What if you could control your dreams? You could finally run away at a normal speed or catch yourself from falling. You could prevent that embarrassing event that you dream about over and over. Lucid dreaming can help.
You could even create your own dreams, control the narrative and head off on adventures you didn’t realize your imagination could stretch to! This is the appeal of lucid dreaming. It’s the chance to control your worst fears and create your deepest desires… and then wake up in the morning feeling completely rested!
In this guide, we’re going to take you through what exactly lucid dreams are, how to get to that state, and how to control your dream destiny.
What are Lucid Dreams?
Put simply, lucid dreams are when you’re aware that your dreaming! Most dreams have us caught up in the story, with our self-awareness completely shut down. You’ll usually have between 3 and 5 dreams per night, but they won’t be lucid and you’ll rarely be able to remember them when you wake up.
Lucid dreams are different – your brain regains self-awareness and you know you’re in your dream. You might even be able to shape the dream, control what happens… or at least control your own actions. These dreams occur during the REM sleep cycle, where your brain isn’t quite asleep but isn’t awake either.
It’s a similar idea to the movie Inception, except you can’t really control the dreams of others, just your own.
Although you can learn how to lucid dream (we’ll get to that a bit further down) most experiences are completely natural. Sometimes external stimuli (e.g. noise in your bedroom during the night) can trigger a lucid dream. It’s a phenomenon that’s been recorded throughout history.
Lucid dreaming can be a great tool for controlling and changing nightmares, especially the recurring ones brought on by PTSD or other mental health problem. If you dream about a phobia, it can help with that too. A kind of sleep therapy!
How to Lucid Dream
There are four main ways to help you lucid dream, or if you have already mastered how to lucid dream, these steps will help you lucid dream a little better. Be warned, while most people enjoy the sensation of lucid dreaming there are a few who may find it uncomfortable at first. It is important to take your dream journey at your own pace.
Create A Clear Sleeping Environment
Dreaming is a natural process that occurs when we sleep. Many people don’t remember their dreams because they haven’t spent enough time at the dream stage to cognitively take in their dreams. Distractions can easily disturb sleep and it is really important to create an environment where peaceful undisturbed sleep is possible.
This means closing windows and shutting out the world around you. Sleeping in a comfortable bed and ensuring that your room is tidy. Once you’re in a quiet, tidy environment your mind will be able to relax and drift off into a deep, healthy natural sleep.
Use a Mantra or the MILD Technique
Repeating a simple phrase like “tonight I will have wonderful dreams”, as you fall asleep is a great way of focusing the mind towards inducing a lucid dream state. Repeating the mantra over and over again in your head as you drift off to sleep has the best results.
This is known as the MILD (Mnemonic Induction to Lucid Dreaming) technique and is a semi-meditative way of inducing a dream-filled sleep.
Hit that Snooze Button
Have you ever put off waking up because you’re having a good dream? Or have you ever thought you had woken up but were in fact still dreaming? That is because the process of waking up is often accompanied by the dream phase. Likewise, falling asleep you will often have dream-like thoughts as you catch yourself falling asleep.
A good way of prolonging lucid dreams as well as remembering them is to set an alarm and hitting the snooze button. You will be amazed at how deceptive time passing is when sleeping. That extra ten minutes can feel like hours.
These are the four safest ways to induce lucid dreams. They also help you get a restful night’s sleep. Some medications have side effects such as lucid dreaming while others can hinder your chances of lucid dreaming. As well as medications, some foods are better for lucid dreaming than others.
Foods that are Great for Lucid Dreaming
The foods that are good for lucid dreaming also tend to be the foods that are good for helping you sleep. There are also foods that aren’t good at all for lucid dreaming. Below we have a mini guide of great foods to help you lucid dream as well as three to avoid!
Good Foods for Lucid Dreaming
Warm drinks such as hot chocolate will help you settle and relax, aiding both sleep and dreaming. Foods that sit a little bit heavier than others such as complex carbohydrates (pasta/bread) and meat products also help you sleep, this is because the digestive system needs to process the food and the body does this best while asleep. Foods that have high vitamin content and promote health are also good for both sleep and dreaming as they help protect the brain and improve its function.
Bad Foods for Lucid Dreaming
Drinking anything with caffeine in will be harmful to your lucid dream experience because it will either prevent you being able to achieve a restful sleep or if you manage to get to sleep it will stimulate your mind which can result in vivid nightmares. Any foods that are high energy foods are also not very good for sleeping, things like sugar, cakes, and candy. These high energy foods make the body more alert and prevent a relaxing sleep.
How to Control Your Dreams
Controlling your dreams is not the definition of lucid dreams. You merely have to be aware that you’re dreaming for it to be a lucid dream. For some people, that realization is enough to shock the brain into shattering the dream and waking up completely.
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to have awareness whilst dreaming and enjoy that sensation then lucid dreaming could open up a world of possibilities, allowing you to manipulate what you’re doing in your dream or what is happening around you.
Controlling your dreams is a tricky process and some people aren’t able to master it. Others can do it without thinking and find it simple. There are little tips that you can do to try and begin manipulating your dreams.
Look at Your Hands
A common stepping-stone to controlling larger aspects of your dream is to look at your hands whilst in your dream. This is not an easy thing to achieve, you will need to maintain your dream state, focus the mind on creating a dream action and not wake up whilst performing the technique.
Looking at your hands in a dream is a great gateway to changing and altering other things. The action of looking at your hands is a fairly simple gesture in reality, making it transferable and a simpler gesture in your dream life compared to other manipulations.
Many websites advocate the touch your nose technique, but as we often dream in first person and we can’t visualize our nose in the first person very well, this can be a challenging first step. It can also confuse the mind and jar it awake when you want to be asleep and dreaming.
