10 Things That Can Affect Your Dreams At Night

Source: 10 Things That Can Affect Your Dreams At Night

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Melatonin Overdoses In Kids Increase 530% Over Past Decade

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Over the past decade, the number of children overdosing on melatonin, a sleep aid, has increased by 530%, according to a new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The largest increase, a 38% jump, came in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, which the study’s authors say was likely because more children were spending more time at home.In 2021 alone, more than 50,000 calls were placed to poison control centers in the United States about melatonin ingestion by kids, the study found.

“Most were unintentional exposure, meaning the parent did not give the child melatonin,” said ABC News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, also a board-certified OBGYN. “So the implication is the child got into it themselves.” Here are four things for parents to know to help keep kids safe.

1. Melatonin is a widely-accessible supplement.

Melatonin is a hormone that plays a role in sleep, according to the National Institutes of Health. In the U.S., melatonin supplements are considered dietary supplements, which means they are accessible to the public without the regulations of a prescription drug.

Melatonin supplements come in the form of tablets, capsules, liquid and even gummies, which may make them more attractive to kids. According to the study’s authors, “Increased sales, availability, and widespread use have likely resulted in increased access and exposure risk among children in the home.”

2. Melatonin has not been widely studied in kids.

There have not yet been enough studies on melatonin and kids to know the full impact of the supplement, according to the NIH. Even in adults, according to the NIH, the long-term impacts of melatonin are not well-known, even if the supplement does appear to be mostly safe with short-term use. With kids, because melatonin is a hormone, there is a possibility that taking it by supplement could impact hormonal development like puberty and menstruation, according to the NIH.

3. Melatonin ingestion by a child is a medical emergency

According to Ashton, when a child ingests melatonin without adult supervision, it is a medical emergency that requires immediate action. “You either want to bring them to an emergency room or contact a poison control center,” she said. Symptoms of melatonin ingestion in kids includes abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, excessive tiredness and labored breathing.

4. Parents should store melatonin out of kids’ reach.

Ashton said parents should keep all medications and supplements, including melatonin, out of the reach of kids, even young teenagers. Bottle tops should also be kept securely closed, according to Ashton, who encouraged parents to talk to their kids about medication safety.

“You always want to use any medication exposure as an opportunity to really teach that child about medication, that it should only be given by an adult, is not candy and can have consequences both good and bad,” she said. The CDC also has additional tips HERE for keeping medication safely away from kids.

By Katie Kindelan

Source: Melatonin overdoses in kids increase 530% over past decade: What parents need to know to keep kids safe

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It’s not easy to get good sleep, especially during a worrisome pandemic with no end in sight, so it’s not surprising that bottles of sleep-inducing melatonin pills have become bedside staples. But this increased availability of melatonin at home, particularly in easy-to-consume forms like gummies, has had serious, and in some cases deadly, consequences for the children who either accidentally get their hands on it or are given it by a caregiver.

A new study published by the CDC found that melatonin overdoses in children increased 530% from 2012 to 2021, with the largest spike — a 38% increase — occurring from 2019 to 2020, when the COVID pandemic started. The researchers looked at melatonin overdoses in children and teens. More than 260,000 cases were reported to US poison control centers over the last decade, including more than 4,000 hospitalizations and nearly 300 that resulted in intensive care.

Five children required mechanical ventilation and two children — a 3-month-old and a 1-year-old — died at home following melatonin poisoning. The researchers said child-resistant packaging for melatonin “should be considered” and that healthcare providers need to better warn parents about the supplement’s “potential toxic consequences.”

The study’s lead researcher Dr. Karima Lelak, who is a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, said melatonin may not be as harmless as people make it out to be, and that safe storage is absolutely critical. “Parents should really see melatonin just as any other medication that has the potential to do harm to kids, and it can be even more dangerous because it can look like candy,” Lelak told BuzzFeed News. “If a parent takes their melatonin after reading this paper and puts it in their medicine cabinet, I am humbled because I think that’s really a big take-home point: safe storage.”

