Ways People Claim They Can Control Their Dreams

By: CBS News, Posted by Chelsey Moran
By: CBS News, Posted by Chelsey Moran

(CBS News) Can you actually control your dreams?

Some say you can, by "lucid dreaming."

To be lucid is to understand, or to be aware, so to have a "lucid dream" is to know you're dreaming, then try to control your dreams.

Enthusiasts paint it as a world in which, while you're sleeping, you can do whatever you want, or really, whatever you dream.

Hope Lewellen didn't see much use in the art of controlling her dreams until she was 22 and started having terrible nightmares after a freak accident. In 1989, the one-time mechanic at Chicago's O'Hare Airport had to have her right leg amputated after being run over by a Boeing 767. The nightmares started soon after.

She said she was dreaming of death. "Almost every time ... something (was) chasing me, trying to kill me."

Desperately seeking a good night's sleep, she picked up a lucid dreaming how-to book.

Lewellen said, "Then one night, sure enough, one night it all kind of came together, and I had this horrible nightmare, and I was running, running, and I know something is chasing me and, as I'm running, (I thought), 'Oh, wait, I'm dreaming.' So, I stopped and I turned around and I faced this monster, and this thing came running right at me and I looked it in the eye and I went 'bye-bye,' and I jumped up and flew away."

It sounds like Hollywood fantasy, but enthusiasts say it's feasible with a little training.

Those who believe in the possibility of lucid dreaming say that to do it, first, you must recognize you're having a dream, and certain triggers can help.

They say if you regularly look at your watch while you're awake and then look back to make sure it's still reading the same time, you'll know you're awake. If you make a habit of this, and try to look at your watch while dreaming, the numbers may not make any sense. That's a trigger to know you're asleep. It's the same idea with the text of a book - what looks normal in real life could be garbled in a dream. And lucid dreamers claim that's when you should try to take control.

When told it's hard to believe, Lewellen said, "I get that a lot. People are like, 'Come on, what are you talking about? You're just dreaming.' I mean, if you're an author, if you're selling something - yeah, maybe people are thinking you're trying to get something out of it. But I'm - what gain would I have to tell about my lucid dreaming? I mean, I'm not selling anything."

But some people are selling something. In a Brooklyn, New York "lab" for a start-up called "Remee," founders Steve McGuigan and Duncan Frazer show off what they say is a lucid dream-inducing sleep mask. It costs $95.

Frazer explained the mask automates the things you can train yourself to do, from looking at clocks to counting your fingers and looking at text in your dreams. "This basically automates it for you," he said. "Remee provides that anomaly in your dreams. ... You'll see this abrupt bright flash, and it prompts you to check your lucidity rather than having to in your dream to remember to look at a clock."

Although it's virtually impossible to prove lucid dreaming is real, the fact that they have $700,000 in pre-orders shows there is a community out there with big dreams.

Lucid dreamers claim the possibilities include anything you could dream of, from seeing the Eiffel Tower or the pyramids without the crowds to sitting down for a nice dinner with anyone you want.

When asked if she would just like to fall asleep, she said, "It's a nice escape sometimes."


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