Stephen LaBerge (1947–), a Stanford-trained psychologist working in the Stanford University Sleep Clinic, was the first person to scientifically demonstrate the existence of lucid dreaming. People are experiencing a lucid dream when they are aware that they are in the midst of a dream. The most unusual aspect of this state is that lucid dreamers can consciously alter the content of their dreams.
LaBerge, who had experienced lucid dreams since childhood, resolved to study the phenomenon scientifically during his psychology graduate program at Stanford. He initially experimented on himself, using sweeping motions of the eyes—controlled by muscles that are not immobilized during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep—to signal non-sleeping observers that he was in a lucid dream state (he later used clenched fists to send messages in Morse code). LaBerge trained others to dream lucidly, and then experimented with dream control—undertaking a task such as flying or changing the dream landscape at will.
The results of these experiments were reported in LaBerge’s popular 1985 book on the subject, Lucid Dreaming. The success of this work stimulated the nationwide formation of dream groups. The mass media also became interested in the idea, and the implications of lucid dreaming were discussed in innumerable articles and on talk shows.