Table of contents
- What is lucid dreaming?
- History of lucid dreaming
- General lucid dreaming tips & tricks
- Lucid dream techniques
- Maintaining lucidity: dream stabilization
- Lucid dream herbs
- Frequently asked questions
What is lucid dreaming?
The term lucid dreaming refers to a state of conscious dreaming - in a sense, your body is asleep but your mind is awake while you are in a dream.
In regular dreams you are along for the ride with very little agency in the events that unfold. Persons and places are often hazy. The average person has between three to five dreams each night. Even if you don’t remember them upon waking, it has been scientifically proven that every single person dreams.
Lucid dreaming is a dream in which you realize that you’re dreaming, either from the start or due to a strange occurrence triggering this realization. The people you see and places you find yourself in are much more vivid and can feel exactly like the real thing. Now that you’re aware of the dream state, you’re free to alter the course of the dream.
Instead of following the events like a scripted movie, it becomes more like a video game. The dream world is your playground and, with enough mastery of lucid dreaming skills, you can do anything you put your mind to. Fly high in the sky like Superman, be intimate with someone you fancy or delve deeper into your own mind – the possibilities are endless!
This article will cover a few of the basics as well as a series of proven techniques for inducing lucid dreaming, better dream recall and improved control during a dream.
The exciting thing? Anyone can learn how to lucid dream!
History of lucid dreaming
You'll be surprised to hear that the official and scientifically proven discovery of lucid dreaming came very late in human history. We’ve built air planes and soared the air in real life before most scholars dared to claim to have the ability to fly in their dreams.
That’s not to say that lucid dreaming itself wasn’t around at all. Some people seem to have an innate ability for lucid dreaming, so in thousands of years of human history it only stands to reason that there must have been more of these gifted dream explorers, or oneironauts as they are called. Where psychonauts travel within their minds with the assistance of psychedelics and rituals, oneironauts travel and explore within their dreams.
The first known work by an oneironaut was written by Frenchman Marie-Jean-Léon, Marquis d'Hervey de Saint Denys. The book appeared in 1867 with the title ‘Dreams and the Ways to Direct Them: Practical Observations’. There is some dispute over who first coined the phrase ‘lucid dreaming’. Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederik Willem van Eeden is still widely credited as the first person to use the term to describe the ability of becoming aware within a dream. Van Eeden gathered reports of dreamers and experimented with his own dream abilities, which he presented in the aptly named ‘A Study of Dreams’ (1913).
The birth of the phrase and the acknowledgement of several prominent figures didn’t immediately change the scientific community’s opinion on dreams. It was not a very highly regarded field of study, to say the least. A novelty, but nothing that could withstand serious scrutiny.
The problem with verifying a lucid dream was effectively phrased in 1959 by philosopher Norman Malcolm: "The only criterion of the truth of a statement that someone has had a certain dream is, essentially, his saying so."
Without tangible proof, the lucid dreamer may as well claim to be a psychic and so oneironauts remained the laughing stock of the academic community for years. Atomic bombs were invented and deployed in the war, drugs such as LSD became popular, but still a scholar claiming to have insights on controlling dreams was dismissed if not ridiculed. Some 'experts' even believed that control over a dream was impossible; a contradiction in terms.
The single biggest pioneer in the study of dream lucidity is Stephen LaBerge. He performed his doctoral research at the sleep laboratory of Stanford University, gathering historical reports, performing experiments and developing a program to induce lucid dreaming. In 1985 he published the book 'Lucid Dreaming: The power of being aware and awake in your dreams', which is to this day considered to be the bible of lucid dreaming.
LaBerge is often credited as the person who solved Malcolm’s conundrum, but it was Englishman Keith Hearne in 1975 that devised a way for the lucid dreamer to signal the outside world, by using eye-movements. The signal could be reproduced and was therefore an effective method of scientifically proving the lucid dream state. You can download and read his ground-breaking PhD on his website: www.keithhearne.com.
Stephen LaBerge, however, was instrumental in cementing oneirology (the study of dreams) as a valid academic field and popularized the concept of lucid dreaming in the media as well as bringing it to the general public. LaBerge also founded the Lucidity Institute, a research institute supporting dream research and techniques that improve lucid dreaming.
