Lucid Dream: What is it and How to Get It? Update 02/2023

Imagine being in the middle of a dream and suddenly realizing that you were in fact dreaming, right in the middle of it. When this happens, it’s known as “lucid dreaming,” and it happens to the majority of individuals on an irregular basis and seemingly out of the blue. However, if you’re interested in having more lucid dreams, there are a few things you can do to make that happen. Find out what sleep and dream specialists recommend for getting started with lucid dreaming.

What are lucid dreams, and why would I want one?

A person has lucid dreaming if they become aware (or “lucid”) while in a dream. When they are aware of this, they can feel like they are in control of their own destiny.
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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.

A “hybrid state of consciousness with distinct and measureable variations from waking and from REM sleep,” the sleep period in which we dream, has been recognized since then.

It’s easy to see how lucid dreaming might be a lot of fun, says author of Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, and that’s exactly what it is.

In an interview with mbg, Robert Waggoner reveals his thoughts. It doesn’t end there, though. He goes on to say that lucid dreaming gives humans access to the seemingly limitless resources of the dream realm and awareness itself.

Lucid dreams can provide an opportunity to access creativity, practice certain abilities and work on emotional issues as well as many other things, according to him. “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.

According to her, “you may adjust the material in a way that feels more empowered right from within the dream itself.” This has been proved to help alleviate nightmares as well. This shift in perspective can eventually lead to “increased flexibility and adaptability to life’s obstacles.”

Also, keep in mind, says Ellis, that achieving lucid dreaming on demand usually necessitates time and effort on your part. As she points out, “Even the people who routinely have lucid dreams cannot always do it at will.”

How Do Lucid Dreams Work?

A lot is still unclear about lucid dreaming, despite the fact that it’s been studied extensively. Developing lucid dreams may be associated with increased activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain2, according to some studies. When people have non-lucid dreams, they are aware of the objects and events within the dream state, but they are unable to tell whether they are asleep or awake. Low cerebral activity is one possible explanation for this.

Sleepers are aware that they’re dreaming and, in certain situations, have the ability to control their surroundings in lucid dreams. These features may be associated with increased brain activity, according to some research. For sleepers who have been studied in lucid dream studies, prefrontal brain activity levels are equivalent to levels when they are awake. As a result, a “hybrid sleep-wake state” could be used to describe lucid dreaming.

While studies have indicated that lucid dreams can occur at any stage of the sleep cycle, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep appears to be the most common time for them to occur. In a normal sleep cycle, REM sleep is the fourth and final stage; the first three stages are non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM sleep). Researchers currently believe that lucid dreams are the result of non-lucid dreams occurring during the REM stage of sleep. As such, clarity in dreams is an attribute that can be induced in several ways.

How Are Lucid Dreams Studied?

Rare and impossible to predict are “spontaneous lucid dreams.” Researchers often use a variety of techniques to produce lucid dreams4 in order to better understand these occurrences. The following are some of the most prevalent methods:

  • In reality testing, participants are required to carry out a series of tests all day long to determine whether they are sleeping or awake. How do you know you’re awake when you can answer this question? Because self-awareness is not possible in non-lucid dreams, the ability to do so demonstrates that you’re actually 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.
  • To induce lucid dreams (MILD), a person trains themselves to distinguish between their dreams and the real world. “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. The MILD approach will be used to wake up participants who have been asleep for five hours or more to generate lucid dreams.
  • This approach, which involves waking up in the middle of the night and returning to sleep after a set amount of time has passed, can help some people achieve lucid dreams. 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. Because the sleeper will assimilate this input into their dreams, lucidity will be triggered in the process, according to this method.

Additionally, several studies have used medicines and supplements to induce lucid dreams.

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

The following suggestions will help you learn more about lucid dreaming:

Get more REM sleep

More time spent in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is when lucid dreaming is most common, will enhance your chances of having a lucid dream.
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It is possible to extend REM sleep if you obtain a sufficient amount of sleep. It’s possible for your body to go through all four stages of sleep in a normal cycle when you practice good sleep hygiene.

How to get a good night’s rest:

  • Keep a regular bedtime and wake-up time.
  • 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 remember any of your dreams.

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Keep a dream journal

Lucid dreaming is frequently aided by keeping a dream journal or diary.

You must remember your dreams in order to write them down. The idea is that this would help you become more conscious of your dreams.

Set aside some time each night to write down the things you dream about. Immediately after waking, jot down your dreams in a notebook or journal. To keep your brain in sync with your dreams, read your journal frequently.

