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Wake Up and Dream

Monday, January 23, 2012 - 08:00 PM

Man lurking at window Man lurking at window (mnapoleon/flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

In today's short, a man confronts a bully, and frees himself from a recurring nightmare that's terrorized him for more than 20 years.

Matt Kielty introduces us to Steve Volk, a city reporter in Philadelphia who--for decades--was plagued by a recurring nightmare. It popped up whenever Steve was going through a stressful time, and it always played out exactly the same way. But no matter how self-aware Steve was about his most current set of anxieties, and no matter how hard he tried to rationalize and explain away the dream...he couldn't make it stop.

Then one year, Steve started working on a book about topics at the edge of science, and along the way he stumbled into lucid dreaming. Pretty soon, Steve was reading through old sleep studies conducted by a scientist named Stephen LaBerge, and he was starting to wonder if lucid dreaming might not be so fringe-y after all. So he called up LaBerge's assistant and began training himself on a set of techniques that would eventually help him put his inner demon to bed.

Read more:

Fringe-ology, by Steve Volk

Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, by Stephen LaBerge

Guests:

Steve Volk

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Comments [108]

jerri from Hixson TN

Anyone that would like to discuss or share your dreams, please go to facebook and ask to join "when dreams collide". This is a site we just started to share our experiences.

Jul. 09 2014 04:11 PM

I had no idea that lucid dreaming is normal for some people. I personally have never experienced it and still don't quite understand how lucid dreamers do it. This was a great podcast! Very interesting!

Apr. 25 2014 05:03 PM
Robin from San Francisco, CA

This is so fascinating. Lucid dreaming is an incredible experience...

I actually illustrate my dreams, and I just started a blog about it. Yesterday, I had a dream about dreaming. I was lucid for much of it, and tried to capture the dream as best I could in a drawing.

Here is the link: http://www.robingalante.com/blog/blog/dreams-within-a-dream

I love Radiolab so much - thank you guys for creating such a fascinating radio show. Dream on! ;-)

Feb. 13 2014 03:26 PM
Shell

What do you think it means if you are in a dream and suddenly you say to yourself "I am in somebody else's dream!" and instantly are submerged into a black void?

Jan. 10 2014 11:54 PM
John D. Laskowski from Carsonville, PA

Nobody ever commented on what causes the quicksand phenomenon. I was amused at the placard for this segment showing a quicksand warning sign on a beach. I've never seen quicksand anywhere near the ocean. Quicksand sites form where there is a significant "push" of water from below that flows toward the surface. That water pressure causes the sand particles accumulated in a natural "bowl" to create the quicksand hole. They tend to be relatively small in area such as those I've encountered in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.
As a science teacher I would demonstrate this phenomenon with a sand filled aquarium with a bottom filler tube hooked to a faucet where I would increase the water pressure until the sand "floated like quicksand". Excess water exited from a side drain. By dropping in different plastic army men toys one could see the effect of "feet down" vs "prone on your stomach" as a survival mechanism. The only demo better was the one to answer the age old farmer's question "Why do rocks come up in my fields every year ?"
BTW - different tool companies use both vise grip and vise - grip but our tormenter,(oops ), commenter needs to get a grip on his vice !

Dec. 15 2013 05:16 PM
Jonas

@Zed Fifth: Never happened to me, but this might help you... http://www.healthboards.com/boards/sleep-disorders/95254-waking-up-seeing-floating-objects.html

Also, when I was little (six years old, seven maybe?) I had somewhat of a reoccurring dream... Different dreams, same feared character in the dream. The character was a floating misty head, but I believed that it was "in charge" of what I dreamt and it was punishing me. It would actually "send me to" or "create" nightmares that I would have to go through, and even though I knew they were coming, they scared me terribly none the less. I would often go to sleep most nights hoping that this seemingly supernatural force that controlled my dreams would let me off for once, but whenever he'd come up in a dream he'd always create another nightmare and force me to dream through it. One night, however, that changed. I was dreaming like normal, but then the head/face/dream-controlling entity appeared and suddenly we were just alone in black space. I had learned to respect the entity rather than be afraid of him, because I knew that angering him would be of no use. I thought that if I just went along with what he said, he would eventually go away. Anyways, when he confronted me alone, he told me something like the following: "I'll give you two more nightmares. Then, I will leave, and I won't give you anymore nightmares." I was hopeful, and agreed with him. That night, I had two more typical nightmares (falling, and burning in lava; I guess the two that came to the top of my head) but I wasn't scared this time. I was expecting the nightmares, and I knew that they would soon end. After the second one, I woke up, and my six year old self was very thankful that the evil entity and his nightmares were gone from my dreams. Sure enough, he didn't appear for a second the following night. Or the night after. Or after that. Two months went bye, and I didn't have a single nightmare. The next one I had, however, didn't include the entity or any hints of him at all. To this day, I don't recall seeing him at all after he told me he'd leave. A while went by, and I told myself that he was just a figment of imagination, and I pretty much forgot about him until today. The only people who I've ever tried to explain this to are my best friend at the time, who didn't call me crazy but just kind of stared at me blankly and probably forgot about it the moment I stopped talking, and my parents, who went along with it probably just because I was six/seven years old... I doubt they took stuff like this that I asked them/told them about very seriously back then.

One more thing: I wasn't lucid dreaming during any of that, I don't think...but I've had a few lucid dreams over the years. They are very much real.

May. 09 2013 04:00 PM
Michael Martin from Seattle

For any of you wishing to learn some of the skills and meet a large community of dreamers and their techniques as well as some of the things they encounter I recommend this large community of lucid dreamers. http://www.reddit.com/r/LucidDreaming/

Feb. 28 2013 04:27 PM
Kani from Denver

When I was about six years old in the 70s I was having almost nightly nightmares of falling, which of course, woke me up terrified. My brother, who was only a year and a half older than I was, mentioned something about lucid dreaming. I decided to give it a go and we even talked about trying to meet in each other’s dreams (which was never successful).

It took me awhile, but finally one night when I was having the reoccurring nightmare, I suddenly realized that I was dreaming (it felt kind of foggy but I definitely was aware). Instantly the dark colors around me changed to much warmer colors and I was no longer frightened, in fact, I began to fly instead. Since then, when I have a nightmare, I become aware and realize I am dreaming, the dream scene then changes to something else and I proceed to wonder about until the dream shifts to something uncontrolled and my awareness fades away. Lucid dreaming helped me get rid of my reoccurring nightmares as a child and in most cases continued to help the random ones that followed throughout the years.

On the negative side, about a year ago, I began to experience some reoccurring dreams where I am aware but can’t move, change the dream or wake up. In the dream I am usually laying on the floor with my eyes closed but occasionally opening my eyes to get a glimpse of my surroundings. I try to move but I just can’t, I feel extremely tired, just opening my eyes for a moment takes a lot of effort. In the dream I would fall asleep which would then black everything out negating my awareness, only to wake up in the same spot in the same situation. I found the cycle exhausting. Sometimes I would find myself in a room with lots of people while other times it is just one person. I could hear the people talking and sometimes they would talk to me. I am not sure why I can’t control this dream or what makes this dream different than others that I have become aware in. Luckily, after a year, the dream eventually faded away. Hopefully it has stopped for good.

If anyone else has had something similar I would love to hear their thoughts.

Jan. 10 2013 05:32 PM
venkatdial from hyd

It was a great run, and I hope the readers who discovered us found our content useful.

Nov. 08 2012 03:40 AM
Sastelise

Thanks for this episode; it made me wonder whether I'm a natural lucid dreamer. I don't recall ever having a recurring dream, but I've had dying dreams in various permutations. Whenever I'm about to die in dream, I "wake up" in the dream. I realize what's happening, that I can't really die and I consciously change the circumstances so that I don't die. I wonder what would happen if I actually let myself die in one of those dreams. Maybe I would bring my capacity for lucidity to another level? Something about that is unsettling. I wonder, too, if this natural lucidity explains why I never seem to have the same dream. Am I trying to challenge myself?

Thanks for raising so many fascinating questions! Also I agree with another commentator that the sound effects that radiolab uses always leave me wondering whether what I'm hearing is from my surrounding environment or the podcast. So kudos to the editors for their sound effect selections!

Oct. 18 2012 06:45 PM
Anja Sammon from Ireland

Yes, I am a "natural lucid dreamer", and I also know that things can go wrong. It is not as easy and "cool" as it is made out to be in the podcast.

Oct. 14 2012 06:10 PM
Chris from Stockton, CA

I don't like lucid dreaming. I wish it would go away.

