You will spend over 6 years of your life dreaming. What if you could use all that time to intentionally heal, awaken, and direct breathtakingly impossible experiences?
Dreams provide a glimpse of your uncensored, subconscious mind. When you realize you are dreaming within a dream—meaning you become lucid in your dream—you have the opportunity to interact with and explore your subconscious. You can ask questions, meet archetypes like your inner child, or safely interact with phobias.
Beyond psychological and spiritual growth, lucid dreaming also allows you to have fun in ways that are impossible in the waking world. You can fly above treetops, instantaneously visit those destinations on your bucket list, or meet heroes and loved ones, living or passed.
Over the past few decades, lucid dreaming has been shown to have many quantifiable benefits. It does not affect sleep quality since it happens during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, not during deep, restorative sleep stages. In fact, lucid dreaming can help improve your sleep quality if you suffer from nightmares. Becoming lucid during a nightmare means you’ve realized it’s just a dream and can possibly change its course. You can also use lucid dreaming to treat trauma, overcome phobias, solve creative problems, and improve physical skills. In one study, over 80% of athletes who practiced sequences in lucid dreams noticeably improved their performance of those actions in waking life.
55% of people will have at least one lucid dream in their life, mostly by accident. If you want to intentionally try lucid dreaming these practices can help.
Keep a Dream Journal
The first step to any dream practice is increasing your dream recall. The best way to improve recall is to write down any dreams you can remember as soon as you wake up in the morning. If it doesn’t disrupt your sleep, you can even record dreams throughout the night. Choose the method you'll be most likely to keep up–whether that's writing them in a journal, on your phone, or using voice recordings.
To make the most of your efforts, it’s important to record your dreams first thing in the morning, before you get out of bed, or make coffee, or even check your phone. Dream memories can easily slip away once you engage with the waking world.
If you wake up and can’t remember anything, don’t be discouraged. Only 10% of women and 7% of men remember a dream almost every morning. Tune into your body and write down any sensations or emotions you notice. Often these are remnants of a dream experience. Even if you draw a blank, there’s still value to the practice. Holding that space for dream memories every morning lets your dreaming mind know you’re listening and eager to fill it. The intention to remember more dreams alone is enough to increase recall over time.
Perform Reality Checks Throughout the Day
Another lucid dreaming practice is performing reality checks throughout the day. A reality check is simply an action that produces a different result in the waking state compared to the dream state. These actions provide reliable ways to confirm if you’re dreaming or awake.
If you regularly perform reality checks during the day, it’s likely you’ll think to try one at night when you’re dreaming but not aware you’re in a dream. The reality check would then serve as a way to invoke lucidity. It’s also helpful to try a reality check every time you witness something “weird” during the day. That way, when you’re dreaming of being back in high school or on Mars and something feels “off,” you’ll be more inclined to perform a reality check and realize you’re dreaming.
Another time to do a reality check is as soon as you wake up, especially if you have dreams about waking up and starting your day. These dreams are called false awakenings and they provide a great opportunity to get lucid. If you make a practice of doing a reality check every morning, the next time you have a false awakening, the reality check will help you realize you’re actually still in a dream.
Reality checks are based on the fact that our brains have trouble replicating certain details and complex patterns in dreams. A common, reliable reality check is to investigate your hand. Turn it over, close it and open it, or look away from it and back. In a dream, your brain will not be able to maintain an accurate simulation of your hand through any of these movements. You should easily notice something incorrect. Perhaps your fingers will be twisted, weirdly shaped, or you might have more or less than five. You can also try sticking your finger through your opposite palm, which shouldn’t meet resistance in a dream. Or pull on a finger, which should stretch out in a dream. Another option is to find some text, even a clock on the wall, look away from it, and then look back a second time. If you’re in a dream, the text will likely be distorted or gibberish, especially the second time you view it.
These checks may sound odd, but remember: every night you have non-lucid dreams, you are experiencing something you think is real life, but is actually a dream. If you are able to do a reality check in any of these dreams, it should produce results that will let you know you’re actually dreaming.
It’s crucial to treat waking reality checks seriously. The most important part of any reality check is pausing to genuinely question whether you could be dreaming as you do it. If during the day you perform your reality check by merely glancing at your hand, already certain you’re not dreaming, you’ll do it in the same manner while dreaming, and likely miss out on potential lucidity.
Several studies have shown that people with meditation practices have more frequent lucid dreams. This is not surprising since a lucid dream is essentially being mindful in your sleep. By recognizing the dream state while experiencing it, lucid dreamers are completely aware of their surroundings in the present moment.
Any practice that involves being mindful during the day will help promote lucidity in your dreams. However, practices that involve engaging your five senses to be aware of your environment are particularly effective. Whether you’re running errands, on a walk outdoors, or just sitting inside, dedicate some time to each sense: What do you smell? What do you hear? Feel the tufts of your carpet, or the bark on a tree, or even your feet in your shoes and the pressure from the ground. The more you’re tapped into the sensory details of the waking world, the more likely you’ll be to notice features in the dream environment that would be impossible if you were awake. Perhaps you’ll realize you can’t be at a beach because you don’t live by the ocean, or that you can’t be at an old job because you don’t work there anymore.
Even with these practices, it will likely take some time before you have your first lucid dream. Just remember, with every dream you write down, or every reality check you perform, you’re slowly training your mind to question the reality of your next dream.