Dreams and recurring themes
One of the many fascinating findings of dream research is that many dreamers experience recurring themes. Some of those themes have become clichéd and appear in fiction. Examples include dreams where you find yourself naked in front of an audience, running from a monster but moving in slow-motion or even dreams where your teeth are falling out.
Another particularly weird one is a small detail that’s inexplicably shared by dreamers across the globe: light switches tend to barely (if at all) function in dreams. This seems especially proportional to the amount of danger you’re in – the more monsters in the room with you, the less likely the chance that the lights will work as expected.
Expert lucid dreamer and author Robert Waggoner has debunked this as a myth – by believing the light won’t work, it won’t. The only restriction in your dreams is your imagination. You can walk through walls only by believing that you can (but please don’t try this in real life).
So what do dreams mean? Some believe dreams are just a natural way of processing events of the day, while others believe dreams are your mind’s obnoxious way of telling you something through vague imagery.
There is still very much we simply don’t know about the human mind, including dreams.
General lucid dreaming tips & tricks
Since the acknowledgement of lucid dreaming as something as real as an atom bomb (an ability that LaBerge believes everyone can learn) there has been an overwhelming amount of research and personal experimentation in this field. A quick online search will reveal many books, sites and forums to help you master your dreams.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to list all available methods, but we’ll start with some fundamentals for improving dream recall and lucidity, before moving on to a list of specific dream techniques.
Dream recall and realisation
You may already be a natural-born dreamer without knowing it. A problem many people face is the inability to recall their dreams. How would you know you’ve had a lucid dream if you immediately forget about it upon waking up? Even among those that have dream recollection, there aren’t many who remember more than a few specific events or scenes.
To further complicate things, it’s quite difficult to realize you’re dreaming. You could see something in your dream as ridiculous as a shark dressed as a clown riding a unicycle and laugh at it without questioning the very fabric of your reality.
The average person has several dreams each night but will have difficulty remembering anything but the last one, when the alarm clock so rudely interrupts the dream scape. The reason for this is simple; you sleep in cycli but are most likely to dream during the REM (rapid eye movement) cycle, in which your eyes move rapidly and randomly.
The first REM stage begins 90 to 120 minutes after sleep onset and usually happens four to five times a night. Over the course of the night, the REM cycles become longer. Early morning dreams are easier to remember than dreams from previous cycli.
So what can you do to improve dream recall? Here are a few pointers:
- Get plenty of rest
- Keep a dream journal
- Find your dream signs
- Question everything, perform reality checks
- Pick a totem
- Visualize a goal
- Set the right mood
- Take a nap
- Don’t give up!
Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest
This may seem like a lame tip, like saying you can become a better chef by sharpening your knife or to sing more in the shower if you want to be the next big pop star, but it’s actually really important for all techniques.
If you don’t have a normal sleep schedule, fix it. Only if you’re well-rested will you have the luxury to spend time on a career as an oneironaut.
Recurring themes - keep a dream journal!
Everyone dreams and personal dream reports often reveal a number of recurring themes or even specific events. It could be related to a daily struggle or something else entirely.
For the author of this article, it’s public transportation. That’s right, something as mundane as using public transport can become a dream theme, the dreams in question often involving a strange bus or train travelling away from the intended destination, coupled with the fear of not being able to get to work on time or find the way home.
By keeping a dream journal, you eventually discover a pattern in your dreams. Since trying to remember dreams can feel like trying to grab a cloud, it’s best to keep a notepad beside the bed. Upon waking, focus on your dream and write down several notes. It doesn’t have to be a novella - just get the essentials down. Who did you see? Where were you? What happened? How did you feel?
Emotions are the easiest part to remember. Even if you don’t remember all the events of a dream, you will know whether it made you happy or found it unsettling. Don’t wait until later in the morning to jot down your notes. Dream recall can quickly fade away and the best time to write them down is right after waking up. Even a single fragment can be enough to help you recall your dreams and discover a theme – and perhaps you can expand upon it later when you have more time.