Oct. 12 2012 03:27 PM
Zed Fifth from Ft. Rucker

I HAVE SEEN OBJECTS FROM A DREAM FOR AROUND 10 SECONDS WHEN I WAKE UP
Does this happen to others?
What is this?
Description:
Both times this occurred I was concentrating on something in my dream. The first time it was a older man. The second time it was a butter fly. In both cases when I woke up and saw the image.
THE FIRST TIME: I rubbed my eyes 3 times. In between each rub I stared at the man for 3 to 4 seconds trying to decide if he was actually there or not. After sufficiently proving to myself that he was indeed in my room I then ran. The event lasted around 15 seconds before I ran
SECOND TIME: I saw the butterfly from my dream lit on the wall 3 feet from were I was sleeping. I stared at it then I moved closer. I began to think WOW this Moth or Butterfly looks just like the one from my dream. Then after about 5 or 6 seconds it began to slowly fade away. The entire process was about 9 or 10 seconds long.

Oct. 09 2012 11:43 PM
ralph

Nice story. A proper strategy to go lucid. There are others out there too for those without recurring dreams.

Lucid dreaming is like, ancient news, but increasingly common I think. It's a great platform for an out of body experience if you can get through the different sensations involved with that. The brain has a way of creating fear in unknown experiences. Intense fears like in horror movies. Follow them and they will eventually pull you back to an awake state. Keep all of your emotions steady, clear minded through the ride. That's how I stay out at least.

These kinds of things seem to have a way of affecting faith. Just don't be disappointed when they don't make you a flying ninja shaman. If anybody claiming to be "fully enlightened" really was, then what happens to our canvas that we love so much to paint on?

Sep. 27 2012 10:42 PM
Moses Hall from A²

This is one of my favorite RadioLab episodes, and the Volk story is the highlight. I told some geeky friends the story a couple weeks ago and we all shouted "I'm Neo!" simultaneously. Sound design was spot on! Loved the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon excerpt (WNYC have to pay big licensing fees?)

Speaking of production QC in the sound department, this podcast seems to be a major "usual suspect" in making me jerk, duck, look quickly over my shoulder, etc in response to a sudden noise that I think is an ambulance, space alien or flying toaster from which I derive immediate mortal hazard. RadioLab = the "channel separation gurus".

Sep. 20 2012 09:01 PM
Matt from Brooklyn

Great episode. The first thing I thought of wasn't a personal experience, but rather an old episode of Batman the Animated Series, called "Perhcance to Dream." I watched it as a kid and the story and images resonated so much with Steve's experience and research. I am sure you can watch the episode online but you can read about it below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perchance_To_Dream_(Batman:_The_Animated_Series)

They just don't make'm like the used to.

Aug. 13 2012 12:54 PM
Stephen from Manchester

Love ur stuff, found u guys via 99%invisible, Listened to Wake up and dream while on a flight home, slipping in and out of conciousness , it was awesome, pretty sure I dreamed a lot of it, very inception like, though not that lucid ;)

Aug. 08 2012 05:57 PM
Cezanne from Boise

I had no idea lucid dreaming was uncommon. I lucid dream constantly. Honestly, I usually lucid dream to stop a nightmare or when I want to have a sex dream. : )

I also have ridiculously vivid dreams that last forever. My boyfriend is quite jealous, because he never dreams.

Jul. 11 2012 07:13 PM
Emma

I'm extremely pleased to find this web site. I want to to thank you for ones time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every little bit of it and i also have you bookmarked to check out new things in your website.

http://lucid-dreaming-guide.com/

Jun. 22 2012 09:36 AM
Shawnee from Detroit, MI

I am a waitress and quite often I have serving nightmares! This is not uncommon as most of my co-workers have talked about reoccurring nightmares. These dreams consist of not being able to remember an order, losing an order, forgetting a drink/food order, being completely unable to approach a table of newly arrived guest. These dreams are horrible! So just this morning I had one of these nightmares however this time I thought to myself... it is still morning, I am not at work, I am dreaming and therefore I do not have to remember the guest drink order! It was a relief and soon after I woke up out of the dream!

Jun. 06 2012 08:26 PM
Amy from Ventura County, CA

This show amazed me. I had no idea that controlling your dreams is a rarity. Sincerely, I rarely have dreams in which I do not control some portion of it. I have briefly mentioned this to my friends, and they seemed surprised, but I assumed there were plenty of others who could do this. This short blew me away.

May. 24 2012 04:26 PM
marisa from Chicago

This was terrifying. Totally brought me back to a reoccurring nightmare I had for years. YIKES.

Apr. 11 2012 03:36 AM
Tim Cizej from Ontario, Canada

Awesome... I've actually just recently becoming obsessed with learning to have lucid dreams, so this was a pretty timely one from you guys. Thanks so much, fantastic quality, as always.

Mar. 21 2012 02:46 PM
Katie from San Diego

When I was a kid, before I'd ever heard of lucid dreaming, I decided that I wanted to wake up in my dream in order to ask someone if I was dreaming. I laid in bed and said over and over to myself, "I'm going to wake up in my dream, I'm going to wake up in my dream." Then suddenly I found myself at a backyard party with a bunch of people and I asked someone if it was a dream. When they said no, I knew they were lying. I wanted to ask more people but suddenly robots started flying into the backyard and carrying people off. I went up to the high wooden fence, covered my eyes and counted to ten in an effort to wake myself up. When I uncovered my eyes I was still in the dream and started to worry that I was stuck there. The second time I counted it worked and I woke up. After that I continued the experiment a number of times, flying and breathing underwater in my dreams. It's interesting to hear that claims of this sort were considered controversial!

Mar. 17 2012 03:28 PM
Barbara

I saw a television show, years and years ago that dealt with this topic. In it, they discussed how you can change your dreams if you are aware you are dreaming. 35+ years later, I rarely have a dream I don't like--if it is going in a direction I don't like, I just change it--sometimes in a direction I want something to go. Had I been the gentleman in your story with the guy attacking me, I would have made him a dance partner. It really works. Fascinating story.

Mar. 05 2012 04:12 PM
Ben from Los Angeles, CA

Continued*
So I have these types of dreams about a dozen times a years( slowly diminishing). I always remember the dreams. I know where I actually am, but there is always a stimuli that doesn't make sense. It takes a good 5-10 min for me to question my dream's reality enough to come to a conclusion I am just dreaming. Most times my roommates wake up to me in the middle of the room, talking to someone. Sometimes I am talking to them and they are fooled at times that I am awake and having a conversation with them. They get freaked out about why I keep doing this, or who I am seeing. Originally I thought I was getting signs of Schizophrenia, but nothing unusual ever happens when I am actually awake. So right now to cope with my unusual dreaming I have to have a fan blowing loudly in the room, creating white noise, which usually stops those dreams 75% from happening. I would really like to understand why I am having these dreams. My sister also is currently having this happen to her too. She keeps imagining people come into her room at night. She is using the fan trick right now to help relieve it.

So if anyone knows what's going on with us, we would greatly appreciate it!

Mar. 05 2012 02:50 PM
Ben from Los Angeles, CA

Thanks for putting out this podcast!(and every podcast since they are all amazing!)
I am one of the many who posted above that they are lucid dreamers. I have many lucid dreams throughout the year where I have control and I am able to touch things, smell, and do supernatural things. One such dream was where I found a hamburger lying on the ground behind my dorm room and I decided to take a bite from it. I then tried to jump up in the air and I felt myself hover for a second. Throughout the whole dream I kept jumping and propelling my body upwards with all the force I had, and over time I was able to go higher and higher until I learned how to fly. I felt everything and had complete control over my body. When I woke up I tried it out because I thought it was real.

Now that is something similar to normal lucid dreaming. I am now going to talk about how I took that to the next level. It started when I was around 18 years old and it still continues today. I wake up in the middle of the night. I recognize I am in my bedroom. The door opens spilling light into the room, a person(or group) are in my room, or I hear something that I have to go discover outside of the room. I get out of bed and talk to this person (people) or go outside in the hall trying to find something. One example was I woke up to see a group of my friends at my door trying to call me out to play volleyball. I complained to them they were going to wake my roommate and they need to leave, and after a while of persisting I had to climb down from my bunk bed to make them leave. As soon as I climb down and turn around again to the door, they are gone and the light is off. That is the point where I realize I was just dreaming. In all of these real world lucid dreams there is an odd stimulant that doesn't make sense to the reality of my location. It takes a while to convince my mind that my friends aren't in my room at 3am. Or one time I remember taking an order on my headset for coffee and donuts (I used to work at Dunkin Donuts), and I walked around the upstairs of my house opening doors trying to find the coffee and donuts, and finally opened all of the windows looking for the customer to tell them we ran out. After finally realizing there was no customer outside my window, on the second story of my house in the woods, I realize I was dreaming and went back to bed. My family was surprised to wake up and find doors and windows open in their rooms.

Mar. 05 2012 02:50 PM

Rob,

OK, practical advice for the bad DC's. First, you have to remind yourself that it's just a dream, and that you can't really get hurt. It will be difficult unless you prepare yourself well, and I failed quite a few times and woke myself up, but eventually you will remember and overcome the fear. Next, you have to figure out a way to fight back. You don't have to be a good physical fighter to do this. It's completely psychological. I often dream of being back in school, so I used a sharp pencil as a weapon. When the bad DC's started trying to scare me, I pointed the pencil at them in a threatening way. You'd think I had pointed a gun at them, the way they acted. Gradually, by standing up to them in various ways like that, they gave up and went away.

