To really understand our ability to lucid dream, it helps if we first understand the dynamic and varied process of the stages of sleep. And find out at what ‘stage’ do we dream? While we are not sure ‘why’ we dream, scientific research has given us a good indication ‘how’ we dream.
“Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange“. Inception
We spend over two hours in the dream state every night. Studies have shown we dream once every 90 minutes of sleep. And the time you spend dreaming becomes longer as the night goes on. If fact throughout the night we go through two main cycles of sleep. Non-REM and REM. Here is an explanation of both.
Deep Sleep and Beyond...
The sleep pattern that we experience moves in cycles, each with its own characteristics. Beginning with wakefulness, then moving towards deep sleep and then returning to wakefulness once again. You will move through four to six of these sleep cycles each night. Each sleep cycle is comprised of five stages of sleep.
When do dreams occur?
Within those five stages, four stages consist of NREM (non REM) sleep and one stage of REM (rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Many leading sleep experts look upon NREM sleep as “an idling brain in a moveable body” and the REM period is “an active brain within a paralyzed body”. The most vivid dreams and those you remember the most; happen during the period of REM sleep.
Sleep Stages 1-4
Stage 1 (NREM): (sometimes referred to as drowsy sleep) Here is where we drift into sleep. During this time you can experience hypnagogic imagery. Your muscles begin to relax and your core temperature begins to drop. You can often be jarred back into consciousness during this stage experiencing what is known as a ‘Hypnic Jerk’ a sudden twitch, where you kick or spasm. You can also experience movement of the whole body or sometime a feeling of falling. Many people when awoken from this stage will often deny being asleep at all, but it is definitely a stage of the sleep cycle. This stage usually passes into stage 2 within 5-10 minutes.
Stage 2 (NREM): During this period your body begins to shut down. Your brain waves also become larger. This stage is a transition between the other stages and you spend approximately half of you sleep cycle here. Each time lasts around 10-25 minutes.
Stage 3 and 4 (NREM): Once considered two different stages, modern research now consider stages 3 and 4 to be a single sleep stage. This is the period of ‘deep sleep’. Both your pulse and blood pressure drops. Your brain gradually becomes less responsive to external stimulus. Your body also begins to repair and renew itself. During this time sleepwalking can occur, as can talking in your sleep, bed wetting and night terrors. Trying to awaken a person from this deep sleep can often be very difficult and when awake the person can be quite confused and take a long time to become fully aware of their surroundings. . The average time for this stage is around 30 minutes.
What is REM Sleep?
REM: And finally we get to the fun part. Your brain is alive with activity as you enter that sweet spot, otherwise known as the ‘dream state’, the jewel in the crown for lucid dreamers. The eyes dart around back and forth behind closed eyelids. As we have said, the brain is active although the body is in a paralyzed state. This is nature’s safety feature, to prevent you acting out your dreams. Your blood pressure once again increases, you heart rate goes up and your body temperature comes back up to near normal. The REM stage can last from 10 to 45 minutes.
“The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened“. James Arthur Baldwin
Now I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you what it feels like to dream, right? However this REM stage can also be responsible for those incidents when we mistake our sleep experience for waking reality. Because until we can become lucid, we believe all our dreams are real….that is until we wake up.
What Stages of Sleep Do You Dream
Generally as the night progresses, we move between these four stages. The order tends to be N1>N2>N3>N2>N1>REM. This pattern then tends to repeat. This cycle happen over a rough period of 70-120 minutes and on an average night sleeps gets repeated between four or five times.
Stage N3 tends to dominate the first half of our night’s sleep, which gives the body a chance to restore itself. REM periods only happen for relativity short periods during this stage.
You sometimes awaken following an REM period, although this is usually forgotten by the morning. If you don’t wake up you will once again enter stage 2 again. You enter REM 3-5 times during the night, around every 90 minutes.
Why Is REM Sleep Important
As the night goes on, the focus tends to move towards the REM stage and each time the sleep pattern is repeated the length of the REM period gets longer, so by the end of the night’s sleep, a large proportion of the latter stages are spent in REM cycle.
Of course, each night’s sleep pattern may differ, depending on various things like health, what you’ve eaten or outside influences. These things can all play their part in altering our night time experience.
Catch the Last Cycle of REM
You main goal in all of this is to catch this moment, the last cycle of REM sleep. And ideally, those early morning hours are where our amazing journey begins……