Melatonin supplements work by mimicking melatonin, a hormone naturally found in our bodies that is produced by the brain in response to darkness. Supplements are mostly used to treat sleep disorders, but they’re an accessible over-the-counter product anyone can buy and use to help improve sleep (and they’re often promoted to parents as a sleep aid for children). Melatonin is regulated by the FDA as a dietary supplement, requires no prescription to take, and is widely available in pill, liquid, and gummy form.

The majority of melatonin overdoses were accidental, occurred at home, and were treated in a setting outside of healthcare, the researchers found; most involved boys younger than 5. Melatonin consumption comprised about 5% of all childhood overdoses reported to poison control centers in 2021, compared with 0.6% in 2012, the study found. The supplement was the most frequently consumed substance among kids reported to poison control centers in 2020, likely because children were spending more time at home due to pandemic-related school closures and stay-at-home orders.

The 10-year study also showed that melatonin ingestions are leading to more serious outcomes over time. Whereas most hospitalized patients involved teenagers who may have intentionally taken too much of the hormone, the biggest jump in hospital admissions occurred among kids younger than 5 who accidentally overdosed on melatonin. It’s still unclear why the severity of melatonin ingestions among kids is getting worse, but the researchers speculate that quality control issues with the supplements themselves may play a role.

Melatonin sales in the US surged 150% between 2016 and 2020 in response to public demand. Studies conducted in Canada have shown that melatonin sold in stores often fails to match some of its label’s claims in terms of dosage, with the most variation found in the chewable products that kids are more likely to consume. This research has led to some important changes in Canada’s health policies involving melatonin, including the banning of certain over-the-counter products. However, such “drug quality studies and legislation initiatives in the United States are lacking,” the researchers wrote.

What’s more, these studies have found that some melatonin products are often contaminated with “potentially clinically significant” doses of serotonin, a byproduct of melatonin, that can lead to serotonin toxicity in kids, causing symptoms such as confusion, high blood pressure, overactive reflexes, and a rapid heartbeat. Most of the children included in the study who accidentally consumed too much melatonin didn’t have any symptoms, but those who did had gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, or central nervous system issues, including nausea, drowsiness, abdominal pain, and vomiting, Lelak said.

It’s difficult to know how much melatonin is too much because there isn’t an established dosage deemed safe for consumption, according to Lelak. It could be one pill or an entire bottle, but it will depend on how old someone is, the symptoms they’re showing after ingestion (if any), and their body size. About 15% to 25% of children and adolescents have trouble falling and staying asleep, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, the group warns, parents should speak with their pediatrician before giving their kids melatonin.

Dr. Shalini Paruthi, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, previously told BuzzFeed News that parents should wait until their kids are at least 3 years old before giving them melatonin because children younger than that have “unformed neurological and endocrine systems.” It’s also a good idea to first address poor sleep behaviors to ensure kids are getting quality sleep…

 

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What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

We’ve all been there before: You promise yourself just a few more minutes—and suddenly, it’s 2 a.m. and you’re still wide awake. Perhaps you’re binging a new favorite Netflix series or fretting over a morning meeting— whatever the root cause, you’re tossing and turning in bed all night, instead of getting the shut-eye you so desperately need.

What most of us don’t understand, however, is what really happens to our bodies when we don’t achieve that optimal level of sleep, which for most adults clocks in between seven and eight hours. Ahead, we asked a few doctors to explain how are bodies react to too-little sleep—and their answers might surprise you.

It becomes more difficult to focus on mental and physical tasks.

According to Dr. Jan K. Carney, MD, MPH, the Associate Dean for Public Health & Health Policy, and Professor of Medicine at Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and the National Institutes of Health, sleep is essential for health at every age. “When we don’t get enough sleep, it is harder to stay alert, focus on school or work, and react quickly when driving,” Dr. Carney says.