After the bad DC's, I got good ones that don't care that I'm lucid. I don't have room to describe my interactions with them, but they are very positive, and as much like separate people as the bad ones were.

I think that it's a fun, harmless hobby, with some benefits that carry over into waking life. For example, I am a lot less fearful of certain situations after making an effort to encounter them in my dreams, where there are much more scary things than in real life. The things I'm scared of in waking life are often not "real" either. I don't mean actual danger, but irrational fears, inhibitions, etc that were difficult for me to overcome otherwise.

I hope knowing that other people have been thru this and how they dealt with it will allow you to enjoy being lucid again. It's well worth working past the scary part to get back to the fun stuff. Where else can you fly, run at super-speed, float in space amongst the stars, breathe underwater, become an animal, make love to somebody different every night (well, I guess you can do that one in real life, but it's more practical in dreams, lol.)

Talking about it and planning ahead of time helps the most. Good luck!

Mar. 03 2012 05:50 PM
Rob

Ro-

I had no idea that this was common. It severely freaked me out when it started happening. I wanted as far away from lucid dreaming as possible. It really did feel like there was some entity inside me, living it's own life separate from mine, that was attacking me for trying to take over it's world.

It is funny that this podcast comes up now. It has been years since I even thought about my experience, but recently it keeps coming up in conversation. I was telling a friend about what happened to me. He had never lucid dreamed before. He told me a few days ago, that out of nowhere he had a lucid dream. He remembered what I had said about dream characters attacking when they are questions, and so he decided to try it (rather obnoxiously) on one of the dream characters. It then turned into a monster and ate him.

I know it sounds silly, but I think this is fascinating, and what I found most interesting about this podcast. Dream characters seem to be these very real people of our own creation. That person in this man's dream, that shot him, and finally accepted him. It seems as though this person had been trying to teach him something for years. This person feels real.

When I first started lucid dreaming I looked at it all differently. I saw dreams as more of a creation of my conscious mind. I saw them as mine, and something I could do what I pleased with. After they started fighting back, I realized that I was separate from the dream. It was a world, created by something else, for me to exist in. It changed my perspective on the whole thing, and was quite humbling indeed.

It still gives me goosebumps to think about it. With all this talk of lucid dreaming lately, I might try to start doing it again. I kind of want to dive deeper into this world and see what I can find. This time, knowing what is ahead, maybe it will not be so terrifying.

Mar. 03 2012 12:18 AM

Rob--

what you are describing with the aggressive dream characters is extremely common. I started practicing lucid dreaming about six years ago, and had a similar experience. Luckily, I was on a forum where people gave me advise on how to handle it and get through that stage. I didn't know that had been described before it happened to me, but when I read about what other people had gone through, it was were similar--DC's becoming aggressive when you "let on" that you know it's a dream to them, and particular DC's who we called "aware" who were particularly obnoxious. On the forum, we try not to talk about it with new dreamers, not wanting to influence or contaminate their experience, but so often, it will begin to happen to them at the same point in their development.

It's so strange how so many people experience almost exactly the same phenomenon--there seems to be resistance coming from different parts of your consciousness. (I guess it's not that strange, because peoples' brains work in similar ways, but it's eerie when somebody is telling you how to deal with things in your own dreams, because "they've been there too".)

It's well worth doing; lucid dreaming allows a glimpse into the complexities of your mind that there is no other way to see. We are not only our waking consciousness. There are a lot of other consciousnesses in there, and stuff is going on that you will never know about until you observe it via dreaming.

You can't talk about lucid dreaming too much without seeming nutty to people who haven't done it, I realize that. I am not talking about any sort of paranormal stuff; I am a rational skeptical person. The mind is a very weird place however and there is as more to do in there when you are asleep than there is in the world when you are awake.

It's not easy for a lot of people; it takes some work, but it's well worth it. It didn't come naturally or easy for me, but I can do it regularly now.

Mar. 02 2012 11:23 PM
Rob

First of all, I dig the Neo stopping bullets Matrix music at the end. Nice touch. I just wanted to comment that a few years back I trained myself to lucid dream. I became quite good at it. I could fly, go to exotic places, all sorts of things. What started to fascinate me was the dream characters. I started trying to control them. But I could never quite get the hang of it. After a while I decided to start questioning them about this. Asking them why I couldn't control them. Telling them they were dream characters. Telling them they weren't real. After doing this a few times, they started to rebel. Whenever I would become lucid and question them, they would fly into rages and scream at me, sometimes attack me. I would lose control of the entire dream. Eventually every night I was having lucid nightmares that I could not escape from. I would be having a regular, sometimes pleasant dream, and as soon as I would become aware, it was like my subconscious would fight back. Everything would turn terrible. Things like me being stuck in a black void falling, and the harder I would try to wake up, the faster I would fall. The harder I would try to control, the worse the dream would get. This went on for a few months. Every night having lucid nightmares. I decided to train myself to no longer lucid dream. I stopped doing the exercises. I forced myself to ignore dream clues. Eventually the lucid nightmares stopped. It is so strange to me still. That these people live inside your head, of your own creation. I want to understand how they work. It is amazing to me. It felt like my subconscious was this real thing, that when it's existence, it's power was questioned, it decided to fight back, to self preserve, just like any life form would.

Mar. 01 2012 09:59 PM
Jen Hunter from Medford, MA

I have lucid dreams maybe 2-3 times a year, but I just found out a couple of days ago that my eleven-year-old daughter is a natural lucid dreamer. It's the norm for her. She was very surprised to learn that most people think they're in real life when they're dreaming. I was a bit behind in my RadioLab podcast listening, so I just heard this episode today. What a freaky and fun coincidence! I didn't know there was so much science demonstrating how to improve one's dream lucidity. Now I'm inspired to work on it so I can get rid of some recurring nightmares of my own.

P.S. RadioLab is my favorite podcast. I adore you guys.

Feb. 28 2012 05:54 PM
Anita from Pittsburgh

This is rather off-topic, but whenever I remember my dreams I never remember me as being "myself-" I'm always an anonymous third-person-narrator type character or a pre-existing character from a show, book, move, etc. I've only ever had one or two dreams where this was not the case, and they were all lucid dreams. Just a little tidbit I thought I would share.

Feb. 27 2012 08:58 PM
Boris Is

Hello, Why play the safe card!
Mention Robert Allen Monroe. A New York radio broadcasting executive who became known for his research into altered consciousness. His 1971 book Journeys Out of the Body is credited with popularizing the term "out-of-body experience"

Feb. 21 2012 04:26 PM
Alan from St. Louis, MO

I've lucid dreamt a bit in my day...
Often when I finally realize, my perception suddenly explodes. My normal dreams are just that, dreamlike, without depth or sensation, except for maybe one overarching emotion. When I gain awareness, it's like being let out of a cramped box. I am awake and I know I am dreaming. I love the feeling! I haven't tried very hard lately and I will only achieve it while my head is down in a waiting room or someplace random like that.

Love the show!

Feb. 21 2012 04:08 PM
John Flores from Queen Creek, AZ

WOW! This show was amazing! I was just driving back home to Arizona from a weekend in California when I decided to pop on this podcast I had waiting in my iPhone. I was sucked into it right from the get-go and was on the edge of my seat the whole story.

When it got to the part when Steve was describing getting shot at, it triggered a past dream I had where I took control of my dream that night. I wasn't sure how I did it but I remember saying in the dream, "No, I'm in control" and turning the dream around to how I wanted it to be. It was an awesome feeling.

Oh yea, when you queued in the Neo music, ha ha, it actually brought a tingling all throughout my body, like when you hear a really good song!
Amazing Jad...loved it!

Feb. 21 2012 12:44 AM

I was supprised that you had not thought this a commen event, as most I have talked to have experianced a similar state just before awakening. I think of it as a self induced state of hypnosis and thought you might also have compared the two in the podcast?
I beleave that at some point while waking up it is posible to gain control of the fragments "thoughts" of your current dream and then conciously stear that situation in your mind to your benifit.
Yet I have found that fact alone determins weather I was in a proper state of subconciousness or not! - Not being able to fully reason durring the experiance!
Thats true for me, yet would be interesting to hear if its the same for others. If you can reason with your actions, then I think you will find this happens extreamly quickly in the nano seconds after you have regained awaireness and are therefor awake.

Thx for a great show, somthing that touches everyone.

Feb. 18 2012 06:51 AM
Charlotte from Wisconsin

I have very vivid dreams, but not lucid ones. I'm never aware I'm dreaming until I wake up. I've never tried lucid dreaming, but I don't mind my dreams - I like the idea of being fully immersed in the dream.

But now, thanks to you, I'm going to have nightmares! Eyes staring at me through a window is one of the biggest fears. I'm sitting in my home, in daylight, and I'm already scared! ack!