Find your dream signs
As outlined above, once you’ve started to fill your dream journal with nightly (mis)adventures, you’ll eventually find a common thread and be able to recognize it as a typical dream occurrence. Maybe you dream a lot about work, school or tend to have a lot of nightmares.
These things can be considered dream signs, things to look for to realize you’re dreaming. It can be something big or only a minute detail; if you find it happens often in your dreams, it’s worth taking note of. Which leads us to the next point…
Question everything, check reality
Are you dreaming right now?
No, we're serious. Think about it.
Are you dreaming?
If you dismissed the question and immediately jumped to the conclusion that you’re not dreaming, how did you know? Dreams can feel every bit as real as waking life, so isn’t it at least possible you are dreaming this beautiful, elegantly written article? Not every dream is of being an action hero, after all.
The point we’re making here that even after improving your dream recall and becoming more aware of the themes in your dreams, you may still have difficulty actually acknowledging the fact that you’re dream. One of the tricks is to ask yourself ‘am I dreaming’ several times over the course of day, especially when you find yourself in a typical dream setting.
This is called a reality check. Remind yourself to do this often in waking life and be thorough. Look for signs of being in a dream. Do you know what day it is? Do you know where you are and how you got there? Do the people around you and the scene you’re seeing make sense, or is it different somehow?
Reality checks are especially important because of false awakenings. Almost every lucid dreamer will experience a false awakening at some point, where you dream of waking up in your bed, convinced you're awake. Some dreamers report multiple false awakenings in a row.
Question everything. A (healthy) dose of paranoia helps! Once it becomes second nature to question yourself in real life, you’ll find yourself doing it in your dreams as well, which leads to many opportunities for lucid dreaming.
Pick a totem
If you’ve seen the movie Inception you might recall the characters used totems to determine whether or not they were dreaming. Totems are small, personal objects of which only the character in question knows the exact feel, texture, weight, smell, etc.
As vivid as dreams can be they are not a perfect imitation of the waking state so having something as a totem is a great way of quickly answering the question ‘am I dreaming?’. It’s best to use something you always have on you and can check without embarrassing yourself in public. A wedding ring, wrist watch or keys are great totems.
What to do if you often find yourself naked in your dreams? There’s something else that’s perhaps an even better totem and it’s something you always have on you, even if you’re not wearing anything. It's a piece of your anatomy.
No. That’s not the piece we’re thinking of.
We mean your hand. Whatever the dream, no matter how bizarre, by moving your hand in front of your face you'll see something familiar. Take some time to study your hand in waking life and it can form a powerful totem. Maybe you have some interesting scars, oddly shaped nails or really hairy knuckles.
When you look at your own body during a dream, it’swill be different from how it looks in waking life (looking in mirrors can be particularly scary) so it could be just the totem you need.
Don’t rely on pinching yourself; you’d be surprised how much you can actually feel in a dream!
Visualize a goal
If you’re into meditation this will come in handy. Before sleeping, determine a goal and visualize it. Build the scene in your mind. If you’re thinking of a place, imagine the sights, sounds and smell. Picturing a familiar scene will help.
You can also set out to do something in your dreams. Many people enjoy the feeling of flying in their dreams, so next time you become aware in a dream, why not get your Superman on? Try to picture what it would be like. How would you get off the ground? Would you run quickly, flapping your arms like a bird, or would you simply jump off the ground?
Start small. You likely won’t be able to create entire dreamscapes from the get-go, and trying to do so can lead to frustration. Instead, try to alter small things, such as trying to have a deep conversation with a dream character. The results can be hilarious and even insightful – the characters may very well be aspects of your psyche, leading to a better understanding of yourself.
Whatever the goal, focus on it before and during your techniques. As you gain mastery over your dreams, you’ll eventually be able to play the part of director or writer of your own dreams.
Set the right mood
Set and setting is one of the most important factors for people taking a psychedelic substance and in a way it applies to dreaming as well. While you only dream during your sleep, you can think about it throughout the day.
Try reading a book or article about lucid dreaming just before going to sleep. Or, wake up in the middle of your dream cycle (more on this technique later) and take a few minutes to read up on some tips ‘n tricks.
Amazingly, listening to certain types of music just before going to sleep or for those waking moments in between dream cycles helps as well. Search for 'binaural beat' and you’ll find many examples. Search for similar tracks if the voice annoys you.
