Lucid Dreaming is the ability to become aware while you’re dreaming… to consciously “wake up” inside the dream world and control your dreams.
Most people don’t even remember their regular dreams. These dreams alone are rich inner worlds that tell us much about the subconscious mind.
And lucid dreams go one giant leap further – to a fantasy realm where everything you see, feel, taste, hear and smell can be as authentic as your waking reality.
What Does Lucid Dreaming Feel Like?
Lucidity is brought about by having self-awareness in the dream world. These aren’t normal dreams – they’re high definition, 360-degree awareness.
Profoundly, there are no physical laws in the dream world. Anything you can conceive of comes true. You can control your dreams (if you choose) and warp The Matrix like Neo, fly over cities Superman style, travel through time, have sex with anyone, fight like a ninja, re-live childhood memories, and way more.
In fact, the possibilities of lucid dreaming are limitless.
And you can do it all with intense physical sensation and emotional awareness. A lucid dream is not merely a fantasy playground; it’s a chance to interact with your own subconscious mind via dream characters and gain psychological insights.
The Benefits of Lucid Dreaming
Once you know how to become lucid in dreams, you will discover a strange new world – an entire universe, no less – of which you are fully aware and can manipulate with the power of thought.
The most obvious benefit of lucid dreams is you can fulfil your every desire in total realism. But that’s not all.
You can also rehearse real life events (such as a first date) and re-live memories from the past (such as your favorite vacation). Perhaps most intriguing of all is the ability to communicate with your subconscious mind.
In normal dreams, the environment, characters, themes, symbols and plot are all driven by your subconscious mind, which communicates through experiential memory and conceptual form.
Now, for the first time in your life, lucid dreaming allows you to consciously ask any question of your dream (your subconscious or inner self) and receive an independent response that may surprise you.
When lucid dreaming, you can ask your dream questions like:
The answers will be provided by another you… a deeper you… your subconscious dreaming self! The answer may be spoken directly by a dream character, written in the sky, or shown to you in conceptual form, allowing for live dream interpretation.
Yep, lucid dreaming is a strange new world… come on in :)
Is Lucid Dreaming Scientific?
In 1975, lucid dreaming was scientifically proven in the laboratory for the first time ever. The British parapsychologist Keith Hearne recorded a set of pre-determined eye movements from his volunteer, Alan Worsley, who was in a lucid dream. This proved that Worsley was conscious while dreaming.
However, their groundbreaking research slipped under the radar of mainstream science journals and it was Stephen LaBerge at Stanford University who became famous for first publishing this experiment in 1983.
Like Hearne, LaBerge also chose lucid dreaming as the subject for his doctorate thesis and created new methods that beginners could use to become lucid on a regular basis. Today, LaBerge is a leading lucid dream researcher, running intensive workshops and dream experiments out of The Lucidity Institute.
More recently, in 2009, a study by the Neurological Laboratory in Frankfurt showed people with significantly increased brain activity while lucid dreaming. An EEG machine recorded highly active frequencies up to the 40 Hz (or Gamma) range in lucid dreamers. This is far more active than the normal dream state (Theta: 4-8 Hz) and even waking (Beta: 12-38 Hz).
The German researchers also saw heightened activity in the frontal and frontolateral areas of the brain which are the seat of linguistic thought as well as other higher mental functions associated with self-awareness. Science fully accepts that lucid dreaming is a real state of being – and may offer considerable insights into the nature of human consciousness itself.
Did You Know?
Congenitally blind people (blind since birth) show little or no Rapid Eye Movement (REM) while they dream – because their “dream eyes” are not LOOKING at anything. Instead, they have intense dreams featuring their heightened perception of sounds, smells and touch.
The hit movie, Inception, has popularized lucid dreaming. It was written and directed by a real life lucid dreamer, Chris Nolan of Memento and The Dark Knight fame. Learn more about other famous lucid dreamers.
Lucid Dreaming: The Basics
The lucid dream researcher, Stephen LaBerge, says: “Everyone has, in theory, the capacity to learn to dream lucidly, because everyone dreams every night.”
As a lucid dreamer, I know there is nothing special about my brain that allows me to control my dreams. It’s simply a matter of mental training – entering the mindset required to realize when you’re dreaming (rather than sleep through it).
However, just like playing chess or learning the piano, your skills will improve over time. That’s not to say you can’t have a lucid dream tonight – but you will need to develop your ability to go lucid at will and control your dreams naturally.
