Lucid dreaming is when you’re in a dream but realize that you’re dreaming, and are able to control exactly what happens within the dream. Lucid dreaming has been written about throughout history with the first recorded instances of lucid dreaming coming from early Buddhist monasteries.
Lucid dreaming is a topic that has fascinated me for many years. After a great deal of time and effort, I’ve gone from never having a lucid dream before in my life to having at least one a month, and with a bit of extra effort I can increase the frequency to once a week.
If you’re just starting out trying to learn how to lucid dream, a simple Google search will probably give you information overload. Many of the lucid dreaming articles on the Internet tend to have been written by people who have had little or no experience of lucid dreaming themselves. Much of the content grossly overcomplicates lucid dreaming, which is in essence quite simple.
Which is why I wanted to write this, to teach you how to lucid dream in just one single article. Reading about lucid dreaming is like reading about how to ride a bike, it’s a skill that comes with practice, regardless of how much theory you read. There are however some core fundamental concepts that need to be learnt in order to reliably lucid dream, and it’s these that I will be covering in this article.
What is lucid dreaming?
There are a lot of misconceptions about lucid dreaming, so lets first lay down the framework and discuss the fundamentals of lucid dreaming.
What can you do in a lucid dream?
Anything you can think of. You’re limited only to your imagination.
- Fly at supersonic speed, high up into the sky or deep below to the earth’s core.
- Teleport to anywhere at any time in history, or even the future, at literally a blink of an eye.
- Explore the wonders of the world, visit other dimensions and go places you wouldn’t be able to access in waking life.
- Experience what it feels like to save the world, talk to long lost relatives, or intentionally face and conquer your greatest fears.
Some things are harder to perform than others, it takes time to fully take control of a lucid dream. It all depends on how easily you can relax and believe in your own ability. Intention plays a huge role in dreams. You can do whatever you truly believe you can do.
How easy is it to lucid dream?
It’s not easy at all for the vast majority of us. Many of the people who claim to be accomplished lucid dreamers have only actually experienced handful of lucid dreams. Getting your first lucid dream is often the hardest part, but after your first it does generally get easier.
To have a lucid dream you need two things:
- A vivid dream that you’ll still be able to remember when you wake up
- To be able to discover within the dream that you’re dreaming
When you’re first starting out you’ll need a good dose of luck for both of these to occur, but as you get better at lucid dreaming, you’ll experience a higher frequency of suitable dreams, and you’ll also find it easier to tell when you’re dreaming.
Are there any dangers to lucid dreaming?
No there isn’t, dreaming is a completely normal part of sleep. Becoming aware that you’re dreaming doesn’t pose any dangers.
Lucid dreaming can feel very vivid and real, which has lead some people to believe that your dreams are actually real, but are played out in another dimension that you enter into while you’re asleep. Therefore, what you do in your dreams has real consequences. Some people claim that shared dream experiences prove this, where two or more people experience the same dream as one another. This idea strays far from mainstream science, but if you’re concerned by this, simply adopt the same morals in your dreams as you do in your waking life and there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
Some people worry that their dreams might become scary, but lucid dreaming is actually a scientifically proven method to overcome nightmares. By becoming lucid, you can actively control the nightmare to provide an alternative ending of your choice.
It is possible that some lucid dreamers might experience too much REM sleep, the type of sleep where you experience dreams. Too much REM sleep would prevent the amount of deep sleep you get during night, leaving you feeling sleepy during the day despite being having slept for a good number of hours. It’s unlikely, if not impossible for someone to experience this purely as a result of having learnt how to lucid dream. Lucid dreaming is often a symptom rather than a cause of having too much REM sleep. There are treatments available that can regulate the length and depth of REM sleep, so if in doubt consult your doctor.
How to lucid dream
Having cleared up what lucid dreaming is, let’s move on to how you can have your own lucid dreams. The concept is very simple, you need to have a dream, somehow realize that you’re dreaming, then take control of the dream to make it interesting, and finally stay lucid for as long as you want the dream to last.
The foundations of lucid dreaming
Before you can start lucid dreaming, it’s first necessary to have good dream recall so you can remember your dreams, perform reality checks so that you know when you’re dreaming, and to plan your dream so that you can experience the lucid dream of your choice.
Experts have found that we dream every single night, but how many of these dreams do you remember? You won’t be able to have a lucid dream if you can’t remember your dreams, so the first step is to improve your dream recall.
Keep a dream journal containing a written account of all your dreams. The act of writing down your dreams sends a message to your subconscious mind that dreams are important and worth remembering. The more dreams you write down, the better your dream recall will become.
It’s best to do this as soon as you wake up. Even before you open your eyes, try and remember the dreams you had that night. Write down anything you can remember, even fragments of dreams. More information may come as you begin writing it down.
Now that you are starting to remember your dreams, you need to find a way to discover that you’re dreaming whilst inside a dream. For this we use what’s called reality checks, an action we perform that will either tell us that we are dreaming or if we are awake. They include:
- Breathing – Close your mouth and cover your nose. Can you breathe?
- Reading – Look at some text, look away for just a second, and look back. Has the text changed?