Take a nap
Remarkably, a lot of people seem to have a lucid dream during an afternoon / evening nap rather than during a regular night’s rest. It's definitely something to try if you have the time!
Don’t give up!
Maybe you’ve being trying to lucid dream without results or you’ve hit a dry spell. Chin up champ, we’ve all been there.
Just remember the basics: keep a simple journal, do reality checks and set goals. And don’t force it if you’re not sleeping well (remember tip #1?), but choose the right time to pursue this hobby.
If at first you don’t succeed, Google will surely help you find many more useful dreaming tips ‘n tricks! There are all kinds of great forums to offer you many more tips and tricks.
Lucid dreaming techniques
Okay forget the basics; let’s dive right into the heart of the matter. How do you get (more) lucid dreams?
There is no single, easy answer. Sadly, what works wonders for one person may be a fruitless endeavour for the next. This means that if you’re just starting out or find your old tricks are no longer working, you should experiment with different techniques. At the risk of sounding like a self-help article: you really should find out what works best for you. With some experimentation, you can develop your own cocktail of tricks for lucid dreaming.
This section will list but a few of the many dreaming-inducing techniques out there. Keep in mind that there are many more techniques or variaties on techniques that you can try. Check the reference section of this article for a few websites and book ideas to get you started.
MILD: Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams
The MILD technique was developed and perfected by Dr. LaBerge and he’s used it to achieve lucid dreaming at will. It’s an easy to use technique with many small variations, based on the same concept. MILD can easily be combined with other, more advanced techniques.
How does MILD work? At its core, it’s all about setting up the expectation of becoming lucid. You repeat a mantra before going to sleep, or after you’ve been asleep for a while. The mantra can be something like "I will have control over my dream", "the next time I dream, I will be aware" or "tonight I’m waking up in a dream". Avoid uncertainty in your mantra. You don’t just want or wish it to happen, you will make it happen through the power of self-suggestion.
LaBerge’s MILD steps
An excerpt of Stephen LaBerge’s 'Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming' describes his technique in a bit more detail:
- Set up dream recall
Before going to bed resolve to wake up and recall dreams during each dream period throughout the night (or the first dream period after dawn, or after 6 am or whenever you find convenient).
- Recall your dream
When you awaken from a dream period, no matter what time it is, try to recall as many details as possible from your dream. If you find yourself so drowsy that you are drifting back to sleep, do something to arouse yourself.
- Focus on your intentention
While returning to sleep, concentrate on your intention to recognize that you’re dreaming. Tell yourself: “Next time I’m dreaming, I want to remember I’m dreaming.” Make this intention your own; embody it and want nothing more. Narrow your thoughts to this idea alone. If you find yourself thinking about anything else, gently bring your mind back to your intention.
- Imagine yourself becoming lucid
At the same time, imagine that you are back in the dream from which you have just awakened, but this time you recognize that's a dream. Find a dream sign in the experience; when you see it, tell yourself “I’m dreaming!” and continue your fantasy. You might decide you want to fly. In that case, imagine yourself taking off and flying as soon as you come to the point in your fantasy that you ‘realize’ you're dreaming.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 until your intention is set, then let yourself fall asleep. If, while falling asleep, you find yourself thinking of anything else, repeat the procedure so that the last thing on your mind before falling asleep is your intention to have a lucid dream.
WILD: Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming
The WILD technique is generally not recommended for newbies and unsuccessful attempts will definitely lead to loss of sleep. People of lesser constitution may even find it a little unsettling. Still with us? Read on, oh brave one!
The ‘wake induced’ part of this phrase means you’ll be riding the wave from the waking world straight into a lucid dream, as though you were some kind of awesome dream surfer. As mentioned earlier, the REM cycles start at regular intervals and get longer towards the morning, so you’ll want to wake up during one of the later cycles, when you’re most likely to jump straight into a dream upon sleeping.
Set your alarm clock to for 4.5, 6 hours or 7.5 hours after you go to sleep. You’ll want to be awake enough that you don’t immediately fall asleep again, but not completely wide awake, unless you want to be an expert at lucid day dreaming (a much easier hobby, though not as rewarding).