To give you a taste of the training involved, here are three basic methods you’ll need to increase your self-awareness and dream recall…
Step 1. Remember Your Dreams
Good dream recall is essential for increasing your awareness in dreams. Keep a dream journal (written or voice recorder) and remember at least one dream every morning. Write, draw, or talk about it in as much detail as you can remember, and solidify the memory of the dream before you get out of bed.
For more info on dream journaling, see How to Remember Your Dreams.
Step 2. Reality Checks
A reality check increases your level of self-awareness while awake. It eventually filters through to the dream world by force of habit and triggers lucid dreaming. To do a reality check now, take two fingers from your right hand, and try to push them through your left palm. At the same time, ask yourself “Am I dreaming right now?” Perform this action a dozen times throughout your waking day.
You’ll soon perform the same action in your dream on auto-pilot. When that happens, you’ll recognize that you are in a dream world, your consciousness will kick in, and your senses will come alive! See my Top 10 Reality Checks.
Step 3. Meditation
Dream research is uncovering the extraordinary link between meditation and lucid dreaming. The more you meditate by day – and night – the easier it will be for you to start experiencing conscious dreams. Simple as that.
Here’s a quick session you can do as you fall asleep tonight.
Lay on your back and allow every muscle to melt into the bed. Relax deeply until you’re too tired to move. To help you focus, count backwards in your mind: “100. I’m dreaming. 99. I’m dreaming. 98. I’m dreaming…” and so on. Otherwise, just quiet your mind and observe your self-awareness. Imagine your body is totally invisible and light.
Quite often, this will lead you directly into the dreamstate. Your goal is to remain conscious while your body falls asleep and your mind starts dreaming! This is not always easy, so check out my Wake Induced Lucid Dreams tutorial.
The Lucid Dreaming FAQ
If you’ve just now discovered the concept of conscious dream control, you’ll probably have a lot of questions – or misconceptions. So here is a taster of my full Lucid Dreaming FAQ to get you on your feet.
What is lucid dreaming?
How do I know when I’m lucid?
How can I stay lucid for longer?
How can I change the scenery?
How can I have flying dreams?
Are lucid dreams tiring?
Can I get stuck in a lucid dream?
Can I talk to my subconscious in a lucid dream?
A lucid dream is when you consciously wake up inside a dream. The word lucid means clear so it literally translates as clear dreaming. It is a result of heightened consciousness in the dream state, initiated by the realization that you are dreaming.
Most people will have one or two conscious dreams in their lifetime by accident. But with practice, you can learn how to have lucid dreams regularly and act out your greatest fantasies and use it for personal development. While some children can program their dreams naturally, for adults it requires practice of lucid dreaming techniques and a dedication to the concept of waking up in your dreams.
The reason so many people are drawn to lucidity is because it sets them free and allows them to do impossible things in the dream world. Once you learn to induce conscious dreams, you can control your actions, manipulate the scenery, and drive the plot as you see fit. This enables you to explore the depths of the oceans or the edge of the universe. You can travel forward in time, fly to the moon, or run like a cheetah. There are no limits in the world of lucid dreaming.
In Dream Initiated Lucid Dreams, the moment you become lucid is the moment you suddenly realize you are dreaming.
In the movies, fictional characters often realize they’re dreaming and make funny comments about it but otherwise allow the dream to continue of it’s own accord and nothing changes.
In real life, the effect is quite different. Saying (and knowing) “This is a dream!” results in a rush of clarity of thought. Your surroundings will zoom into focus and become much more vivid. You will have far greater awareness of your body and it is more like a waking experience, seeing the dream through your own eyes and having the opportunity to move freely at will.
Lucid dreaming involves your conscious brain. So it will look and feel a lot like waking life, where the conscious brain is in charge. The more experience you gain of conscious dreaming, the better you will become at observing and controlling your dream awareness. You can focus on distant landscapes, feel the texture of the grass underfoot, and taste any food you can imagine.
However, the features of conscious dreams can spontaneously change just like a normal dream. For instance, you may manifest a group of bear cubs which later change into a pile of boxes. Of course, you can easily call the bear cubs back again. But don’t be surprised if you notice these subtle changes which seem beyond your control. This is the subconscious mind showing its influence in what is, after all, a subconsciously generated landscape. Just remember to reassert your conscious will every now and then by reminding yourself “I’m dreaming – and none of this is real.”
