In the middle of your dream, have you ever realized that you were dreaming? This is known as lucid dreaming, and it occurs to most people at some point in their lives. It is possible, however, to encourage lucid dreams if they sound like something you would like to try. Here are the top advice from sleep and dream experts on how to begin lucid dreaming.
What are lucid dreams, and why would I want one?
Lucid dreaming happens when a person is cognizant (or “lucid”) in a dream, as opposed to being asleep. Often, this understanding leads people to feel more in control of their own desires.
In the fourth century BCE, Aristotle proposed the idea of lucid dreaming in his work On Dreams, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the practice was scientifically investigated.
That sleep stage in which our dreams occur has been officially recognized as a “hybrid state of consciousness with identifiable and measurably different features than either wakefulness or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.”
Lucid dreaming, as the author of Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self explains, is a gateway to a lot of enjoyment. According to mbg’s Robert Waggoner. Lucid dreaming, on the other hand, gives people access to the seemingly limitless potential of the dream world and consciousness itself, according to Dr. Weiss.
He claims that lucid dreams can be used to access creativity, practice various abilities, work on emotional difficulties, and more. “Lucid dreaming can bring you in touch with your own inner spiritual nature and bring about a sense of universal oneness and less fear of death,” says therapist and dream expert Leslie Ellis, Ph.D.
Additionally, it’s also proven effective in the treatment of nightmares. That’s because by becoming aware of your surroundings, you’re able to alter the content of your nightmare so that you feel empowered instead of helpless. A gradual shift in perspective might lead to “increased flexibility and adaptability to life’s difficulties.”
Ellis advises you to keep in mind that lucid dreaming on demand usually requires patience and persistence. ‘Even those who routinely encounter lucid dreams can’t always do so at will,’ she states.
How Do Lucid Dreams Work?
The phenomenon of lucid dreaming has been thoroughly explored, yet there is still plenty to learn about it. The formation of lucid dreams may be linked to increased brain activity in the prefrontal cortex2, according to some studies. Even though people are aware of their surroundings during non-lucid dreams, they are unable to tell the difference between being asleep and awake. Cortical activity has been cited as a factor in this.
Sleepers are aware that they’re dreaming and, in certain situations, have the ability to control their surroundings in lucid dreams. These features have been linked to increased brain activity in several studies. Prefrontal brain activity levels during lucid dreaming are comparable to those reported in sleepers during lucid dreaming investigations. Because of this, lucid dreaming can be described as a “hybrid sleep-wake state.”
A number of studies have revealed that the majority of lucid dreaming occurs during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep constitutes the first three stages of a normal sleep cycle; REM sleep is the fourth and final state. There is a general understanding among academics today that lucid dreams develop from non-lucid dreams3 during the REM sleep stage of sleep. When it comes to dreaming, lucidity can be provoked in several ways.
How Are Lucid Dreams Studied?
Rare and impossible to predict are spontaneous lucid dreams. For this purpose, lucid dream4 induction techniques are employed by researchers in a wide variety of ways. The following are some of the most commonly used methods:
- Tests that distinguish between sleep and wakefulness are required of participants in this method. During non-lucid dreams, self-awareness is not possible, thus asking yourself if you are dreaming during the day demonstrates that you are in fact awake. The idea behind reality testing is that after a series of tests, the subject will become more aware of his or her dream state and be able to tell the difference between it and waking life.
- It is possible to induce lucid dreams by using a method known as “mnemonic induction of lucid dreams” (MILD). “The next time I’m asleep, I’ll remember that I’m dreaming,” the subjects said when they wake up after a period of sleep. Using the MILD approach, researchers will wake up patients after five hours of sleep in order to produce lucid dreams.
- When you wake up in the middle of the night and then go back to sleep after a set length of time, this strategy can help you have more vivid dreams or even lucid ones. WBTB is frequently used in conjunction with MILD. To get the best results, it appears that 30 to 120 minutes is the ideal amount of time between waking up and falling back asleep.
- REM sleep induction with external stimulation uses flashing lights and other stimuli to jolt the individual awake. According to this theory, the sleeper will subconsciously integrate the impulses into their subconscious and awaken as a result.