Your memory and mood suffers—and your appetite increases.

Sleep physician Dr. Abhinav Singh, MD, FAASM, the Medical Director of the Indiana Sleep Center, and Sleep Foundation Medical Review Panel member, says that, believe it or not, losing precious hours of sleep and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol have similar physical consequences. “Sleep loss is linked to memory impairment, poor mood, increased appetite (think obesity and diabetes), and reduced reflexes,” he says. “Increased reaction time and some studies have compared it to being worse than being intoxicated with alcohol.”

Long-term sleep shortage could lead to chronic physical and mental health concerns.

While Dr. Carney says the short-term risks of sleep loss are things we’re all familiar with—feeling drowsy and having trouble concentrating—the real risk is what a compounded lack of sleep can do over time. “Longer-term sleep shortage is associated with increased risks for chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, stroke, and depression.”

You can’t make up for lost sleep.

Unfortunately, you can’t “catch up” on sleep—once those hours are gone, they’re gone for good. “It is best to develop and keep regular sleep habits over the long term,” shares Dr. Carney, adding that you also can’t “learn to live” with less sleep. “The best way to ensure both adequate sleep and high-quality sleep is to develop good sleep habits.”

This means implementing a routine with a consistent bedtime and wake time each day—even on weekends. “Regular exercise helps, as does avoiding caffeine or alcohol near bedtime,” Carney says. “Our environment is essential—we need a calm, quiet, dark, and cool location where we sleep regularly.”

By:

Source: What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

These guidelines serve as a rule-of-thumb for how much sleep children and adults need while acknowledging that the ideal amount of sleep can vary from person to person.

For that reason, the guidelines list a range of hours for each age group. The recommendations also acknowledge that, for some people with unique circumstances, there’s some wiggle room on either side of the range for “acceptable,” though still not optimal, amount of sleep.

Deciding how much sleep you need means considering your overall health, daily activities, and typical sleep patterns. Some questions that you help assess your individual sleep needs include:

  • Are you productive, healthy, and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or have you noticed that you require more hours of sleep to get into high gear?
  • Do you have coexisting health issues? Are you at higher risk for any disease?
  • Do you have a high level of daily energy expenditure? Do you frequently play sports or work in a labor-intensive job?
  • Do your daily activities require alertness to do them safely? Do you drive every day and/or operate heavy machinery? Do you ever feel sleepy when doing these activities?
  • Are you experiencing or do you have a history of sleeping problems?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
  • When you have an open schedule, do you sleep more than you do on a typical workday?

Start with the above-mentioned recommendations and then use your answers to these questions to home in on your optimal amount of sleep.

How Were the Recommendations Created?

To create these recommended sleep times, an expert panel of 18 people was convened from different fields of science and medicine. The members of the panel reviewed hundreds of validated research studies about sleep duration and key health outcomes like cardiovascular disease, depression, pain, and diabetes.

After studying the evidence, the panel used several rounds of voting and discussion to narrow down the ranges for the amount of sleep needed at different ages. In total, this process took over nine months to complete.

Other organizations, such as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and Sleep Research Society (SRS) have also published recommendations for the amount of sleep needed for adults2 and children3. In general, these organizations closely coincide in their findings as do similar organizations in Canada.4

Improve Your Sleep Today: Make Sleep a Priority

Once you have a nightly goal based on the hours of sleep that you need, it’s time to start planning for how to make that a reality.

Start by making sleep a priority in your schedule. This means budgeting for the hours you need so that work or social activities don’t trade off with sleep. While cutting sleep short may be tempting in the moment, it doesn’t pay off because sleep is essential to being at your best both mentally and physically.

Improving your sleep hygiene, which includes your bedroom setting and sleep-related habits, is an established way to get better rest. Examples of sleep hygiene improvements include:

If you’re a parent, many of the same tips apply to help children and teens get the recommended amount of sleep that they need for kids their age. Pointers for parents can help with teens, specifically, who face a number of unique sleep challenges.

