Staying up all night
Most people sleep between 30% and 40% of their lives. Of course this is not lost time, I mean you go crazy without sleep you know... Imagine however, that when you go to sleep you can use some of that time to experience the craziest things. this lucid dreaming guide will lead you through the process.
In a dream everything is possible. The only limiting factor is whether your imagination is big enough to go truly great things. Lucid dreaming is the art and skill of being aware that you are dreaming, while you are dreaming. In short, you "wake up" in the dreaming world. You remember that you are dreaming, and are fully aware that your real body is lying in bed.
Personally I have been lucky enough to have spontaneous lucid dreams once in a while since I was about 6. I couldn't control it at all, but I did some awesome things. In general my favorite things to do in dreams are:
- Jumping off of high buildings
I can't die in a dream, so at most it will hurt a little. But I love the feeling of falling.
- Flying around
This is easy to control some times, but harder others. Soaring above a town is an awesome feeling though
I have never been able to fully control this reliably. But with effort moving things is no problem, and it's fun!
- Breathing under water
Accidentally learned it once, and it was possible every time after. The feeling of being in water in a dream feels really good.
Anyhow, enough about me. Are you ready to get started? Ready to fly through space and talk to your subconscious? This complete lucid dreaming guide is divided into sections like this:
Section 1 - Preparation
Lucid dreaming is awesome, but learning it required some preparation. Don't worry though, it is nothing dramatic, and most of it is actually fun to do. The most challenging thing is incorporating new habits into your routine and lifestyle. This section is split up in two subsections, long and short term. The long term goes into habits and routines you want to incorporate. The short term discusses what you can do right before a dream.
The following techniques need to be incorporated into your life on a daily basis. They are not things for which you sit down at the end of the day, they need to be in your awareness at specific times. Train yourself to use these techniques constantly.
Dream recall - a journal
What use is having a lucid dream if you can't remember it when you wake up? Often lucid dreams are memorable, but in the beginning it happened to me more than once that I had an awesome LD (Lucid Dream) and didn't remember it until a day later. Ask yourself how many dreams you have a night. Now keep in mind that everyone dreams, and usually over 4 times a night. It is not unusual for me to have 7. Don't think you are an exception, you are not. If you don't "have" over 4 dreams a night, your dream recall just sucks.
The solution for this is having a dream journal. At night always have some sort of information recorder by your bed. Some people prefer notebooks, others audio recorders or other technology. Personally I'm a big fan of my old android phone with physical keyboard. Here are some options with pros and cons.
- Pro: it is a classic. You can write or draw anything. Making diagrams is no problem, and it makes no sound.
- Con: your handwriting in the middle of the night is usually not particularly readable. Plus if you are sleeping together with someone, you might wake them if you don;t have a small light.
- Pro: recording is fast and reliable. You don't have to wake up a lot to use it. It requires no light.
- Con: it makes sound, so it's not very suitable if you sleep together with someone. You can't quickly glance over your dream log. Audio has no search function.
- Pro: screen lights up (put the brightless down, trust me). Keyboards record reliably, no matter what your handwriting may be like at the time. Digital storage has a search function. Backups are easy.
- Con: has a battery. Screen might burn your eyes at 4AM.
There are some cardinal rules to keep in mind when you write your dream journal. Don't underestimate their power.
- Write down your dream as soon as you wake up
There is no way you will remember your dream reliably in the morning, or even a sleep cycle later. At the very best you will lose all the details.
- Write down details
What were the colors like? What did people say? Did you smell anything? Write down everything you can think of, experience and engagement is key.
- Don't filter
Write down everything you remember. Even if it is stupid, scary or embarrassing. Don't worry if your worst fear visits you in your dream (LD's will take care of nightmares by the way), or if you had sex on a rooftop. It is dream, and unless you were lucid you had very little control over it.
As you write your journal, you will notice that within days you will remember more and better. I once got the question whether it is possible to "over dream". Remember, you are not creating new dreams, just remembering the ones you were already having.
While writing your dream journal, you may notice that certain things that are impossible or uncommon in the real world keep coming back. For me, walking on an empty road at night is a dream sign. In reality there is always somebody around. In my dreams it is not unusual to have nothing around, no cars, no people, no animals, nothing. Other things are morphed buildings, or my dead grandfather showing up. There are four categories of dream signs. make sure to mark them in your dream journal in order to find patterns.
- Morphed form
In a dream locations you know, may be very different. Maybe your house has a basement it never had, or there is suddenly a terrace on the roof of your grandparents.
