Lucid Dreams: What They Are and How to Experience Them

Reviewed on 9/10/2020

What Are Lucid Dreams?

In lucid dreaming, a person is aware they are dreaming, but they do not leave the dream state. In some cases, they can control the dream's setting and narrative. Enthusiasts have developed various lucid dreaming techniques.
In lucid dreaming, a person is aware they are dreaming, but they do not leave the dream state. In some cases, they can control the dream's setting and narrative. Enthusiasts have developed various lucid dreaming techniques.

In lucid dreaming, a person is aware they are dreaming, but they do not leave the dream state. In some cases, the dreamer can control the dream environment. Lucid dreaming happens during the REM cycle of sleep

It is estimated that about 55% of adults have experienced at least one lucid dream during their lifetime, and nearly a quarter of people experience lucid dreams at least once per month. 

How Do You Experience Lucid Dreams?

It is possible to trigger lucid dreams with the right techniques. The Sleep Foundation suggests the following to trigger lucid dreaming:

  • Practice good sleep hygiene to ensure enough REM stage sleep occurs
    • Make sure the bedroom temperature is optimal: 65°F/18.3°C is considered ideal
    • Use blackout curtains or sleep masks to reduce light
    • Wear ear plugs or use white noise to block outside noises
  • Practice “reality testing” though the day
    • Check your environment to confirm if you’re asleep or awake
    • In a dream, the environment may seem familiar but you can usually identify inconsistencies when compared to reality, for example:
      • Try to push your fingers through your hand. In reality you can’t but in a dream, you may be able to.
      • Can you breathe when you hold your nose and close your mouth?
      • Can you will yourself to fly? 
      • Does your reflection look normal in a mirror?
    • If you do this during the day, you may be able to do this during sleep which can help you dream more lucidly
  • Try the mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD) technique and WBTB wake back to bed technique (WBTB) methods
    • For both, wake up after sleeping for five hours (use an alarm if needed)
    • For MILD, after waking, tell yourself to remember you’re dreaming once you fall asleep again
    • For WBTB, stay awake for 30 to 120 minutes before returning to sleep
  • Record your dreams
    • Write down everything you remember about your dreams when you wake up
    • This may help you recognize dreams more easily when you are sleeping, which can trigger lucid dreams
  • Tell yourself you will have a lucid dream
    • For some people, this suggestion alone can help induce lucid dreaming
  • Get a lucid dream-inducing device 
    • Devices come may be sleep masks or headbands that produce noises, flashing lights, vibrations, and other cues that act as auditory, visual, and/or tactile stimuli
    • They can be expensive, running at least $200
  • Play video games
    • Some research has shown people who play video games frequently may also have more control of lucid dreams

What Are the Benefits and Risks of Lucid Dreaming?

Possible benefits of lucid dreaming may include:

Possible risks of lucid dreaming may include:

  • Sleep problems/disrupted sleep
  • Worsening depression or anxiety due to sleep problems
  • Sleep paralysis, in which a person is aware but is unable to move or speak during sleep
  • Difficulty getting out of a dream and back to reality – may be frightening

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Reviewed on 9/10/2020
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