Many people are attracted to the allure of experiencing lucid dreams. The ability to do whatever you want, wherever you want with whomever you want sounds fantastic. But, with the online community sharing lucid dreaming urban myths and frightening stories about lucid dreamers experiencing sleep paralysis, lucid nightmares and even coma or death it can be scary to try lucid dreaming. Should you be afraid to lucid dream?
No-one should be afraid to lucid dream. Lucid dreaming is a completely safe activity. It cannot cause any physical harm to you. In a lucid dream you have complete control over what happens. Lucid dreaming can occasionally cause sleep paralysis but this can be avoided with specific techniques.
Is lucid dreaming scary?
Dreams have held a special significance in the philosophy and religions of mankind for millennia. So, it should come as no surprise to learn that lucid dreaming has its own place in these philosophies.
Lucid dreams were first clearly described by Aristotle in 350 BC, in his treatise titled, On Dreams. However, lucid dreaming has been around much longer than that. Tibetan monks claim that they have been practicing their dream yoga for over 12,000 years.
In ancient Greece sleep and dreams were of such great importance that they built dream temples. Ancient Greek texts talk about the importance of dreams and mention lucid dreaming.
In may ancient cultures there were gods and goddesses that were associated with sleep and dreaming.
As we can see from the gods of sleep and dreams such as Somnus, Morpheus and Hypnos (the ancient Greek god of sleep and dreams who gives us the English term hypnosis), these gods are almost always associated with the underworld. As the underworld was often, and still is, depicted as a scary place for the dead it is no wonder there are some apprehensions about lucid dreaming. It seems even the ancients held some fear of, or at least a healthy respect for, dreams.
However, although there are some potentially negative things that can happen to untrained lucid dreamers, most scary stories about lucid dreaming are based on urban myths that have no basis in fact. Let’s look at some of those now.
Misconceptions about lucid dreaming
Before I mention the potential side-effects that can happen to lucid dreamers, which are deemed to be undesirable, I will first address the many misconceptions about the dangers associated with lucid dreaming.
If you are afraid to lucid dream just quickly looking over this list can help subdue your fears.
- Cannot put you into a coma. I covered this in-depth in this article.
- Cannot cause you to die. As I covered here even if you die in a lucid dream you will not die in real life – you will simply wake up.
- Cannot trap you in a dream. No matter how real or long a lucid dream lasts, or how many false awakenings you have (more on that later), you will always wake up. Read more about that here.
Due to the misconceptions listed above many people believe it is bad to lucid dream. It is not bad to lucid dream. In fact, lucid dreaming is not just fun and enjoyable but it has many real world advantages that can help you in life.
Having said that, there are some side-effects that a small number of lucid dreamers have, usually in the early stages of their lucid dreaming experiences before they become fully skilled at directing their dreams. Although these potential side-effects can scare some people they are not physically threatening, nothing bad will happen to you as a result. Additionally, by following some simple steps you can easily deal with, or totally avoid, all of these side-effects from happening to you.
You should note that even though the negative side-effects outlined below are easy to deal with using the correct approach/techniques, there are only a small percentage of lucid dreamers who actually have these experiences. The vast majority do not.
Potential negative side-effects of lucid dreaming
As Spider-Man ‘s uncle, Ben Parker, told him, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Like all things in life lucid dreaming, if not used correctly, can lead to some unwanted outcomes. Just as electricity can cook your dinner when used correctly but can cook you if used incorrectly, lucid dreaming can have some pitfalls to the unprepared (although not nearly as dangerous).
Potential side-effects of lucid dreaming:
- Sleep paralysis.
- Lucid nightmares.
- False awakenings.
- False memories.
Each of these side-effects can be avoided with the correct training but even if they do occur they can be dealt with easily, effectively and quickly. For example, I have previously given detailed information for dealing with sleep paralysis caused by lucid dreaming using very simple and easy-to-implement techniques and I suggest you read that if you are concerned about this happening to you when you lucid dream – it is very easy to deal with.
If you don’t know what lucid dreaming sleep paralysis is I will cover it quickly here.
Sleep paralysis can occur before you enter a dream or just after you awaken. Although it is not common among most lucid dreamers it does happen to some. Of those lucid dreamers who do occasionally experience sleep paralysis it will usually only occur after a lucid dream has ended just as the dreamer awakens in the real world.