Practice reality testing

When you’re awake and dreaming, your level of consciousness is very similar. As a result, you can boost your dreaming awareness by increasing your consciousness in the waking state.

A common approach is to conduct a reality test. It teaches you to identify your own awareness while you are awoke.

Throughout the day, reality checks are conducted. You’ll be able to get yourself out of the dream state as soon as reality testing becomes a habit.

The following are examples of widely used reality checks:

  • It’s as simple as that. Push your fingers into the palm of the hand on the other side. You’re imagining things if you think they’ll make it.
  • Mirrors. You won’t be able to see yourself clearly in a dream.
  • Pinch the bridge of your nose. Your nose should be pounded. The ability to exhale will be present if you’re dreaming.
  • Reading. Focus on something else for a moment before returning to the text. The wording will be altered if you’re having a hallucinatory experience.
  • Tattoos. Look at your tattoos if you have any. In a dream, they’ll appear to be quite different from how they appear in reality.

Do a reality check at least once a day, preferably several times. 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.

These are some of the methods:

  • Return to sleep (WBTB). Take a five-hour snooze before getting out of bed in the morning. You’ll have a better chance of entering REM sleep while you’re still awake if you go back to sleep.
  • Lucid dream induction with mnemonic devices (MILD). Declare to yourself that you will have a lucid dream this night. Do it before you go to sleep or while you’re awake during WBTB to get the most out of the experience.
  • This is a lucid dream that was started by waking up (WILD). In WILD, you can go into REM sleep while retaining your awareness. A hypnagogic hallucination is achieved by lying down until you have one.

Use these methods, together with reality testing and dream journaling, to boost your odds of having a lucid dream.

9 tips & techniques for lucid dreaming.

If you want to increase your chances of having lucid dreams, there are a few things you may do. mbg is a huge supporter of sleep, so we’re focusing on the methods that allow you to sleep through the evening instead of waking up in the middle of the night.

1. Frequently test reality.

When you’re awake, Ellis recommends asking yourself if you’re dreaming, or even trying to poke a finger through your own hand or fly.

Although you’ll soon discover that this is awake reality and that you cannot lift off at will, the practice of questioning your own state of consciousness will prepare you for doing so in a dream.

2. Get more sleep to make dreams more likely.

Of course, achieving lucid dreaming necessitates entering a state of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. You can start by focusing on your sleep hygiene and making sure you’re receiving a sufficient quantity of shut-eye each night.

Avoid consuming alcohol or other substances that may interfere with your ability to have a good night’s sleep, as well as keeping a regular sleep routine.

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.

  • Tonight, in my dreams, I will recognize that I’m dreaming and become aware of it.
  • 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 notice something strange, I am aware that I am dreaming.

“It may also help to visualize yourself cheerfully writing down your lucid dream in the morning,” Waggoner says.

4. Keep a dream journal.

According to Ellis, “those with strong dream recollection often find it easier to become lucid in their dreams.”” One technique to improve your dream recall is to keep a journal in which you write down everything you remember from your dreams when you wake up.

5. Recognize recurring themes or characters in your dreams.

Is there a character or topic from your dreams that you see again 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 shows up frequently, I will become conscious that I’m dreaming,” says the author.

6. Take naps.

As Ellis points out, naps are often lighter sleep than what we get at night, so they can help us stay awake. Keep your mind open and present to the dream world as you begin to fall asleep, urges the author.

7. Try a “Modified Castaneda” technique.

After reading Carlos Castaneda’s groundbreaking book, Journey to Ixtlan, Waggoner devised this technique. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Sit in your bed for a few minutes to calm your mind.
  2. “Tonight while I am dreaming, I will see my hands and recognize that I am dreaming,” reassure yourself in a compassionate tone.
  3. Look at your hands and repeat the affirmation “Tonight when I’m dreaming, my hands will show up and remind me I’m dreaming.”
  4. Continue to repeat gently, letting your eyes cross and unfocus.
  5. Quietly discontinue the practice after around five minutes or when you begin to feel drowsy.
  6. Recall your aim to see your hands and recognize that you are dreaming if and when you wake up in the middle of the night, gently. Do you recall the last time you saw your hands in a dream?
  7. Your hands may suddenly appear in front of you in a dream. This is a dream, you’ll realize right away if they do. Stay relaxed and take in the sights and sounds of your lucid dream world. Do not forget to jot down everything you saw and felt in your dream notebook when you awaken. Let your imagination run wild and write down everything that happened in your dream.

