Lucid Dreaming: What, Why and How

After Inception came out back in 2010 (yeah I know, that long ago already), a lot of us walked away wondering if we could get the power to actually control our dreams.

The truth is, you can – and in fact it’s not actually all that hard.

It’s called lucid dreaming, and yes, it really can give you superpowers while you’re asleep.

Here’s how it works.

Image: A woman walks down a tunnel into a brilliant opening

What Is a Lucid Dream?

If you’ve ever been asleep and suddenly realized you were dreaming, you have experienced a lucid dream.

Once most people become conscious in their dreams, they tend to gain control over their situation and can do pretty much anything you want.

Your dreams are totally in your head, after all, so there’s really no limit to the things you can do while in a lucid dream, so long as you believe in yourself.

To make things even better, most lucid dreams are substantially more vivid than your everyday dreams, so you can go on some incredible adventures.

In fact, one of the most common reasons for wanting to lucid dream is for sheer entertainment value.

It can be a lot like a video game, only totally immersive, and with no restraints on what you can do!

How Common Is Lucid Dreaming?

Lucid dreaming is pretty much as old as humanity (or possibly older – nobody knows whether or not animals are able to do it!).

The first clear mention of lucid dreams in a written work comes to us from Aristotle, who wrote about them in his book On Sleep and Dreams back in the 3rd century BC.

A recent meta-analysis of 34 studies on lucid dreaming concluded that about 55% of all people have experienced this phenomenon at least once in their lives, while 23% of people have lucid dreams at least once of month.

Some people lucid dream naturally, sometimes from childhood – but, fortunately for the rest of us, there are a couple tricks you can pick up that’ll have you flying to Mars and slow-dancing with Cleopatra in no time.

What Are the Benefits of Lucid Dreaming?

There are a number of reasons why people might want to lucid dream, ranging from the frivolous to the serious.

Some of the most common ones include…

1. You Can Do Anything

The biggest reason most people are interested in lucid dreaming is just because of how cool it sounds.

I mean, you’re able to do literally anything you want.

Pretty much by definition, there isn’t anyone who should be able to find much fault with that.

We all have fantasies we wish we could carry out in real life –going back to Freud, in fact, some people think that’s the only purpose of dreams – and lucid dreams can give us a way to try these out without any threat of consequences.

Image: A woman in a white dress stands in a field at sunset. She lifts up her hands to the sun and doves fly all around2. You Can Conquer Your Fears

Another benefit to the limitless possibilities of lucid dreaming is that it can allow you to come to grips with problems you’d never be able to deal with in the real world.

Some people have partially overcome phobias by simply facing their fears in the controlled environment of the lucid dream.

Nothing can hurt you while you’re asleep, so you’re able to face your fears head-on and win.

And even if you don’t have any phobias per se, lucid dreaming can also prove a useful tool for dealing with daily fears.

Have a stressful presentation or interview coming up?

Give yourself a practice run in the world of your dreams, and show yourself just how much you’re capable of.

3. You Can Cure Nightmares

There’s a famous painting by Francisco Goya called “The Sleep of Reason Produces Nightmares.”

When it comes to lucid dreaming, though, a more accurate quote would be something like, “The reason of sleep reduces nightmares!”

The rationality lucidness brings to the terrors of the dream-world can have real and lasting effects.

Your nightmares are normally something unstoppable – monsters are chasing you down dark hallways, your teeth are falling out and there’s nothing you can do, you’re falling with nothing to catch yourself.

The common idea is your sheer powerlessness.

You’re terrified because you’re not in control.

With the help of lucid dreaming, though, you can turn that entire dynamic on its head.

 Turn around and give that monster a big old smack upside the head.

Pop those teeth back into place.

Stop falling and learn how to fly.

Are There Downsides to Lucid Dreaming?

As with pretty much anything involving sleep, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to lucid dreaming.

To the best of our knowledge, though, there aren’t any major downsides.

You might think lucid dreaming could make you less well-rested since you’re making your mind more “awake” than it normally is, but if you talk to anyone with experience lucid dreaming, that simply is not the case.

Another common fear when it comes to lucid dreaming is that you might end up getting trapped in a dream – unable to escape the strange and frightening shadows of your mind.

However, most people find these kinds of dreams empowering, and even if you do end up stuck in a dream, we don’t actually spend that much of the night dreaming anyway.

The dream will fade soon enough – and even if it lasts longer than you’d like, just remember that you are the one in control.

Some researchers do not recommend lucid dreaming if you are schizophrenic, but beyond that, there aren’t many good reasons not to at least try it out.

Image: a tree with a rainbow is growing in the valley of your dreamsHow to Lucid Dream

Alright, by this point, I know you’re probably aching to know what you need to do in order to lucid dream.

There are actually a number of ways to go about doing it.

Some people will have better luck with some techniques than others, but hopefully everyone can find something on this list that will allow to unlock their true hidden powers.

 1. Do Reality Checks

One common way technique to start lucid dreaming is to do some quick reality checks throughout the day.

This can be as simple as just asking yourself, “Am I dreaming?” whenever you see something weird or just feel like double-checking.

After you think this, try passing one hand through your other hand, as if you were made if smoke.

Really believe it’ll happen, and ask yourself “Am I dreaming?” after you try doing this too, just in case you forget.

In a dream, your hands typically pass right through each other.

Another common trick for this involves plugging your nose and seeing if you’re still able to breathe (in a dream, you will).

2. Look for Clocks and Words

Two other big tip-offs to tell you you’re in a dream are words and clocks.

Your subconscious is really, really bad at details.

Even if you’re able to get meaning out of text in dreams, the words themselves will typically have a bunch of scrambled letters that might not spell out anything at all.

The details on clock faces may be messed up as well (numbers in the wrong order, clock hands not ticking properly, etc.).

Additionally, if you try looking at a clock or piece of text twice, it will almost never say the same thing as it did the first time.

Try making a habit of rereading text every now and again throughout the day.

You’ll do the same thing in your dreams, at which point you’ll suddenly start lucid dreaming!

3. Keep a Dream Journal

Another helpful technique is to keep a dream journal you write in every morning.

Dream journals are helpful for remembering your dreams in general, and the more you’re able to remember your dreams, the more likely you are to be able to tell when you’re in one.

You’ll start noticing common patterns – images that tend to show up in your sleep, common ways things tend to work – and then later, while you’re dreaming, you’ll be more likely to pick up on the unusual bits and figure out what’s going on.

Keeping a good dream journal will involve working a little bit of extra time into your mornings to sit down and really try to remember what happened in your dreams.

It can sometimes take a couple minutes just to get all the details, and it’s really best to do this as soon as you wake up.

That way, you’re not leaving out any of the details!

4. Wake Yourself Up

Finally, another way to lucid dream involves simply waking yourself up while you’re in the middle of REM sleep.

Set an alarm for 4.5, 6, or 7 hours after you go to sleep (the “or” is important there – don’t do this more than once per night!).

If you wake up from a dream, concentrate on that dream and allow yourself to drift back to sleep.

This may allow you to return back to the scenario you were in at the end of the dream, only now you’ll be lucid.

Conclusion About How to Lucid Dream

Dreams are a mysterious thing, and lucid dreaming really does allow you to unlock a completely different side of yourself.

Try some of these techniques today, and explore the wonders of your hidden mind!