Lucid dreaming is being aware or conscious of the fact that you are dreaming while still physically asleep.
Many people can naturally become aware they are in a dream or become lucid.
However, the ability to gain control of your dreams is much more difficult.
The idea of lucid dreams has grown in popularity mostly due to the desire of one being able to develop this control over their dreams.
Lucid dreaming is often misunderstood. Many people think the possibilities and limits of it are highly exaggerated or not real at all.
This guide will cover all you need to know about what lucid dreaming really is and exactly how you can do it yourself!
IN THIS GUIDE
Dreams themselves have significant importance in almost every culture and religion throughout history.
The term "lucid dream" wasn't coined until 1913 by Frederik van Eeden, who attempted to categorize dreams and even wrote about his own in which he became lucid.
The first clear description of a lucid dream seems to be traced back to 350 BC. Aristotle, a well known Greek philosopher, gave what seems to be a matching description in some written work called "On Dreams."
He said, “when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which tells us that what presents itself is but a dream."
More recently attention has been brought to the subject through popular movies and music.
The ultra-popular movie Inception is very loosely based on the idea of being able to enter and alter the narrative of a dream. The ability to physically enter others' dreams and change them entirely is, of course, a big exaggeration of what seems to be currently possible with dreaming.
Within music, there is also a popular song called "Lucid Dreams" by an artist name Juice WRLD who has since passed away. In the song, he speaks of having lucid dreams thinking about a girl he broke up with that caused tremendous hurt.
If you take the song literally he seems to just be referring to very vivid and clear dreams. He doesn't seem to be able to gain any control over the dream as he clearly says he "can't move a thing" in the dreams. He is most likely referring to sleep paralysis in which a person briefly cannot move as they are coming out of a dream.
While many people become instant skeptics of what they can’t easily understand, lucid dreaming has slowly gained backing from the scientific community.
According to the International Lucid Dream Induction Study, 55% of adults have experienced at least one lucid dream, and 23% experience them regularly (once or more per month).
The first decent proof of lucid dreaming came in 1975 during an experiment by Dr. Keith Hearne on a lucid dreamer named Alan Worsley.
Dr. Hearne realized that though the body is paralyzed during sleep, the eyes are not. He developed a way for Alan to communicate with him through certain specific eye movements when he became conscious in a dream.
The doctor used an electro-occulograph to keep close track of his test subjects' eye movements. To his great surprise, the subject communicated the exact sequences of eye movements they agreed upon in the morning. This could be later proven as the electro-occulograph recorded the series of 8 long zig-zag movements.
More recently in 2006, a German researcher used earphones to send specific tones to subjects during dreams. Although asleep, the lucid dreamers could hear these tones in their dreams and respond through eye movements which could be seen by the researchers who were awake.
The most well known lucid dream researcher today, and founder of the Lucidity Institute is Stephen Laberge. He is a psychophysiologist with a Stanford degree, who studies lucid dreaming and the possible applications in everyday life.
With the popularity of lucid dreams growing, the main question has switched over time from, "is lucid dreaming real?", to "How much control can one actually have over their dreams?"
Knowing more about how sleep works can greatly aid in the understanding of lucid dreaming.
When we think of “sleep” most people picture it as one continual state of unconsciousness in which our body rests until we wake up.
The truth is there are two types of sleep and four stages of it that our bodies cycle through each night.
You normally go through the cycles of sleep around 4 or 5 times a night.
However, once you are truly asleep you usually can just cycle through the last 3 stages of sleep.
When you switch to REM sleep your body gets more deeply relaxed.
This is a precautionary measure perhaps to avoid self-injury during wild dreams.
While your body is super relaxed during the REM stage, your mind becomes way much more active.
This sleep stage closer to being consciously awake than what we consider “sleeping.”
A big problem is that the process of dreaming itself is not well understood by most people.
In fact, most people believe they dream very little or not all, which is totally untrue.
How Often Do We Dream?
While most dreams happen in the later REM cycle, it only makes sense that is where most lucid dreams happen as well.
We know that the stages of sleep grow longer in length as you sleep and continue to cycle through them. While the first time you enter REM sleep only lasts around ten minutes, the last one can be a full hour. This is why many dreaming techniques are focused on the latter part of sleep.
One fundamental aspect of lucid dreaming is the process of reality testing, otherwise known as performing a reality check.
These are actions performed that can help you know if you are dreaming or awake.
This may seem really stupid because you should easily know of your awake, right?
The truth is these actions are very necessary when they are used, which is during the transition from consciously awake to full-on asleep.
Also, training yourself in these acts will give you something to try when start gaining awareness in a dream.
Examples of Reality Checks May Include:
Reading. Attempting to read numbers on a clock or words in a book or wherever you can find them. While in reality times moves at a set pace and words stay the same on paper, within a dream both are often ever-changing.
Using your hands. You can simply try to put your hand slowly through normally solid objects like a wall or even your other hand. As you are well aware through physical senses how these things are supposed to react, you can prove your in a dream if you find yourself moving through them.
