How to induce lucid dreaming?

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question ‘’How to induce lucid dreaming?’’ we will explain how lucid dreaming works, and how to achieve daydreaming.

How to induce lucid dreaming?

To induce lucid dreaming you can follow these techniques:

  • Reality check
  • Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams
  • Use a sensory stimulus
  • Start a dream diary
  • Encourage waking times between dreams

Remembering what you have dreamed may already be quite an achievement, but there are those who not only remember it but are able to interact at will while dreaming.

These are lucid dreams, those in which the person manages to be conscious during a dream. In other words, the person is able to realize that he or she is dreaming. Sometimes, the mastery can be such that you can even control what happens in the dream. Something like what Leonardo DiCaprio and his team did in the movie Inception (2010), but with less grandeur.

You may think it’s a crazy idea, but the truth is that it is more common than it may seem at first glance. It is estimated that 55% of people have a lucid dream during their lifetime. In fact, 23% experience a lucid dream at least once a month.

Psychophysiologist Stephen LaBerge is one of the leading specialists in the field of lucid dreaming. With a PhD from Stanford University, he has been conducting research in this field for more than 20 years.

His studies serve both to learn more about how lucid dreams are created and controlled and to identify possible therapeutic benefits of lucid dreaming. These include treating post-traumatic stress disorder, recurrent nightmares and anxiety.

How do lucid dreams work?

During dreams that are not lucid, the sleeper may be aware of objects and what is happening within the dream state; but he does not distinguish between being asleep and being awake. He is not aware that he is dreaming.  In contrast, lucid dreams do have that degree of awareness that, in some cases, even allows control over the environment.

Two key changes in the brain appear to be responsible for these lucid states.

As explained by the American Dream Foundation, researchers point out that the brain’s prefrontal cortex (which controls advanced cognitive abilities and is inhibited during sleep) shows higher activity during lucid dreaming, comparable to levels when awake.

On the other hand, as highlighted in an article in Quartz, the studies also detected that during these states gamma waves -a pattern of neuronal activity- increase at a frequency similar to that “involved when conscious”.

Lucid dreams tend to occur during rapid eye movement sleep, or REM sleep. This occurs 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep. During the earlier stages the body relaxes and heart rate, breathing and brain activity decrease.

Are lucid dreams recommended?

Undoubtedly, being able to control what you dream has a great impact on entertainment and creativity. Some studies point out that lucid dreams can help overcome recurring nightmares, fears or anxiety.

However, the Sleep Foundation and Healthline also warn of possible negative effects.

Thus, intentionally creating dreams blurs the line between dream and reality; this could have negative implications for long-term mental health.

In addition, lucid dreams are linked to higher levels of brain activity. Also, it raises the possibility that this may decrease the quality of sleep and what this means for health.

Tips on how to control your dreams

In fact, lucid dreaming can be complex. It takes practice and nothing ensures that you will succeed.

If you want to give it a try, here are some of the most successful techniques to help you control your dreams.

Before putting them into practice, make sure that your bedroom is conducive to rest. Since these dreams occur during REM sleep, it all starts with getting adequate sleep.

1. Reality check

This technique serves to differentiate whether you are dreaming or awake. Even if a dream shows an environment or object in a familiar way, there will always be elements that make it different from reality. Therefore, the objective is to learn to detect it.

It is mental training in which every so often you check and verify reality to see if you are dreaming. Once you have a mastery of how things really are, it is easy to detect when they belong to a dream.

That is the usefulness of the spinning top used by Di Caprio in Inception. While in reality the object ended up falling, in the dream the spinning never stopped. Thus, the character knew which plane he was in.

Some common items people use for this technique include:

  • Mirrors: check your reflection to see if it looks normal.
  • Heavy objects: try pushing on a wall or table to see if anything unexpected happens.
  • Hands: look at your hands and see if they change.
  • Watching a clock: if you are dreaming, the time on a clock will constantly change or go in the opposite direction.

Once you choose how you want to check reality it is a matter of checking it frequently. Later, you can develop this ability by inducing lucid dreaming.

2. Mnemonic induction of lucid dreaming (MILD)

LaBerge developed this technique for lucid dream induction based on the intention to remember something in the future.

To do this, he uses the memory of a previous dream and detects an anomaly within it. That is to say, something “strange” that showed that you were dreaming. Then, visualize yourself in the dream recognizing this anomaly and being aware that it only occurs in dreams.

As you do this, repeat the mantra: “The next time I am dreaming, I want to remember to recognize that I am dreaming”. The idea is that in the long run, when you detect that oddity in the dream, you realize that you are asleep.

Research has shown that this technique is very effective in increasing the frequency of lucid dreaming.

3. Use a sensory stimulus

Also, to induce lucid dreaming you can program a device to emit a light signal while you sleep.

This light will be incorporated into your dreams and with practice will allow you to identify that you are dreaming.

4. Start a dream diary

Writing down your dreams in detail every day will not only help you understand them. It will also allow you to identify “dream signals” or patterns.

Later, these will make it easier for you to notice that you are dreaming when they appear in your sleep.

5. Encourage waking times between dreams

To improve the results obtained with the previous techniques you can put them into practice between sleep periods. Increasing the duration of wakefulness seems to better prepare the brain to become lucid during sleep.

Set your alarm clock two hours before your usual time and stay awake for a few minutes before falling asleep again. This methodology is known as Wake-Back-To-Bed (WBTB), and seeks to increase the activity of the brain’s prefrontal cortex during the next REM phase.

However, if you are going to practice any of these techniques, be careful. While nothing assures you that you will manage your dreams, it is very possible that along the way you will end up sleeping worse. This will take its toll on your health or at least put you in a bad mood for the day.

Other methods to control dreams and dream whatever you want

As we mentioned at the beginning, throughout history there has been theorized and experimented with this to control dreams.

You may have heard that with the help of meditation and yoga people can enter a state of consciousness in which they control their daydreams.

It has also been associated with the use of melatonin. And is that, logically, if taking a supplement of the hormone of darkness helps regulate the phases of sleep, it will be easier to induce lucid dreams.

But beware, be wary of any melatonin compound with vitamin B6 that guarantees lucid dreaming, because no one has the magic formula, at least for the moment.

References

Lucid dreaming incidence: A quality effects meta-analysis of 50 years of research.

My Dream, My Rules: Can Lucid Dreaming Treat Nightmares?

Reality testing and the mnemonic induction of lucid dreams: Findings from the national Australian lucid dream induction study

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?