Ever wish you could fly? How about travel the world in 30 seconds? You can…in your dreams.
And that’s not a sarcastic quip. With lucid dreaming, you can do anything you desire, from the comfort of your own bed.
Lucid dreaming, or being conscious that you’re dreaming as you dream, is an exciting adventure that many enjoy and also use as a problem-solving technique to explore their psyche.
Lucid dreaming can be a little tricky to master. Here are some techniques that will help you navigate your dream world.
1. State your intention before you fall asleep.
This sounds silly, but it’s true: if you tell yourself a very clear statement before you fall asleep, such as “I want to realize I’m dreaming tonight,” you’re more likely to lucid dream. The brain is a powerful thing, eh?
2. Start checking if you’re dreaming when you’re awake.
You know how dreams seem realistic within the dream, but when you wake up, you realize how crazy it was? Maybe you were in your house like normal, but you had a pet elephant. For some reason, that pet elephant seemed totally natural in your dream.
This element of dreams—not realizing how strange certain occurrences are—is why it’s so essential to conduct reality checks, both when you’re asleep and when you’re awake. Start getting into the habit of asking yourself every now and then, “Am I dreaming right now?” If you do it enough when you’re awake, you’ll do it when you’re dreaming, and you’ll be able to suddenly realize that you definitely don’t have a pet elephant.
3. Use the dot technique.
Reality checks can be hard to implement. Here’s a little trick: draw a dot on your hand. It can be anywhere you like, but make sure to keep it in the same spot. You’ll inevitably see it every now and then, and it will be a reminder to you that you’re not dreaming. When you look at your hand in the dream and don’t see the dot, you’ll know that you are, indeed, dreaming.
4. Wear a digital wristwatch.
Don’t want to draw dots on your hand, or can’t because of work? Buy yourself a digital wristwatch and start getting in the habit of checking it.
In dreams, digital clocks make no sense. Every time you check it, it will change—hours will have passed, or it will be blurry, or there will be letters instead of numbers.
When you check your watch, look up, then check it again immediately. Has it only changed by one second? Sorry, you’re not dreaming. But has it completely changed from evening to morning? Ta da: lucid dream.
5. Get plenty of sleep.
This seems like a pretty obvious one—if you don’t sleep, obviously you won’t lucid dream. But there’s deeper reasoning here.
Out of all phases of sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) is when your brain is most active. For this reason, dreams are more likely to occur during this time period.
According to Scientific American, you go into REM every 90 minutes during the night, but the longer you sleep, the longer that REM period gets. So that means that if you sleep only two hours in a night, you’ll have a much shorter period where you can dream than if you sleep a full seven to nine hours.
6. Keep a dream journal.
Ever wake up in the morning and remember your dream vividly, but as the day goes by, you suddenly realize that you can’t remember what it was about?
In order to lucid dream, you must start getting in the habit of remembering your dreams so that you become more in touch with your dreams. A great way to do that is using a dream journal.
Place your dream journal and a pencil right next to your bed. As soon as you wake up, grab it and write down your dream immediately, before it starts to slip away.
7. Keep your alarm close by.
This is to help you with your dream journal efforts. If you have to get up to turn off your alarm, you’re more likely to forget your dream (sometimes, the “slipping away” process happens rather quickly!). Keep your alarm close by so you can immediately turn it off and scribble down your dream in your dream journal.
8. Avoid eating, taking medication, or drinking alcohol directly before bed.
This stuff can interfere with your dreaming process, as well as your ability to remember your dreams. Consume these things a few hours before bed instead.
9. Start noticing your personal “dream cues.”
For some reason, I personally have a lot of teeth dreams—my teeth falling out, shifting around, etc. Gross, I know. But one time, as my teeth were falling out yet again, my friend walked up behind me and said, “This always happens when you dream. You’re dreaming right now.” Thus started my very first lucid dream.
Start recognizing your dream cues—patterns that always seem to crop up as you dream. Whenever you notice your “cue,” you’ll be more likely to recognize that you’re asleep.
Even when you do manage to realize your dreaming, you may wake up immediately out of shock. A good way to prevent this is by meditating often so you become more used to being in that dream-like state. (Plus, it’s super good for you!)
11. Try “dream spinning.”
There are also specific methods you can take to avoid waking up in the beginning of your lucid dream. Psychopsychologist and lucid dreaming expert Stephen LaBerge claims that “dream spinning” is a great way to counteract the shock you feel when you realize it’s a dream. And it’s exactly what it sounds like: spin yourself around so you can concentrate on the dream itself.
LaBerge explains that this works because the sensation of movement within the dream will help you to keep present within the dream. Give it a try next time you realize you’re dreaming—and then go ahead and have a blast in your dream world!
About the Author
Sammy Nickalls the content manager of Inspiyr.com, an online mag helping people get healthier, happier, and more successful (click here to get started!). She’s also a writer, and has contributed to various sites, such as HelloGiggles.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @sammynickalls.