Rebecca Turner: It's potentially the same as any normal dream: on any given night, your longest dream period is typically 35-40 minutes in the morning, shortly before you wake up. However there can be exceptions where the dream time extends longer than usual, and especially during lucid dreams the physiological variables are ideal for prolonged dreaming.
My longest lucid dream appeared to last around an hour, based on my looking at the time before a Wake Induced Lucid Dream, and then waking up and checking the time again. It occurred in the morning after I'd already slept a number of hours, which is the best time to lucid dream for most people with normal sleep cycles. Of course, not all lucid dreams last that long: more often my lucid dreams are an estimated 10-20 minutes long in real time. This is usually plenty to fulfil my lucid intention of the day!
Daniel Love: Great question. The first step in answering this question is to look at the amount of time we spend in REM sleep each night; REM is the stage of sleep in which the vast majority of dreaming occurs. On average, we each spend roughly 2 hours in REM/dreaming sleep each night. These two hours are further divided. During our sleep, we pass through a recurring 90 minute sleep cycle, a portion of which is dedicated to these phases of REM sleep. We'll experience roughly 5 of these 90 minute cycles in a normal 8 hour period of sleep.
On the face of things, this would appear that each REM phase should last around 24 minutes, however, in reality, as we progress through the night, the amount of time dedicated to REM in each 90 minute cycle increases. In the early stages of the night, REM is brief, but as we near waking, our brains dedicate more of the cycle towards REM. Therefore, the longest REM period is generally the last to occur in a night's sleep. You can deduce from this, that the maximum length of a lucid dream has to be somewhere below two hours. In reality, most lucid dreams fall somewhere between the 5-30 minutes mark.
However, in my personal experience and the reports of others, many have experienced longer lucid dreams, occasionally even nearing a full two hours. As an example, I recently experienced such a lucid dream, lasting what appeared to be around an hour and a half. Bear in mind that other factors can come into play, such as a state called REM rebound.
REM rebound is when the body, not having achieved the correct amount of REM in prior night's sleep, attempts to compensate for this deficit and increases time spent in REM in subsequent sleep. When REM rebound occurs, periods spent dreaming can be considerably longer than in a standard night's sleep. Other factors, such as the use of supplements, especially acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (such as Galantamine) are also known to prolong time spent in REM.
To sum up: realistically, in a normal night's sleep, we can expect most dreams to last no longer than an absolute maximum of 2 hours. However, this is not a rule set in stone and there are examples of lucid dreams that exceed this duration.
Got a burning question about consciousness and dreams?
In Ask The Experts, readers have the opportunity to probe the minds of long time lucid dreamers, Daniel Love and Rebecca Turner. With a combined 40 years of lucid dreaming experience, they aim to candidly answer your lucidity questions on demand.
Note: The opinions expressed here are our own, based on our scientific understanding of consciousness exploration. The pursuit of lucid dreaming often leads to personal interpretations, with which you may or may not agree, but we hope to unveil the most objective and best-fitting explanations available. We hope you find this segment to be informative, educational and inspirational for your dream life.
Rebecca Turner is the founder of World of Lucid Dreaming. She is currently studying for a science degree in Auckland and becoming famous as a science writer. Try her lucid dreaming course and connect with the team on Facebook and the lucid dream forum.
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