What is a Lucid Dream? (Definition)

In this article, I am going to explore the meaning of 'lucid dream'. I will go through the most widely-accepted definition as well as the seven conditions and four corollaries of lucidity.

If you are interested in this topic, make sure you also check the following articles:

And now, let's look at the definition of 'lucid dream'.

What is a Lucid Dream: Definition

It's a dream where you know that you are dreaming and have some control over the dream itself:

A lucid dream is one in which the person is aware that they’re dreaming and can either exert some control over the dream, or passively observe its unfolding while maintaining awareness that it’s a dream (1).

The awareness of being in a dream is associated with metacognition, which concerns the awareness and understanding of your own thought process (2).

From a chronological perspective, the awareness of being in a dream comes before the ability to control the dream itself:

It’s important to note that the ability to control your dreams is something of a secondary element that comes after lucidity. The awareness that you’re dreaming is a distinct but necessary predecessor to controlling your dreams, which then exists on a spectrum (3).

This statement is contested by American psychophysiologist Stephen LaBerge who claims that while dream awareness and control are correlated, they don't require each other (4).

What is a lucid dream: Conditions

German psychologist Paul Tholey proposed seven conditions that must be fulfilled in order to consider a dream as 'lucid' (5):

  1. Awareness of the dream state (orientation)
  2. Awareness of the capacity to make decisions
  3. Awareness of memory functions
  4. Awareness of self
  5. Awareness of the dream environment
  6. Awareness of the meaning of the dream
  7. Awareness of concentration and focus (the subjective clarity of that state)

    Condition #1 - Awareness of the dream state (orientation)

    It's not only the awareness of being in a dream but also the awareness of the world around us, our bodies, and ourselves in the dream:

    The last quality, awareness of ourselves, includes awareness of awareness, the knowledge that we are conscious (7).

    Condition #2 - Awareness of the capacity to make decisions

    It's being aware that we are both able to make conscious decisions and actually making the said decisions.

    In a 2014 study, 10 lucid dreamers were asked to rate heir ability to make decisions based on their state: wakefulness, normal dreaming and lucid dreaming.

    Overall, the awareness of making decisions was similar between wakefulness and lucid dreaming, but rated much lower in the state of normal dreaming:

    Planning ability was most pronounced during wakefulness, intention enactment most pronounced during lucid dreaming, and self-determination most pronounced during both wakefulness and lucid dreaming (8).

    Condition #3 - Awareness of memory functions

    Lucid dreamers can remember past lucid dreaming experiences as well as conditions from their waking life:

    The activation of the working memory could allow lucid dreamers to analyze the dream content in relation to their identity, memory and dream environment and decide and plan behaviors according to individual preferences (9).

     Condition #4 - Awareness of self

    According to English writer Mary Arnold-Forster, individuals have a dual consciousness, one of which is the 'primary self'.

    The primary self is our analytical side allowing us to apply logic to our circumstances and experiences.

    The primary self is typically inactive during sleep, except for when we lucid dream. This allows lucid dreamers to become aware of memories, knowledge of facts, and trains of reasoning as well as being in a dream (10).

    Condition #5 - Awareness of the dream environment

    This refers not only to the awareness of being in a dream but also to the awareness of spatial orientation, the awareness of the dream environment, and the option to navigate in it (11).

    Condition #6 - Awareness of the meaning of the dream

    In order for a dream to be considered 'meaningful', it needs to be integrated with the following:

    • Emotional content
    • Memory
    • Brain structures concerning identity

    Furthermore, meaning is typically added to something by using words, categories and logical thought. Several areas of the parietal lobe, which is more active during LD, are important in language processing (12). 

    Condition #7 - Awareness of concentration and focus

    Lucid dreamers experience what is called a 'state of flow', which is a state of intense concentration generally experienced in your waking state.

    Like in an awake flow state, the dreamer is completely absorbed in their current activity, and has a sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity, as compared to a state of confusion or semiconsciousness (13).

    For a dream to be considered as 'lucid' according to this condition, the dreamer needs to be aware of being in a state of flow while dreaming.

    What is a lucid dream: Corollaries

    In 1992 these seven conditions were further developed into four corollaries by American psychologist Deirdre Barrett (6):

    1. The dreamer is aware that they are dreaming
    2. They are aware actions will not carry over after waking
    3. Physical laws need not apply in the dream
    4. The dreamer has a clear memory of the waking world


    2. MSEd, K. C. (2023, May 1). Lucid Dreaming: Definition, Techniques, uses. Verywell Mind.

    3. Janzer, C. (2022, April 19). What is lucid dreaming? Sleep.com.

    4. Wikipedia contributors. (2024, May 10). Lucid dream. Wikipedia.

    5. Ibid.

    6. Ibid.

    7. Hobson, J. A. (2005). 10. Dream consciousness. In Oxford University Press eBooks (pp. 120–131).

    8. Dresler, M., Eibl, L., Fischer, C. F. J., Wehrle, R., Spoormaker, V. I., Steiger, A., Czisch, M., & Pawlowski, M. (2014). Volitional components of consciousness vary across wakefulness, dreaming and lucid dreaming. Frontiers in Psychology, 4.

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