Experiment with the exact timing, until you find that sweet spot. When the alarm goes off, you could get out of bed for a quick visit to the toilet, drink a glass of juice, do a quick check-up on your favourite lucid dreaming technique or simply stay in bed. Deep sleepers may need to jog their brain a little bit while light sleepers will generally want to stay in bed, maybe shift positions at most.
The key to the WILD technique is to remain mentally awake while letting your body fall asleep. What you’ll be doing is keeping your mind awake while lying completely still, which tricks your brain into turning on the dream switch for the rest of your body. Some pretty warpy (but harmless!) stuff happens when your body falls into slumber state.
Ever felt as though you fell while lying in bed? Or heard a strange sound that you know for a certainty wasn’t there? These are signs of your senses falling asleep. Even without any deliberate techniques, people can experience this.
Now, the difficult thing about WILD is finding the right balance between relaxation and mental clarity. If you lose focus, you’ll fall asleep like you normally do. If you focus too much on your thoughts, you’ll not get any shut-eye at all. Like the other popular techniques, there are many ways to approach wake induced lucid dreaming. Here are a few examples:
- Count from 1 to 100 and backwards
- Repeat a mantra (MILD/WILD combination)
- Focus on whatever random thoughts occur (but maintain awareness)
- Focus on your breathing
- Ever so slightly use your index finger and middle finger as if you’re typing or playing the piano (this is actually in itself a technique called FILD: Finger Induced Lucid Dreaming)
Whatever the method of your choosing, do not move a single muscle (in the case of FILD, beyond moving your finger). That doesn’t sound hard now, but it’s like trying not to picture a pink elephant. Light sleepers among us will recognize the tendency to wrap themselves in their sheets in every possible way before finding the sweet spot.
Quickly determine (or find out through trial and error) what your most comfortable sleeping position is and stick to it while doing your mental exercises. After a while your mind will try to test you by sending you an itch signal. Don’t scratch. Your throat will feel impossibly dry. Try to avoid swallowing and turn your attention elsewhere.
Eventually, you’ll start experiencing strange things. Don’t get too excited or scared. You’ll feel your body become numb and experience hypnogogic images. Hypnagogia refers to the transition from wakefulness to sleep – only this time your mind is awake to experience it!
What you’ll see and hear differs from person to person but prepare for colourful sights and weird tones, even trumpets, coming out of nowhere. Maybe you’ll feel like you’re floating. In a way, you’re hallucinating. Whatever happens, keep your focus a little longer, you’re almost there.
At one point that you can only recognize through experience, the hypnogogic sensations will reach a peak. Congratulations, you’re now awake and yet asleep! This is where familiarity with MILD pays off as well. In this transitional state, you can shape your dream with the power of your mind. Visualize what you want to do, where you want to go or who you want to see. If that’s too difficult, you can also give in to your random thoughts and let the dream form naturally – but be careful to maintain awareness!
Be mindful of false awakenings, as they tend to happen very often with WILD. You’ll find yourself awake in bed on another seemingly failed attempt, only to wake up a second (or more!) time. Remind yourself to do reality checks when attempting WILD. An alternative is to try the WILD technique when taking an afternoon nap.
Whatever you do, go wild! (Yes, oneironauts have a great sense of humour...)
DILD: Dream Initiated Lucid Dreaming
DILD is easier than WILD and actually the most common source of lucid dreams. You could argue that dream initiated lucid dreaming is not a technique as it forms the building blocks for lucid dreaming.
Any time you become aware you're dreaming is DILD. Even people that don’t practice a particular technique can therefore experience DILDs. The more proficient you become in lucid dreaming, the more often these tend to happen!
There are various ways to help you increase your dream awareness. Here’s a few to get you started:
If you’ve been keeping a dream journal, chances are you’ll eventually uncover certain patterns in your dreams, whether it’s recurring people, places or situations. Once you recognize these, you can proceed to the next time point: reality checks.
Perform reality checks
Regularly ask yourself if you’re dreaming or awake, especially if you find yourself in situations also found in you dream journal. Find a way to determine if you’re dreaming, and don’t rely on pinching.
