Lucid dreaming is the conscious perception of one’s state while dreaming. In this state a person usually has control over characters and the environment of the dream as well as the dreamer’s own actions within the dream. The occurrence of lucid dreaming has been scientifically verified.
Oneironaut is a term sometimes used for those who lucidly dream.
Dreams of absent-minded transgression
Dreams of absent-minded transgression (DAMT) are dreams wherein the dreamer absentmindedly performs an action that he or she has been trying to stop (one classic example is of a quitting smoker having dreams of lighting a cigarette). Subjects who have had DAMT have reported waking with intense feelings of guilt. One study found a positive association between having these dreams and successfully stopping the behavior.
Dreaming and the “real world”
During the night there may be many external stimuli bombarding the senses, but the brain often interprets the stimulus and makes it a part of a dream in order to ensure continued sleep. Dream incorporation is a phenomenon whereby an actual sensation, such as environmental sounds are incorporated into dreams such as hearing a phone ringing in a dream while it is ringing in reality, or dreaming of urination while wetting the bed. The mind can, however, awaken an individual if they are in danger or if trained to respond to certain sounds, such as a baby crying. Except in the case of lucid dreaming, people dream without being aware that they are doing so. Some philosophers have concluded that what we think as the “real world” could be or is an illusion (an idea known as the skeptical hypothesis about ontology). There is a famous painting by Salvador Dalí that depicts this concept, titled “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening” (1944). The first recorded mention of the idea was by Zhuangzi, and was also discussed in Hinduism; Buddhism makes extensive use of the argument in its writings. It was formally introduced to Western philosophy by Descartes in the 17th century in his Meditations on First Philosophy. Stimulus, usually an auditory one, becomes a part of a dream, eventually then awakening the dreamer. The term “dream incorporation” is also used in research examining the degree to which preceding daytime events become elements of dreams. Recent studies suggest that events in the day immediately preceding, and those about a week before, have the most influence.
The recall of dreams is extremely unreliable, though it is a skill that can be trained. Dreams can usually be recalled if a person is awakened while dreaming. Women tend to have more frequent dream recall than men. Dreams that are difficult to recall may be characterized by relatively little affect, and factors such as salience, arousal, and interference play a role in dream recall. Often, a dream may be recalled upon viewing or hearing a random trigger or stimulus. A dream journal can be used to assist dream recall, for psychotherapy or entertainment purposes. For some people, vague images or sensations from the previous night’s dreams are sometimes spontaneously experienced in falling asleep. However they are usually too slight and fleeting to allow dream recall. At least 95% of all dreams are not remembered. Certain brain chemicals necessary for converting short-term memories into long-term ones are suppressed during REM sleep. Unless a dream is particularly vivid and if one wakes during or immediately after it, the content of the dream will not be remembered.
One theory of déjà vu attributes the feeling of having previously seen or experienced something to having dreamt about a similar situation or place, and forgetting about it until one seems to be mysteriously reminded of the situation or the place while awake.
According to surveys, it is common for people to feel that their dreams are predicting subsequent life events.Psychologists have explained these experiences in terms of memory biases, namely a selective memory for accurate predictions and distorted memory so that dreams are retrospectively fitted onto life experiences. The multi-faceted nature of dreams makes it easy to find connections between dream content and real events.
In one experiment, subjects were asked to write down their dreams in a diary. This prevented the selective memory effect, and the dreams no longer seemed accurate about the future. Another experiment gave subjects a fake diary of a student with apparently precognitive dreams. This diary described events from the person’s life, as well as some predictive dreams and some non-predictive dreams. When subjects were asked to recall the dreams they had read, they remembered more of the successful predictions than unsuccessful ones.