Getting more sleep is a key part of the equation, but remember that it’s not just about sleep quantity. Quality sleep matters5, too, and it’s possible to get the hours that you need but not

feel refreshed because your sleep is fragmented or non-restorative. Fortunately, improving sleep hygiene often boosts both the quantity and quality of your sleep.

If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms such as significant sleepiness during the day, chronic snoring, leg cramps or tingling, difficulty breathing during sleep, chronic insomnia, or another symptom that is preventing you from sleeping well, you should consult your primary care doctor or find a sleep professional to determine the underlying cause.

You can try using our Sleep Diary or Sleep Log to track your sleep habits. This can provide insight about your sleep patterns and needs. It can also be helpful to bring with you to the doctor if you have ongoing sleep problems.

By: Eric Suni  – SleepFoundation

The Sudden, Uncomfy Fall of The Biggest Pandemic Fashion Trend

Last year, many people got many things wrong about how the pandemic might change our lives. No, cities did not die; yes, people still blow out birthday candles and risk spreading their germs. But few 2020 forecasts missed their mark so spectacularly as the oft-repeated claim that, as the world reopened, we’d return to it in sweatpants.

If any single event crystallizes this misfire, it’s last month’s announcement that the direct-to-consumer loungewear brand Entireworld was going out of business. The company had been a breakout darling of 2020, its cheerfully hued cotton basics poised at the fortuitous intersection of “cute enough for Zoom” and “cozy enough to work, sleep, and recreate from bed in, for the bulk of a calendar year”. News outlets, meanwhile, pointed to Entireworld’s astonishing 662% increase in sales last March not as a right-place, right-time one-off, but an indication of our collective sartorial destiny.

The sweatpant has supplanted the blue jean in the pants-wearing American imagination,” declared GQ last April. The New York Times Magazine followed suit a few months later with an Entireworld name-check in its August 2020 cover story, headlined “Sweatpants Forever”.

But it wasn’t to be. Instead, as 2021 brought forth the world’s reopening, I noticed a style sensibility that seemed to defy last year’s housebound pragmatism. From Instagram to the streets of my New York City neighborhood, the people were turning looks. Kooky looks, to be precise, from platform Crocs to strong-shouldered silhouettes.

My online window shopping exploits turned up scores of sundry garments, across brands, all in the same exuberant hue of 90s DayGlo green. From sensible underpants to faux fur–trimmed tops, I subconsciously catalogued the color labels assigned to each (“celery”, “gross green”, “slime”).

This new, psychedelic palette seemed like a spiritual departure from Trump-era minimalism and its many shades of beige. Less dutiful, more winking.

Sweatpants seem destined for a mere supporting role. Jessica Richards, a trend forecasting consultant based in New York City, agrees that the pandemic has changed the way we dress. “It’s actually for the better,” she says – and in more ways than one.

It’s no coincidence that the styles of the Great Re-entry reflect a certain giddiness, says Dr Jaehee Jung, a University of Delaware fashion studies professor who researches the psychology of fashion and consumer behavior. “The fact that there are more opportunities to present ourselves to others makes us excited about the clothes we wear,” Jung tells me.

“I’m definitely seeing people taking more risks, in terms of color choices, prints and patterns, even shapes and silhouettes that they wouldn’t have worn before,” says Sydney Mintle, a fashion industry publicist in Seattle. “People are like, ‘life is short, wear yellow.’”

Tamar Miller, CEO of the women’s luxury footwear brand Bells & Becks, has seen this fashion risk-taking impulse first-hand in her company’s recent sales. “My absolute, number-one, kind of off-the-charts shoe is one I did not expect,” she says.

That shoe, per Miller’s description, is a pointed-toe loafer in black-and-white snakeskin leather, topped by a prominent decorative tab with hardware detailing. It’s a bold choice, and one that affirms the demographic breadth of the desire to make a statement. Miller’s target customers are not members of Gen Z, but rather their parents and grandparents.