Things in your dream don’t always work as they should. People from different phases of your life will be in the same room together, geometry is warped and basic things like mirrors and light switches either don’t work or do something completely different than expected.
Everyone has dream signs and becoming aware of yours is a great way to reach lucidity from within a regular dream.
SSILD: Senses Induced Lucid Dreaming
Senses Induced Lucid Dreaming (SSILD) isn’t the most well-known lucid dreaming technique, but it’s one of our favourites. It’s surprisingly easy to do and generally requires less of your time than other techniques. A great starting point if you’re serious about becoming a lucid dreamer!
The SSILD technique works with a combination of other techniques such as WBTB (Wake Back To Bed), but also introduces the concept of ‘cycles’ as a core component. The SSILD cycle is a series of sensory stimulation in three simple steps: sight, sound and touch.
Close your eyes and pay attention to the darkness behind your closed eyelids. Don't strain your eye muscles. Your eyeballs should be resting, totally relaxed. If you don't see anything that's only normal. Do not attempt to spot visuals by moving your eyes around.
Shift your attention to your ears. If the room is quiet enough you might be able to hear some noise inside your head or the sound of your own heartbeat. However, if you can't hear anything it’s okay to listen to external sounds too.
Direct your attention to your body. See if you spot any unusual sensations such as tingling, heaviness, lightness, spinning sensations, and so on. If there's nothing spectacular going on, turn to the weight of the blancket on your body, your own heartbeat or the temperature of the air,
The repeated stimulation of the senses enables SSILD to condition the mind and body into a subtle state that is optimized for lucid dreaming to occur naturally. We should keep this in mind so we don't make the common mistake of ‘trying too hard’ during the cycles. Beginners can feel obliged to see, hear and feel sensations, but don’t worry if you don’t. There's no need to force it as It's not about feeling anything, but about prepping your mind for optimal awareness.
How does SSILD work?
Set your alarm to wake up after four or five hours of sleep. Get up and out of bed when the alarm goes off. Keep it short if you have trouble falling asleep and make sure you're awake if you fall asleep quickly.
Go to the bathroom or do some lucid dreaming-related reading. The trick is to not immediately fall asleep but not be fully awake either, so some experimentation is required.
Now, go back to bed and perform the cycle 4 - 6 times quickly as a warm-up. Remember that it’s not about seeing, hearing or feeling anything in particular. There's no need to demand something from the senses that isn't there, just relax.
Now perform the cycles slowly and repeat them 3-4 times. Each step should take at least 30 seconds.
Yyou may become distracted by random thoughts during these slow cycles. This is a good indication that you are close to falling asleep and there's no ned to surpress them. Imagine they are gentle waves and let them carry you and wash you away from the shore of reality. You will occasionally become alert and realize you have lost track of your exercise. Don’t worry, just start again from the beginning of a cycle.
Return to a comfortable position after the slow cycles and allow yourself to fall asleep. And that’s all there is to it! You don’t immediately find yourself lucid dreaming but are much more likely to experience a Dream Initiated Lucid Dream. The cycles help bring you in the right state of mind for lucid dreaming. It's a technique known to cause false awakenings. Remind yourself to perfom a reality check upon each awakening after doing SSILD, no matter how convinced you are you are awake.
It might seem difficult at first but during the slow cycles you’re likely to experience hypnagogic sensations. Weird imagery, strange sounds or the feeling you're falling are all part of this. Try not to get too excited, that will only wake you up! Be a passive observer to whatever it is that occures. Eventually a dream will form and that's the time for a reality check, just before you dive into lucidity.
Read more about the SSILD technique on Cosmic Iron's blog.
Maintaining lucidity: dream stabilization
As you're gettingfamiliar with the exciting possibilities of lucid dreaming you might have managed to have at least a little influence over your dreams. You’re now ready to go on epic nightly adventures. It's time for the next hurdle: as challenging as it can be to wrestle for control over a dream, it’s just as hard to stay aware and lucid.
You may confuse characters in your dream with their real-life counterparts and get too caught up to stay lucid, thereby losing control and slipping back into a regular dream. Or the initial excitement of being in a lucid dream is enough to wake you up. Many have been there before you. Dreams are fickle beasts and can become unstable and fall apart on a moment's notice.
