyed this episode about lucid dreams!

A: And we hope you check out our first minisode from our How to Sleep series coming out this week! We will be talking about the popular sleep aid melatonin.

C: I can’t wait for that one! Don’t forget to send your dreams to us at (with two zz’s!) And check us out on instagram and facebook. Sleep tight!

A: And remember, don’t let the lucid dreams bite! Night night!

Our Dreaming Mind, Robert Van De Castle, PhD., 1994

The Complete Book of Dreams, Julian and Derek Parker, 1998

Dream Themes, Dr. Fiona Starr and Jonny Zucker, 2001

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