When you dream you may become aware that you are dreaming. This is also known as a lucid dream, and it is when you realise that you are dreaming whilst dreaming.
You have had lucid dreams in your lifetime and forgotten most of them after you wake up. During a lucid dream you can control your dream characters, dream events, and your environment.
Lucid dreaming happens during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During a lucid dream, you are aware of your consciousness. It’s an awareness of your awareness. Lucid dreaming also lets you control what happens in your dream.
Dr. Stephen LaBerge
Dr. Stephen LaBerge is a pioneer of lucid dreaming research. Since the 1980s, he has made many powerful discoveries and has written many books about lucid dreaming. He has also discovered many lucid dreaming techniques and dedicated decades of scientific research into the subject of lucid dreaming.
LaBerge showed that there are many therapeutic benefits of lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming has been proven to help patients with conditions like PTSD, recurring nightmares, and anxiety.
Lucid dreaming happens spontaneously when you are dreaming. LaBerge also discovered how lucid dreams can be triggered by reality testing, waking up and then going to sleep, by using mnemonics, and many other methods.
Reality testing uses memory training and meditation. It increases metacognition or thinking about thinking, by training your mind to notice your own awareness.
Your level of metacognition is similar in your waking and dreaming states. Higher metacognition when you are awake could lead to higher metacognition when you are dreaming.
This is related to your prefrontal cortex which is used in reality testing and lucid dreaming. You can train your metacognition by doing reality checks when you are awake.
Test your reality each day by asking yourself “Am I dreaming?” Then check your environment to confirm if you are dreaming. Notice your own consciousness and how you interact with your environment.
Pick one reality check and do it multiple times a day. Be like Sherlock Holmes and investigate your reality thoroughly. This will train your mind to repeat the reality checks while dreaming.
Check the things you feel would trigger yourself into awakening inside a dream. For example, pinch your nose and see if you can breathe. If you can still breathe then you’re dreaming.
Check your reflection in mirrors to see if it looks normal. Look at your hands and see the detail and ask if they look normal.
Push your hand against a wall or table and see if it goes through. Some people push their fingers into their opposite palm.
The time on a clock, watch or phone will constantly change if you’re dreaming. If you’re awake, the time will barely change.
The Wake Back to Bed Method
Wake back to bed (WBTB) involves entering REM sleep while you are still conscious. There are many versions of the WBTB technique.
Set an alarm two hours earlier than you normally get up. Then go to sleep as usual. The trick is to stay awake for about 30 minutes after your alarm goes off.
While you are awake, enjoy a quiet activity like reading or meditation. Or choose any activity that requires full alertness. Then fall back asleep.
You will be more likely to lucid dream when you fall asleep. The chance of lucid dreaming depends on your level of alertness when you are awake.
Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams
Stephen LaBerge invented the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD). This was one of the first methods that applied scientific research to induce lucid dreams.
With the MILD technique, you set an intention to do something later on. This is based on prospective memory which is your ability to remember to wake up inside a dream.
Many dreams have objects or people that cue you into waking up in your dreams. Use dream signs, such as seeing your own mother even though you know you are dead, or a dream totem such as a spinning top.
Make an intention to remember that you’re dreaming. As you fall asleep, think of a recent dream. Then identify a dream sign or something that is unusual or strange in the dream. This includes being able to teleport, time travel, walk through walls or fly like superman.
Use affirmations. For example, “I will remember that I am dreaming the next time I dream” or “‘I will remember my dreams as soon as I wake up”. Recite the phrase internally many times like a mantra.
You can also practice the MILD method after waking in the middle of a dream. This may in fact you’re your experience easier as the dream will be fresher in your memory.
The perfect mix is a combination of reality testing, WBTB, and MILD. You can combine WBTB with MILD by setting an alarm to wake up in 5 or 6 hours. Then while you are awake, practice the MILD technique.
Wake Initiated Lucid Dreaming
A Wake-Initiated Lucid Dream (WILD) occurs when you enter a dream directly from waking. Your mind stays conscious while your body goes to sleep.
Lie down and relax in bed, or in meditation, until you experience a hypnagogic hallucination. This is a hallucination that occurs when you’re about to fall asleep or just before you drop-off during meditation.
Observe your own consciousness when you are about to drop off. Clear your mind of all thoughts and feelings and then observe. Let go and then follow the flow of the hypnagogia, or imagery, that appears to you. This may be a garden with elves and fairies or a portal this leads to the dream world.
WILD is tricky to learn and is very simple. Note also that WILD works too for an out-of-body experience or astral projection. Practice other lucid dreaming induction techniques too as these will help you with WILD.
Waking Up From a Lucid Dream
To wake up out of any dream the easiest way is to fall asleep in your dream. You can go to sleep in your dream so you can wake up in real life. Or you may enter a non-lucid ordinary dream.
Blinking repeatedly can wake you from a lucid dream. Blinking helps prepare your mind for waking up.
Yell for help in your dream. Yelling tells your mind to wake yourself up from the dream by waking up. You can also try spinning rapidly in your dream, and also thinking of being awake at home.
Read a sign, book, or a computer screen in your dream. This will activate other parts of your brain and increase conscious awareness. This can wake you up or even facilitate entry into an astral projection from your lucid dream.
Keeping a Dream Diary
Always keep a dream journal or dream diary. When you write down your dreams, you remember what happens during each dream. This helps you to identify dream signs and enhances your awareness of your dreams.
Log your dreams as soon as you wake up and read your dream journal often. You may also want to voice record your dreams upon waking. This is very useful if you can only spare a couple of minutes before a busy day. Later on, when you have more time, you can listen and review your recordings.
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