If your lucid dream is coming to an end, you will notice your senses fading away – starting with vision and finishing with touch. It can happen within seconds so you need to act fast or you’ll wake up. Alternatively, you may just lose your clarity of thought and slip back into a regular dream state which is blurry and guides itself.
I recommend you increase your awareness with these Tips for Prolonging Lucid Dreams the moment you recognize that you’re dreaming. Often, beginners find their lucid dreams last only a few seconds before they get too excited and accidentally wake themselves up. With these techniques you can prolong your conscious dreams for up to an hour.
My favorite way to enhance my lucidity and ground myself into the dream is to rub my hands together, which stimulates the conscious brain and distracts me from thinking about my physical body lying in bed. I also say out loud “I’m dreaming. I’m lucid.”
Making the dream scene morph in front of your eyes can sometimes difficult – mainly because you simply don’t expect it to happen. This is typical of the results beginners complain about because they lack the anticipated dream control.
If you’re having problems with dream control (and I should stress that not everyone does have such issues) the best way to change things is to work WITH your subconscious dream logic. For instance, to change the scenery:
- Locate a dream door (a door that stands randomly in the middle of any landscape) and step through to another world.
- Pass through a mirror portal (a liquid-like mirror that leads to another dimension) and emerge in any scene you choose.
- Change the channel on a TV, then jump into the screen and allow the image to become 3-dimensional around you.
- Turn away from the scene, imagine a new location emerging behind you. When you turn back – lo and behold – it is there!
- Spin around and imagine a new scene appearing when you stop spinning.
As you can see, there are many creative solutions to issues of dream control. The most important thing to remember is that your conscious expectation plays a major role. If you question your own ability to manifest new scenes, then your abilities will falter. But if you remain confident and learn from your experiences, you’ll soon find that absolutely anything is possible inside a lucid dream.
Learning how to fly in lucid dreams is something we all want to master first.
However, it’s not like you’ve had any practice in real life, so the concept can be a little difficult on the lucid dreaming mind. While some people take to the sky like Superman, others can get stuck in power lines, bump into buildings, or waver as if there is wobbly dream gravity acting against them (which of course there isn’t!)
Think of the movie The Matrix, when Morpheus asks Neo how he beat him in a virtual reality fight. Was it because he was stronger, faster, or fitter in this simulated world? No! It was because he truly believed he was better. It’s the same concept in dreams.
Take a look at this article on How to Have Lucid Flying Dreams, which explains the rules of flying dreams and offers a three-step flight training program to work with.
The short answer for 99% of people is no.
You dream for around 100 minutes every night, broken down into multiple different dreams occurring in different stages of sleep. The average proficient lucid dreamer can expect to do it maybe 2-4 times a week, with each session lasting 10-40 minutes. Most people don’t miss that sleep – even if it were deemed to be worthless (which it isn’t). Indeed, lucid dreaming can often leave you on a natural high for the rest of the day, which gives you more mental and physical energy.
For a very small fraction of people, lucid dreaming occurs every night. They can feel engulfed by their conscious dreams and unable to sleep deeply and properly the whole night. This can leave them feeling sleep deprived and is a very real sleep disorder once it begins to impact on their normal daily life. That’s not to say lucid dreaming is a sleep disorder – but anything in excess can have profound effects on the mind and body. People who complain of this condition have usually been lucid dreaming their whole lives and should seek expert advice.
If you are imagining getting stuck in a lucid dream that way a child gets stuck in a painting in a horror movie, then no, that’s science fiction! Often it’s the opposite problem: people find it difficult to stay in their dream, and just about all mine end before I’m done with them.
Waking yourself up while lucid dreaming is quite easy and something many lucid dreamers develop early on to stop nightmares. Simply open and shut your dream eyes in quick succession (which triggers your real eyes to open) and shout out to yourself “Wake up!”
Some people report being stuck in lucid nightmares or false awakenings against their will but in my experience this is no worse than being in a regular nightmare or dream. Eventually you either wake up naturally or you have the consciousness required to think “Hang on… this is a dream. I don’t have to do this!”
While lucid dreaming, we have easy access to our subconscious mind. It is right there, setting up the imagery and guiding the plot. So once you become lucid, you can personify your subconscious by talking to a dream figure and seeking all the information you like from your subconscious inner self. This is a whole other application for lucid dreaming and I highly recommend looking into it. Start with the article 10 Things to Ask Your Lucid Self inspired by the lucid dream author, Robert Waggoner.
If you found this FAQ helpful, visit the full Lucid Dreaming FAQ.