How to Lucid Dream Using 3 Simple Techniques
Mastering the art of healthy sleep means you're falling asleep naturally and easily, staying asleep and experiencing all the right phases of sleep throughout the night (including dreams), and then waking up naturally in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day ahead.
If this sounds like you, firstly we'd like to offer our sincerest congratulations for this massive achievement. What's your secret? Secondly, now that you've got sleep down pat, why not try your hand at lucid dreaming?
Put simply, lucid dreaming is when you are aware that you're dreaming and able to actually control your dream. It's like instead of an audience member watching a film passively, you're the director of the film and you're in charge of everything that's going on.
If you want to learn how to lucid dream, you need to become aware of when and how you're experiencing REM sleep, which is the phase of sleep during which dreams take place. It's more similar to wakefulness, and it's a crucial factor in a healthy night's sleep and ongoing brain development. It's an energetic and creative time psychologically and physiologically, and the benefits of lucid dreaming are helpful for for sufferers of chronic nightmares and PTSD, in turn improving symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and impaired daytime functioning.
"With lucidity, nightmare sufferers can realise that what they are experiencing is not real and subsequently turn the nightmare into a positive or a neutral dream," says sleep researcher Achilleas Pavlou.
While it's technically possible to teach yourself how to lucid dream, for most people it can be challenging. But, according to research at the University of Adelaide, using a combination of three techniques will increase your chances: MILD, wake back to bed, and reality testing.
Read on to find out how these three techniques can up your chances of lucid dreaming.
Technique 1: The Mantra
This technique, called the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) technique, had the highest success rate of all participants in the study.
In plain speak, MILD involves waking up after five hours of sleep and then setting the intention to remember that you are dreaming before returning falling asleep again. You set the intention by repeating out loud the phrase: "The next time I'm dreaming, I will remember that I'm dreaming"
"The MILD technique works on what we call 'prospective memory,'" says Dr Denholm Aspy Visiting Research Fellow in the University's School of Psychology.
"By repeating a phrase that you will remember you’re dreaming, it forms an intention in your mind that you will, in fact, remember that you are dreaming, leading to a lucid dream."
The study found that those who found success with this technique were actually less sleep deprived the next day, which, Dr Aspy says, indicates that lucid dreaming didn't negatively affect the quality of the subjects' sleep.
Technique 2: Back to Sleep
This technique, known as the "wake back to bed" technique, also has you waking up after five hours, staying awake for a short period, and then going back to sleep in order to enter a REM sleep period. As we know, it's during REM sleep that dreams are more likely to occur. According to Pavlou, it's all about something called "cortical activation".
"This brief awakening is thought to increase cortical activation in the key brain areas implicated in lucid dreaming when one slips back into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage during which vivid dreaming occurs," Pavlou says. "Unsurprisingly, pressing the snooze button multiple times before finally waking also appears to increase the chances of lucid dreaming.
Technique 3: Pinch Yourself
This technique is referred to as "reality testing" and involves habitually asking yourself, while you're awake, whether or not you're actually dreaming, and then performing an action that tells you the answer. Sound familiar? It's just like Inception, with the spinning top that stopped spinning in waking life but kept on spinning in dreaming.
"If you don’t fancy keeping a spinning top in your pocket," says Pavlou, "you can hold your nose and perform the normally impossible task of breathing through it. Repeated checks throughout the day make you more likely to do the same checks while dreaming, and thus become lucid to the freer dreamworld in which you can breathe through a blocked nose."