- Jumping – Jump up into the air. Do you float to the ground like a feather or take off into the air?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you’re dreaming. There are others, but these checks generally have the highest success rate.
The nature of dreams is such that we often believe them to be real despite that when we wake up it becomes obvious to us that they weren’t. The brain works on the principle “seeing is believing” and so you’re likely to believe whatever you see as a matter of course, whether in a dream or in waking life.
You need to either get into the habit of performing reality checks on a regular basis in the hope that you’ll perform one out of habit in one of your dreams, or you need to discover your dream signs. These are things that you often encounter during dreams but rarely in real life. A dream sign could be anything from seeing a certain object, being in a particular place, or meeting up with a particular person. Whenever you encounter a dream sign perform a reality check, even if you know for certain you’re awake. Your dream journal will help you uncover your own personal dream signs.
Planning your dream
Right, so you’ve done a reality check and wow, you’re dreaming! What now? You could probably think of a million of things you would like to do in a lucid dream while you’re awake, but don’t expect these ideas to come so easily when you’re actually in the dream.
As an example, I was having a dream about being at home when I did one of the reality checks that I’d got into a habit of doing randomly throughout the day, and amazingly it turned out negative. Wow, I’m actually in a dream, I thought to myself. The house was empty apart from my mum, who after talking to also somehow knew I was dreaming. I didn’t really know what to do. I went into the garden and looked into the sky. It was a typical grey English cloudy day. I went back inside and just sat there. It was amazing to think that I was actually dreaming, but after what seemed like 30 minutes, I got bored and just allowed myself to fall back to sleep.
What a wasted opportunity! That’s why you should always plan what you’re going to do once you know you’re dreaming. The more you’re able to plan, the better it’ll turn out. Do this either by writing it down and reading it before you go to bed, or vividly imagine the dream in your mind before falling asleep.
How to induce a lucid dream
This step is entirely optional. Dreams are completely natural and don’t need to be induced, but some people do have success with these techniques. Personally I find that trying to induce a lucid dream overly complicates things and isn’t very reliable. It’s much more important to concentrate on dream recall and reality checks, but I’ll list the ways of how you can induce a lucid dream for you to experiment with if you wish. No lucid dreaming article would be complete without a slew of confusing acronyms with no set meaning. 😉
Dream-Initiated Lucid Dream (DILD) – Have a lucid dream by becoming aware that you’re dreaming within a dream. This is the most basic and easiest way to lucid dream.
Wake back To Bed (WBTB) – Wake up just before the onset of REM sleep (around 4 hours after going to bed) and then go back to sleep again. Believed to increase awareness within REM sleep.
Wake-Initiation of Lucid Dreams (WILD) – Fall asleep whilst staying conscious, one moment you’re awake and the next you’re in a dream. The stuff of lucid dreaming legend, incredibly difficult to master. May cause sleep paralysis.
Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) – Fall asleep while focusing on the intention to have a lucid dream and visualizing the outcome. Also known as Visual Induction of Lucid Dreams (VILD).
Cycle Adjustment Technique (CAT) – Wake up 90 minutes earlier for a week, and then adjust wake up times by 90 minutes backwards and forwards each day. Increases the amount of REM sleep.
There are many more but these are by far the most common. People have a tendency to make up new acronyms on the fly, particularly companies who sell lucid dreaming aids such as hypnosis, binaural beats and subliminals, which depending on the product may or may not aid lucid dreaming. As an example SILD can mean either subliminal induced lucid dream or sex induced lucid dream, depending on where you look.
A few people find success using one of these techniques, but most will be better off allowing the dream to come naturally. You can’t force a lucid dream unfortunately, no matter how many acronyms you throw at it.
Becoming and staying lucid
Becoming lucid within a dream requires a reality check that comes back negative, from either performing a reality check out of habit as you might in waking life, or as a result of discovering one of your dream signs.
After becoming aware that you’re dreaming, put your planned dream into action by changing your surroundings. You can do this by holding the intention of where you would like to be, and either spin around, look at the ground and looking back up, walk through a door, or fly out of a window.
In many people’s first lucid dream, they discover that their dreaming, but get so excited that FINALLY they’re having a lucid dream after months of trying, that their excitement actually wakes them up. When you first discover that you’re dreaming remember to keep calm. You can be happy, but not jumping up and down happy. Strong emotions during the lucid dreaming experience are likely to wake you up, so keep a cool head.
The lucid dream lasts for as long as you can stay lucid for. As the lucid dream continues you’ll feel yourself becoming hazy and sleepy. Increase your lucidity by spinning on the spot to refresh your visual dream senses, and rub your hands together to prevent yourself from feeling the bed you’re lying on. You will eventually either lose consciousness within the dream or wake up, but performing these actions regularly will help your lucid dream last for longer.
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Lucid dreaming takes commitment and it certainly isn’t easy. It can take months, or even a year or more to have your first lucid dream. But after your first experience, it does generally become easier. It’s easy to get discouraged and to think that there’s something you’re doing wrong. More times than not, lucid dreaming is something you just need to wait out and be ready for rather than try and force with some dream inducing technique. Keep a dream journal, perform regular reality checks, have a dream plan in place, and you’ll be ready to have that lucid dream as soon as the right dream comes up and the reality check turns out negative.