Feb. 17 2012 06:16 PM
Luci

Interesting short for sure...will definitely check out Steve Volk's book, which sounds like all kinds of awesome.

But why oh why the slapped-together, melodramatic, eye-roll-obvious-obnoxious sound fx? Not cool. [Or maybe my expectations have gotten too high ever since Jad won that award...sorry!]

Feb. 17 2012 02:01 AM
BrothaJeff from Vancouver Canada

I enjoyed this podcast. I like the ones that kind of go into the unknown and push the edge of science.

I too have lucid dreams. Actually I am lucid from the start of the dream. I feel myself go to sleep. Most people don't remember when they fall asleep. But I feel myself go to sleep. I feel a heaviness go over my body and then I hear buzzing in my ears. Almost as if someone is changing a radio station. I feel like my body is vibrating like crazy and then it goes completely silent.

When I first had this, it really scared me. I thought I was dying, but I recently found out it was called Night Paralysis. I would see weird things in my room when this would happen. A creepy man crouching on the end of my bed with a fedora and he would be smiling. When he noticed I saw him he would bolt out the bedroom door. I thought it was my dreams mixing in with the waking life while i go into this state of night paralysis.

After a bunch more of these episodes I realized it was my body was falling asleep, but my mind was still awake.
After all the buzzing and vibrations happen and I get to the silent part. I usually slip quickly into a really lucid dream. I can feel everything. It feels as though I was transported into another world. But sometimes. I don't slip into a lucid dream and something that feels much more real happens to me. I start to float up or sit up in my bed. Everything is very vivid and real looking. I hear the sound of my sheets rustling as i sit up to the edge of my bed. I feel the carpet on my feet. I look back at my bed and see myself sleeping there next to my wife. Yes, in this state I am able to have very vivid and real out of body experience.

After having this weird phenomenon happen to me. I decided to do a lot of research. If you are interested in out of body experiences, I highly recommend Robert Monroe's books. He explored everything he could about this strange state. With lots of scientific research he put into it.

All I know is, after a person has this phenomenon happen to them. They look at life much differently and they feel that there could be something more to this life.

Feb. 14 2012 04:16 PM
Richard from Hawai`i

I forgot to mention in my earlier comment that the whole point of learning to be conscious (lucid) while dreaming is not to be able to be conscious while dreaming. The purpose of learning how to be conscious while dreaming is to learn to be conscious while one is awake. This probably will seem strange, but the fact is that most people spend a great deal of their waking time, and some people spend most of their "wake" time in what is more like a dream (and often like a nightmare) than it is to being awake. They are lost in thoughts that the brain pumps out and captures their attention, like a dream does. They get caught up in their thoughts as if they are real, just like what happens in a dream when they are sleeping. They believe their thoughts are real, just like one believes their dreams are real when they are asleep. When one can be lucid in dreams, they can also be lucid while awake, i.e., they can realize that their thoughts are just thoughts, not necessarily reality, but just what their brain is throwing at them at the time. Then they can be free of their daytime "nightmares", like anger, fear, attachments, and other negative emotions that their brain throws at them when they are awake. The point is to really be awake while one is awake, not lost in stupid thought forms that make one unhappy.

Feb. 14 2012 04:22 AM
Richard from Hawai`i

I find it amusing that lucid dreaming is presented as if it is something new hear in Western culture, while the Tibetans, and maybe other cultures, have had specific practices called dream yoga for many centuries in which they learn to be lucid while dreaming. The Tibetan Buddhist lamas even learn to do their spiritual practices in their dreams. The book "Dream Yoga" by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche (Snow Lion Publications) describes it. I practiced dream yago for awhile about thirty years ago, and when I first could use it successfully I used it to turn the tide on a recuring nightmare that then never returned. Lucid dreaming is not a big deal. Anyone can learn to do it.

Feb. 13 2012 05:14 PM
BradyDale from Philadelphia, PA

Fellow Radiolab fans - I really, really enjoyed Steve Volk's book, FRINGEOLOGY! You should check it out: fair warning - it's designed to challenge your worldview. A lot of you skeptics/science junkies/rationalists will find it infuriating, but it's such solid reportage that you are going to need to keep reading.

Feb. 08 2012 11:38 AM
Ocean Doc from Miami, FL

When I was a child, I confided in a friend of the family (and a self-ascribed "hypnotist") about a nightmare I'd have quite often involving someone dressed in a dark shroud-like thing, face hidden in the shadow of the hood, chasing me down on a dark street. The figure would pop out from behind a car or rock or dune, and I'd start to run as fast as I could, in total panic. Although I was running, I was not making headway, seemingly moving in slow-motion while everything around me was "normal"; I would be screaming at the top of my lungs (in my dream), but not a peep came out of my mouth. And just before the figure caught up with me, hand reaching to grab my shirt, I would wake up drenched in sweat and feeling horrible, and sometimes physically sore. Our friend suggested I do just that -- ask myself whether I'm dreaming or awake several times every day to where it became a habit. It worked. During one of these nightmares, I asked myself, realized I was dreaming and confronted my attacker, tuned around in mid-sprint and screeched at the figure WHO ARE YOU?... it vanished and never appeared again.

In my adult life, while doing some research on dolphins, I stumbled across an interesting tidbit that I suspect may have something to do with our ability, albeit generally not practiced, to dream lucidly: Like all complex animals, dolphins require intermittent rest for their brain–in other words, they must sleep to function normally. Although marine mammals sleep at the surface of the sea (called “logging”), this does not solve the problem of the deliberate thought required to open their blow-hole and inhale, and unlike turtles and some other air-breathing aquatic/marine creatures, they cannot hold their breath for hours and hours on end. Scientists have determined that marine mammals practice what they call "uni-hemispheric sleep" in which only half the brain literally sleeps while the other half remains awake. This sort of state is similar, researchers believe, to the moments of when we humans are just dozing off, still sort of aware of our environment but just on the brink of being out cold, entering the first phases of sleep (the way many describe "napping"). They also believe that humanoids once practiced uni-hemispheric sleep as a survival strategy, but because of our millennia of living in built "safe" environments of home and shelter, lost that tendency. I wonder if developing lucidity during sleep is physiologically similar to uni-hemispheric sleep, given that being able to have some form of awareness during sleep is presumed to be embedded somewhere in our evolutionary past?

Feb. 07 2012 11:38 PM
Dreamweaver from Dunedin, FL

I have not read every comment on the lucid dream experience of Steve Volks.
I can suggest two excellent sources in addition to Stephen Laberge (I use his induction CD for Lucid dreaming). Robert Moss is one of the worlds current great dream researchers and teachers - Any book by Robert Moss, especially Dreaming True or Conscious Dreaming and also Dreams & Projection of Consciousness by Jane Roberts (another great researcher via personal experience. With a little sincere study of many sources, you can soon find that dreams do have real validity in helping all learn more about their Psyche.

Feb. 06 2012 07:45 PM
John from Indiana

@Sid:
"How do you differ dreams that you simply remember very well with dreams you actually control? Since you can only retell your dreaming experience from what you remember, how are you sure you're simply not just having really vivid dreams where you dream about being in control?"

The difference is that in the dream you know (or believe) that you are just dreaming. In other words, part of the dream is awareness that you are just dreaming.

Or if you meant "how do you know you didn't just dream that you were aware (or in control of the dream, which is less common)?" Well, no one said otherwise. _Any_ thought you have in a dream is just a thought in a dream, so what is the difference?

I'm surprised that so many people find it hard to believe that this can happen (even using phrases like "paranormal"). Many events in dreams are normal stuff, and in the dream you often think normal things about them. In normal (waking) life, you might occasionally ask yourself if you're dreaming, so there's no reason that the same thought couldn't occur to you in your dream. In waking life, when that thought occurs to you, you're usually pretty sure you're awake (of course the old philosophy 101 question says you can't prove it), and in the same way, in a dream, when this thought occurs, you usually "feel" that yes- this is just a dream- especially if a giant with 2 heads just walked by.

Of course the flip side of the philosophy question also applies- during lucid dreaming, you can never be 100% certain that it's just a dream, which gets in the way of enjoying certain, uh, "possibilities" in the dream.

Feb. 06 2012 03:21 AM
Neuron or neurological disorders

One can find a face recognition time attendance to mark the time and attendance details of employees in a company or students in a school. It gets difficult to keep track of the time keeping practices in a premise where there are many individuals. Biometric face recognition time attendance system proves useful in such a situation. It can mark the time and daily presence of the individuals in a premise and generate detailed reports on the same at regular intervals.

Feb. 05 2012 12:23 PM
Otmar from Oregon

Lucid dreaming is great.
I wonder though, are we all so inclined to love the Australian accent in the credits?
Keep it up!
-O

Feb. 04 2012 10:45 PM
Guy from Brooklyn, NY

Just a quick story of how this radio story impacted me -- I've heard of lucid dreaming previously but hadn't thought about it in a long while.

