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A lucid dream is a type of dream in which the dreamer becomes aware that they are dreaming while dreaming. During a lucid dream, the dreamer may gain some amount of control over the dream characters, narrative, or environment. Lucid dreaming has been studied and reported for many years. Prominent figures from ancient to modern times have been fascinated by lucid dreams and have sought ways to better understand their causes and purpose.
Many different theories have emerged as a result of scientific research on the subject and have even been shown in pop culture. Further developments in psychological research have pointed to ways in which this form of dreaming may be utilized as a form of sleep therapy.
The term lucid dream was coined by Dutch author and psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden in his 1913 article A Study of Dreams, though descriptions of dreamers being aware that they are dreaming predate the article. Van Eeden studied his own dreams between January 20, 1898 and December 26, 1912, recording the ones he deemed most important in a dream diary. 352 of these dreams are categorized as lucid.
Paul Tholey laid the epistemological basis for the research of lucid dreams, proposing seven different conditions of clarity that a dream must fulfill in order to be defined as a lucid dream:
Subsequently, Stephen LaBerge studied the prevalence of being able to control the dream scenario among lucid dreams, and found that while dream control and dream awareness are correlated, neither requires the other. LaBerge found dreams that exhibit one clearly without the capacity for the other; also, in some dreams where the dreamer is lucid and aware they could exercise control, they choose simply to observe.
The practice of lucid dreaming, as in cultivating the dreamer's ability to be aware that they are dreaming, is central to both the ancient Indian Hindu practice of Yoga nidra and the Tibetan Buddhist practice of dream Yoga. The cultivation of such awareness was a common practice among early Buddhists.
Early references to the phenomenon are also found in ancient Greek writing. For example, the philosopher Aristotle wrote: "often when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream". Meanwhile, the physician Galen of Pergamon used lucid dreams as a form of therapy. In addition, a letter written by Saint Augustine of Hippo in AD 415 tells the story of a dreamer, Doctor Gennadius, and refers to lucid dreaming.
In 1867, the French sinologist Marie-Jean-Léon, Marquis d'Hervey de Saint Denys anonymously published Les Rêves et Les Moyens de Les Diriger; Observations Pratiques ('Dreams and the ways to direct them; practical observations'), in which he describes his own experiences of lucid dreaming, and proposes that it is possible for anyone to learn to dream consciously.
Some have suggested that the term is a misnomer because Van Eeden was referring to a phenomenon more specific than a lucid dream. Van Eeden intended the term lucid to denote "having insight", as in the phrase a lucid interval applied to someone in temporary remission from a psychosis, rather than as a reference to the perceptual quality of the experience, which may or may not be clear and vivid.
In 1968, Celia Green analyzed the main characteristics of such dreams, reviewing previously published literature on the subject and incorporating new data from participants of her own. She concluded that lucid dreams were a category of experience quite distinct from ordinary dreams and said they were associated with rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). Green was also the first to link lucid dreams to the phenomenon of false awakenings.
In 1975, Dr Keith Hearne had the idea to exploit the nature of Rapid Eye Movements (REM) to allow a dreamer to send a message directly from dreams to the waking world. Working with an experienc