REMaining Awake

When I first discovered that there was a way to control what you dream about, I was fascinated and tempted to try it. I figured it would be like starring in your own movie, where you are allowed to decide exactly what happens. I learned that it was called lucid dreaming and occurs when you gain a sense of awareness during sleep. Recently, I have come across an online article that addresses the debate over whether the abnormal state of consciousness that occurs during a lucid dream affects the quality of a person’s sleep. Since I have now had some experience with lucid dreaming myself, I found this quite interesting. I often wondered if this activity of “conscious dreaming” affected the quality of rest I was receiving. Looking further into it, I discovered that during each normal night of sleep, a person usually experiences something called a Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep state. (If you have ever watched a person experience REM, it’s a bit freaky because our eyes do, in fact, flutter very rapidly). Reaching this REM state determines whether or not your night’s sleep is restful or not. People that wake up often during the night and never experience any cycles of REM sleep tend to feel much more sleep deprived.

There are a total of three stages of REM (the first two are rather short and do not involve deep sleep). In the final stage of REM sleep, your body works on repairing and strengthening tissue, muscle, and the immune system. At this point, certain portions of the brain are normally deactivated. One part of the brain, the frontopolar cortex (also known as Brodmann area 10), located in the front part of the brain just above the eyes and is responsible for multitasking and memory recall, is included in this deactivation. However, when a person experiences lucid dreaming, the frontopolar cortex is reactivated and regains reflective abilities and awareness. This reactivation can occur while a person is still in the last stage of REM sleep.

So, does lucid dreaming mean less sleep? Or lower the quality of your night’s sleep? Maybe some, but not enough to produce significant affects. Because reactivation of the frontopolar cortex is still possible during REM sleep, a person is still able to lucid dream while receiving a restful night of sleep. In fact, some lucid dreamers have reported waking up with more energy and with a more positive attitude because of this control they have over their dreams. Based on my own experiences with lucid dreaming, I have also felt this energy boost following a night of lucid dreaming. So then, even though our brain seems to be more “awake” during lucid dreaming as opposed to normal dreaming, why do we still wake up feeling energized? As most of you already know, the human brain is an extremely complex and organ, and much of the Brodmann area 10 portion of the brain still remains a mystery to most scientists. It is possible that there are side effects involved in lucid dreaming, but none that we are currently aware of.


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