After listening to the story in the early evening, I tried the tip suggested (checking writing to see whether or not it changed) twice. Then I forgot about the story and went about my life.

That night (last night), I didn't exactly have lucid dreams, but I think there was already some evidence of changing in my dreaming patterns. Firstly, I haven't remembered a dream upon waking in a while, so just the fact I was aware of dreaming was interesting. Secondly, in both dreams, I experienced common dream conflicts, and actually struggled against them instead of being helpless.

For example, the first dream was a common dream for people like me in theater: I'm about to go onstage and I can't remember my lines. Instead of, as usual, pretending that I know them, walking out on stage, and doing a terrible job, I distinctly remembered that I had a script somewhere, so all I had to do was sneak it on stage with me and find a way to read it. I wasn't able to do that, but once I woke up, I was surprised I had never tried that before.

Feb. 04 2012 11:50 AM
Barb & Ken from Brainerd, MN

Quite impressive and an indication that you defeated the dream and it was gone. We are proud of you.

Feb. 02 2012 09:52 PM
Carl from Sydney, Australia

Neat! A couple of days after hearing the podcast I had a dream in which I asked myself if I was dreaming, so tried to read text and realised it was all mumbo jumbo, so became aware I was dreaming. I only lucid dream in the late hours of the morning. So usually if sleeping in on a weekend. Middle of the night I dream alot, but seem to be sleeping too deeply to become lucid. :D

Feb. 02 2012 08:54 PM
Sam

Aw...5 min in. Thanks radio lab! I'm going to have nightmares for a week now. I to had a recurring nightmare through childhood. Eventually one night I had a dream that had major Catharsis effect on me. I have never had the nightmare again. Oddly enough this dream came at a time in my life of no consequence, it just happened.

I have only had a few lucid dreams, about three I Can remember. Each on I tried to wake myself up. Dreams used to scare me quite a bit.

I make film now so ALL of my dreams are observed events. I have no part I am simply watching like I am watching a film, and every night I dream and remember my dreams without fail.

Dreams have had a major impact on my life. I love it.

Feb. 02 2012 07:36 PM
Ryan G from Omaha, NE

@Jety89

The experiences I described (not being able to wake myself up/move myself during sleep) happened during college and may have been brought on by self-inflicted sleep deprivation. I procrastinated quite a bit before exams and would sometimes only sleep a couple of hours at a time. The dreams happened much more frequently during those long nights.

I have not deprived myself of sleep like that since college, nor do I have as much stress in my life as I did then, which may be why I have not had as many (if any) of those night terror-type dreams in the years since.

Thank you for the response!

Feb. 02 2012 04:16 PM
Sabrina from Los Angeles, CA

Great subject! I've always been interested in lucid dreaming and would love to know if there's ever been any more research done on the subject.... I've never experienced anything like it but I've always wanted to be able to do it. It would be a great help with those annoying recurring dreams. The trouble is, a lot of the supposed markers of a dream (i.e. changing text) just don't seem to occur in my dreams--for whatever reason I don't think I've ever looked at a book or read a clock in my dream, although I often watch movies (maybe it figures? I'm an animation student.)
On the rare occasion--usually when things are going very badly in a dream so quickly that I realize they are unrealistic--I will get to asking myself, "Hey, am I dreaming?" The only trouble is that every single time I answer "no, I can't be." I wonder if anyone else has this problem?

Feb. 02 2012 01:47 PM
Lola

@Sid,a few reasons. First, because you are dreaming, then something makes you realize you are dreaming. Often this wakes you up. I'm sure you've experienced this before while you are falling to sleep? Suddenly you realize you are starting to dream and you wake up? Lucid dreaming is mostly about getting yourself to relax so that you don't wake up. There are two ways to go into a lucid dream. One is to stay aware of the moment when you fall asleep in the first place. The other is to become aware when you are already dreaming.

Now scientists know that you are really dreaming because of the wave patterns in the brain when they monitor lucid dreaming. You'll have to read about that on your own though because I don't understand it. This podcast gave one example.

I can't really understand the confusion that you guys are having. Like I said, I didn't know this wasn't common and I'm not really sure what's so confusing about it. There are things in the dream that pop up because you are dreaming. Being lucid means only that you are aware it is a dream so you can do whatever you want. If you don't like how something is going, for example, you can fly away. Learning to fly takes a lot of time but it's a lot of fun. If you decide that you want to eat icecream, you can conjure that up too. Have an encounter with Brad Pitt? Get in a fight with a samurai? Whatever you want. It takes some practice, but first you realize you are dreaming, then you calm yourself down, then you decide what you want to do. It's exciting. It feels nothing at all like regular dreaming because you are completely aware that it is only just a dream and you can direct the course of the dream.

I can't really explain it further. If you are looking for scientific proof or evidence that explains how this works neurologically, there is an abundance of that. Just google it and you'll find it. It's completely accepted these days. For example, any beginner psychology book even will talk about what is happening with brain waves when someone is lucid dreaming. I can't explain that myself.

I can only tell you what it feels like, and apparently I'm not very good at explaining it. :)

Feb. 02 2012 01:40 PM
Kristen from Santa Rosa, CA

Very interesting podcast, but am left wondering about the whole psychological aspect of the dream and how it related to his life. Dreams are very powerful things because they mean something, sometimes several things. Even if you can't lucid dream, you can have a rich understanding of what happens in your dream life. Dreams are not separate from us, they are us.

Feb. 01 2012 02:57 PM
Sam from Boston

Jad and Robert - Come to Boston, MA! Boston and Cambridge LOVE Radiolab!

Feb. 01 2012 10:05 AM

@Ryan G
It is normal to be unable to move yor body during sleep. This is the body's way of keeping you from reenacting the movements you make in your dreams. When waking up, the body automatically reconnects the brain with the body. Most people get by this without ever noticing.
In rare cases this natural process is interrupted, and people experience what you described. Such cases are usually have a neurological cause. If it ever happens to You again, You should consider seeing a doctor.

Btw I tried lucid dreaming and it was completely realistic, but it never became more to me, than just a curiosity -- I simply had no use for it; in my nightmares I would often fight, fiercely, but I woke up of them quickly, and they never repeated. I think I managed to deal with my issues by thinking through them while I was awake.

Jan. 31 2012 06:36 PM
Bob from Lexington, SC

Most of my dreams are not "lucid", but I have had some lucid dreams before, where I was aware that I was dreaming and able to both enjoy the dream more fully and control what I was doing to some extent. Some were rather mundane, but others were absolutely amazing.

What happens more often -- and genuinely freaks me out most times -- as soon as I become aware that I'm dreaming, I start trembling uncontrollably, twisting violently from side to side and sometimes even slamming myself into a nearby wall to try to wake myself up, even if the dream is an enjoyable one. I wake up out of breath, heart pounding, with the sheets wrapped around me from my squirming. (And with my wife wondering what the heck is going on ...)

Jan. 31 2012 04:01 PM
François from Lyon, France

I don't remember exactly how and why I came to listen to your podcast and to this short in particular...

But, unfortunately, just after I heard it, I've told Steve Volk's story to my 12,9 and 5 years old sons...

Now, because of you, every morning, the whole family is heading to breakfast half asleep, asking "What the hell was I just dreaming about ?".

Also, we all often find ourselves asking "Am I dreaming, or what ?".

I wanted to ask: "Is it serious, Doc' ?".

Though I think that your podcast is way too addictive, please, please, keep up the good work ! Also, bring your live show to Lyon, France !

François a new fan from France

Jan. 31 2012 07:35 AM
Bill from Los Angeles

After 10 years of having the same dream periodically, I was able to enter the dream, which had created major anxiety, with awareness that I was in a dream and explored the dream's details and anxiety. I never had the dream again but regret never having the same lucid dream experience again with other dreams. My question for the producers of this segment is why they think this experience is so unique. I spoke to my wife after listening to the podcast, and she told me she enters dreams quite often when the dream scares her. She has the same experience of knowing she is in a dream and dealing with the threatening elements.

Jan. 30 2012 07:27 PM
Brian from Nevada

Lucid dreaming is the best. I've been doing it since I was 8 years old. Something that I have experienced but wasn't mentioned in the "Shorts" was that when I first began experimenting with lucid dreaming, both sides of the dreaming become better. The "lucid" part of "you" becomes better at remaining in control, but it also seemed as though the part of my brain creating the scenario would get better at adapting to my control. I had a reoccurring dream that a lion would bite my arm. I got to where I could fly away from the lion. The next time I had the dream, I would fly up and away. Then the lion would grow wings. The down side with trying to speak to anyone about lucid dreaming is that they get all "spiritual" with it. I'm not a vegetarian, I don't face my bed north, I don't believe in magic. But I am a GOD when I achieve full lucidity. It's the best. Great show guys.

