Posted-By: auto-faq 184.108.40.206
Revision: version 1.5, last changed 1995/01/21 01:48:08
This is the first in a series of four postings of Frequently Asked
Questions for the alt.dreams and alt.dreams.lucid newsgroups. It
contains general information about dreams and dream interpretation, as
well as FAQ administrative info.
(New/changed sections are marked #)
1.1. Does everybody dream? Why is it that I don't remember my dreams?
1.2. How do external stimuli affect my dreams?
1.3. How do my dreams interact with my waking life?
1.4. What causes dreams, anyway?
1.5. How long do dreams last?
2. Dream interpretation and symbols
2.1. What does this <symbol> mean?
2.2. Can you interpret this dream for me?
2.3. Is this <dream scene> common?
2.4. Can people dream of their own death?
2.5. What are common misconceptions? What is wrong with these?
2.6. Why do I keep dreaming the same thing over and over?
3. Sleep paralysis, night terrors, nightmares
3.1. What causes sleep paralysis?
3.2. What causes nightmares?
3.3. How can I relieve myself of these?
3.4. What is a myoclonic jerk?
4. Out-of-body experiences
4.1. What are out-of-body experiences?
4.2. How do I find out more about out-of-body experiences?
5. Paranormal issues
5.1. Do dreams predict the future?
5.2. Can people share dreams?
5.3. How can I tell actual paranormal experiences from self-delusion?
6. Lucid dreaming
6.1. What is lucid dreaming?
6.2. If you are lucid, can you control the dream?
6.3. Does lucid dreaming interfere with the function of "normal"
6.4. Does everybody dream?
6.5. Why would you want to have lucid dreams?
6.6. How do you have lucid dreams?
6.7. Is there a way to prevent yourself from awakening right after
6.8. How can I find out more about lucid dreaming, or get involved
in lucid dreaming research?
7. Research, further reading, dreaming help etc.
7.1. What are the various gadgets to help you in lucid dreaming?
# 7.2. How do various drugs/nutritional components influence dreaming?
7.3. What about the dream experiments on alt.dreams?
7.4. Books, articles and other stuff to read
7.5. Organizations, etc.
Subject: 0. Administrivia
This document is intended to provide answers to the most frequently
asked questions on alt.dreams and alt.dreams.lucid. **It does not
claim to be authoritative.** Some answers are controversial.
Discussion over controversial topics about dreaming is always welcome.
Don't let the fact that a topic is discussed in this FAQ discourage
you from posting about it at all - the purpose of the FAQ is just to
cut down on easily-answered questions that occur often.
This document was compiled by Olaf Titz <email@example.com>, to
whom questions, error corrections, suggestions for improvements etc
about this documents should be directed. Most answers are summaries of
statements posted on alt.dreams by various people.
This document is now split into four parts for convenience and for
clear distinction of the various sources. Part one and two are general
information written into prose by me with some help from others. Part
three is the original older Lucid Dreaming FAQ by Lynne Levitan (soon
to be replaced by a complete rewrite). Part four is mostly collected
quoted input from a large number of contributors. Many thanks to all
who have helped to compile these thoughts.
The particular order of sections is a result of several
reorganizations and renumberings and as such somewhat chaotic. I don't
claim any special meaning in this order and in the cuts between
sections. The whole document is now in "digest" format.
This is posted biweekly on alt.dreams, alt.dreams.lucid, alt.answers,
news.answers and is available from the archives via FTP at
and via WWW at
If you are redistributing this document, please read at the end of
Subject: 1. General ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Subject: 1.1. Does everybody dream? Why is it that I don't remember my dreams?
A: [cf. section 6.4] Everybody dreams. Not only all humans, but in
fact all mammals are shown to have REM sleep, which is associated with
dreams. It is a normal and necessary function of the body (though the
details, especially the exact reason why it is important, are
unknown). So if you think you don't dream you probably just don't
People vary greatly in how much they remember of their dreams. The
perhaps most important reason why people forget their dreams is that
they don't care. Western culture does not regard dreams as especially
important, rather it regards getting out of the bed in time as a
prevalent survival factor. This is bad in two respects as most dreams
occur at the end of the sleeping cycle and are often interrupted, and
the necessity of getting up fast and keeping up with the schedule
occupies peoples' minds and prevents them from thinking about their
dreams in the morning.
Dream recall can be trained. Try to think over all what you have
dreamed for some time before getting up and write it down soon
afterwards. More info in section 6.
Subject: 1.2. How do external stimuli affect my dreams?