So, what can you do to remain 'in the moment'? How do you hang onto the whispers of a dream just a little longer?
Employ all your senses
When a dream begins to fade naturally, it won’t fade all at once. Like a broken TV, the picture may become blurry or the sound distorted, until eventually the dream ends altogether.
Try to anchor yourself in the dream world by experiencing the dream with all your senses. Don’t be afraid to lick the sidewalk, for example. Sounds crazy, yes, but nobody has ever been arrested for being a weirdo in their dream. You want to immerse yourself in the dream as much as possible. Talk, listen, sniff, touch and go all the way with it. Squeeze the dream for every ounce of sensation it can give you. Think of it as orange juice, if that helps.
Spin, spin, spin
This is one of the best examples of grounding your body in the dream world and worthy of separate note. Next time you’re having a lucid dream and you notice the dream fading - take a spin!
A variation on this is falling backwards. The downside to this is the tendency of it leading to a different dream scene or even a false awakening.
Use your totem
If you’re really enthusiastic you can forget that it’s all a dream. Going with the flow is not a problem, but you’ll want to hang on to a bit of awareness.
Look at or touch your totem to extend your lucidity.
Repeat a mantra from within your dream
Repeating ‘I am dreaming’ every once in a while is a good way to keep reminding yourself of your predicament. You may not want to say this out loud to dream characters as they tend to respond negatively to the notion that they’re just a part of a dream.
Instead, your mantra could be your dream goal for the night, for example: ‘I’m going to fly’. While this is a moderately weird thing to say to total strangers, dream characters will be quite accepting of your goals.
Take a dream pill
This is a strange one but it’s ‘One Amazingly Simple and Effective Trick To Extend Your Dreams’. (sorry, we’re dreaming of a number #1 spot in Google here). Reach in your pockets or look in the palm of your hand for a pill. Even with basic dream control, surely you can conjure up something as small as a pill? Of course! Trust us, it will be there when you reach for it.
Now, this isn’t a normal pill. It’s a hyperdream pill, making you twice as lucid. Let it kick in like your favourite drug kicks in.
But how? Well, it’s something of a placebo, obviously. It does whatever you want it to, as long as you believe it will. You may not have enough mastery in the various techniques yet to extend your dream on your own, but a tool that helps you do so makes perfect sense. After all, if you’re sick in real life a medicinal pill can make you feel better, right? The same logic applies here.
There are tons of variations imaginable. Maybe you don’t like pills, but are prefer a cup of coffee. Bam, dream coffee! Are you a smoker? How about a dream joint!?
You alone have to power to make your dreams come (and stay) true.
Lucid dream herbs
Sometimes you need a bit of extra help experiencing lucid dreams. The Azarius smartshop has just what you need with a large selection of dream herbs, including Entada rheedii, Silene capensis and Calea zacatechichi.
Please note that these herbs do not guarantee you’ll have a lucid dream and don’t trust any product that does. Like the techniques mentioned in this article, herbs and supplements should be seen as a tool to assist you.
We suggest trying one (or more) techniques at the same time as well as using the herbs several nights in a row. Don’t be discouraged if at first you don’t succeed; keep trying!
Frequently Asked Questions
Since mankind was so late with proving lucid dreaming is a real, reproducible state of being, it’s not surprising that there are a lot of horrible/hilarious misconceptions flying around. We discuss a few of them here.
Can I learn how to lucid dream? I don’t even recall my regular dreams!
Some people are better able to remember their dreams and can more naturally adopt certain techniques with a significantly higher success rate. But rest assured everyone can control their dreams! In fact, one of the early techniques is auto-suggestion; convincing yourself you’re going to have a lucid dream. Believe in yourself!
If remembering dream is what you're struggling with find ways to improve dream recall. This article gives a few basic pointers but there are more in-depth guides to be found. If the problem is attaining a lucid dream, don’t give up and keep experimenting with different techniques. It’s not easy, but that’s what makes the end result that much more rewarding.
If you’re into meditation, you already have a step-up on the average oneironaut, as many dreaming techniques borrow from the art of meditating.
Is lucid dreaming dangerous?