Jan. 30 2012 05:41 PM

@Marion All of our full-hour shows and our podcast shorts are available on this site. I'm guessing that it was the Sleep show (Season 3) that you heard in your car. You can listen to it in its entirety here: http://www.radiolab.org/2007/may/24/. You can also click on "Episodes" from our homepage to search and hear any other hour-long Radiolab, or on "Podcasts" for all of the shorts.

Enjoy!
Tim

Jan. 30 2012 12:13 PM
Ryan G from Omaha, NE

I remember my high school psychology teacher saying that sleep is not unconsciousness, but rather an altered state of consciousness and if that is the case, lucid dreaming is not in itself a contradiction.

My story:
I had a friend in high school who wanted desperately to control his dreams and believed that this was possible with enough concentration in the waking hours, especially right before bed. He and I agreed to make lucidity a goal by focusing our minds during school and before going to bed and over time we both became rather adept at controlling our dreams. I was not always, however, able to control every aspect of every dream in which I was lucid, especially in regard to "flight". I was nonetheless able to control my dreams through most of college, but I focused less on the desire to do so and now - at 28 - such dreams are few and far between.

What I will note (and what I find most interesting about this), is that for about a year or more before my lucid dreaming all but stopped, I began having night terrors in which I had no control, but was very aware that I was in a dream/nightmare. In these dreams I would be paralyzed in the actual bed and actual room in which I was sleeping (which made them all the more "real") and although I knew for a fact that I was dreaming, I could do nothing to wake myself or to call attention to anyone else in my house to wake me out of the nightmare. These dreams were terrifying and I don't think I will ever forget them.

On this note, I don't know what the connection is between lucid dreaming and night terrors in one's brain, but for me, it seemed that night terrors (at least in correlation) were a consequence of striving for lucidity and control and then letting that desire slip away.

So yes, lucidity is possible - and exhilarating at times - but just be aware that lucidity or awareness in dreams without control is a possibility and it is scary as hell.

Jan. 30 2012 10:39 AM
AMC from Midwest

@Tony from Hawaii:

I've also had a few lucid dreams where I try to convince the "others" that they're in my dream, and it's all fake. Mostly they just look at me with blank stares, totally dumbfounded, almost cartoon like. Most recently I even joked w/ myself before I disclosed the fact of the dream to them that there's no way they'll get it. Haha!

Jan. 29 2012 11:24 PM
Tony from Hawaii

Just wanted to share a few of my most favorite lucid dreaming experiences...beyond the usual flying and having sex with everybody.

A few times, after realizing I'm dreaming I wandered around and tried to convince "others" in my dream that they were dreaming. They weren't convinced and I wasted the whole dream just arguing with the other characters explaining that they are only figments of my imagination.

Also, sometimes I've had a hard time keeping myself convinced I was dreaming. This one time after becoming lucid and flying around I began to experiment with walking through the walls of my house. As I was halfway through the wall I started having doubts that I was dreaming and instantly became stuck inside the wall. Good times.

Jan. 29 2012 04:53 AM
Anne-Marie Hoyle from Austin, TX

I had a recurrent dream of menacing tornados in the distance for about 15 years. Their frequency and my reaction to them was much like that decribed in this short. One day I had enough and in my dream I ran outside with a large garbage bag and opened it up. The tornados turned into swirling blades of cut grass. They filled the bag and I tied it up and put it on the curb. That was the last tornado dream I've ever had.

I don't think it was lucid dreaming, but incidentally it was during a time when I was journaling my dreams and they tended to involve much richer and meaningful content. Dreaming became less something that happened to me at night and more of a tool for problem solving, reflection, and sometimes just great entertainment. If you've never journaled your dreams I recommend it.

I love you Radiolab!

Jan. 28 2012 08:47 PM
Crystal from St. Louis, Missouri

I have had many lucid dreams, but never with intention. Often I will check to see if I'm really dreaming by flying. Then I can consciously interact with the environment any way I want to.
The most disturbing dream I had was when I became lucid in a nightmare so I told myself to wake up. When I did, I looked around my room and noticed things weren't quite right, I must still be dreaming so I forced myself to wake up again. I woke up in my room, but still things looked strange and I knew it was a dream so I woke up yet again. This happened five or six times, and I became terrified that I would never be able to get out of the loop. Finally, I decided that I should just try to dream about something else rather than wake up, and that is what finally broke the cycle.

Jan. 28 2012 06:26 PM
Marion from Arlington, MA

I caught part of today's RadioLab episode on dreams in my car, and wished I could hear the whole episode ... but, as usual, it's not on-line. There have been other episodes that I've wanted to hear the rest of, but can't find. You are the cruel teases on NPR! How come I can hear all of "Wait-wait-Don't Tell Me" or "Car Talk" over and over, but in the case of Radio Lab I only find a few "shorts" containing parts of the shows I've heard parts of --- and that, only if I'm lucky?

Jan. 28 2012 05:18 PM

In normal dreams one simply doesn't dream about being in control of the dream. The youness of you just disappears. Except ...

Sometimes nightmares end with you dreaming about waking up. You think it is over, but then you realize -- it is not! And then you wake up again. And again, several times in a row.

Jan. 27 2012 05:13 PM
TG from MD

I'm pretty sure that lucid dreaming is defined as being aware you are dreaming WHILE you are still asleep. That is not the same as a vivd recallection after you wake up. The ability to control the dream often happens, but is not necessary for lucid dreaming.

I had a particular TYPE of dream that recurred, but not the same script. They would always end with me waking up after an electrical like crackling/buzzing reached a huge crescendo. It got to a point where I knew I was having THAT kind pof dream again while I was dreaming.

I worked very hard to extend a specific lucid dream past a point where I usually wake-up. Over the years, I thought I'd figured out that it was due to caffine in the afternoon, or stress. It would come and go, stop for years than come back for a few months. I the end it turned out that had obstructive sleep apnea and the dream was from hypoxia. So extending the dream was extending my breathing cessation. I glad I didn't get very far with that.

I really like Stephen LaBerge's explanation of dreams that Daron Larsson quoted below. I'd like to add the some thinks dreams are the brain optimizing memories from the previous day, rearranging the, connection them with other memories. In that case, the "internal sources" would be genreated from memories, feelings, interpretations and maybe even their physical location in the brain, and then our brain constructs a consistant reality. That's why scarey movies can cause nightmares.

Anyway, I'd suggest that anyone that has really unsual senstaions or experiences while dream get checked for sleep apnea.

Jan. 27 2012 04:45 PM
Corynn from West Bend, WI

Please come to Milwaukee!

Jan. 27 2012 04:09 PM
Dreamer from Colorado

@Sid

Interesting point. If I understand you, you're asking how do lucid dreamers know the difference between controlling a dream and dreaming that the dream is being controlled consciously. The difference doesn't matter nor would a lucid dreamer care. The outcome is the same.

For me the moment I know I'm in control, I realize all of my senses are working. I can feel, smell, hear, even taste, where prior to that sight is the dominant sense. I also typically remove myself from the dream momentarily to assess what is happening where I make a decision to let it play out, jump to something completely different, or wake up. Either way I wake up with the same memory and in my mind I controlled it.

Jan. 27 2012 02:18 PM
bd from Georgia

I've been able to wake myself up from dreams/nightmares on many occasions- although not on every occasion that I have a nightmare. Ever since I remember I've been able to lucid dream- not every time, but I guess I never went to sleep thinking: "Tonight I'm going to rule my sleep."

On the occasions where I have been able to control them it was when something I knew was impossible was happening, for instance: I remember several times I dreamt I was flying, and while dreaming my thoughts processed that flying is impossible for a normal human, thus I must be dreaming.

When I was in middle school I dreamt I was talking to someone I had a crush on, but my conscious brain recognized that I've never had a conversation with them in real life, thus must be dreaming, and I'd tell my sleeping self to try and kiss their cheek, but my dreaming self never made a move.

Very interesting topic. Like the other listeners I never realized that it was 'abnormal'. I'm already practicing asking myself in waking life: Am I awake? Yes, I'm awake. Hopefully I'll be able to get my dreaming self to act on my thoughts, and not just realize I'm dreaming. - Anyone else have that problem?

Jan. 27 2012 02:06 PM
Andy from Maryland, USA

Here's something that you guys might not believe-- I used to lucid dream when I was younger but I consciously STOPPED doing it because I like being immersed in my dream as if it were real. I still usually know that I'm dreaming, but I don't try and control it. Every once in a while I have a very vivid dream where I will think it is real.

Jan. 27 2012 09:31 AM
Sid

@Lola

"Just think of what it is like to have a vivid normal dream, and then imagine that you can control how you act..."

This is what I get caught up on. How do you differ dreams that you simply remember very well with dreams you actually control? Since you can only retell your dreaming experience from what you remember, how are you sure you're simply not just having really vivid dreams where you dream about being in control?

As in the experiment where the dreamer would use eye-movements to signal to the outside world that he was in control. Couldn't you just as well say that he simply primed himself enough before going to sleep to make him dream about performing eye-signals? Like in the Tetris example a few Radiolabs back.