A. Sensual "input" while sleeping is incorporated into dreams. Most
notably, while sleeping, you hear as well as while waking - the ears
are never turned off. This leads to the consequence that what you hear
while sleeping, you'll hear in your dreams. The sound is always coming
from "somewhere". Common experiences of this kind are a telephone
ringing or music from the radio. The same holds for the other senses.
Note that it is not important how loud some noise is to get noticed
while sleeping - even an otherwise unnoticed sound, like a mouse
running over your floor, can wake you up if it is uncommon or
otherwise alarming to you - on the other hand, you can get accustomed
to high levels of noise, like construction work nearby. (What
definitely will wake you up is someone knocking at your window if you
live at the 10th floor ;-)
It is an interesting experience that you can hear exactly what is
going on, but will forget it on waking up along with forgetting the
rest of your dream. This includes things such as news broadcast heard
on the radio - after waking up, you have forgotten it. It is like you
have dreamed the news broadcast as well - but distinguishing this fact
is a good clue to lucid dreaming and the way "lucidity inducing
Subject: 1.3. How do my dreams interact with my waking life?
[Section by firstname.lastname@example.org (The Dreamer)]
Dreams seem to be a way for the subconscious mind to sort out and
process all the input and problems that are encountered in waking
life. Therefore, a scientist could be working on a problem ... say
the structure of the DNA molecule. Then said scientist could have a
dream in which he sees two snakes intertwining in a double helix.
When he wakes, he has discovered the structure of the DNA molecule
Students who study and get some good REM sleep retain the information
better and for longer periods of time than students who study longer,
but have no sleep. This is because the brain needs time to process
the information, form sensible pattern out of it, and place it in long
Dreams can also improve your emotional well-being, reduce stress,
improve your creativity, and provide a playground for your mind while
your body recovers and repairs itself.
[Comment by Brian Hostetler <email@example.com>]
> dream in which he sees two snakes intertwining in a double helix.
> When he wakes, he has discovered the structure of the DNA molecule
Actually, this isn't true. You are confusing this with the widespread
(and unproven) story about how the structure of the benzene ring was
discovered. Supposedly the scientist in question had a dream of a
snake biting its tail. Anyway, Watson and Crick 'discovered' the
structure of DNA using models, not dreams.
[If I remember Chemistry lessons in school correctly, the dream story
was indeed about Kekul'e and the benzene molecule, I think. Anyway,
even if this is a legend, it *could* well be true. Many people gain
creative impulses from dreams. -ot]
Subject: 1.4. What causes dreams, anyway?
A. Good question... Many different theories, nothing for sure.
According to the Freudian school, dreams are the result of
subconscious thoughts and desires. The other extreme attributes dreams
to random "noise" in the neurons without special meaning.
My own understanding is that dreams are made out of many small parts
of memory and imagination that get combined to form dream imagery.
This is a process that runs both consciously (cf. section 6) and
subconsciously. I don't know and leave to speculation the reason why
this is so.
Subject: 1.5. How long do dreams last?
A. REM sleep periods, and therefore dreams, last typically in the
range of 5 to 45 minutes (cf. section 6). Often, the subjective time
spent in a dream is much longer. One possible explanation for this
time-stretch effect is that dreams are combined from pieces (see
preceding paragraph) that have their own different setting in
time. You first dream of something that occurred a year ago, then -
following - of something that occurred just recently, mix them up a
bit and are left with the remembrance of a dream that lasted a year.
But experiments suggest that dreamed actions run in "real time" - what
you do in your dream takes exactly this time to dream. With external
influences like the radio running in the morning, you have both the
real time in which you hear something and - sometimes - the feeling
that it lasted considerably longer. Anyway, time is one of the
perceptions that are heavily distorted in dreams.
Subject: 2. Dream interpretation and symbols +++++++++++++++++++++++++
Subject: 2.1. What does this <symbol> mean?
A. Symbols are one way of interpreting dreams. Researchers have tried
to find, for each common dream occurrence, a psychological situation
that matches the dream in some way and link it as a cause. A
well-known example of this approach is Freud's interpretation. Asking
for symbols allows for (sometimes too easy) interpretation of dreams
by given rules.
Other people question this approach. Dream interpretation by catalog
of symbols doesn't take into account individual differences between
dreamers. You can imagine this flaw by taking into account that the
cultural background is an important point that should not be
neglected. Freud's theories, that give high importance to hidden signs
of sexual desires, are based on a society that has suppressed
sexuality. And so on. In a more global context, asking for special
symbols is of dubious value. Nonetheless, in a certain given context,
these symbols can have a valuable meaning.