No, lucid dreaming isn’t any more dangerous than regular dreaming. You may not always like what you find in your dreams, but you can’t be harmed by it. Dying in a dream simply means you wake up, unscathed.
Regular dreams can take a turn for the worse and become nightmares. Being able to control your dreams is actually one of the best ways to combat a streak of nightmares - instead of running from a monster you can fight it or, even better, reason with it. You can resolve a nightmare scenario peacefully by taking control of the dream.
So no, lucid dreaming is not dangerous. In fact, it can help you find peace of mind, stimulate your creativity and even help you explore your inner self. Unsuccessful attempts may cause you to lose some sleep though (see the Q & A below). This isn’t dangerous, just annoying.
Lastly, what happens in a lucid dream stays in a lucid dream. Nobody knows of the unspeakable things you get up to at night.
What about sleep paralysis? Does lucid dreaming cause it?
Sleep paralysis is waking up and finding most of your body still asleep. Most of our muscles are switched off when we're asleep, that's why you can karate kick someone in your dreams without hurting you bed partner of letting your bed sheets fly around.
It’s possible to find yourself mentally awake yet unable to control your body. As if this thought isn’t frightening enough, sleep paralysis is usually accompanied by hallucinations, such as an overwhelming feeling of being watched or attacked. Your eyes are open but you can’t lift your arms to defend yourself or move your mouth to call for help.
Sleep paralysis is certainly a very scary thing, but being aware of it is half the battle. It’s not a by-product of a pursuit in lucid dreaming, it’s a sleeping disorder. Mental stress and lack of sleep are major contributing factors. While it’s possible to experience during your efforts to generate a lucid dream, it’s not a simple cause and effect relationship. As long as you maintain a healthy sleep schedule, you may never experience it!
Should you ever find yourself paralyzed upon waking up, the best advice is to remain calm. Your body will wake up momentarily. You’re not being attacked. You’re just half-awake in the safety of your own bedroom and it will quickly be over.
Will lucid dreaming lead to loss of sleep?
Yes and no.
Lucid dreaming itself is just as restful as a regular dreaming. Being aware of your dream and flying around the city doesn’t mean you wake up feeling tired, fortunately. But your dreams can certainly affect your waking life, both positively and negatively. If you’ve ever struggled with terrible nightmares, you’ll know that bad dreams are not a great way of starting the day.
A number of dream techniques are based on the concept of waking up at night, accompanied by performing mental exercises. This may certainly cause you to lose some sleep. If you find yourself losing sleep while pursuing mastery of your dreams we recommend to work on lucid dreaming when you’re able to, such as during the weekends, holidays or day’s off.
Remember that the seasons influence our sleeping pattern as well. It may be harder to get out of bed during the dark, cold winter days, making it harder for some to focus on their dreams. In general: take care of your body and make sure you’re getting a good night's rest.
Once you’ve learned how to have a lucid dream, you don’t have to worry about losing sleep. Instead, worry about what awesome feats you’d like to undertake in your dream world.
Is it addictive?
Definitely, but not in a harmful way. Don’t see it as an escape from a mundane reality. It’s rather a nice addition to it, like a healthy outlet for fantasy and creativity. Lucid dreaming can have many positive influences on your life, but if you find yourself only truly alive in your dreams it’s probably best to focus on improving your waking life.
What if I never wake up from my dreams?
This is not Inception. You’ll wake up eventually. One of the biggest concerns for newbie oneironauts is the reverse; waking up almost immediately after becoming lucid. We can safely say that dreaming too much is not something you need to lose any sleep over. (Yes, that was another dreamer joke. Sorry.)
Am I dreaming now?
Excellent question. The answer is: possibly! Look for dream signs. Try to do something improbable, such as rearranging this text with the power of your.
Never jump to conclusions; you dream a lot more than you’re aware of!
Robert Waggoner. Exploring your inner self. (2008)
Kelly Bulkeley Visions of the night: dreams, religion, and psychology (1999)
Norman Malcolm. Dreaming (1959)
Stephen Laberge. Exploring the world of lucid dreaming (1997)
Lynne Levitan. A thousand and one nights of exploring lucid dreaming. (1992)