Lucid dreams may also be induced by the use of various medications and supplements, according to some research.
The prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain can be studied using an electroencephalogram (EEG), which involves attaching metal discs to the scalp of a sleeping individual. It is possible to monitor a subject’s eye movements using an electrooculogram (EOG). A lucid dream can be demonstrated by having the individuals make precise eye movements while sleeping. EOGs come very handy for spotting these kinds of motions.
How to experience lucid dreams
Try the following steps to get a taste of lucid dreaming:
Get more REM sleep
The more time you spend in REM sleep, the more likely it is that you will experience lucid dreaming.
It is possible to extend REM sleep if you obtain a sufficient amount of sleep. When you practice good sleep habits, your body is able to go through all four stages of sleep in the most efficient manner possible.
As a way to ensure a good night’s rest:
- Keep to a regular bedtime.
- Every day, get some exercise in.
- Avoid using your phone or tablet before bed.
- Create a sleep-inducing atmosphere.
- Before going to bed, stay away from caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.
You can obtain a good night’s sleep even if you don’t lucid dream.
Explore our sleep shop to find the greatest goods for a more restful night’s slumber.
Keep a dream journal
It is common for people to keep a journal of their dreams in order to improve their ability to lucid dream.
Recalling a dream is easier when it’s written down. In theory, your brain will grow more aware of dreaming as a result of using this method.
Keep a notebook and pen by your bedside if you want to keep a dream journal. When you wake up, write down your dreams. To keep your brain in sync with your dreams, read your journal frequently.
Practice reality testing
When you’re awake and dreaming, your degree of consciousness is the same. As a result, you can improve your dream-state awareness by boosting your consciousness while you’re awake.
A common approach is to conduct a reality test. It teaches you to be aware of your own consciousness even when you’re not.
Doing daily reality checks is an important part of the strategy. The more you practice reality checking, the easier it will be to bring yourself out of a dream.
Reality checks that are popular include:
- A finger is pressed into the palm. Place your fingers on the palm on the other side of yours. You’re imagining things if you think they’ll make it.
- Mirrors. It’s impossible to see yourself as you normally would in a mirror when you’re dreaming.
- Pinch the nose. Face the mirror and do a little pinching on the bridge of your nose. A dream will allow you to breathe.
- Reading. Turn your gaze away from the words for a moment, then return it. If you’re having a bad dream, the text will alter itself.
- Tattoos. Observe your tattoos if you have any on your body. In a dream, they’ll look different.
Make it a habit to do one reality check a day, preferably more than once. To find the one that works best for you, you may have to try a few various types of reality checks.
Try induction techniques
It is possible to induce lucid dreaming, despite the fact that lucid dreaming might occur at any time.
Methods such as these are possible:
- Return to sleep (WBTB). Take a five-hour snooze before waking up. Returning to sleep while still awake increases your chances of experiencing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
- Lucid dream induction through the use of memory (MILD). In order to have lucid dreams tonight, you must tell yourself this. Do it before you go to sleep, or while you are awake during WBTB.
- A lucid dream that was sparked by awaking (WILD). WILD is a technique that allows you to go straight into REM sleep while still being aware of your surroundings. A hypnagogic hallucination is achieved by lying down until you have one.
Lucid dreaming can be increased by using these approaches in conjunction with reality testing and journaling.
9 tips & techniques for lucid dreaming.
There are a few things you may do to increase your chances of having lucid dreams. In order to have the best night’s sleep possible, you may have to wake yourself up in the middle of the night, but we’re going to focus on the ones that allow for uninterrupted slumber:
1. Frequently test reality.
The best way to know if you’re dreaming is to practice putting a finger through your own hand or launching yourself into flight, as Ellis advises.
In most cases, you will quickly recognize this is awake reality and you cannot fly at will, but it will get you into the habit of questioning your state of consciousness—which makes it more likely that you will do so while dreaming. “”
2. Get more sleep to make dreams more likely.
In order to experience a lucid dream, you must be in REM sleep, of course. As a result, one of the most fundamental things you can do is focus on improving your sleep hygiene and ensuring that you receive enough sleep.