Sleep paralysis occurs to lucid dreamers because they remain conscious throughout the waking process. You see, when we dream our bodies are temporarily paralyzed so that we do not get up and start acting out our dream. This is a very desirable thing as some people who suffer from somnambulism will sleepwalk and act out their dreams, sometimes with terrible consequences.
We are usually unaware of the fact that our bodies are still sometimes paralyzed after waking because when we wake from a normal dream we are usually in a groggy state of consciousness and it takes several seconds or several minutes to fully awaken. You know the state – you lie in bed still in a dreamy state of mind for awhile before your brain comes fully online.
It is during this awakening that your body begins to come out of the state of paralysis. You do not realize that you are paralyzed because you are not fully conscious yet.
Unfortunately though, for those lucid dreamers who remain conscious between the end of the dream and the body “awakening” they will experience this state of paralysis because they will skip the groggy mental state. As they are fully conscious they will often try to move their body only to find that it remains paralyzed. This state of sleep paralysis will last from a few seconds in most cases to several minutes in extreme cases.
You can easily deal with sleep paralysis using the techniques I outlined in the sleep paralysis article I linked to above.
Lucid nightmares are things that sometimes occur to dreamers. The thought of having a lucid nightmare, where you have regular nightmare but it feels totally real, can scare many people off from trying to lucid dream. However, the truth is that lucid dreaming is the cure for a lucid nightmare not the cause of it.
A lucid nightmare is actually just a very vivid dream. It is not a lucid dream. If the dreamer were truly lucid then they would be able to alter the dream in any way they desire, bringing the nightmare to an end instantly.
Lucid dreamers often use the state of dream lucidity to deal with non-lucid recurring nightmares. For example, if a monster were chasing you in a lucid nightmare you can simply tell it to stop, shrink it in size and they tell it to inform you of its meaning/message. You can ask it what it represents and why it is trying to frighten you. This is very therapeutic.
The truth is that in a lucid dream you have complete control over how the dream unfolds so you never have to experience a nightmare.
False awakenings are probably the most commonly experienced unwanted side-effect of lucid dreaming (most common among people who have negative side-effects. Not a common occurrence with lucid dreamers in general though).
A false awakening is when you think you have woken up from a lucid dream only to find yourself still in the lucid dream. It’s a bit like the concept of a dream within a dream that was introduced in the film Inception. The problem with these dreams within dreams is that most people don’t want to experience them as they have not been deliberately created (though it is possible to that).
False awakenings can be a bit scary if they occur one after the other in the same dream cycle. It can feel like you are stuck in the dream (which we have seen is, of course, is impossible). However, feeling like you cannot wake up can cause a certain amount of anxiety for many dreamers. I give a fool-proof way for waking yourself up from any dream, even when you are experiencing false awakenings, here.
False memories are a much more serious side-effect of lucid dreaming but are, thankfully, extremely rare. However, they are worth mentioning here as they are a potential negative side-effect you may encounter, albeit a highly unlikely one.
False memories come from getting confused between your memories from normal waking life and your memories from lucid dreams. Most times it is easy for your brain to compartmentalize your memories and separate your lucid dreaming memories from real life memories simply because you do things in lucid dreams that defy logic and go against the laws of physics and nature.
However, sometimes when a lucid dreamer creates a dreamworld that mirrors the real world, with all its rules and restrictions, and they visit it often they can form powerful memories that become confused with real world memories. Below is an example of how this could possibly occur.
Let’s say you create a lucid dream world were you are married to your childhood sweetheart (who broke up with you in real life) and you continually visit this dreamworld and just live a normal life in it. There is no defying the laws of physics or becoming a famous actor, Olympic star or tennis pro. You just live a normal happy life in your lucid dreams. Can you see how easy that would be to get confused between your memories of the real world and the lucid dreaming world?
As I have already mentioned developing false memories from lucid dreaming is extremely rare. It is usually caused by having very strong emotional connection to the lucid dreaming world and repeating certain actions over many different lucid dreams. I have never actually met someone that it happened to. I have only read about it, that’s how rare it is.
Luckily though, there are extremely easy ways to avoid developing false memories from lucid dreaming even if you do create a strong emotional connection to the dreamworld and repeat actions over multiple dreams.
Again using very simple techniques, that you can employ within the dream, when you awaken from it or as you are just going about your normal waking activities, you can totally avoid ever experiencing the phenomenon of developing false memories due to lucid dreaming.
I covered the subject of false memories from lucid dreaming here and give detailed easy-to-use techniques for avoiding developing them.