Subject: 2.2. Can you interpret this dream for me?
A. Dreams are made up of the dreamer's thoughts. It is very difficult,
if not impossible, to interpret dreams if you don't know the dreamer,
since to recognize the meaning of dreams (if there is one) you need to
know the "background". So dream interpretations given on the Net are
(IMHO) of questionable value, either they deal with "reasonably
obvious" meanings or they rely on symbols (cf. 2.1). I recommend to
take these with a grain of salt and not expect too much. [Anyone
disagrees on this point? It's controversial, I'd like input from the
other side.] Of course, if you want to post your dreams, don't let
this discourage you. Sharing dream experiences with others and getting
response is a nice thing anyway and may help you to find out more
Subject: 2.3. Is this <dream scene> common?
A. Yes. :-) Specifically, if people ask the newsgroups about a certain
dream experience, in the overwhelming majority of cases others answer
that they know this from their dreams. Sometimes the reaction comes
up, "And I've thought I was the only one to dream this weird thing!"
"Weird" is the most inappropriate word when dealing with dreams,
anyway. Dreams are not to be measured by real life standards, they
have their own.
It can be assumed that much, if not most, dream imagery follows common
patterns in all people. Most important, we should not forget that
dreams are based on actual experiences and imaginations, some of which
are just widespread. We all think about how nice it would be to fly,
for example. On the other hand, people who report flying dreams use a
number of different flying techniques in their dreams, from
breast-strokes like in swimming to simply lifting off, Superman-style.
It is imagination that sets the limits.
An oft-cited example is that of teeth falling out. The common
"symbolistic" interpretation associates this with fear of loss of
something, perhaps someone, valuable. The next common explanation is
remembrance of losing teeth during childhood, which could have been a
somewhat traumatic experience. But it can also be easily linked to a
sleeping position where some external pressure or muscle contractions
cause your teeth to grind against each other, or tooth-aches caused by
illnesses (cf. section 1.2.)
Subject: 2.4. Can people dream of their own death?
A. Yes. This has been reported many times. The reports vary widely in
what actual experiences are made when dreaming of dying; there seems
to be no common pattern. Most probably the prevalent influence is
again the thoughts of the individual about death. It can not be
figured out whether dream-death experiences which match patterns given
in actual near-death experiences are just based on reading about
near-death experiences. Also, for instances of talking to deceased
people, God(s) or other "supernatural" entities after dreamed death,
it can not be figured out whether they are "real" or just based on
peoples' religious belief (see also the FAQ for alt.atheism). A
widespread old wives tale is that when you dream of your own death,
you will soon die. Given the usual understanding of "soon" (and
considering section 5.1), experience has proven this false.
A sharp line has to be drawn between dreams of death and actual
near-death experiences. The latter occur in people with blood
circulation failure just before they actually die, and sometimes are
reported when medical art brings these people back to life. What
constitutes the real source of these experiences is still not known
for sure. Dreams of death have no connection to this, they are like
all dreams just imagination.
Subject: 2.5. What are common misconceptions? What is wrong with these?
A. We occasionally hear sayings about "you can't do/see XXX in
dreams". Where XXX is seeing colors, seeing lights, seeing your face
in a mirror, or perhaps a large number of variants on this
theme. Experience clearly proves this tales of unknown origin wrong.
(It may well be that people who actually believe in these
misconceptions do have the mentioned "handicaps" in their dreams. What
they believe about dreams comes true. It's very hard to tell the cause
from the result in such cases...)
Subject: 2.6. Why do I keep dreaming the same thing over and over?
A. Recurrent dreams are a sign of thoughts that occupy the dreamer
much, consciously or unconsciously. Such thoughts have influence on
the dreams and they are often remembered better than "random" dreams
since you somewhat know of their importance. Sometimes those dreams
are unpleasant, a sign or symbol of some conflict situation that you
still have to overcome. Ask yourself what the dream signifies -
probably you can interpret it better than anybody else, since you are
the one who knows yourself best.
Of course, there are also nice recurring dreams. Some people build
their own dream world which they explore, meeting friends there etc.
Some claim they are in fact entering a different world (cf. sections 4
and 5), others attribute this to remembrances of old dreams creating
new ones. At first, it's up to yourself to believe a reason or
another. For either one, probably the most important thing is that you
- again - take these dreams as valuable for looking at yourself.
To be continued ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++