A “lucid dream” is when you become aware that you are dreaming while you are still asleep. For some people these occur spontaneously with no effort; for others, it can be a goal they strive towards for many years.
If lucid dreaming is something that you want to achieve, it can be possible to improve your chances with a few simple techniques. While there are all kinds of “aides” to lucid dreaming available – from herbs to technology that you can wear to “hack” your brain, the techniques I have listed here are free and available to everyone.
5 tips for having a lucid dream:
- Focus on your hands within in your dream:
- It can help if you practise looking at your hands while awake through-out the day, and asking yourself “am I dreaming?” The idea is to continue this practice even into your dreams, until you ask yourself that question and realise the answer is yes! (see also: Dream Symbols: Body Parts: Hands)
- Use a “false awakening:
- If you have a false awakening, try to use this to trigger your awareness that this must be a dream. False awakenings are where when you have a dream, and then feel that you woke up only to realise you are still dreaming! This may happen multiple times before you actually do wake up – and even when you do, it can leave a lingering sensation that telling the difference between dreams and “reality” is not as obvious as it may originally seem. This awareness can be a great trigger to achieving lucidity in dreams. (see: False Awakenings: A dream within a Dream)
- Practice becoming aware of the edge of sleep and wakefulness:
- This occurs during sleep paralysis (see: Sleep Paralysis: A Special Kind of Nightmare) but also as you drift off to sleep and feel heavy, or have strange patterns before your eyes. Remind yourself in this state to remember you are dreaming. This state is called “hypnagogic’ as you fall asleep, and “hypnopompic” as you wake up. Understanding that you have a consciousness beyond everyday waking consciousness and just sleep is a critical element to lucid dreaming. These “edges” of sleep and waking are accessible to everyone, but are easier to explore when you don’t go to bed utterly exhausted and fall asleep straight away, and when you don’t have to wake up to an alarm (or crying child etc) so you have time to wake up gradually.
- Confront your fears:
- If you dream of something frightening or disturbing, will yourself to confront it. Tell yourself before you go to sleep that you will face anything in your dreams, because it is “just a dream” – and you may become aware of that even within the dream itself. (see: Nightmares: Part 1) This sense of “will” – the ability to assert your identity and awareness into a situation ca be a valuable tool not just in lucid dreaming, but wherever you want to effect change in your life.
- Interrupt your sleep:
- Set an alarm to wake you in the night. Lucid dreaming is easier to achieve when you do not fall into a deep sleep, but can play about on the edges of sleep and consciousness (hypnagogic and hypnopompic states as detailed above.) We normally cycle through various stages of sleep throughout the night, from the “edge” states, into R.E..M. where much dreaming occurs, and then into deep sleep where dreaming may or may not occur, but is often very difficult to remember or become lucid in, especially for beginners. **Please note, I put this tip last as I do not recommend messing with your sleep cycles as a regular practice, especially where it denies you vital deep sleep. But if you are getting plenty of good regular sleep, and don’t have a lot of commitments or responsibilities, this technique may be helpful to reach lucidity. But it should only be used with caution and for a short time (days, not weeks!)
There are other methods to achieving lucidity in dreams, but these are some of the most common ways to start. The challenge within lucid dreaming is always to try and maintain the balance of staying conscious enough to know that you are dreaming, but never to get too excited or over aware so that you wake your self up. But with practice and patience it is entirely possible to become aware in your dreams.
If having a lucid dream is really a goal for you, I very much recommend that you also incorporate practices of meditation and mindfulness into your day (and even if you don’t want to lucid dream, I still reccomend these practices!) But particularly for lucid dreaming, you are exploring what different states of consciousness and awareness mean. Understanding your mind better while awake (such as through regular meditation) benefits greatly when trying to understand the awareness of your mind when asleep. It’s not a short-cut or hack, but with dedication the results can be incredible in every area of your waking and sleeping life – and every where in between!