Guest Writer for Wake Up World
A lucid dream is any dream in which one is aware that one is dreaming. The phenomenon was referred to by Greek philosopher Aristotle who observed: “often when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream”.
One of the earliest historical references to personal experiences with lucid dreaming was by Marie-Jean-Léon, Marquis d’Hervey de Saint Denys. The person most widely acknowledged as having coined the term is Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederik (Willem) van Eeden (1860–1932).
In a lucid dream, the dreamer has greater chances to exert some degree of control over their participation within the dream or be able to manipulate their imaginary experiences in the dream environment. Lucid dreams can be realistic and vivid. It has been shown that there are higher amounts of beta-1 frequency band (13–19 Hz) experienced by lucid dreamers, hence there is an increased amount of activity in the parietal lobes, making lucid dreaming a conscious process.
A lucid dream can begin in one of two ways. A dream-initiated lucid dream starts as just a normal dream, and the dreamer eventually concludes it is a dream. A wake-initiated lucid dream occurs when the dreamer goes from a normal waking state directly into a dream state, with no apparent lapse in consciousness. The wake-initiated lucid dream “occurs when the sleeper enters REM sleep with unbroken self-awareness directly from the waking state”.
Remembering your dreams is the starting place for learning to have lucid dreams. In order to be able to recognize your dreams as dreams while they are happening, you have to be familiar with the way your own dreams work. Before it will be worth your time to work on lucid dream induction methods, you should be able to recall at least one dream every night.
Getting plenty of sleep is the first step to good dream recall. If you are rested it will be easier to focus on your goal of recalling dreams, and you won’t mind so much taking the time during the night to record your dreams.
Another benefit of getting plenty of sleep is that dream periods get longer and closer together as the night proceeds. The first dream of the night is the shortest, perhaps 10 minutes in length, while after 8 hours of sleep, dream periods can be 45 minutes to an hour long. We all dream every night, about one dream period every 90 minutes. People who say they never dream simply never remember their dreams. You may have more than one dream during a REM (dream) period. It is generally accepted among sleep researchers that dreams are not recalled unless the sleeper awakens directly from the dream, rather than awakening after going on to other stages of sleep.
It can be useful while you are developing your dream recall to keep a complete dream journal. Keep the journal handy by your bed and record every dream you remember, no matter how fragmentary. Start by writing down all your dreams, not just the complete, coherent, or interesting ones. Even if all you remember is a face or a room, write it down.
Steps to Induce and Improve Lucid Dreaming
- During the day, repeatedly ask, “Am I dreaming?”, and perform some reality checks whenever you remember. With practice, if it happens enough, you will automatically remember it during your dreams and do it.
- Keep a dream journal. This is perhaps the most important step towards lucid dreaming. Keep it close by your bed at night, and write in it immediately after waking. Or you can keep a recording device if you find it easier to repeat your dream out loud. This helps you recognize your common dream elements (people from your past, specific places, etc.) and also tells your brain that you are serious about remembering your dreams.
It will also help you to recognize things that are unique to your dreams. You will be able to recognize your own “dream signs.” These will be recurring things or events that you may notice in your dreams.
- Learn the best time to have a lucid dream. By being aware of your personal sleep schedule, you can arrange your sleep pattern to help induce lucid dreams. Studies strongly suggest that a nap a few hours after waking in the morning is the most common time to have a lucid dream. Lucid dreams are strongly associated with REM sleep. REM sleep is more abundant just before the final awakening. This means they most commonly occur right before waking up.
- Try the WILD (Wake Initiated Lucid Dream) technique. Basically what it means is that when you fall asleep you carry your awareness from when you were awake directly into REM sleep, and you start out as a lucid dream. The easiest way to attempt this technique is if you take an afternoon nap or you have only slept for 3-7 hours. Try to meditate into a calm, focused state. You can try counting breaths, imaging ascending or /descending stairs, dropping through the solar system, being in a quiet soundproof area, etc. Or listening to Theta binaural beats for an amount of time will easily put you into a REM sleep.
- Another technique for dream awareness is the “diamond method” of meditation, which can shortcut the overall learning curve of lucid dreaming. When you meditate, try to visualize your life – both awake and dream life – as facets on a diamond. Some choose to call this “diamond” the Universe, others God, and even “your Spirit”. The point here is to begin to recognize that life is happening all at once. It is only our “perception” that arranges our dramas into linear or “timed” order. So just as a diamond just is, each facet, if viewed as an individual experience, is still going on at the same time the “dream body” experiences as well.
This method is also known by remote viewers. Remember it is just a slight shift in awareness that this exercise calls for.
- Try marking an “A” (which stands for “awake”) on your palm. Every time you notice the “A” during your waking hours challenge whether you are awake or asleep. Eventually you may see the “A” in your sleep and become lucid.
- Get into the habit of doing reality checks. In order to remember to do reality checks in dreams, you need to establish a habit of doing reality checks in real life. Do at least three reality checks every time something seems out of the ordinary, strongly frustrating, or nonsensical, and that habit will carry on into your dreams. In a dream, these will tell you that you are sleeping, allowing you to become lucid.
One way to do a reality check is to look for “dream signs” (elements that frequently occur during your dreams, look for these in your dream journal), or things that would not normally exist in the waking-state, and then conduct the reality checks. When these actions become habit, a person will begin to do them in her or his dreams, and can come to the conclusion that he/she is dreaming. Frequently doing reality checks can stabilize dreams. This is also known as DILD (Dream Induced Lucid Dreams).
Some tactics include:
- Looking at a body of text, looking away, and then looking back to see if it has changed;
- Flipping a light switch;
- Looking in a mirror (your image will most often appear blurry or not appear at all in a dream);
- Pinching your nose closed and trying to breathe;
- Jumping in the air; you are usually able to fly during dreams;
- Poking yourself; when dreaming, your “flesh” might be more elastic than in real life;
- Try leaning against a wall. In dreams, you will often fall through walls.
- 8. Look through previous dreams in your dream journal. If you start to notice patterns in your dreams, you will notice dream-signs, or certain things that continue to reappear in your dreams. This may be as basic as all dreams are in your backyard, or all your dreams have fans in them. Get into the habit of doing dream checks every time you see your dream sign, and eventually you’ll see your dream sign IN a dream, do a check and realize you’re dreaming.
Benefits of Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreaming gives you the ability to control your own dreams and steer them toward the direction you want. In the lucid state, you are more willing to confront threats and, as a result, become more self confident. It is thus helpful for overcoming fears and anxieties.
The application of lucid dreams is limited only to your imagination. Because brain activity during the dream-state is the same as during the waking-state, what you learn or practice in your lucid dream state is similar to the training and preparation you do in the waking world. Your neuronal patterns are already being conditioned.
At least half of all adults have had one lucid dream in their lifetime. Many have reported having lucid dreams without even trying. Often flying is associated with lucid dreams. With practice, lucid dreaming can be learned and achieved at your will.