Imagine being in a movie and being able to control every aspect of the movie. I'm talking everything from the scenery, to your activities, to being able to choose your co-stars... absolutely everything down to the most minute details. That's how it feels to lucid dream....You decide how you want to explore your dreams by learning to become aware in your dreams. It's freeing, it's healthy, it's a sacred creative space for you to enjoy and you can learn how to do it if you'd like!
Welcome to your personal lucid dreaming jump-start!!! While you won't learn how to control your dreams overnight, this guide will equip you with the foundation you need to get started down the lucid dreaming rabbit hole. This path is fun, energizing, healing, adventurous, and awe-inspiring.
People are using their dreams to learn more about themselves, the world, and even master their hobbies. Lucid dreaming can be used to help you solve problems.... kind of like a private blackboard that holds your hand while you problem solve. It can be used for everything from being a powerful self-growth tool, to helping soldiers heal from PTSD, to treating nightmares, and helping people connect to messages from their subconscious minds.
In this guide, You'll be introduced to the 4 pillars of lucid dreaming. These concepts are the foundation of your practice. You need to develop a solid understanding of the basics before you can move on to more advanced lucid dreaming techniques. They are understanding sleep cycles, strengthening your dream recall, becoming a reality tester, and learning the techniques.
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Step 1: Understanding Sleep Cycles
We spend about one-third of our lives asleep. It's how our bodies are restored and regenerated for our waking life. Getting an adequate amount of sleep contributes to maintaining hormonal balance, mental sharpness, stabilizing our weight, equipping us to better handle stress, and an overall improvement of our lives when we're awake.
There are 5 stages to our sleep cycle: stages 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, and the REM stage. Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes and then repeats 4- 6 times throughout the night. The average adult gets about 6-8 hours of sleep and as the night progresses the REM stage of the sleep cycle gets longer and longer. It's important for people to understand what happens to them while they sleep. Here is a breakdown of what happens in each stage of the sleep cycle...
In this first stage of sleep, your sleep is the lightest. This is when you are drifting in and out of sleep and are semi aware of your environment. It's not uncommon to experience sudden jerks of movement from any muscle of your body. There is eye movement in this stage. Altogether, this stage lasts about 5 minutes.
In this stage awareness of your external environment disappears from your consciousness. This is where you spend 50% of your sleep time. This stage lasts between 10-25 minutes. Your brain waves slow down and your eye movements stop.
You enter into deep sleep in stage 3 of the sleep cycle. If someone tried to wake you, they would have a difficult time. When someone is awakened from this stage, they may feel disoriented, groggy, and extremely tired. It would take a couple of minutes to fully come around.
In this stage, your brain directs blood flow away from your brain and to your muscles so that they can be rejuvenated. Your brain waves are a combination of large slow delta waves and some more rapid waves. This third stage has been divided into 2 separate stages, now adding a 5th stage to the sleep cycle.
This is the second stage of the deep sleep cycle. It's difficult to wake a person up when they're in this stage. Both this stage and the 3rd stage contribute to a person waking up feeling well rested in the morning. In stage 4, almost all of your brain waves are slow delta waves.
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Stage
For adults, 20% of their sleep time is spent in Rapid Eye Movement sleep. This is where our dreams occur. In this stage our breathing becomes shallow and irregular, our eyes move rapidly, and the rest of the muscles of our body become paralyzed. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase in REM sleep. This stage starts about 70-90 minutes after falling asleep.
As the night progresses, the time we spend in REM sleep increases and the time we spend in deep sleep decreases. REM sleep contributes to the creation of our long term memories by forming more neural connections in our brains. This is also where our supply of mood enhancing hormones, like dopamine and serotonin, is replenished.
Now that you have a better understanding of the sleep cycle and how important each individual stage is, it's your responsibility to make sure you're getting enough sleep. The recommended amount of sleep is between 7-9 hours per night.
Even though most people can get by on less sleep, there is a big difference between the amount of sleep you can survive on and the amount that's optimal for your body. You can experiment with different sleep times to see what works best for you. You'll know how many hours you need when you wake up feeling refreshed, renewed, and energized.
Step 2: Strengthening Your Dream Recall
Now that you understand how the sleep cycles work, time to move on to dreaming. Do you remember your dreams when you wake up in the morning? If you do, that's awesome. You'll still want to continue reading because you'll have some homework to do.
If you don't remember your dreams, there are things you can do to improve your dream recall. Developing the ability to remember your dreams is a muscle that you'll want to strengthen. The good news is that with a little consistency, you can begin to recall your dreams.
The best way to develop dream recall is to start writing in a dream journal. A dream journal is a notebook that you'll use just to jot down the dreams that you remember in the morning. You'll want to reach for your journal as soon as you wake up. You have the best chance of remembering your dreams if you focus on recalling them as soon as you awaken.
Don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself to recall your dreams. This should be a fun activity. Just sit quietly in a mini meditation and let your dreams come to you. If it doesn't happen immediately, be patient because with practice, it will happen.
After you've collected some dreams in your journal, start looking for signs in your dreams that may signal to you that you're dreaming. Once you can identify that you're in a dream while dreaming, you are now lucid.
