How to Induce Lucid Dreaming, for Beginners
For most of us, dreams are something we experience when we’re sleeping. They can be fascinating, emotional or even scary, but while we’re asleep, we have no control over what our mind serves up. Lucid dreaming, or being fully aware you’re sleeping while you’re experiencing these things, is a talent that is growing in popularity as a way to consciously explore what’s going on while we’re unconscious.
Some people are capable of lucid dreaming naturally, while others have to work to reach this state. If you’re interested in learning how to control your dreams, here are some tips and tricks to help you learn how to do it.
First, You Need to Sleep
The first thing you need to do to induce lucid dreaming is to fall asleep. In our fast-paced, always connected world, this step is difficult for a lot of people. We’re on our phones until we close our eyes, and pick them up again as soon as we wake up.
If you can’t fall asleep, you can’t hope to induce lucid dreaming — it’s as simple as that. If you are having trouble catching some z’s, here are a few tips for delivering you into the welcoming arms of Morpheus.
First, ban your phone from your bedroom. Not only will scrolling through Facebook and Twitter keep your mind active while you’re trying to sleep, but the light these devices emit can also mess with your circadian rhythm. If you need to set the alarm every morning, get yourself an old-fashioned alarm clock. Try to shut off your phone or tablet an hour before bedtime.
Take a warm shower before bed. Most of us take one in the morning to help us wake up, but an evening shower can convince your body it’s time to sleep. When you get out of the hot water, the cold air in your bedroom lowers your body temperature. To your brain, this means it’s time to turn in for the night.
Try going to bed earlier, which we know is easier than it sounds. Start with small increments — like going to bed 10 minutes sooner every day until you reach your ideal bedtime.
Once you’ve mastered getting to sleep every night, you can safely move on to learning breathing techniques.
Calming Breathing Techniques
Meditation is helpful when it comes to inducing lucid dreaming, but it can be difficult to slow your mind enough to meditate, especially when you’re worried about work the next day or a looming deadline. These breathing techniques can help slow both your body and your mind and make you more open to lucid dreaming.
Our favorite is the 4-7-8 technique because it’s simple. The steady breathing helps slow your body, and the act of counting your breaths works to calm your mind.
All you have to do is inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven and then exhale for a count of eight.
You can also count from one to five when you exhale. If keeping track of three numbers keeps you awake, this method might work better for you.
Now let’s take a closer look at some of the most useful tools to help you induce lucid dreaming.
The Affirmation Method
The simplest method for inducing lucid dreaming is known as the affirmation method — and it’s as simple as it sounds. While practicing your breathing, keep repeating an affirmation in your head. You can make up your own, but here are a few examples to get you started.
- I will have a lucid dream tonight.
- I will control my dreams tonight.
- I am in control of my dreams.
Whatever mantra you choose, keep repeating it silently to yourself while you’re falling asleep. This simple task is surprisingly effective, and you might find yourself lucid dreaming before you know it.
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The Wake-Back-To-Bed Method
If you need a solid eight hours of sleep a night, you might want to skip this method. It relies on waking you up four to six hours after you go to bed.
All you need to do for this method is to set the alarm for four to six hours after you fall asleep, or two hours before you usually wake up. Once the alarm goes off, there are two different things you can do.
The first is to try to move as little as possible. Shut off your alarm and allow your body to fall back asleep while your mind remains awake.
The second is to get up and out of bed for 20-30 minutes, and then lay back down and do the same.
The goal is to wake up before you enter REM sleep, which for most people is between four and six hours after they close their eyes. If you can stimulate your brain before it begins that sleep phase, you will drop right into REM fully conscious.
It can be tricky to catch your REM cycle in the beginning, but once you figure out your timetable, the wake-back-to-bed method is surprisingly effective.
The WILD Method
The WILD in this method stands for Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming. This means you enter a lucid dream from the moment you fall asleep, rather than having to wake yourself up.
It’s a little more difficult because, in order to successfully perform the WILD method, you have to induce a form of sleep paralysis. When you fall asleep, your brain secretes a hormone to keep you from moving while you’re dreaming — that way you don’t get up and walk around when you’re dreaming about walking. People who experience sleepwalking episodes don’t create enough of this hormone.
Start by laying down and getting comfortable. Relax all your muscles and try not to move at all. With your eyes closed, try to visualize shapes and colors behind your eyelids. If you’re successful, you’ll feel your body fall asleep while your mind is still awake, which means you’re in a lucid dream. From there, you need to focus on keeping your mind awake and building your dream.
Benefits of Lucid Dreaming
Now that you have a basic idea of how to induce lucid dreaming, why should you try it out?
There are a great number of benefits to lucid dreaming because you control the universe while your eyes are closed. Your unconscious mind becomes anything you want it to be.
Are you struggling with writer’s block? Give yourself a new perspective, or hunt down a muse and ask for advice. Have a big presentation coming up? Lucid dreaming gives you the ability to practice it over and over without worrying about losing your job because you accidentally said orgasm instead of organism.
Once you master lucid dreaming, you can fly to the sun, travel the world, fulfill your sexual fantasies or reflect on yourself. The possibilities are endless.
Lucid dreaming isn’t for everyone, though. It may be dangerous for individuals with a borderline personality disorder or other mental health conditions that make it difficult to tell what is real and what isn’t.
Don’t Forget a Reality Check
Lucid dreaming can blur the lines between fantasy and reality, which can make it more difficult to tell when you’re awake and when you’re asleep. Reality checks help you ground yourself in the real world and remind you when you’re dreaming and when you’re not.
Think of the movie “Inception” — Leonardo DiCaprio’s spinning top was his reality check. If the top kept spinning forever, he was in a dream.
Try jumping, or reading a text more than once. If you jump in the real world, gravity pulls you back down at 5.8 meters per second squared. In a dream, you might float slowly back to the floor, or remain suspended in the air. If you can read in a dream, try reading the same text twice. If you’re dreaming, the words will likely become scrambled.
Keep up with your reality check if you start wondering if the world around you is real or not. If you try any of these methods out and have any success, let us know.
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Also published on Medium.