You know the feeling — you’re at work, and you notice you forgot to put trousers on this morning. You’re taking a leisurely swim and you become aware that you’re surrounded by sharks. You’re in any number of unpleasant situations and you realise… you’re just dreaming.
Then sometimes (though sadly, it seems, less frequently) dreams are about mastering the power of flight or dating the attractive celebrity of your choice but, again, the moment you realise you’re dreaming, you’re unfairly jolted back to reality.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way?
Dreams have been a source of intrigue for years. From ancient cultures that believed dreams were signs from gods, to more recent suggestions that they’re a form of wish fulfilment, to theories that they’re simply the result of random brain activity, we’re endlessly fascinated with our strange nightly visions. And though we still don’t know exactly why we dream, we do know that there’s such a thing as “lucid dreaming”. This means you become aware that you’re dreaming, but rather than waking up are able control what happens in your dreams.
The concept is pretty exciting, quite literally opening up worlds of possibilities, but is something only a few people seem able to achieve. However, that might be about to change, as researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany, led by Dr. Ursula Voss, are exploring ways to induce lucid dreaming in volunteers.
The research involved 27 volunteers, none of whom had had a lucid dream before. After entering the REM stage of sleep, which is when the most dreaming takes place, the volunteers had a weak electrical current applied to their brains, and were woken a few seconds later. 77% of the times the experiment was performed, the volunteers reported having a lucid dream.
We’re probably a little way off a commercial product that will allow us to lucid dream at home, but the research is very promising, and not just because spending our nights creating our own worlds, Inception-style, seems a lot of fun. It furthers our understanding of how the brain works, and for people who have recurring nightmares, such as sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it’s a potential game-changer.
We wish Dr. Voss and her team the best of luck with their research!