Secondhand clothing – and its promise of luxe-for-less – has also found its time to shine.

2020 was a banner year for the online resale market. Digital consignment platforms like Depop, ThredUp, and Poshmark swelled with the sartorial discards of an estimated 52.6 million people in 2020, 36.2 million of whom were selling for the first time, according to a survey by ThredUp. A majority of millennial and Gen Z consumers indicated that they plan to spend more on secondhand apparel in the next five years than in any other retail category, a sentiment expressed by 42% of consumers overall.

It’s a phenomenon that may also be contributing to the moment’s ethos of mix-and-match experimentation. “Gone are the days of sleek, edited ‘capsule wardrobes’, and in their place are drawers overstuffed with vintage treasures sourced from Poshmark or Depop,” writes Isabel Slone in a recent Harper’s Bazaar article headlined “How Gen Z Killed Basic Black”.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that fast fashion is on its way out. (“Some of those brands are doing big business, and the numbers don’t lie,” Mintle sighs.) But the boom reflects, and may have helped accelerate, a growing departure from trend-chasing and disposable, low-cost wares. You might even say that reflexive participation in fads is so 2019 – not least because the US is struggling with supply chain bottlenecks as we enter the holiday season.

But our Roaring Twenties may be on the horizon. For 2022, Richards anticipates sparkle, novelty, “shoes that go ‘clunk’” and “really maximalist styling”. She didn’t mention sweatpants.

By:

Source: The sudden, uncomfy fall of the biggest pandemic fashion trend | Fashion | The Guardian

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Can Lucid Dreaming Help Us Understand Consciousness

The ability to control our dreams is a skill that more of us are seeking to acquire for sheer pleasure. But if taken seriously, scientists believe it could unlock new secrets of the mind

Michelle Carr is frequently plagued by tidal waves in her dreams. What should be a terrifying nightmare, however, can quickly turn into a whimsical adventure – thanks to her ability to control her dreams. She can transform herself into a dolphin and swim into the water. Once, she transformed the wave itself, turning it into a giant snail with a huge shell. “It came right up to me – it was a really beautiful moment.”

There’s a thriving online community of people who are now trying to learn how to lucid dream. (A single subreddit devoted to the phenomenon has more than 400,000 members.) Many are simply looking for entertainment. “It’s just so exciting and unbelievable to be in a lucid dream and to witness your mind creating this completely vivid simulation,” says Carr, who is a sleep researcher at the University of Rochester in New York state. Others hope that exercising skills in their dreams will increase their real-life abilities. “A lot of elite athletes use lucid dreams to practice their sport.”

And there are more profound reasons to exploit this sleep state, besides personal improvement. By identifying the brain activity that gives rise to the heightened awareness and sense of agency in lucid dreams, neuroscientists and psychologists hope to answer fundamental questions about the nature of human consciousness, including our apparently unique capacity for self-awareness. “More and more researchers, from many different fields, have started to incorporate lucid dreams in their research,” says Carr.

This interest in lucid dreaming has been growing in fits and starts for more than a century. Despite his fascination with the interaction between the conscious and subconscious minds, Sigmund Freud barely mentioned lucid dreams in his writings. Instead, it was an English aristocrat and writer, Mary Arnold-Forster, who provided one of the earliest and most detailed descriptions in the English language in her book Studies in Dreams.

Published in 1921, the book offered countless colourful escapades in the dreamscape, including charming descriptions of her attempts to fly. “A slight paddling motion by my hands increases the pace of the flight and is used either to enable me to reach a greater height, or else for the purpose of steering, especially through any narrow place, such as through a doorway or window,” she wrote.