I'm having hard time coming up with an experiment that would actually prove that you are in conscious control of your dream rather than just recalling a really vivid dream you primed yourself to have by thinking you could actively change the dream.

Jan. 27 2012 03:32 AM
Susan from Bronx, NY

I'm reminded of an episode of "Fantasy Island" (a television show in the 1970's) - the only episode I remember. A guest came with the wish to free herself from a terrifying recurring dream. They brought in a psychologist of some sort who counseled her on lucid dreaming (they may not have called it that) and over the course of her "vacation" she managed (of course, it's television) to stay in the dream long enough to bring it to a peaceful resolution.

Shamans in various cultures are known to practice lucid dreaming, and certain Buddhist practices use it as well. The ways in which we can develop our minds seem limitless. I enjoy how Radiolab explores that.

Jan. 27 2012 12:31 AM
susan

When I was a little girl (about 4 to 6) I used to have a reoccurring dream where I was chased by a lion. I used to wake up screaming from it night after night - my father used to come in and tell me that if I stopped running, so would the lion and that he would then go away never come back. One night I did just that and of course the lion stopped and he never did come back.
It is the same as your dreamer. Confrontation of, and addressing your fears will always help you in some way.

Jan. 26 2012 10:20 PM
Sigmund

I often dream of reading out loud large, fluid, eloquent prose that at first I hear out loud in a vaguely detached way (sometimes I awake to hear myself talking in my sleep). As this goes on, the text scrolls by faster and faster trying to keep up with my reading and speaking while the prose becomes richer and more colorful. Only then do I begin to 'listen' or comprehend what I'm reading until becoming rather impressed with the writing, Then I begin to lucidly sneak nonsense words into my speech that the text has to hurridly edit into itself in order to conform. This continues with more and more nonsense words until I laugh myself silly from the whole incomprehensible nonsense and I wake up.

Jan. 26 2012 10:08 PM
Lola

I'm sure you'll have a million comments saying the same thing, but lucid dreaming isn't so uncommon. It's well-studied and lots of people do it. I did it naturally as a kid and had no idea it was not "normal" until I got older and started asking others about it. Then for a long time I forgot how to do it. Later I read LaBerge's book as an adult and gave it a shot. I fell right back into it. It's not that hard to do. Give it a shot yourself, Jad.

As for the questions above, no you usually are not controlling the whole dream. The dream keeps going as usual. The only thing you can control is how you behave in the dream because you are aware it is a dream. Sometimes you fall out of being lucid and go into the dream again. Sometimes realizing that you are lucid wakes you up. What the guy in the podcast said about wanting the dream to feel stable is really important. If you don't slow down and focus, you just forget you are lucid and go back into the dream again. It is nothing at all like daydreaming. Just think of what it is like to have a vivid normal dream, and then imagine that you can control how you act. Like normal dream stuff is happening, only you can decide what to ignore and what to pay attention to or just to leave the whole scene and start flying or whatever. It's fun.

Jan. 26 2012 08:06 PM
neil from Saskatoon, SK

What constitutes consistency, proof, and evidence anyway? Data-capture devices? Phenomenological registers? Increased endocrine & electrical activity? Desires? "The world cannot exist outside of its expressions." (Gilles Deleuze)

Jan. 26 2012 06:11 PM
Kristina from Toronto, Canada

I had a similar experience. I had a reoccurring nightmare where the sun was setting and none of the lights would turn on in this big empty house I was in. I would try and change the light bulbs but they were always on a shelf that I couldn't reach and I would keep falling when I tried to reach them when I stood on chairs or boxes. I had this dream all the time. After years of having this dream I decided that I would try and do something about it. During waking hours I would visualize where the light bulbs were stored and where a ladder was in the house. Finally when I had the dream again, I got out the ladder, got the light bulbs off the high shelf, and changed the light bulbs. I haven't had this dream since.

Jan. 26 2012 05:07 PM
Andy from Charleston, SC

"Being ridden by the hag" - a neurologist said this is a common description from people in sleep studies of narcolepsy. The brain does't settle into a pure REM cycle or completely emerge from REM while awake. In REM the motor cortex is "disabled" which is why we don't physically act on our dreams. It's possible for portions of the brain to emerge from REM while other portions do not. In my case, my motor cortex remained in REM after I awoke. I tried to move my arms, legs and head but couldn't. It felt like they were being held down, like someone was pinning me to the bed, hence, "being ridden by the hag", an unseen being on top of me.

Jan. 26 2012 05:02 PM
Raum from New Hampshire

Genevieve, I taught my best friend how to become lucid in his dreams. Before that point he had never done it before. It never occurred to him.

I equate it to watching a movie on a theater screen. No one ever gets up and tries to walk into the scene because it is just a movie. Many people think dreams are this way. Once they are taught that it is possible, they try and are enabled to succeed.

Jan. 26 2012 04:33 PM
Chris

Hook, line and sinker. Once again, the Radio Lab team bought the whole lot uncritically.

Jan. 26 2012 01:57 PM
Jack from Scotland

Does anyone have experiences with math dreams? I've had two different types of math dreams; in the more mundane I am a character in the dream, often sitting at a desk doing math. I know I'm doing math, but I'm not generally aware of the math that I'm attempting. In another type of math dream I am in a sort of "Math World." There are not characters in this dream, not even myself, just math. Often, but not always Math World is visual, including graphs or equations. Other times, it's even more abstract, simply containing concepts.

I'm a theoretical physicist, so I find it pretty cool that I can dream in math, but unfortunately, most dreams in Math World come when I'm having a hard time sleeping or am sick. Often, the dreams actually seem to prevent me from sleeping fully. I'm convinced that until I find the right solution to a problem I'm stuck in a half-sleep state, but with the problem so nebulously defined, I can never get there. I'd love to be able to dream in math while sleeping fully. Can anyone relate?

Jan. 26 2012 01:47 PM
Molly Monica from Boulder, Colorado

People on different drugs have different types of dreams; when I was young, I was not able to lucid dream. However I became ill with a severe form of systemic lupus and I've found that the drugs they've had me on over the years (CellCept, a powerful immunosuppresant, prednisone, narcotics, and especially some antibiotics) cause night terrors and horrible dreams. I am not sure when I learned that I could get out of these situations by my own thoughts, but I now have the ability, in a dream, to understand it's a dream and to consciously decide to switch dreams or stay in that one.

At one point my fiance tried to wake me up several years ago and he said I mumbled to him, "no go away I have to finish this dream first" and then continued sleeping.

Jan. 26 2012 01:04 PM
Sid

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this whole concept. Shouldn't being conscious while being unconscious cause some sort of feedback loop in the brain and cause it to implode?

No, but seriously. For those of you who can do it; would you describe it as consciously daydreaming where you can control everything in your head, but having a stronger sensation of whatever you were doing?

Jan. 26 2012 12:28 PM
Don McArthur from Chattanooga, TN

I loved the moment when you ran the audio from 'The Matrix' (when Neo is revealed to be, indeed, The One). That was perfect.

Jan. 26 2012 11:23 AM
neil from Saskatoon, SK

lucid dreaming: thinking about carlos castaneda, gregeory bateson, and felix guattari as thinkers contributing to this ontological conception of an ecology of mind and experience. notably, all three were demonized and derided by a range of disciplinary authorities for their divergence from the 'correct' methods of inquiry. very cool stuff.

thanks, guys.

nb
saskatoon, sk

Jan. 26 2012 10:59 AM
Carl from Sydney, Australia

Most interesting show, thank you. I've been lucid dreaming since as a kid, in a classroom I told the teacher she was in my dream and walked out looking for adventure. I've done a lot of things, including driving a car and riding a motorcycle off a cliff, just for the fun of it! I often fly around. Though I regularly have difficulty staying in the dream and not waking up. I'm certainly interested in reading about some of the techniques.

Jan. 26 2012 07:50 AM
Deb from Portland, OR

Ooooh - Portland Oregon!!! And if you need a place to stay, you're welcome to crash at our place.

Jan. 26 2012 12:38 AM
Ryan from Logan, UT

I always imagined lucid dreaming was being able to control your dream. It sounds like Steve wasn't controlling his dream. Perhaps there are different levels of lucid dreaming.

As a kid I was usually able to wake myself up from within a nightmare. I thought this was normal. Anyone else able to wake themselves up from within a dream?

Jan. 25 2012 08:42 PM
Susan from California

I have Multiple Sclerosis and in the past few years have lost the ability to run. I was especially disturbed when my disability made its way into my dreams... even though it took over 20 years of having MS for that to happen. I have attempted to use lucid dreaming as a way to at least escape my disability part of the time... and I am happy to report that now I do experience the joy of running and great physical capability in my dream life once again.

