Are you experiencing a lucid dream right now?
Lucid dreams are often as vivid as reality itself. Beyond seeing “visions”, during a lucid dream you can use all of your senses including taste, smell, and touch!
Yes, everything you’ve heard about lucid dreams is true! You can fly, you can travel to the bottom of the ocean or the top of a mountain. You can meet strange people and interact with extinct animals and mythological creatures.
Most people who are interested in oneirology end up trying to take control of their dreams so they can have these wild experiences.
If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you’ll know that we believe dreams are more than just random visions. From Jungian archetypes and primordial narratives to emotional upkeep and memory reorganization, they’re part of our personal mythology.
Sure, lucid dreams can be a lot of fun! But they also represent our intimate connection with our subconscious mind – something we’ve progressively lost because of our modern way of life.
Lucid dreams offer an opportunity to consciously explore the darkest corners of our psyche, the suppressed and forgotten parts of ourselves that we hide or ignore when we are awake.
In this blog post, we’re going to dive deep into the science behind lucid dreams and the techniques that will allow you to wake up and gain consciousness during your sleep.
What is a Lucid Dream?
During a lucid dream, you become aware that you’re sleeping. And with a bit of practice, you can gain control over the dream characters, the narrative, space, even time!
If you’re reading this, most likely you’ve already induced a lucid dream. Perhaps you weren’t capable of directing your environment but simply being “lucid” is something the majority of us will experience during sleep at one point.
In fact, ancient civilizations have documented their experiences and used them as a religious and therapeutic tool.
- Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) and the Tibetan Dream Yoga mention a state between wakefulness and sleep where the practitioner may find peace.
- Galen used these kinds of dreams for healing purposes
- Aristotle had noted the phenomenon
- Finally, the famous quote of Zhuangzi: “Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”
In the 20th century, we began to study lucid dreams scientifically. While we still don’t understand exactly how they work, we now know that they’re associated with deep sleep (REM) and false awakenings.
Drugs like galantamine work via accumulating acetylcholine, allowing for greater recollection of dreams and awareness during sleep.
A few months ago, scientists were able to establish two-way communication with dreamers, essentially having a dialogue with them.
Unfortunately, while practically everyone can have a lucid dream, their frequency is very low. But using some of the following techniques, you might be part of the select few who can control their dreams.
5 Simple Steps to Experience a Lucid Dream
You’ll notice that what you do before and after sleep is more important than what you do during your dreams.
A lucid dream begins hours before you hit the bed!
1. Deep Sleep
The very first step is to learn how to sleep and dream deeper!
Lucid dreams occur in the REM stage of sleep. If you aren’t consistently entering that state, then it’ll be harder to have dreams — let alone lucid dreams!
It’s no secret that our modern way of life makes it significantly difficult to have 8+ hours of quality shut-eye.
Fortunately, I’ve written a short and sweet “how to sleep and dream deeper” blog post right here.
I cover everything from breathing exercises, circadian rhythm, and mineral repletion that will allow you to dive deep into dreamland!
2. Dream Retention
You will NOT have a lucid experience unless you’re able to remember your dreams regularly.
The average person can only recollect one or two dreams per week. And not vividly, if I may add.
It’s imperative to build a solid connection with your subconscious that will allow you to retain a lot of the details, emotions, and overarching narratives that appear in your dreams.
One of the best ways to do that is to keep a dream journal right next to your bed!
Pen and paper or a simple notebook will do. The key here is to pen down everything you can the moment you wake up before it’s wiped out from your brain. Trust me, you only have a couple of minutes…
Soon, you’ll get much better and eventually, you’ll have a map of your subconscious.
You’ll be able to look back and spot common themes and emerging patterns.
3. Reality Checks
Reality checks are simple techniques you can use to determine whether you’re dreaming or not.
The mistake most people make is to practice them a few times, hoping that they’ll somehow remember to perform them during their dreams.
That’s not how it works!
Reality checks should be done multiple times throughout the day, in a conscious manner. You want to train your mind to constantly observe and check the environment for abnormalities.
See, the world of dreams doesn’t obey the physical laws of reality. Gravity doesn’t always work, time is nonexistent, and your physical body is malleable. You want to be able to spot these paradoxes.
To do that, you need to perform reality checks all the time.
- You see a weird looking car? Do a reality check.
- You feel a weird vibe in the room? Do a reality check.
- Your clock stopped? Do a reality check.
“OK, but how to actually perform a reality check?”
