I never had a lucid dream, but I would like to begin. Every night my eyes tire and my passive consciousness arrives in this ethereal realm without an ounce of free will. I saw Creation in a theater there is always and remain fascinated by the concept of dream control, despite its personal elusiveness.
What exactly is lucid dreaming? The experience is a metacognitive state in which you become aware of your existence inside a dream and sometimes take the reins of Morpheus to control certain aspects of what is happening.
Raphael Pelayo, a physician and professor of sleep medicine at Stanford University, says that as a teenager, an unforgettable lucid dream sparked his initial fascination with sleep. “It’s the kind of experience where, if it’s ever happened to you, you know it’s true,” Pelayo says. “If this has never happened to you, you are very skeptical that it could actually happen.” Several experts we interviewed described this state of lucidity as something many people can achieve with continued practice.
Whether you’re trying to have your first lucid dream or trying to increase their frequency, remember these tips the next time you show up naked to your high school reunion and desperately need something to cover up. . (Hypothetically. It’s not like this has ever happened to me!)
Build your dream booster base
Before you control your dreams, you need to remember them. “You can see it building up a repertoire of mutually reinforcing skills,” says Benjamin Baird, a research professor at the University of Texas at Austin who focuses on human cognition. “At the base of this is the formation of your dream recall.” The first step to dream recall is quite simple: have the desire for it to happen.
When you’re all snuggled up under the covers just before you go to sleep, focus your intentions on remembering all the dreams that come your way during the night. When you wake up in the morning, instead of reaching for your smartphone to check notifications, grab a pen and pad of paper to capture the residual fumes of information still swirling around in your head from the la-la land. “Have a routine of waking up and writing down whatever comes to mind,” says Rebecca Robin, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a sleep scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. You don’t have to buy a fancy dream journal or write anything in particular, just stick to it. With repetition, you may begin to remember more of your dreams.
Discover trends to increase awareness
After starting a free-form dream journal, the next step is to look for particular patterns or general themes in your dreams. Do you fight giant squids in Times Square several times a month? Running across the Pacific Ocean while an enraged Tom Brady chases you? Or maybe you spot a bunch of blue balloons, or blue iguanas, or inland waterfalls. “When you recognize these common themes, then it gives you a specific target for your memory,” says Baird. Once you know that an incredible number of blue balloons appear in your dreams, the next time you see a blue balloon, take a second to determine if you are in a dream. Can you pop it?
Recognize the signs of Dream Logic
Stairs that lead nowhere. A sinkhole in the living room floor. Lava flowing from your lover’s mouth. Although it can be difficult to notice in the heat of the moment, dreams rarely follow the logic of reality. “We don’t question the reality of these things, because the logical part of our brain is less active at this point,” says Pelayo. In addition to spotting dream patterns, use the reality-distorting nature of experience to your advantage. Try to openly acknowledge the experience as unreal whenever a dream begins to transgress reality.
Get up early and go back to bed
Still struggling to achieve lucidity in your dreams? Baird recommends waking up an hour early in the morning, staying awake for 30 minutes, then going back to sleep immediately. In the brief window you are awake, spend this time writing in the dream journal and focusing on what you want to accomplish. “After you go back to sleep, you’re much more likely to lucid dream,” he says. “We don’t fully understand the reasons for this, but we know it’s effective.” While it’s not ideal to change your sleep schedule often in this way, the trick of waking up and getting back to bed can help you have a decisive moment if other strategies aren’t working.
Read a historical book on the subject
For a more in-depth look at techniques for inducing lucid dreams, check out Explore the world of lucid dreaming by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold. While seminal work published decades ago may seem a bit dated, LaBerge was one of the first scholars to fully explore lucid dreaming as a trainable skill, and he laid the foundation for much of contemporary research on the subject.