- Weird behavior
In dreams you will often find yourself doing things you would not in reality. You might be flying an airplane or sitting on top of a driving car. This category extends to weird behavior from you as well as that of dream characters.
Some things you run into might be entirely normal, under certain circumstances. Maybe you are eating a roast chicken, but doing so sitting on a cloud. Or you are having a shower, in the middle of the street. You can see this might overlap slightly with the weird behavior category, don't be too worried about distinctions.
In a dream you might feel very happy or sad for no reason. I remember once feeling total bliss while looking at an image in a dream. It felt so good, but made no sense. It was like being on drugs.
Train yourself to be on the lookout for dream signs in reality. Keep your eyes open and when you spot something that might be a dream sign, ask yourself whether this might be a dream. Also do a reality check, see the next paragraph.
How can you ever be sure if you are in a dream or in reality? This is a slightly philosophical dilemma that lucid dreamers are faced with. A reality check is something that will help you tell the difference between reality and a dream. It is not like in inception, the movie got it all wrong (though it is still quite inspiring), but very reliable nonetheless.
There are many types of reality checks. Try and find you favorite ones. I prefer to always have one ready that is:
- Internal, so I can do it without people noticing
- One that is short and reliable
- One that is flawless but too obvious for in public.
The folowing reality checks are those that I have found to be the most reliable. Test them for yousself, and modify them to your liking.
- Internal: remember how you got here
This one the inception movie did get right. In a dream your memory is jumbled. Quickly go through your day backwards. If your memory stops or doesn't make sense, this might be a dream.
- Quick: squeeze your nose and try to breathe through it
In reality you can't breathe through your nose while squeezing it. In a dream you can. No seriously, it is a very funny feeling when this happens in a dream. This check is quite inconspicuous but I have found it very reliable.
- Flawless: jump
In my dreams, when I jump falling down takes too long. My head assumes I want to fly, so tampers with gravity. To do this check, jump up and try very hard to keep floating. In reality it won't work (if it does, contact me and teach me), in a dream you will remain floating for half a second or so at least.
There are many more reality checks, have a look at them and pick any that take your fancy. I do recommend that you keep the nose squeezing one, it seems to be highly reliable for many people.
- Nose squeeze
If you can squeeze your nose and breathe, it is a dream.
- Jump and float
If you jump up and float down, this is probably a dream
If you can't remember how you got here, this might be a dream. Or you were very drunk.
Look at your hands. Do they look normal. In a dream they often look weird.
Clocks malfunction in dreams. They might keep changing time, not not move at all.
- Light switches
They work oddly or not al all in dreams.
Malfunctions a lot in dreams. With me driving a car in a dream is hell, if never does what you want.
Check your reflection, do you look normal?
You might be somebody else, which is a pretty good clue that you are dreaming.
Close one eye and look at your nose. Can't see it? You might be dreaming, or you are Voldemort.
Dreams are more frequent in the later stages of sleep. The first part of sleep usually consists of deep sleep, and the further the night progresses the more likely you will have dreams. This also means that if you sleep very little, you will have less dreams. Generally you want to make sure you sleep at least 8 hours a night. LDing is perfectly possible if you don't, but it is easier if you do sleep more.
If you are sleep deprived you may find the weekends easier to ludicly dream in. When you sleep longer that you are used to, dreams tend to be more frequent. This brings us to the point of sleep. Sleeping earlier is better for lucid dreaming. Your body has an internal clock, the circadian rhythm, which is linked to sunlight and many more factors. Due to this sleeping 10 to 6 is better than sleeping 1 to 9. Sleeping earlier also tends to make people more productive during the day.
Don't underestimate the role of food in all this. It has been found that a lot of people who feel groggy when they wake up, feel much better if they eat a slowly digestible snack before bed for example. To keep your brain in good shape, try to have a healthy diet and exercise routine. It will also help you sleep better. If you are confused about what to east and what not to eat, have a look at this article I wrote on your IQ, your brain and food.
Stress is horrible. Not just because it doesn't feel fun, but also because it interferes with lucid dreaming. It will make your dreams troubled, probably make you have trouble sleeping and allow for less calm focus to induce lucid dreams. Relax as much as you can, both during the day and at night. If you have work related stress, have a look the the eBook I give away (find it at the bottom of the article, together with Scott Young's learning technique eBook).
These techniques can be used right before you go to bed, or want to induce a lucid dream. Some of them can also be used on the long term, but they are especially important in short term induction.