Maintain a regular sleep pattern, abstain from alcohol and other sleep-inhibiting substances before going to bed, and so on.
3. Use the power of suggestion.
As soon as lucid dreaming was proven to be scientifically legitimate, Waggoner adds, “using the power of suggestion seemed one of the most prevalent techniques.” Recite one of these statements to yourself until you begin to believe it, then relax and clear your thoughts.
- I’m going to wake up tomorrow night in my dreams and realize I’m just daydreaming.
- When I see something unusual in my dreams tonight, I’ll remember that I’m just daydreaming and wake up.
- I’ll be more critical of myself in my dreams tonight. When I detect something out of the ordinary, I’ll recognize I’m dreaming and come to terms with the fact that I’m imagining things.
Additionally, Waggoner advises that you imagine yourself enthusiastically writing down your lucid dream in the morning.
4. Keep a dream journal.
Ellis says, “Those with strong dream recollection often find it simplest to become lucid in their dreams.” Keeping a dream journal can help you improve your ability to retain details from your dreams, so that when you wake up, you can refer back to it later.
5. Recognize recurring themes or characters in your dreams.
Is there a figure or a theme that keeps popping up in your dreams time and time again? If this is the case, Ellis recommends that you use it as a means of waking up. The next time this well-known dream event occurs or I encounter this dream figure that appears frequently, I will become aware of my dreams.”
6. Take naps.
A nap is often less sleepy than a night’s sleep, so it can aid with lucidity, according to Ellis. In the latter stages of sleep, “keep your mind alert and present to the dream world,” she advises.
7. Try a “Modified Castaneda” technique.
After reading Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda, Waggoner devised this method. Here’s the breakdown:
- Sit down in your bed and get your mind in the right place.
- “Tonight while I am dreaming, I will see my hands and recognize that I am dreaming,” reassure yourself in a compassionate tone.
- Remind yourself of this affirmation as you continue to stare at your hands softly: “Tonight when sleeping I will see my hands and recognize that I am sleeping.”
- Allow your focus to wander and your eyes to wander; remain calm and keep repeating gently.
- Quietly discontinue the practice after around five minutes or when you begin to feel drowsy.
- Remember your desire to see your hands when you wake up in the middle of the night and discover that you are dreaming. Do you recall your hands from a recent dream?
- Your hands may appear in front of you unexpectedly at some time throughout a dream. In the event that they do, you will immediately think, “This is a fantasy!” Try to remain relaxed and take in the dreamscape.. Write it down in your dream notebook after you wake up from the dream. Make a detailed account of your dream, including how you woke up, what you did while knowing that you were dreaming, etc.
Waggoner says that doing this before going to bed on a regular basis is beneficial. A “conditioned response,” as psychologists describe it, “is a straightforward stimulus-response associational relationship,” says the author. A connection is formed between the stimulus (the sight of your hands) and the answer (‘This is a dream’) when you practice this skill regularly.
8. Think about your previous dreams.
Using a memory technique called Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD), people are able to induce lucid dreams in their sleep. When compared to the 13 dreams per month he got with only suggestion and the fewer than one per month he got without strategy, one Stanford researcher discovered that this technique helped him acquire 18 to 26 lucid dreams each month, with up to four dreams per night.
MILD does require good dream recollection, however this is how you do it:
- Think about a dream you’ve had recently, or one you’ve had before.
- Describe a strange occurrence in your dream.
- Visualize or envision yourself returning to the dream, noticing the abnormality, becoming aware of your surroundings, and taking some sort of action or proceeding to the next phase in the dream while you are aware.
- During your visualization, say to yourself, “I want to remember that I’m dreaming the next time.”
- To help you fall asleep, repeat this visualization and affirmation over and over.
9. Don’t get excited.
Finally, as Ellis and Waggoner both stress, don’t freak out if your dream becomes conscious. Ellis says that if you become aware that you are dreaming, getting very enthusiastic may cause you to awaken.
What to keep in mind.