Step 3: a Guide to Doing Reality Checks
Lucid dreaming is the art of becoming aware in your dream state and then creating the dream environments and experiences that you desire. Even though this happens while you sleep, the practice of becoming lucid begins in your waking life.
One of the most effective tools that people can use to help them become lucid is to do reality checks. When reality checks are done in our waking lives, they help us to develop the habit of questioning whether or not we are awake or dreaming.
The goal of doing reality checks while we're awake is so that we begin to do them when we're dreaming. Doing a reality check in a dream trains us to realize when something is off and signal to us that we must be dreaming. When you get that “aha” moment in the dream state, you are now lucid and you can create any experience you wish to have.
So...How Do You Do Reality Checks?
Well...throughout your day, you want to get into the habit of asking yourself “Am I dreaming or awake?” When you ask yourself the question, you will then perform a test of your choosing to either prove that you are awake or that you are dreaming.
In the dream state, things that would be impossible in waking life are possible. For example, if you squeeze your nose and you can still breathe, then you know that you are dreaming. Another example is if you look at a clock & then look away, if the time has drastically changed or the shape of the clock changed, then you know you're in a dream.
How Often Should You Do These Checks?
You want to do your reality checks as often as you can remember to do them. Some people set their alarm to go off every hour and whenever it goes off, they do a check. That's a great strategy for people who are just starting out.
You can choose different reminders to inspire you to do your checks throughout the day. One day you can do a check every time you look in the mirror. You can also train yourself to do the checks whenever you see a certain color. It's best to get into the habit of doing them whenever something out of the ordinary occurs. The possibilities are endless. Test out different reality checks and see which ones work best for you.
Here is a list of common reality checks that people can do to help them become aware in their dream states:
1) Counting your fingers – This is a test that you can discreetly do throughout the day & if you ever find that you have missing fingers or have extra fingers, then you know something is off & that you are in a dream.
2) Looking At Your Palms – With this test, you want to become really familiar with how your palms look. When you're in a dream and you start to realize that something is off, do this check to see if your hands look any different. If your hands don't look like your hands, then you can assume you are dreaming.
3) Squeeze Your Nose- This is a reality check that I like to do. All you do is squeeze your nose & if you can still breathe, then you know you are in a dream. In real life you wouldn't be able to breathe. You may look a little funny doing this check when you're out and about, but it's a really effective reality check.
4) Look In a Mirror – If you look in a mirror & your reflection looks abnormal, then you can bet that you're in a dream.
5) The Gravity Test- Try jumping up and down to check if you are awake or dreaming. In a dream, you may float back down to the ground or fly off.
What To Say When You Realize You're Not Dreaming
When you realize that you are awake, tell yourself that “I'm awake, but if the results were different I would know I was in a dream & can now do anything I want.” You want to train yourself to know what to do when you realize that you are actually in a dream. This is a really fun way to develop the self-awareness and the memory you need to improve your lucid dreaming practice. Have fun with it and test out different ways to do your reality checks.
Step 4: Learning the Techniques
Alright!!! Now that you have a solid understanding of the sleep cycle, you know how to develop your dream recall, you can identify your dream signs, and you know how to do reality checks, let's start learning some induction techniques.
Lucid dream induction techniques are tools you can use to help you become lucid in your dreams. There are a number of techniques available for you to try out.
Here are some of the most common lucid dream induction techniques that you can test out. Feel free to try out different methods; it's all about finding out what works best for you. Since you'll, more often than not, hear people referring to these tools by their acronyms, I'll list them here as acronyms with the full name right next to it....
WILD- (Wake Induced Lucid Dream): The WILD technique involves maintaining your awareness from your waking state into a dream state. You want to be as relaxed as possible when you attempt this method. It may be best to try this after 4-6 hours of sleep (if you're someone who wakes up for a glass of water in the middle of the night, then try it before you go back to sleep the second time). One way to WILD is to visualize yourself in a dream of your choosing and hold that image in your mind as you fall asleep. You want to explore that dream and as you fall asleep, tell yourself “I am dreaming.” Keep trying that until you become lucid in your dream.
MILD- (Mnemonically Induced Lucid Dream): With MILD, while you are in bed ready to fall asleep, you are repeatedly telling yourself that you will have a lucid dream. You keep doing that until you fall asleep. You can also visualize a dream state as you tell yourself that you're dreaming. This technique involves you setting the intention that you will becomes aware that you are dreaming in your dream state. You can repeat this mantra to yourself: I know that I am dreaming and will do a reality test.
Those are 2 lucid dream induction techniques that you can experiment with. There are other techniques as well. If you need a more in depth explanation of those methods, you can find plenty of videos on Youtube. It's a good way to hear other people's first hand experiences and tips about lucid dreaming.
Before You Go...
I hope you enjoyed learning about how to jump-start your journey into lucid dreaming. Put these 4 pillars of into practice so that you can learn to lucid dream on demand.
If you'd like to continue to learn about lucid dreaming while reading about the latest studies in the field, enjoying more how-to articles, reading (& listening) to interviews from other lucid dreamers, and taking part of our monthly challenges, then subscribe to the Lucid Dream Life magazine. You'll become a part of a dedicated community of dreamers and you'll be the first to know about any events within this wonderful world.