There are many different techniques, some more elaborate than others. I’ll give you two of them that have worked for me.
- The Palm Technique
Open your palm, look at it, and push your middle and ring finger in.
You can also push solid objects.
This will test the structure and fluidity of your environment, which during dreams is often malleable.
- Check the Time
Dreams rarely obey Time.
Observe clocks, notice the seconds pass, how they only move forward.
4. Spend time in a hypnagogic state
Have you ever tried to sleep only to wake up abruptly by a muscle spasm? That’s called a hypnagogic jerk!
Hypnagogia is the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep. A liminal, temporary stage where conscious and subconscious interact with each other freely.
Most people will briefly experience it before waking up in the morning. If you’re gentle and mindful enough, you can extend its duration.
It’s a skill you have to cultivate if you want to have a lucid dream.
There are two ways to practice this:
- When you wake up, don’t rush to get out of bed. Remain still, with your eyes closed, and just relax as much as possible. Observe your body. How it reacts, how it feels. Resist the urge to twitch or move erratically.
- Thirty minutes to an hour before you have to get up, have your alarm go off in 10-minute intervals. Basically, snooze and allow yourself to re-enter a hypnagogic state every time.
5. MILD Technique
This is the most suitable technique for beginners. It’ll also form the basis for more advanced tactics you’ll use in the future.
It stands for Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams and it was developed by Dr Stephen LaBerge.
It’s simple and elegant:
Create a proxy that your subconscious can use to communicate that you’re in a dream. Then, transform it into a short mantra you can repeat to yourself before sleep.
It should be out of the ordinary, something that will draw your attention.
For example, a tiny yellow car!
Convince yourself that every time you see a tiny, yellow car you’re dreaming. And your mantra will be something like: “If I see a tiny, yellow car it means I’m dreaming”.
Repeat that right before you go to sleep and during the day.
(If you want to learn more advanced techniques like WILD, DIELD, and how to apply ADA throughout the day check out our Lucid Dream Cheatsheet here)
6. Ground Yourself
Your first lucid dream will be very brief. The moment you realize you’re dreaming, you’re going to get excited and wake yourself up. Don’t get discouraged, it’s natural!
One way to make sure that you can spend more time in a lucid dream is to ground yourself. Don’t immediately try to fly or do other extraordinary feats before your connection has been solidified.
Interact with your surroundings. Touch the environment. The walls, the ground. Perform a few reality checks.
Go slowly at first. Enjoy the experience and don’t force anything yet.
You’ll know you’re ready to be bolder when you’ve experienced the world with all of your senses!
Keep in mind that even if you perfectly implement these strategies, you might still need a few months to experience lucid dreams consistently. Just keep working on it!
Is it Safe to Lucid Dream?
Lucid dreams are considered safe for the most part. But there are some risks involved, especially for those who are prone to insomniac episodes or have a hard time falling to sleep in general.
If you struggle to get enough sleep, some of the techniques used to induce a lucid experience will accentuate the issue.
For example, waking up in the middle of a REM state can make it much more difficult to go back to sleep.
Lucid dreams and disturbed sleep can also increase the frequency of dissociative events in people who struggle with mental health issues.
Another problem you might encounter is the phenomenon of sleep paralysis:
“Sleep paralysis is a state, during waking up or falling asleep, in which a person is aware but unable to move or speak.”
During these episodes you might experience hypnagogic hallucinations; voices, sounds, seeing things, etc.
It sounds scary but it’s simply a defense mechanism of your body against predators.
Dream within a Dream…
In 2020 there were more reports of lucid dreams than ever before. Perhaps a subconscious manifestation of our need for control we lacked because of the pandemic. After all, the immersive experience lucid dreams offer is very appealing.
But this isn’t new…
In the movie “Inception”, we learn that the deeper you go into the realm of dreams, the harder it is to wake up.
And it’s true! At one point, escapism can become unhealthy. Your fantasies and dreams can substitute your real life, creating an obsessive, fantasy world.
But if you use a lucid dream as a tool instead of an end in itself, it’ll accelerate your personal development, unearthing deep psychological truths that were buried deep in your psyche.
George K has been immersed into the world of myths and dreams for a very long time now, attempting to find the numerous symbolisms and meanings attached to them. He is a prolific writer along with being an independent researcher. Contributing his knowledge and learnings to several magazines and blogs, he has the unique ability to simplify and explain even the most intricate subjects.