Lucid Dreaming meditation
Meditation is a great way to relax before bed. There is however one type of meditation that is simple and very effective for helping lucid dreamers. It is also a great way to empty your mind at the end of the day. Use whatever meditation you prefer, though consider this one.
- Sit down and relax. Especially relax your shoulders and neck. Slow your breathing.
- Run through your day in reverse in as much detal as you can all the way up to waking up this morning. More experienced lucid dreamers may extend this to last night's dreams
- Take a moment to just sit and relax before opening your eyes
This technique empties your "RAM" or temporary in a way. It has helped me greatly to calm my head before sleep. A good tip to this is to do this technique in a quite and dark room. please note that this technique is great to incorporate in your daily routine.it will take only a little time and can be done anywhere.
This may be useful during the day, but is even more important right before you want to induce a lucid dream, especially those of the W.I.L.D. and V.I.L.D. variety. We will go into those a bit later. There are many relaxation techniques. Go ahead and shop around the internet for your favorite one. Don't shy away from self hypnosis. Personally I have a hypnosis induced relaxation technique I use all the time.
Trouble sleeping? Well, that can be solved. It is not the focus of this article though, so I will go into my favorite ones only.
- Pzizz app with sleepphones
Do you every listen to relaxation recordings? Well, their downside is that they are always the same, which makes them ineffective for a lot of people. The pzizz android and idevice app creates a new recording every time, including a calming voice giving you relaxation instructions. You just set the length of the recording (10 minutes to 10 hours or so), set the volume and click play. Speelphones are headphones in a headband so that you can sleep with them without the hurting your ears or falling out.
Herbs and supplements
Most dream herbs and supplements are not for beginners. But I will list them in any case.
- Calea Zacatechichi / Dream herb
Makes dreams a lot more vivid. It can help lucid dreamers have very interesting dream experiences, but will make normal people just have vivid and weird dreams.
Used in alzheimer patients, increases dream intensity and micro-awakenings. If you are prone to sleep paralysis this may induce more of it. Like I said, not for beginners.
- Huperzine-A (200-400 mcg)
Helps with LD induction by increasing the halftime of neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain.
Some report using patches to create vivid and chaotic dreams. Put on the patch in the middle of the night, right before going back to bed. This can cause insomnia though if you don't use it properly.
This substance is often used to fall asleep faster. It is however used by some to create vivid and chaotic dreams. I don't use it because it makes it difficult for me to wake up at night to write in my dream journal.
Section 2 - Induction
So now we are prepared for lucid dreaming. Let's get down to how to actually start having them. This section deals with different induction techniques by their difficulty. The best way is to start with the easy ones, and practice the harder ones later or at the same time, like W.I.L.D.
We talked about these already, but it is good to name them under induction techniques. Train yourself to do reality checks all the time. Do them at least 20 times a day. It only takes a couple of seconds, so no excuses. Some people like to define trigger events, like doing a reality check every time they walk through a door. personally I write a symbol in my hand, and every time I see it I do a RC (Reality Check). Plus just do them at random times, every time your mind drifts off for example. Constantly keep your eyes open for dream signs. If anything is even slightly weird, do a RC.
When you are dreaming your mind will be used to questioning reality. After a while you will just suddenly do a RC and have a lucid dream. If you have even the slightest doubt as to whether you are dreaming or not, do multiple checks. Also, and this is VERY important: do a reality check every time you wake up. False awakenings are very common, more than you can imagine. In a false awakening, you wake up in your bed, but it is actually a dream. Even the most experienced LDers have troubles with this sometimes.
WBTB - Wake, Back to Bed
In this technique you wake up in the middle of the night, usually after 4 to 6 hours of sleep and go back to bed after. In the time between, focus on lucid dreaming. Use some affirmations, or read an article on lucid dreaming. This technique is very effective in combination with other techniques. Often though it will produce results on its own.
If you tell yourself that you will have a lucid dream, you are more likely to have one. Before you go to bed, or when falling asleep after WBTB convince yourself that you will have a lucid dream. The more you believe it, the more likely it is to happen. This technique can also be used for dream recall.
M.I.L.D. - Mnemonic Induced Lucid Dream
This technique focuses on making you remember that you are dreaming. before you go to bed, or after a WBTB lie down and repeat to yourself something along the lines of "in my next dream, I will remember I am dreaming". While you do this think back to a dream you had recently. Run through the dream while keeping your mantra in mind. This technique works especially well after you just woke up from a dream.