Reality checks, or tests are basically forms of metacognitive training.
It is a good idea to study the meaning of metacognition and insight, to more fully understand how reality testing does help induce awareness within a dream.
Metacognition is deeply assessing your critical thinking and processes by which you create thoughts.
It has been proven that you can build metacognitive awareness like a muscle and that your metacognition level while awake is similar to while you are in a dream.
Insight is the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of a person or thing. Reality checks can help you build insight into your dreams by training you to learn how your body feels throughout the transitions of levels of consciousness.
In fact, there was a study in which frequent lucid dreamers and nonlucid dreamers were given problems designed to measure levels of insight. The final results showed that the naturally frequent lucid dreamers solved significantly more insight problems than nonlucid dreamers.
Meditation is the process of clearing the mind for deep thinking or focus.
It is vital to lucid dreaming and can be used as a tool in many areas of the process.
Here is a basic way to meditate:
You can also try repeating a word or phrase, which is using what is called a mantra.
To use this just think of a phrase that will reinforce positivity in achieving your goal.
For example, before bed you can meditate while repeating the words, “I want to dream and become lucid.”
If you are really serious about lucid dreaming, you should study more about different meditation processes.
While getting started, most techniques for lucid dreaming will come with a basic enough guide for how to approach meditation.
When you play a slightly different frequency of tone in each ear, your mind brings them together so that you hear one tone.
This new tone created from the two separate ones is the binaural beat.
Scientists have been able to divide the average person's brainwaves into four different categories: Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta.
Binaural beats work by replicating the actual frequencies of our brainwaves to help us achieve a certain desired state of mind.
People use different frequencies of binaural beats to relieve anxiety, support meditation, and to help induce lucid dreams.
You can use binaural beats in many different areas of your lucid dreaming process.
A simple search on YouTube will allow you to find whatever frequency of binaural beat you are looking for.
Here are some suggested frequencies to use in different areas of preparation for a lucid dream:
Supplements can be taken to deepen sleep and to stimulate activity in the brain in hopes to spark and boost a lucid dream.
These may be one of the only answers besides just practice and experience to the question, "How do I stay asleep while lucid dreaming?"
Lucid dreaming supplements could be the missing ingredient needed to really learn how to gain control of your dreams.
Disclaimer: Before taking any supplements you should always do your own research and consult a doctor about any medical concerns.
Here are four of the most popular supplements used to enhance lucid dreams:
Galantamine - This is a drug that is actually used to help with Alzheimer's disease. It can help promote cognitive clarity and dream recall. According to one study, it is most effective if taken after 4-5 hours of sleep. So this works well with any technique that requires waking.
Vitamin B6 - B6 can help regulate sleep and has been proven to help with dream recall. Remembering your dreams is crucial as you won't learn from them at all if you forget them. B6 is also referred to by some as the "dreaming pill" for its ability to help give you more vivid dreams.
Huperzine-A - Similar to galantamine is used to help with dementia and Alzheimers. Many lucid dreamers report that it has fewer negative effects than galantamine.
Melatonin - is produced naturally in the body to help regulate your sleep. This is one of the most common over-the-counter sleep aids. It can be an easy supplement to start with for those looking for a smoother and deeper sleep. Just remember that you can become dependent on sleep aids if you take too much too often.
When used for lucid dreaming, a dream journal is a great way to build dream recall and insight skills.
Dream journals not only help us remember our dreams but can also, improve writing skills, and even provide some stress relief.
Lucid dreaming is not easy for everyone, but starting a dream journal can be a fun way to help you learn.
Here are a few ways to keep an effective dream journal:
1. Write down prompt questions
Have questions to ask yourself that will help you pry out every detail of the dream.
These can get the gears turning and spark your memory.
Some examples of these questions are:
2. Start writing as soon as you wake up
As you can quickly forget your dreams, you will want to have your journal close by as you wake.
Make it a habit to pick it up and write what you remember each morning.
3. Draw to remember
Somethings are hard to describe and write down but you can always draw in your journal.
If you have morning brain fog or just can’t remember, try drawing what you want to dream about.
Here are a few of the most popular devices or tools that have been used to promote lucid dreaming.
It is a headband that is worn over the eyes but just above them.
The claim is that its algorithm can accurately calculate when you are in REM sleep.
You can program it to shine different light cues on your eyes while you are dreaming.
It can also play music or other sound cues that you record.
You can use its “smart alarm’ as well if you are trying a technique that requires you to wake.
This product seems to have the right idea but now seems to be discontinued.
There are other lucid dreaming headbands like the Nova Dreamer, but all seem to have suffered the same fate as the last.
A more basic way to capture data on how deep you are sleeping and how many hours.
By looking at the data it captures you can get an idea where you normally enter REM sleep.
Using a Fitbit is a great way to not only inspire exercise but really start managing your sleep.
Regular sleeping masks aren’t really devices but they can be a tool for lucid dreamers.
Wearing an eye mask while sleeping ensures you are blocking out all sources of light.
