Scientific History of Lucid Dreaming

Flying While Lucid. Digital image. The Verge. N.p., n.d. Web.

The first published mention of lucid dreaming and its scientific potential was by Marquis d'Hervey de Saint-Denys in 1867, whose book translates to "Dreams and the means of directing them: practical observations" (Hobson). Later, in 1968, Celia Green researched lucid dreams, concluding that they were, indeed, a distinct category of experience, different from both the waking state and regular dreams.

In 1953, Aserinsky and Kleitman discovered REM sleep which sparked the objective study of dreaming (Green). In the late 1970’s, researchers used polysomnography machines (sleep-study machines) to track the eye movements of dreamers. It was then that Keith Hearne devised a plan that could prove lucid dreaming scientifically. The subject and Hearne developed a specific series of eye movements that the subject (being recorded on the polysomnography) would do once he became lucid in his dream. When he did become lucid in his dream, the subject did indeed make the planned eye movements, the polysomnography registered these movements and the subject confirmed, after he had woken, that he had become lucid and had made the correct eye movements (Malcolm).

Stephen LaBerge used a similar process, independently, at Stanford University in 1980. This was the first peer-reviewed, published and popularized evidence of lucid dreaming. The findings from this paper gave researchers a method by which they could begin to study lucid dreaming from a non-subjective viewpoint, because they now had a dependable system to determine when a subject had entered a lucid dream. Because of this, research on lucid dreaming truly began after LaBerge's paper. The techniques used to study the nervous system during while lucidly dreaming and some of the most important findings are described in the section of this website labeled "Current Neurobiological Model of Lucid Dreaming".

This page on lucid dreaming was written by Zachary Busby, an undergraduate student at Macalester College.