Choose What You Dream About
Once you have discovered that you can indeed control your dreams you can begin to have fun and start changing things that you do or things that happen. Your actions and reactions can be changed and rewinding and fast-forwarding time are also possible. This is a great technique to change outcomes of repetitive nightmares and can help prevent them altogether by retaking control of them.
If you can imagine it, you can conjure it in your lucid dream world. Lucid dreamers that can manipulate their dreams often report higher overall dream satisfaction than those whose dreams just happen to them without being able to alter anything.
How to Wake Up from a Lucid Dream
Waking up from a lucid dream can be tricky, especially if you have discovered that you can manipulate your dreams. Many practitioners experience what is known as fake awakening where they believe they have woken up but have actually woken into another dream world. This can be a disconcerting sensation and you will soon learn how to focus your mind that little bit harder to wake up.
Waking up from a lucid dream requires willpower and often it is best to repeat a mantra that you wish to end the dream and wake up.
10 Tips for Lucid Dreamers
There are many things you can try and experiment with. Some will help you lucid dream with more clarity while others you may wish to try to enhance your control while dreaming. Remember there is no right or wrong way to sleep or dream, some nights you won’t lucid dream or be able to recall the dreams. Other nights you will. The key is to relax and enjoy the journey and these tips below may help you further.
1 – Record Your Dreams
Start keeping a dream journal by writing down everything you can remember about your dreams as soon as you wake up. The more you do this, the easier it will be for you to remember dreams you’ve had in general. It’s a good first step to dream awareness! Those who find it easy to remember their dreams in the morning generally find it easier to slip into a lucid dream too.
2 – Meditate Daily
Being very aware of your surroundings, how your mind connects to your body, and how you interact with the world around you will hone your lucid dreaming skills. Learn to become more aware of your surroundings and you’ll be more likely to “realize” you’re lucid dreaming. Meditate before bed or during the day – there are plenty of great meditation videos on YouTube to get you accustomed to the feeling before you go solo. Focus on yourself and your surroundings rather than the voice in the video!
3 – Look for Patterns
What signs are there that you are dreaming? Go through your dream journal and look for significant or repeating events that signify a particular dream that you want to control. Knowing the signs will help your brain realize it’s dreaming quickly. This is particularly useful if you only want to lucid dream on a particular repeating dream (a nightmare, for example) but dream normally for the rest. Dreams without the sign you’re looking for can continue as normal.
4 – Get a Good Night’s Rest!
You can’t achieve repeated lucid dream experiences and expect to stay up late playing video games. If you’re serious about lucid dreaming, you need to get your sleep habits in check. First, work out how much sleep your body needs naturally by resetting your body clock. Go to sleep without setting an alarm for a week and note down when you naturally wake up (not awoken by stimulants like noisy neighbors). Then you can calculate how many hours you really need.
5 – Create a Bedtime Ritual
Besides meditation, you should create a full ritual that you go through every night before bed. Before long, this ritual signals to your mind and body that it’s time to sleep. This will help you fall asleep quicker and deeper. For example, you might take a bath, make sure all your devices are plugged in to charge and on silent, then sip a herbal tea before meditating and slipping into bed.
6 – Play More Video Games
The next time you’re tempted to sit back for some Netflix and chill, load up your PS4 or Xbox One instead. Frequent gaming encourages you to make decisions, take control and also be aware of your surroundings, just like in lucid dreams. You don’t need to become a game addict, just a few hours every now and then of Assassin’s Creed, Life is Strange, or any game you fancy can get you in the right mind frame.
7 – Read as Much as You Can About Lucid Dreaming
Honestly, we could spend weeks just sifting through the many stories, tips, and experiences people have in their lucid dreams. We’ve given you some basic methods to try, but every brain is different. There might be a particular trigger or circumstance that you need to lucid dream, so don’t hesitate to ask on forums and read other people’s experiences. That could be the key to unlocking lucid dreaming for yourself!
8 – Be Prepared to Deal with Emotions
You might not grasp the ability to control your dreams or even dictate what you dream about as a beginner… or ever. So, if you are stuck in a nightmare and are completely aware that it’s a dream but feel unable to narrate it, be prepared to deal with your emotions! A traumatic experience that was on your mind during the day, like losing a loved one for example, could pop back up again as you sleep.
9 – Don’t Try Too Hard
Follow the methods and the tips, but don’t strain yourself or try too hard. You can’t force yourself to fall asleep (without some form of drug, of course) so how do you expect to force yourself to lucid dream? The methods are all about creating the right circumstances so that lucid dream could happen. That doesn’t mean it definitely will. If it doesn’t work one night, don’t get upset. Just try again another night.
10 – When it Finally Happens, Don’t Get Over-Excited!
If there’s a sure-fire way to wake yourself up, it’s by getting over-excited. So, just like you should prepare yourself for seeing dreams that you’d rather not see, you should focus on staying calm. When you finally are in your lucid dream, keep your cool. Don’t jump up and down with joy or let strong feelings of surprise and excitement wash over you. Just be in the moment and enjoy the dream!
We wish you the best of luck with your lucid dreaming. Don’t panic if you can’t do it straight away. Just stick it out for a few more nights, practicing your technique and meditating during the day. If that doesn’t work, try switching to a different method or changing your wake-up times.
You might be a natural or it might take some time. Either way, enjoy your dreams and don’t forget to bookmark this page so you can share it with your friends or refer back to it if you’re struggling.
And finally, one last thing to mention. Lucid dreaming isn’t dangerous in the sense that you can get stuck (lucid dreams last just as long as regular dreams, and you will wake up). But if you have trouble discerning reality from fantasy or some serious mental health problems that you want to avoid, put off lucid dreaming until you can speak to your doctor or a psychologist!