When you block total light while sleeping you help your body know it’s time to sleep.
It blocks all outside visual stimulation in hopes that you may have smoother sleep.
You could try pairing these with headphones or earplugs to see if they help.
The word mnemonic means aiding or assisting memory. The MILD technique is centered on creating self-awareness and focusing on "dream signs" to help trigger lucidity in dreams.
A dream sign is something in a dream that is not right or logical in reality that can help you realize you are dreaming.
There are four important parts that make up this technique: Intention setting, reality resting, dream recall, dream analyzing.
The basic steps for beginners to perform the MILD technique are:
This trains your brain to collect a catalog of signs that could help you gain control of a dream.
You can use this method with pretty much any other technique as it is just practiced while falling asleep.
A Wake-Initiated Lucid Dream (WILD) focuses on entering a dream directly from waking life.
This (WILD) technique usually involves waking before you enter into deep REM sleep. The idea that if you go straight from consciousness focus to your dreams you will be more likely to be lucid.
The concept is simple, but it does require a good amount of practice for most people.
Try performing it by simply recognizing focusing on your hypnagogic hallucinations until you fall asleep.
This can be more effective when used after waking in the middle of the night or right before your deepest part of sleep.
Many of the new techniques that are created use that basic idea.
The Wake Back to Bed method is the most popular technique for three main reasons.
If you are looking for a technique that is great for beginners, this one has the potential to help you lucid dreaming tonight.
This method is also considered a Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD) technique as it revolves around waking yourself up in the middle of the night before entering REM sleep.
The main idea behind (WBTB) is that when you wake yourself up before entering a REM cycle, you will regain some alertness to have a better chance of recognizing when you are in a dream.
WARNINGS: Interrupting sleep to lucid dream is not a viable means for everyone. Always remember the recommended daily amount of sleep is 7-9 hours for optimal health. This technique may not work for you if you have a hard time falling asleep after waking up in the middle of the night.
This makes a lot of sense as most dreams occur in the second half of sleep during the REM cycle. You are providing yourself with a metacognitive boost before falling into your deepest part of sleep.
When you go back to sleep and enter the dreaming state, you should be more likely to become lucid during the dream.
How To WBTB:
This technique is so simple that many people do versions of it by accident and don’t even realize the effect it may have on their dreams.
If you want to try this technique more casually you can just take advantage of normal sleep interruptions, instead of intentionally waking yourself.
Before truly diving into the process of learning to lucid dream one should weigh the benefits and risks.
Everyone is so different that it is hard to say exactly how you personally can benefit from lucid dreaming.
It depends a lot on how you go about it, and what your intentions are.
Nevertheless, here are the reported benefits of lucid dreaming:
It is important to note that many of these benefits may come from pre or post-dream activities like meditation and journaling.
This is why is it important to try many of the activities that encompass the whole lucid dreaming process.
There are some risks involved with learning to lucid dream that should be acknowledged.
There are no guarantees that you will experience these negative effects and you could argue they can happen just as easily without trying to become lucid. It is just good to have an understanding of them to be more prepared.
While something major like dying shouldn’t be a worry, here are two common lucid dreaming dangers:
Sleep interruptions, Lowered quality of sleep
You will naturally mess your sleep up a bit when trying some of the lucid dreaming techniques. When waking yourself up in the middle of the night there is always a risk of messing up your sleep. The risk can be lessened if you only attempt the waking techniques a few times or less a week.
As previously mentioned, your body is paralyzed during some sleep cycles. Sometimes you can start to gain consciousness before your body is fully mobile again. This can be scary, but for most, the fear lessens after you realize what it is. There is no evidence showing that sleep paralysis can harm you.
Those with certain mental health disorders may also have issues with confusing dreams and reality.
If you are wanting to stop lucid dreaming, you should ask yourself what it is about it that fuels the desire for it to end.
Is the actual awareness in your dreams that bothers you? Or is it that you feel you lucid dream too often?
This skill can be very helpful if you are having unwanted dreams or nightmares.
To learn how to stop lucid dreaming, it may be of great benefit to learn what steps others take to purposefully lucid dream and avoid those things.
To reduce the frequency of lucid dreams you can:
While It is hard to say exactly how to stop or reduce the amount you lucid dream; you can at least learn how to end one when you find yourself there.
Some things you can do to stop or end a lucid dream are:
Lucid dreaming takes a lot of practice and requires a combination of many ideas and skills to get consistent results.
It is important to remember, there is no guarantee that you will ever be able to fully control your dreams.
However, you can learn valuable lessons and skills during the process of learning to lucid dream that you can use throughout your life.
You should be able to become lucid relatively fast, but the control aspect takes a lot of work.
My best advice is to try all the techniques and examine closely how you can implement all the tools and tips into your study.
Take notes of what things work and add to them.
Try inviting a friend to learn with you and share your experiences with each other.
Have fun with it and don't take it too seriously if you struggle a bit.
My personal rule is that if I feel I am not enjoying the process I take a break.
Best of luck and happy dreaming!