Nov 4, 2010
Studies suggest ‘lucid dreams’ where we control the action are on the rise.
It is the stuff of a Hollywood movie: a dreamworld that can be manipulated at will. But for more and more of us, it is becoming a reality, with the number of people experiencing lucid dreams rising rapidly.
In the blockbuster film, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page stroll through a dreamworld where they are able to bend streets into the sky, walk up wall and destroy a cafe by the force of will.
While the plot of a lucid dream may not be as dramatic, the process is similar. Someone having a lucid dream realises they are dreaming and may from then on in ‘direct’ the action. Alternatively, they may simply ‘watch’ the dream unfold.
The sense of awareness makes it different from a dream that is simply extremely vivid and true to life. And while the description may seem bizarre, the process is far from alien to many of us.
Studies suggest that the number of people in the Western world experiencing the occasional lucid dream has risen by between 10 and 40 per cent since the 1980s. Today, they are so common that about one in eight of us will have one in our lives. Despite this, little is known about what triggers them – or what is behind the rise.
Research carried out at the respected Harvard University in the US showed the brain to be hard at work during lucid dreams. In fact, the level of mental activity in some parts of the brain was similar to that of an awake person.
Lucid dreamers seem to share certain personality traits. For instance, they are creative but also problem orientated and believe in personal responsibility rather that letting society carry the can.
Scientists of course, do not know the function of dreams in general, far less that of lucid ones.
Our nightmares may reflect our waking concerns, with the five most common themes falling, being chased, feeling paralysed, being late, and the death of a loved one.
Men are more likely to have nightmares about violence or being sacked while bereavement and sexual harassment crop up more in women’s nightmares. Dreams about hair and tooth loss are also more common in women – perhaps signifying anxieties about losing their looks.
Previous research has found that women have more nightmares than men. Their dreams are also more intense and leave more of an impression when they wake up.
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