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The Student Voice of Wichita Northwest High School

Northwest Explorer

The Student Voice of Wichita Northwest High School

Northwest Explorer

The Student Voice of Wichita Northwest High School

Northwest Explorer

The Lucidity Of Dreams

Did you know that some people dream in black & white while others dream in color? Did you know that the average person will spend six years of his life dreaming? Listen close, because I’m about to tell you something that is going to make all of your dreams come true (within your dreams).  Though our bodies may be lying motionless on our beds at night, our minds are running wild within our heads, randomly taking us on adventures to places both familiar and unfamiliar to us. We wake up the following morning with a brief memory of a really cool dream, but we quickly plant our feet firmly on the ground and continue our regular lives. Usually, by the time we lay down for bed that night, the magical memory of our last dream is gone as if it never happened.

Before I go into the possibilities that have always been open to you, I want to discuss the nature of the mind. Our brain may be the last things humans still have left to explore simply because we know so little about them. It has been said that we only use 10 percent of our brain. We’ve gone to the moon, invented the hydrogen bomb, established a world wide web and built the pyramids at Giza (maybe). If we’ve done this much using only 10 percent of our brain, what could we do with 20 percent? 30 percent?  100 percent?

The human brain cycles through four different kinds of brain waves:  Alpha, Delta, Theta and Beta. Each type of brain wave represents a different speed of oscillating electrical voltages in the brain. Delta is the slowest and is present in deep sleep. Theta is present in stage one when we’re in light sleep. Alpha waves occur during REM sleep (as well as when we are awake). And beta waves are usually only seen in very stressful situations or situations that require very strong mental concentration and focus. To enter the fifth and final stage of the sleep cycle, the REM stage, we must be in a deep enough sleep for our brains to produce delta waves (1).

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep lasts from 5 to twenty minutes during the 90 minute sleep cycle and is accompanied by constant and sporadic eye movement. Once we enter REM sleep, several physiological changes take place. The heart rate and breathing quickens, the blood pressure rises, we can’t regulate our body temperature as well and our brain activity increases to the same level (alpha) as when we are awake, or even higher. The rest of the body, however, is essentially paralyzed until we leave REM sleep. This paralysis is caused by the release of glycine, an amino acid, from the brain stem onto the motoneurons (neurons that conduct impulses outward from the brain or spinal cord). Because REM sleep is the sleep stage at which most dreaming takes place, this paralysis could be nature’s way of making sure we don’t act out our dreams. Throughout the night, it’s possible to go through each of these five phases several times. However, each subsequent cycle, will include more REM sleep and less non-REM sleep (1).

Our brain registers things through chemicals and electric signals. During the REM stage of the sleep cycle, the electric signals in our brains are going crazy, all over the place. Scientists have hypothesized many different answers to the purpose of this activity, but only a few have stood the test time. Early civilizations believed that dreams were very real; tangible places that could only be accessed while asleep. More recent theories suggest that the signals in our brains are completely random, and dreams are the storylines that our brain attributes the signals in order to make sense of them when we wake up the next morning (3). Others believe that dreams are just our brain letting off steam, necessary for dealing with the stress in our daily lives. But the most interesting theory, I believe, is that dreams are actually a lot like our brains working overtime, solving problems we may have and providing us with fresh insight and creative inspiration (2).

Understanding the science and theories of dreams is the first step to understanding how to recall them and eventually, control them. Though we sometimes wake in the morning with no recollection of our dream, it does not mean that a dream did not take place. In fact, we have multiple dreams every night. Dream amnesia is the norm. This is not due to anything paranormal or supernatural, but to weak encoding in short-term memory (5). Because our dreams are so random and the nature of the memory is so faint, we often forget our dreams partially or more often than not, completely. Also, though they are seeing so many images, people often do not remember their dreams, because the forward-thinking nature of humans makes this difficult. Most people could care less to dwell on their dream when they wake up in the morning, and quickly carry on with their day. The vague memory of dreams naturally leads us to believe that they are unimportant. We have a lot to gain however, from remembering and embracing our dreams as relevant.

Besides the recreational and self developing aspect of remembering and acknowledging your dreams, they may also contain much more useful information. The inventor of the sewing machine, Elias Howe, had struggled in 1884 to figure out how the needle could work in a machine for sewing. In a dream, he found himself surrounded by native tribesmen with spears that had a hole in the point. When he woke up, he realized that a needle with a hole in the point would solve his problem. Mary Shelly, author of “Frankenstein,” got the idea for the story from a dream. Edgar Allen Poe got inspiration from a dream featuring large luminous eyes for his story, “Lady Ligea.” Many musicians, including Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Beethoven, have found inspiration for their music from their dreams. Some hear musical arrangements in their dreams, while others hear lyrics (1).

We’ve covered the science of dreaming, the theories behind dreams and the importance of dreaming; now for the fun part. It is estimated that fewer than 100,000 people in the United States have the ability to have lucid dreams (1). It requires thought, and a little bit of effort, but it can easily be achieved by anyone with a little bit of knowledge and willpower. This paper will provide the knowledge, you must provide the willpower. The first step is remembering your dreams. If you can remember your dreams, you can recognize whether they are lucid or not.

Starting off when you go to bed, tell yourself you will remember your dreams. This in itself and thinking about your dreams throughout the day will help you to better remember your dreams. It is said that five minutes after the end of a dream, we have forgotten 50 percent of the dream’s content. Ten minutes later, we’ve forgotten 90 percent of its content (4). I am one of many people who record their dream in a notebook as soon as I wake up in the morning. The reinforcement of that faint dream memory will bring the dream from your subconscious into your consciousness, and allow you to recall on the memory long after you wake up. Others find that an easier method is to stay in bed and create some associations. The easiest association is made by giving the dream a title and a purposive description. For example, a dream of being chased by a polar bear across the snow into a library might be labeled “Research the Polar Bear.” Go back to sleep and you are likely to remember the dream by recalling the title (5).

In 1989, Paul Tholey, a German dream researcher wrote a paper about a technique he was studying to induce lucid dreams. It was called the reflection technique, and it involved asking yourself throughout the day if you were awake or dreaming (1). If you get used to doing this while awake on a daily basis, you will begin doing this while you are asleep. If you were to see a vulture wearing a sombrero sitting in the passenger seat of your car in a dream and asked yourself, “Am I awake?” you would realize that you were dreaming, thus, achieving lucidity within a dream. Once aware that you are dreaming, you have the ability to take absolute control of your dream. It will definitely take a few tries, but you will soon notice how quickly you make progress both by remembering more and more of your dream and by having much more vivid and detailed dreams.  Lucid dreaming can be both fun and therapeutic, and the possibilities are only as limited as your imagination. So to all who are interested in achieving lucidity within a dream I tell you, goodnight and good luck.







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    Rod GisickAug 26, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    Logan, would like you to contact me. I’m from Bison, KS area, and am looking to learn about the other Gisicks in the world. Who were your parents/grandparents, and from where? My son is Michael, the writer, not the one in Wichita. I live in the Philippines now, retired.