Unlocking Lucid Dreaming

Like many others, I have always wanted to control what happens in my dreams. Currently this ability evades me, but a select group of people have figured out how to influence their sleep worlds; the lucid dreamers. Lucid dreaming is an in interesting and rare power, and it is increasingly sought after as a result of its popularization in movies like Inception. Thankfully, there are some great studies occurring that are helping unravel the mysteries of lucid dreams and enabling us to better understand what causes the phenomenon and how we can induce it.

One such study was conducted by German researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt and the University of Goettingen, and their results were published in Nature Neuroscience. The group found that small electrical pulses during sleep cause some people to recognize when they are dreaming and subsequently manipulate their dreams. Lucid dreams usually occur during REM and it has been observed to cause an increase in activity in the prefrontal cortex. Additionally, earlier experiments have showed that lucid dreams happen at a frequency of around 40-hertz. With this knowledge, the German researchers electrically stimulated the brains of participants for about 30 seconds at frequencies between 2 and 100 hertz. Then, they woke the subjects and asked them questions about how aware they were of their dreaming state and how much control they had over their dreams. Here comes the interesting part- electrical waves that matched those observed in spontaneous lucid dreams (i.e. 40 hertz) had the greatest awareness of and control over their dreams. So 40 hertz seems to be the magic frequency: lucid dreams tend to occur at a frequency of 40 hertz, and stimulation at that level can help induce the dreams.

It seems that scientists now have a lead on creating lucid dreams, which is great for all us people who wish we could fly in our sleeping worlds. It is also great because lucid dreaming has the potential to be a useful therapy for individuals suffering from PTSD and nightmares. In fact, individuals with PTSD and nightmares have been documented to have improvements in their condition after the use of techniques that help induce lucid dreams. Such techniques include keeping dream journals, visualizing yourself having awareness in a dream, identifying dream signs, and planning a dream before falling asleep.

If you want more information on lucid dreaming, its use as a therapeutic, and maybe some tips on how you can do it (without electrically stimulating your brain!) check out this interview with dream expert Dr. Beverly D’Urso, a lucid dreamer and researcher herself!



Voss, U., Holzmann, R., Hobson, A., Paulus, W., Koppehele-Gossel, J., Klimke, A., & Nitsche, M. A. (2014). Induction of self awareness in dreams through frontal low current stimulation of gamma activity. Nature neuroscience.

“Neuroscients Hack Dreams with Tiny Shocks” NPR. Web. 20 Feb 2015. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/05/14/312285764/neuroscientists-hack-dreams-with-tiny-shocks

“Lucid Dreaming and Self-Realization.” Psychology Today. Web. 20 Feb 2015. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-superhuman-mind/201212/lucid-dreaming-and-self-realization

7 thoughts on “Unlocking Lucid Dreaming

  1. After I read this posting, I remembered waking up from a lucid dream the other day. It was such an extraordinary experience because unlike in other dreams I had control over my dream. It was certainly fun to be able to make decisions in a dream. From your posting I found it interesting that we can create lucid dreams by stimulating a dreamer’s brain with electrical impulses. What I also thought interesting was that lucid dreams can be used as a therapy for PTSD and nightmares. I wonder why lucid dream works as an effective therapy? Would it be related to having a control over one’s dream? Anyways, thank you for a great posting. I really enjoyed reading this.


  2. I am a huge fan of Lucid dreaming. It happens fairly often to me (usually during lazy 12 hour weekend sleeps), and I was assuming that everyone was like me. It is interesting to read that lucid dreaming is a rare phenomenon. My “technique” usually includes catching the dream signs. For example, simple electronic devices, light switches and mirrors never work properly in my dreams. So when I try to turn on the light, and the light doesn’t respond, I realize that I am dreaming. Then I can direct all sorts of deep philosophical conversations with the dream characters, though the conversations usually make no sense when I am awake. One last note, I cannot fly in my dreams, though it would be cool to do so. Thanks for the article.


  3. I was very interested in this post. It caught my eye immediately and after reading a couple of the intros, this was the first one to truly draw me in to read more. I was genuinely intrigued by the experiments conducted and the results found. The broader aspects of lucid dreaming, for example helping individuals suffering from PTSD, has large implications that I had not previously thought of and see as extremely beneficial. Overall, the article was very intriguing and I enjoyed reading it.
    Ashley Conley


  4. This is so interesting to read about! The title immediately caught me! I’ve recently been talking with a few people about lucid dreaming, because it is something that I have been able to do on certain occasions when my dreams start heading in a direction I don’t want them to. Do you know if lucid dreaming tends to happen only when one’s dreams start to take a turn for the worst? Did people who received stimulation of more than 40 hertz report that they could control/realize they were dreaming more or less than those who received a stimulation of under 40 hertz? I understand that 40 hertz seems to be the magic number for this, but what happens to people if the charge is over 40 hertz in comparison with people who receive a charge of under 40 hertz? I just have one last question about the details of lucid dreaming. Is it considered lucid dreaming if one wakes up during the middle of a dream, realizes that one is dreaming, and then falls back asleep to continue dreaming? This is assuming that one now has the added awareness of the state of the dream, so the person can manipulate aspects of the dream. I always thought that it could only be considered lucid dreaming if one was continuously asleep throughout the entire time, but now I am not sure.


  5. Super interesting piece! If lucid dreams are caused by electrical stimulation and people can train themselves to have lucid dreams, then are these therapies actually causing the brain to have these electrical pulses? That would mean that these pulses are not random. It’s so cool to think that we can actually change our brain’s electrical signals by things like visualizing and concentration!


  6. I have always found the concept of lucid dreams fascinating. Personally, I’ve been completely aware in dreams before and it is a great experience. For once, you have complete control over EVERYTHING. With the flick of your wrist you can make something fly, or you can take a bleak situation and make it better in a matter of seconds. Time loses meaning – it’s always surprising when you wake up from a dream in which weeks were passing and realize you only slept for a few hours. I can imagine how lucid dreaming may have several therapeutic benefits attached to it as well. Along with PTSD and nightmares, it may also be a good way to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. I wouldn’t be surprised if doctors or pharmacists tried to manipulate the way we dream in the future in order to ensure lucid dreams to all. Imagine if you could practice real-life situations in your dreams or even just revisit past memories? Of course, I’m taking lucid dreaming to the extreme, but such ideas nevertheless seem plausible for the future.


  7. Jenny,

    Your post is very interesting to me because I am aware when I am dreaming. However, I can’t create a dream. It actually when I have nightmares that I will control my dream and change the outcome in order to be able to keep sleeping that night. Sometimes I will wake up and then when I fall back asleep the dream is back and I will change it if I know the results is too scary for me. With dreams I like, if I am awoken but really liked my current dream, I can usually fall back asleep and continue that dream. I don’t think it is the same as lucid dreaming. Do you know if there are different levels? It would be cool to have the study done on myself to see which frequency I dream at.



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