The ability to realize one is dreaming can be trained, experts say. Photo: Li Hao/GT
Although five days had gone by since she had the dream in which she was reunited with her high school classmates, Tina Lin, a 25-year-old teaching assistant, could not help thinking about it.
She knew that none of it was real. Yet she kept dreaming, feeling that she could control the things she and her classmates would say and do in her dream.
It had been a long time since she had such a dream. When she woke up, she had a difficult time calming down from the excitement.
"I felt so good that I played an active part in my dream and everything in it followed my thoughts," she said.
A dream during which the dreamer is aware that he or she is dreaming and may have some control over the characters in the dream, the narrative, and the surroundings is called a lucid dream.
It has become a hot topic on the Chinese Internet and has attracted more than 8,000 followers up to December 27 on China's Quora-like website zhihu.com. Many people have posted comments about the phenomenon.
According to Beijing-based psychologist Caroline Zhao, one reason many people are fascinated by lucid dreams is that they can learn more about the subconscious part of themselves.
"Since people know they are dreaming and are in more control of their actions in a lucid dream than in a regular dream. The subconscious plays a more important part in a lucid dream than in an ordinary dream," Zhao said. "Dreamers are likely to have a glimpse of their subconscious to learn more about themselves."
Lin thinks that the dream she had could be a result of her subconscious trying to tell her that she is not very content with her current life and is nostalgic for better days.
"It helped me get a picture of what I was thinking deep down and try to make some changes," she said.
Unlike Lin, many people never experience lucid dreams. But for those who are interested, it is a skill that can be acquired. Zhao said people can be trained to have lucid dreams.
She suggested that people start by writing down or recording their dreams and feelings right after waking up because it can train the mind to remember more of the dreams, which is a crucial skill for lucid dreaming.
Also, being aware that one is in a dream is important, Zhao said, adding that this ability can be developed by doing frequent "reality checks."
"Reading the time on a clock and looking away before quickly looking back again is a common practice," she said. "In real life, there will be no big difference. However, in dreams, the time is different each time you look."
She also recommended a regular and close inspection of one's hands and feet which, she said, are usually distorted in dreams.
Also, trying to go back to sleep when awakened from a regular dream might also work. When people wake up and remember their dream, they may enter a lucid dream if they close their eyes again, focus on the dream and remind themselves that it is a dream.
Besides finding lucid dreams helpful in further understanding herself, Lin also found them interesting because she could do things that are not possible in real life, such as teleportation and wielding a great power that allows her to fight evil forces.
"I thought lucid dreams were completely random and that I had to wait for another to happen, but now I am amazed to find out that I can train myself to become a lucid dreamer," she said. "I will soon give the methods a try."