When Christopher Mazurek realizes he’s dreaming, it’s always the small stuff that tips him off.
The first time it happened, Mazurek was a freshman at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. In the dream, he found himself in a campus dining hall. It was winter, but Mazurek wasn’t wearing his favorite coat.“I realized that, OK, if I don’t have the coat, I must be dreaming,” Mazurek says. That epiphany rocked the dream like an earthquake. “Gravity shifted, and I was flung down a hallway that seemed to go on for miles,” he says. “My left arm disappeared, and then I woke up.”
Most people rarely if ever realize that they’re dreaming while it’s happening, what’s known as lucid dreaming. But some enthusiasts have cultivated techniques to become self-aware in their sleep and even wrest some control over their dream selves and settings. Mazurek, 24, says that he’s gotten better at molding his lucid dreams since that first whirlwind experience, sometimes taking them as opportunities to try flying or say hi to deceased family members.
Other lucid dreamers have used their personal virtual realities to plumb their subconscious minds for insights or feast on junk food without real-world consequences. But now, scientists have a new job for lucid dreamers: to explore their dreamscapes and report out in real time.
Has a dream ever felt so real that you were sure that you were living it? Lucid dreaming is a phenomenon that happens to millions of us across the globe and has reportedly occurred in at least 55% of adults, according to Sleep Foundation.
Those who lucid dream often report that their dreams feel like real life and that they can control what happens as if it was happening in real time. Bizarrely, many lucid dreamers are often aware that they are dreaming too. However, those who study this type of dream are still unsure of the exact cause.
While much of the lucid dreaming world remains a complex mystery to scientists, there are some aspects of it that they do understand. Currently, they have a basic understanding of when and how this unique dreaming state happens, which at least provides some answers. In the meantime, many lucid dreamers continue to enjoy the freedom they find themselves with while they are sleeping, taking the opportunity to explore their inner thoughts and wildest dreams. So, what do scientists know so far about this magical dreaming state?
Nicknamed the Queen of Dreams by her peers, Dr. Cartwright studied the role of dreaming in divorce-induced depression, worked with sleep apnea patients and their frustrated spouses, and helped open one of the first sleep disorder clinics.
She died at 98 on Jan. 15 at her home in Chicago. Her daughter, Carolyn Cartwright, said the cause was a heart attack.