Based on her experiences, Arnold-Forster proposed that humans have a “dual consciousness”. One of these, the “primary self”, allows us to analyze our circumstances and to apply logic to what we are experiencing – but it is typically inactive during sleep, leaving us with a dream consciousness that cannot reflect on its own state. In lucid dreams, however, the primary self “wakes up”, bringing with it “memories, knowledge of facts, and trains of reasoning”, as well as the awareness that one is asleep.

She may have been on to something. Neuroscientists and psychologists today may balk at the term “dual consciousness”, but most would agree that lucid dreams involve an increased self-awareness and reflection, a greater sense of agency and volition, and an ability to think about the more distant past and future. These together mark a substantially different mental experience from the typically passive state of non-lucid dreams.

“There’s a grouping of higher-level features, which seem to be very closely associated with what we think of as human consciousness, which come back in that shift from a non-lucid to a lucid dream,” says Dr Benjamin Baird, a research scientist at the Center for Sleep and Consciousness at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “And there’s something to be learned in looking at that contrast.”

You may wonder why we can’t just scan the brains of fully awake subjects to identify the neural processes underlying this sophisticated mental state. But waking consciousness also involves many other phenomena, including sensory inputs from the outside world, that can make it hard to separate the different elements of the experience. When a sleeper enters a lucid dream, nothing has changed apart from the person’s conscious state. As a result, studies of lucid dreams may provide an important point of comparison that could help to isolate the specific regions involved in heightened self-awareness and agency.

Unfortunately, it has been very hard to get someone to lucid dream inside the noisy and constrained environment of an fMRI scanner. Nevertheless, a case study published in 2012 confirmed that it can be done. The participant, a frequent lucid dreamer, was asked to shift his gaze from left to right whenever he “awoke” in his dream – a dream motion that is also known to translate to real eye movements. This allowed the researchers to identify the moment at which he had achieved lucidity.

The brain scans revealed heightened activity in a group of regions, including the anterior prefrontal cortex, that are together known as the frontoparietal network. These areas are markedly less active during normal REM sleep, but they became much busier whenever the participant entered his lucid dream – suggesting that they are somehow involved in the heightened reflection and self-awareness that characterize the state.

Several other strands of research all point in the same direction. Working with the famed consciousness researcher Giulio Tononi, Baird has recently examined the overall brain connectivity of people who experience more than three lucid dreams a week. In line with the findings of the case study, he found evidence of greater communication between the regions in the frontoparietal network – a difference that may have made it easier to gain the heightened self-awareness during sleep.

Further evidence comes from the alkaloid galantamine, which can be used to induce lucid dreams. In a recent study, Baird and colleagues asked people to sleep for a few hours before waking. The participants then took a small dose of the drug, or a placebo, before practising a few visualisation exercises that are also thought to modestly increase the chances of lucid dreaming. After about half an hour, they went back to sleep.

The results were striking. Just 14% of those taking a placebo managed to gain awareness of their dream state, compared with 27% taking a 4mg dose of galantamine, and 42% taking an 8mg dose. “The effect is humongous,” says Baird.

Galantamine has been approved by Nice to treat moderate Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought to work by boosting concentrations of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine at our brain cell’s synapses. Intriguingly, previous research had shown that this can raise signalling in the frontoparietal regions from a low baseline. This may have helped the dreaming participants to pass the threshold of neural activity that is necessary for heightened self-awareness. “It’s yet another source of evidence for the involvement of these regions in lucid dreaming,” says Baird, who now hopes to conduct more detailed fMRI studies to test the hypothesis.

Prof Daniel Erlacher, who researches lucid dreams at the University of Berne in Switzerland, welcomes the increased interest in the field. “There is more research funding now,” he says, though he points out that some scientists are still sceptical of its worth.

That cynicism is a shame, since there could be important clinical applications of these findings. When people are unresponsive after brain injuries, it can be very difficult to establish their level of consciousness. If work on lucid dreams helps scientists to establish a neural signature of self-awareness, it might allow doctors to make more accurate diagnoses and prognoses for these patients and to determine how they might be experiencing the effects of their illness.