This technique lets you construct a dream and tries to make you dream that dream. Before you go to bed, have a constructed dream. Give it a title and everything. For example you could use a dream titled "Beach walk with monkeys", in which you are talking to monkeys on a beach and they are talking back. The monkeys talking makes you realize you are dreaming, after which you become lucid. Visualize this dream, make it vivid and real. Do this before bed or after you woke up in the night. Just have the dream ready and constructed.
This lets you step back into a dream you just had. Once you wake up, do not move. Tiny motions are ok, just don't start rolling or something. Visualize yourself back into your dream, step back into the dream or replay part of it. Make it vivid, and ignore the real world. You will find it relatively easy to step back into a dream.
V.I.L.D. - Visually Induced Lucid Dream
This technique is an extreme form of dream incubation, and quite close to the W.I.L.D. technique. before you go to bed construct a dream in which you become lucid. Make it short and snappy. See yourself walking through your street and noticing something that makes you do a RC, after which you become lucid. Visualize this calmly for about three times, and then commit to the dream. Visualize it as hard and real as you can. Keep doing this until your visualizations blend with the dream world. You will be sure you are there when the RC works, and it feels like a dream as opposed to a visualization.
W.I.L.D. - Wake induced Lucid Dream
The W.I.L.D. technique is based on falling asleep consciously. It requires total relaxation and full concentration. Each approach to this technique starts with full relaxation of your body. You can accomplished this by relaxing each part of your body individuality. Start with your feet, and work your way up. This should take about 10 minutes. From here there are two main techniques to work with.
The first uses hypnagogic imagery. These are the images that flash before your eyes when you daydream or start falling asleep. Basically all you do is lie still, relax and wait for the images t come. When they do, don't touch them. Let them develop and become more real all the time. After a while they will become tangible and you can step into the dream. Please note the W.I.L.D. technique is quite hard, most people don;t have results very fast.
The other technique is the counting technique, in which people count from a zero to a hundred back back as many times as needed until they fall asleep. Often people add "I am dreaming" to the counting. For example they will mentally count: 1, I am dreaming. 2, I am dreaming. 3 etc etc.
Section 3 - In the Dream
So now you are in a dream. Then what? You will notice that your first experiences will have some bugs. Most people wake up very quickly after their first lucid dreams. It is also not uncommon for people to go from a lucid dream straight back into normal dream awareness. The following techniques will show you how to deal with the inevitable dream bugs. Holding on to your dream
The first problem many people face is waking up shortly after the lucid dream. This goes for beginner as well as experienced lucid dreamers. The first thing you want to do is stabilize your dream, in order to make it last longer.
Make them longer
The first thing you should always do in a dream is simple: relax. Don't get excited, it will wake you up faster then you can shout YAY! Always first stabilize your dream. Interact with as many senses as you can. Focus on what you are seeing, on the details. Rub your hands in order to create physical sensation. Listen carefully at what you hear, and try to smell anything.
The second step is preventing a relapse into a normal dream. First off, relax like I told you. Do periodic reality checks. I find it very helpful to keep telling myself this is a dream every 3 steps or so. It sounds very annoying, but in a dream it feels like a habit. Find out what works for you.
Prevent waking up
There is nothing more horrible than being in a good dream and being pulled back to the real world. If this happens always do a reality check, often you didn't actually wake up.
To prevent waking up when you feel that you are waking up, start spinning. Spin as fast as you can, be a tornado! And yes, it is as fun as it sounds. Sometimes this will prevent waking up, other times it will cause a false awakening. Either case it often makes your mind hold on to the dream world.
Once you are in a dream, many people will have the immediate urge to develop superpowers. Well, all I have to say to that is: go ahead! Have fun in the dream world. Sometimes it will be easier than others. Some of the more popular things to try:
- Breathing under water
- Super strength
- Visiting cool places
- Talk to your subconscious
- Walk through walls
One of the coolest things of being in a dream, is that you are interacting with yourself. All dream characters are just a part of you. You can actually communicate with the deeper parts of yourself. As an example I once needed to find the solution to a problem, and in a lucid dream I shouted that I wanted to talk to my subconscious. Sure enough it showed up in the form of a woman on a horse. I'm sure Freud would have loved to analyze that.
Things you do in a dream help in reality. A lot of people use lucid dreams to practice things they do in real life. Some people give presentations they are nervous for for example. Personally I used it to learn new skills in the sports field. The type or orientation and slow motion learning you can do in a dream is absolutely amazing.