While lucid dreaming can be empowering and entertaining, it is not without risk, particularly if you suffer from a mental health condition of any kind (psychosis, dissociation, and depression, in particular).
According to Ellis, those who are dissociative or suffer from other illnesses that cause them to lose contact with reality may find the blurred boundaries between dream time and waking life confusing.
‘If you can’t handle the waking world, it seems best to avoid lucid dreaming.’ says Waggoner. If you are able to function in the real world, then it is often safe to have lucid dreams.”
Nonetheless, even healthy dreamers may have difficulty waking up from lucid dreams, “and endure a series of false awakenings or will inhabit a dark hole before they are able to completely orient to the here and now,” says Ellis.
Aside from this, lucid dreaming isn’t an usual sleep state, and some experts believe it can disrupt one’s normal sleep cycle in an undesirable way.
To begin a lucid dream practice, you should, in Waggoner’s words, “wait until you feel generally at peace with your waking state experience.”
How to wake up
A lucid dream can be difficult to wake up from at times. A variety of methods are employed by lucid dreamers.
Try the following methods to wake from a lucid dream
- Send out a distress signal. According to folklore, yelling in your dreams might wake you up. It’s also possible that if you speak loud enough, you’ll startle yourself awake.
- Blink. In order to prepare your mind for waking up, you may want to blink a lot.
- In your sleep, drift off to sleep. The best way to wake up is to go to sleep in your dream, if you’re aware of it.
- Read. In your sleep, try to decipher words on a sign or a book. Brain regions that aren’t used during REM may be stimulated as a result.
Are Lucid Dreams Good or Bad For You?
Self-instigated lucid dreams have gained in popularity in the last few years. Wish fulfillment, fear-relief, and healing are among the most typical motivations for lucid dreaming. Inducing lucid dreams has been linked to lessening the anxiety and anguish that comes with having nightmares, according to some research.
Lucid dream induction has been the subject of much discussion, with some suggesting it might actually be hazardous to mental health. Creating lucid dreams purposely blurs the border between dream and reality, according to some psychologists, and this could harm one’s long-term mental well-being. People with post-traumatic stress disorder have found lucid dream treatment to be mainly useless.
A new difficulty with lucid dreams has been brought up by several researchers: they may interrupt sleep. Lucid dreams have been linked to higher levels of brain activity, which has been shown to have a negative impact on sleep quality and sleep habits. The sleeper’s sleep-wake cycle, which affects emotional regulation, memory consolidation, and other aspects of day-to-day life associated to sleep health, may be restructured if they have frequent lucid dreams6. Lucid dreams are more common in patients with narcolepsy7 – a sleep disease that causes extreme daily tiredness and irresistible sleep attacks.
Research on lucid dreaming is still in its infancy. There has to be more research done to better understand these types of dreams and find out why certain people are more likely to have frequent and powerful lucid dreams than others.
Induction tactics are often responsible for any lucid dreaming dangers.
The following are examples of negative aspects:
- I’m having trouble sleeping. Wake up in the middle of the night is a part of WBTB and MILD. For people with sleep disorders or irregular sleeping patterns, these interruptions might make it difficult to receive adequate rest.
- Derealization. Derealization, or the impression that people, things, and your surroundings are not real, can occur when sleep difficulties occur.
- Depression. Depressive symptoms may be exacerbated by the sleep disturbances of induction procedures.
- Involuntary slumber. It is possible to have lucid dreams during sleep paralysis, which is a brief but unnerving experience. In addition, sleep deprivation raises the possibility of developing sleep paralysis.
When to see a doctor
If you notice any of the following symptoms:
- recurring visions of death
- recurring nightmares that keep you awake at night
- dread of falling asleep
- flashbacks of trauma
- a shift in mood
- Problems with recall
- difficulties falling asleep
There are a number of possible causes for these symptoms. Your therapist can help you decide if lucid dreaming therapy is correct for your situation.
The bottom line.
It is undeniably exciting and eye-opening to experience lucid dreaming. As long as you’re at peace with your life, you can give the exercise a go if you establish the correct intentions for it. Have fun with your daydreams!
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