At the very least, Baird’s research is sure to attract attention from the vast online community of wannabe lucid dreamers, who are seeking more reliable ways to experience the phenomenon. Galantamine, which can be extracted from snowdrops, is already available as an over-the-counter dietary supplement in the US, and its short-term side-effects are mild – so there are currently no legal barriers for Americans who wish to self-experiment. But Baird points out that there may be as-yet-unknown long-term consequences if it is used repeatedly to induce lucid dreams. “My advice would be to use your own discretion and to seek the guidance of a physician,” he says.

For the time being, we may be safest using psychological strategies (see below). Even then, we should proceed with caution. Dr Nirit Soffer-Dudek, a psychologist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, points out that most attempts to induce lucid dreaming involve some kind of sleep disturbance – such as waking in the middle of the night to practice certain visualizations. “We know how important sleep is for your mental and physical health,” she says. “It can even influence how quickly your wounds heal.” Anything that regularly disrupts our normal sleep cycle could therefore have undesired results.

Many techniques for lucid dream induction also involve “reality testing”, in which you regularly question whether you are awake, in the hope that those thoughts will come to mind when you are actually dreaming. If it is done too often, this could be “a bit disorienting”, Soffer-Dudek suggests – leading you to feel “unreal” rather than fully present in the moment.

Along these lines, she has found that people who regularly try to induce lucid dreams are more likely to suffer from dissociation – the sense of being disconnected from one’s thoughts, feelings and sense of identity. They were also more likely to show signs of schizotypy – a tendency for paranoid and magical thinking.

Soffer-Dudek doubts that infrequent experiments will cause lasting harm, though. “I don’t think it’s such a big deal if someone who is neurologically and psychologically healthy tries it out over a limited period,” she says.

Perhaps the consideration of these concerns is an inevitable consequence of the field’s maturation. As for my own experiments, I am happy to watch the research progress from the sidelines. One hundred years after Mary Arnold-Forster’s early investigations, the science of lucid dreaming may be finally coming of age.

How to lucid dream

There is little doubt that lucid dreaming can be learned. One of the best-known techniques is “reality testing”, which involves asking yourself regularly during the day whether you are dreaming – with the hope that this will spill into your actual dreams.

Another is Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming (Mild). Every time you wake from a normal dream, you spend a bit of time identifying the so-called “dream signs” – anything that was bizarre or improbable and differed from normal life. As you then try to return to sleep, you visualise entering that dream and repeat to yourself the intention: “Next time I’m dreaming, I will remember to recognise that I’m dreaming.” Some studies suggest that it may be particularly effective if you set an alarm to wake up after a few hours of sleep and spend a whole hour practising Mild, before drifting off again. This is known as WBTB – Wake Back to Bed.

There is nothing particularly esoteric about these methods. “It’s all about building a ‘prospective’ memory for the future – like remembering what you have to buy when you go shopping,” says Prof Daniel Erlacher.

Technology may ease this process. Dr Michelle Carr recently asked participants to undergo a 20-minute training programme before they fell asleep. Each time they heard a certain tone or saw the flash of a red light, they were asked to turn their attention to their physical and mental state and to question whether anything was amiss that might suggest they were dreaming. Afterwards, they were given the chance to nap, as a headset measured their brain’s activity.

When it sensed that they had entered REM sleep, it produced the same cues as the training, which – Carr hoped – would be incorporated into their dreams and act as reminders to check their state of consciousness. It worked, with about 50% experiencing a lucid dream.

Some commercial devices already purport to offer this kind of stimulation – though most have not been adequately tested for their efficacy. As the technology advances, however, easy dream control may come within anyone’s reach.

By:

David Robson is a writer based in London. His next book, The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Transform Your Life (Canongate), is available to preorder now

Source: Can lucid dreaming help us understand consciousness? | Consciousness | The Guardian

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