Thank you for a wonderful podcast! :)

Jan. 25 2012 05:42 PM
Carrie from San Francisco

I really enjoyed listening to this podcast. Ever since early adulthood the majority of my dreams have been lucid, ranging from merely being aware that I'm dreaming to having full 'conscious' control over the dream. I have noticed that ever since I started lucid dreaming, I don't have nightmares. I can recognize that a dream is scary, but it doesn't cause me to feel any fear or heightened emotions.

It's sometimes interesting how this awareness comes into play while I'm dreaming. More than once I've been having a wonderful dream, and in the middle of it I'll think, this will all go away when I wake up. I've argued with people IN my dreams about the fact that I'm dreaming and they aren't real. I had a lucid dream once where I was shot and killed by a strange man, and the experience of being dead in the dream was very eerie. It was just a dark void of nothing that seemed to last for several minutes while I kept thinking to myself that I was dreaming and needed to wake up.

Jan. 25 2012 05:19 PM
Steve Volk from Philadelphia

Hi Mark from Kansas,

I'd be honored if you read my book. I don't actually equate the "unexplainable" with the paranormal. I have a good time in the intro, in fact, breaking down the difference between terms like "paranormal" and "supernatural." I do write in the book that things that are unexplained—very different than unexplainable—are paranormal, at least by the standard dictionary definition. (They are outside our current scientific understanding.) Then I spend much of the rest of the book trying to determine if any of the traditional paranormal phenomena exist. I look at telepathy, UFOs, ghosts and more, even delving into the whole God question. My book sits in the middle, I think, between committed "paranormalists," who can often seem too gullible, and similarly devoted skeptics like Randi, who in my opinion often distort the conversation we should be having.

So, what's the conversation we should be having? In short, I think we need to draw a sharper distinction between what we believe and what we know. And whether we are skeptics or paranormalists I think we should approach each other in a spirit of curiosity, to really understand where the other side is coming from. But hey, I don't have the time or space to recreate the whole book here. Just remember, the "anecdote" you're so quick to dismiss is a "case study" from another perspective. Also, as for lucid dreaming, though it's been colored by this paranormal taint for most of our history, it exists. And it can be very helpful to those who choose to learn how to do it.

Jan. 25 2012 03:56 PM
Gwen from San Diego

I discovered this years ago so when my kids were little I taught them how to take control of their bad dreams. It was very empowering for them.

We all love your show. Thank you, thank you!

Jan. 25 2012 03:49 PM
Rolf Erickson from melb, aus

good stuff guys, like to keep the downloads to one hand, you guys are the thumb and harry shearer's le show is the pointer....funny how he hates fox and you guys are taking fox on board as a sponsor. what to do...other than..comment

Jan. 25 2012 11:10 AM
Chantal Perez

This episode really struck a chord with me. I've gone through the same thing myself.

I used to have this incredibly vivid dream the setting of which mimicked the world around me so if I was in a different room than usual, that different room would be the setting of the dream. I used to have a teddy bear I slept with that was unique (it was made for me by a friend). In the dream, I would be in bed, and slowly become aware of a presence. I would then reach for my bear and then realize that there were two bears and I would feel this terror, complete, pure terror.

I would go through several false awakenings where the dream would repeat until I woke up for real, disoriented and unsure whether it was another false awakening. Very, very unpleasant, as you can imagine!

Then I started reading about Lucid Dreaming and started doing reality checks and all that and then one day, I was sleeping and the nightmare started and all of a sudden I thought "Hell no! I'm not falling for this again!". That's all it took! I woke up and I knew, without a doubt, that I would never have that nightmare again. In fact, I've noticed that I haven't had any seriously bad nightmares since. The scary dreams I've had were of the enjoyable variety, the sort of terrifying fun you get from a horror movie or a roller coaster.

Jan. 25 2012 10:26 AM
Veeresh from Bangalore, India

I have been aware in one dream in perticular and its a great feeling... Great work radiolab, I wish I was in US to attend your live show.

Jan. 24 2012 11:29 PM
Daron Larson from Columbus, Ohio

"Whether awake or asleep, the brain constructs a model of reality—consciousness from the best available sources of information. During waking, those sources are external sensory input in combination with internal contextual and motivational information. During sleep, little external information is available, so consciousness is constructed from internal sources. These include expectations derived from past experience, and motivations-wishes, such as Freud observed, but also fears. The resulting experiences are what we call dreams. In these terms, dreaming is perception free from external sensory constraint, while perception is dreaming constrained by sensory input—hallucinations that happen to be true."

~ Stephen LaBerge, in response to the question Does Everybody Dream? http://goo.gl/4ICRo, more info on this topic at www.lucidity.com

Jan. 24 2012 08:46 PM
CL from DC

I had lucid dreams for about 20 years, too. It was a similar experience but would differ from time to time. Most of the time it was a dark, faceless figure that would walk with heavy footsteps into my home, stand at the edge of the bed, and would stay there momentarily until it eventually would move to the side of the bed next to me and bend down until its head was within inches of mine. I could feel the heavy breathing on my face. It followed me no matter where I lived and throughout college until I was able to confront it. Ironically, the last dream I had of this faceless figure was him pulling a gun.

Jan. 24 2012 05:12 PM

I started lucid dreaming when I was a child. I had terrible nightmares and a lot of anxiety, I started trying to control the dreams to fight off the nightmares and it worked. I still do it sometimes if I realize I am dreaming. The one strange thing though is in my dream I can't read or words do not look like words. If i see a book,label, sign..etc. if its relevant to whats going on its like I just know what it says. But if I try to read a book in the room nothing makes since. There are sometimes words there but just in seemingly random order or they are too blurry to read. I have tried many times to read something in my dreams but have not been able to translate one yet.

Jan. 24 2012 05:01 PM
A

To cosmic utensil from Indianapolis, this is the first time I read of someone who also sees or dreams shadowy blobs when feverish. I remember having a fever as a kid, and seeing shadowy blobs moving in a corner of the living room. It was quite frightening. I know it must have been a fever-induced hallucination, because it never happened again. But still, it was the only time that I've ever encountered anything remotely paranormal.

Jan. 24 2012 04:20 PM
Dreamer from Colorado

Genevieve - in my experience most people aren't aware during the dream, only after they wake up.

The great part about lucid dreaming is the realization and awareness. Once I become aware in the dream I get to decide if I want to sit back and watch (sometimes in third person) or change the dream completely. I can create a scenario prior to sleep and then incorporate that into what ever dream happens to show up. I've actually worked through issues and come up with solutions while dreaming.

Unfortunately, lucid dreaming also contributes to REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, at least in my case anyway. Basically I'm not always paralyzed while dreaming and occasionally I'll act out a dream (good or bad). I believe lucid dreaming is a gift, but I had to add an extra layer of awareness in my dreams in order to stop freaking out my wife. Seems to be working.

BTW, the buzz that Volk heard was probably his heart beating faster.

Jan. 24 2012 02:25 PM
cosmic utensil from Indianapolis

I also experienced basically the same thing - when I was a kid, I had this recourring nightmare where I am in my driveway at night, and a panther-like dark blob thing is slowly coming towards me, and I just tried to scream and no sound would come out. I always dreamt it when I got a fever. Without being conscious of it, one time I dreamt it and I was so tired of this fcking panther that I didnt scream, just walked straight toward it, unafraid - - and I never had the dream again.

I think lucid dreaming can be done, I've realized I'm dreaming many times, and the dream usually doesnt last much longer after I'm aware.

Jan. 24 2012 01:15 PM
Mark from Lansing, Kansas

Steve Volk offers an anecdote based on his dreams. Doesn't that make everything interesting about this story completely imaginary? What are we meant to take away from this?

Judging only by descriptions of his book, Volk seems to equate the unexplainable with the paranormal. Before he tries to explain something, he should consider determining first whether the thing is an actual thing that exists, and which therefore requires an explanation.

The one thing we know for sure about the paranormal -- about any paranormal phenomenon -- is that it has never been demonstrated to exist. We can learn a lot more about the so-called fringe by talking to, for example, James Randi or Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Basing your beliefs on evidence is not a bad thing.

Jan. 24 2012 12:56 PM
Genevieve from Brooklyn NY

What are dreams like if they aren't lucid?

Thanks for the podcast. I certainly can relate. When I was a small child, ages four through seven, I had a re-occuring nightmare in which I was falling from an unfinished roller coaster. By age seven, I was able to conquer the nightmare, much like the subject in today's podcast, by consciously confronting my nightmare's villain, and in my case, finding stairs to take me down from the roller coaster's peak. This happened to me very young, and I've always basically been conscious when I'm dreaming, with a fair amount of control over their outcomes (though not the strange situations I sometimes find myself in).

While I've always suspected my intense, color-saturated dreaming might be more than others experience, I've always wondered how.

I was surprised to hear Jad's comment that he thought lucid dreaming wasn't real. So here's my question: Jad, how do you define a non-lucid dream? Do you honestly not know you are dreaming, and not take control of said dream based on that assumption? What is it like?

Very curious, and grateful for your excellent work,

Genevieve
Brooklyn, NY

Jan. 24 2012 12:39 PM

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