Have you ever had a dream that felt totally real to you? The kind where you felt as if you could reach out and touch anything, and when you woke up it seemed strange that what you'd seen didn't actually happen? What if you could control these dreams? That's where Lucid Dreaming comes in.
I'll be the first to admit that lucid dreaming can sound a bit hokey, and it took me a while to get used to the idea. It sounds weird, but given some thought it actually makes a lot of sense.
Take sight for example. When you "see" something, your eye receives information from the outside world. It then sends signals to your brain, which interprets these signals into images. When you dream, your brain is just making up these signals for itself, so the whole experience can feel just like waking life.
Lucid dreams often have varying levels of realism. Sometimes things might be hazy and dream like, but you'll have control over what happens. In others, you'll be able to imagine things into your dream and everything will feel as real as when you're awake.
So how do we have a lucid dream?
Remember your dreams
This is important. After all, if you don't remember your dreams, what's the point in trrying to influence them? I've found the best way to do this is to keep a "dream diary", where you write down your dreams when you wake up.
By writing them down, you strengthen your ability to remember. The more you do this, the better you get.
Remember you're asleep
One problem with lucid dreaming is that it's not always obvious that you're still asleep. It should seem obvious that you're dreaming when everything crazy is happening, but it often takes something more subtle to trigger the "awakening".
There are a few giveaways that you're dreaming:
- You can pinch your nose and still breath through it
- Electronics and machinery act haywire. This could be phones ringing but not responding to being picked up, screens showing a jumbled mess or watches showing completely different times when you look at them twice. Light switches often have unexpected results, and cars may drive much slower than expected.
A good way of knowing you're lucid is performing a "reality check" by checking if any of the above occur. Ive found the most effective check is pinching my nose, and it only takes a few seconds to try (although you might get a few funny looks).
Sometimes you'll have a "false awakening", where you'll think you've woken up but you're actually still dreaming. These are a great time for reality checks.
The final piece of the puzzle is staying lucid. The first few times, you'll probably get excited and wake up (or have a false awakening). Don't get too disheartened. Here are some ways to stay lucid:
- Spin around on the spot.
- Focus on your hands or other part of your body.
- Tell yourself to stay lucid (I've had very little success with this method, but I'm told it works.)
Once you're lucid and it's stable, enjoy yourself! Anything is possible in the dream world, so go crazy. Learn to fly, or pass through solid objects. Run faster than cars, or jump over buildings.
I've found the best way of having lucid dreams is the WBTB method (Wake, Back to Bed). If I've woken up in the early morning (usually between 4am and 5am) it's much easier to go lucid than when going straight to bed. You can always set an alarm clock, although this might not go down so well with your sleep neighbours :)
If you can get over the weird factor, lucid dreaming is definitely something worth experimenting with.