Lucid dreaming seemed to have its most recent big moment around a decade ago (I think we can all thank Inception for that), but this specific kind of dream—one in which the person becomes aware she is dreaming—dates back eons.
“The first known textual description of lucid dreaming dates to before 1000 BCE from the Upanishads, the Hindu oral tradition of spiritual lessons, philosophy and proverbs,” writes Ryan Hurd of Dream Studies. Lucid dreams emerged in the West in the age of the famous philosophers, with Aristotle making reference in his 350 BCE treatise On Dreams.
Without getting too much into the science of lucid dreams, researchers know they are connected to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, a.k.a. deep sleep. Lucid dreams are quite different from standard dreams in two ways: first, they’re incredibly vivid, and second, the dreamer is totally aware she is in a dream. This gives the dreamer endless possibilities—a person’s imagination is the limit.
According to sleep and self-healing expert Marvin Klemp, lucid dreaming helps us to solve traumas, learn new skills, overcome shyness and fear of public speaking, and learn new information in our sleep.
Interested? Read on for an introductory how-to on training yourself to lucid dream.
Training While Awake
1. Practice reality testing.
This is how it all starts. “Reality testing” is a cognitive technique in which you do something simple to conclude whether you are awake or asleep. Certified sleep science coach McKenzie Hyde writes for Healthline, “Lucid dream experts suggest doing certain activities to test your sense of reality at least 10 times a day, to enhance your ability to lucid dream at night.”
The simplest technique is to push the index finger of one hand into the palm of your other hand. When awake, you’ll feel the pressure of your index finger on your palm. If asleep, however, your finger will go straight through your palm, and no resistance will be felt at all. By practicing this technique 10 times a day, you’ll train your brain to be able to do it during a dream.
Although there are other methods of reality checks, this seems to be the easiest and most popular.
2. Keep a dream journal.
The goal with this dream journal is for you to record every detail of your dreams the moment you wake up. Once you’re in the habit, you’ll be able to identify patterns—certain places, people, and themes—that will help you build awareness. Once you’re aware of what tends to happen in your dream, your conscious mind will be able to know when it’s in a dream state. Pretty wild, huh?
Lucid Dreaming Techniques
While there are many ways to train your mind and body, Klemp prefers the following three techniques. While they work individually, integrating them all into your routine will increase chances for success!
1. Use a mantra.
Tell yourself (in front of a mirror in the best case) 3 times per day in 30 seconds each: “I will dream lucid tonight! I will dream lucid tonight! I will dream lucid tonight!”
You have to believe it. When your brain and body believe it, you will have the ability to “wake up” in your dream.
2. Wake up early, prop yourself up, and doze off in an upright position.
Set an alarm for an hour and a half earlier than usual each morning. Prop yourself up with a pillow to bring your body to an upright state.
The trick now is to let your body fall back to sleep naturally. Try to spin your body mentally out of your position you are already in. This will help you to lose your connection from mind and body, catapulting you into a lucid dream.
3. Awareness is key.
Since awareness is at the center of lucid dreams, pay attention to two major things:
“In dreams, ourselves and other people often have more or less than five fingers,” says Klemp. We can also move our hands through solid objects, and vice versa.
Time is something that doesn’t translate in the dream world. “Clocks usually have way more than 12 numbers or will have ridiculous times like 123:34,” Klemp says, so be on the lookout for surreal time markers.
By staying aware of these anomalies and absurdities, you’ll know you’re dreaming. Once you know, use your imagination to do, well, whatever you like!
Are you interested in attempting to lucid dream? Tell us why or why not in the comments below!
Featured image: @riccaandthevegans