Prior to bedtime, Waggoner recommends doing this exercise every night. A “conditioned response,” as psychologists describe it, “is a straightforward stimulus-response associational relationship,” says the author. You can train your brain to associate your hands with a response like “This is a dream” by practicing it over and over again.

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8. Think about your previous dreams.

The MILD technique (Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams) is a memory technique for inducing lucid dreams. For example, a Stanford researcher found that it might help him obtain 18 to 26, with up to four each night, in comparison to the 13 per month he experienced using suggestion alone and less than one per month without approach.

Good dream recall is required for the MILD, but here’s how to get there:

  1. Get started with a recent or prior night’s dream that was vivid enough to stick in your mind.
  2. Think of a dream abnormality that you experienced.
  3. Re-enter the dream by visualizing or visualizing yourself seeing the anomaly, becoming aware of it, and then taking some sort of action or moving on to the next step in the dream while you’re awoken.
  4. During your visualization, say to yourself, “I want to remember that I’m dreaming the next time.”
  5. Until you nod off, keep repeating this visualisation and affirmation.

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.

Even though lucid dreaming can be a powerful and enjoyable experience, it does have some risks—especially if you have a mental health issue (psychosis, dissociation, and depression, in particular).

As Ellis points out, “it can lead to a further blurring of the line between what is real and what is imagined” for those who are suffering from diseases such as dissociative identity disorder (DIS) or other conditions that cause them to lose contact with reality.

He always reminds individuals, as Waggoner puts it, “It’s probably best to avoid lucid dreaming if you have trouble dealing with waking reality.

However, lucid dreaming appears to be safe as long as you can deal with the realities of daily life.”

According to Ellis, even healthy dreamers may undergo “a succession of ‘false awakenings,’ or enter a black hole, before they are able to orient properly to the here and now,” when trying to wake up from a lucid dream.

Because lucid dreams aren’t typical sleep states, some experts believe that too much clarity disrupts one’s 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

Occasionally, you may desire to awaken from a dream that has become lucid. A variety of methods are employed by lucid dreamers.

Try the following methods to wake from a lucid dream

  • Send out a distress call. Some believe that crying out loud in a dream is a wake-up call for the brain. It’s also possible that if you speak loud enough, you’ll startle yourself awake.
  • Blink. If you’re having trouble getting your brain to wake up, try blinking repeatedly.
  • In your sleep, drift off to sleep. The best way to wake up after a night of dreaming is to go to sleep in your sleep.
  • Read.Try to decipher a book or symbol in your dream. There is a possibility that areas of your brain that aren’t used during REM sleep could be activated as a result of this.

Are Lucid Dreams Good or Bad For You?

Self-induced lucid dreams have become increasingly common in recent years. Wish fulfillment, overcoming fear, and healing are among the most prevalent reasons to induce lucid dreams. 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. This may have long-term consequences for one’s mental health if one purposely blurs the lines between dreaming and reality, according to some academics. Some populations, such as those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, have found that lucid dream therapy is unhelpful.

Another issue with lucid dreams is that they can be disturbing to sleep, according to some experts. 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. Restructuring the sleep-wake cycle through frequent lucid dreams6 may alter the sleeper’s ability to regulate emotions and memories as well as other daily activities that are associated to sleep health. Lucid dreams are also more common in patients with narcolepsy7, a sleep disease marked by excessive daily sleepiness and uncontrollable sleep attacks.

The field of lucid dream research is still in its infancy. In order to discover why some people have more frequent and more powerful lucid dreams, more investigation is required.

Cautions

In most cases, induction procedures are to blame for any lucid dreaming dangers.

A few examples of negative features include:

  • Sleep apnea or insomnia. 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. There is a link between sleep difficulties and derealization, the impression that people and things aren’t real.
  • Depression. Depressive symptoms may be exacerbated by the sleep disturbances of induction procedures.
  • Paralysis brought on by sleep deprivation. Sleep paralysis can bring on brief yet disturbing episodes of lucid dreaming. In addition, sleep deprivation raises the possibility of developing sleep paralysis.

When to see a doctor

If you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • frequent nightmares
  • nightmares that regularly disrupt sleep
  • fear of sleeping
  • traumatic flashbacks
  • emotional changes
  • memory problems
  • trouble sleeping

There are several possible causes for these symptoms, including post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health issues, and sleep disorders. Your therapist can help you decide if lucid dreaming therapy is correct for your situation.

The bottom line.

One can’t deny that lucid dreaming is an intriguing and eye-opening experience for many people. As long as you’re at peace with your life, you can give the practice a go provided you’ve set the correct intentions. Happy lucid dreaming!

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