Lucid dreams: the 2023 guide

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Alexis Thomson
Alexis Thomson

Probably one of the most asked questions, what is lucid dreaming and how do I do it. Well in this guide we will uncover what lucid dreaming is and the best techniques for you to be able to do it. Let’s start. 

What is lucid dreaming?

Lucid dreaming is a phenomenon where someone is aware that they are dreaming during the dream itself. In a lucid dream, the dreamer has at least some amount of control over the dream contents and narrative. Some key features of lucid dreams include:

  • Awareness of dreaming – In a lucid dream, the dreamer knows they are in a dream state while the dream is occurring, in contrast to regular dreams where the realisation happens after awakening.
  • Control over actions – Those having lucid dreams are able to consciously influence or direct their actions within the dream to some extent, rather than just following the narrative unconsciously.
  • Logical thinking – Lucid dreamers are able to maintain logical reasoning abilities during the dream, unlike typical dreaming where critical thinking is suspended.
  • Memory retention – Lucid dreams are much easier to remember upon waking compared to non-lucid dreams.
  • Altered perception – The dreamer’s perception is heightened within a lucid dream, including greater vibrancy, intensified emotions, hyperrealism, and heightened sensation.

While anyone can have spontaneous lucid dreams, some individuals are able to induce them at will using various techniques like meditation, reality testing, and external stimulation. Lucid dreaming offers neuroscience insights into consciousness, metacognition, and the nature of dreams. Though it is still not fully understood, interest in lucid dreaming has grown in recent years. Make sure you use our dream journal and we can help you on your lucid dreaming journey. 

How to lucid dream

This is a world where sleep can become your playground, where the boundaries of reality blur, and where your wildest adventures await. Here are our coveted methods to get you lucid dreaming as soon as possible. You can thank us later

The Wake-Initiated Lucid Dreaming (WILD) method

Transitioning from Wakefulness to Dream State: In Wake-Initiated Lucid Dreaming (WILD), you seamlessly transition from the waking world directly into a dream. The key to WILD is to stay aware as your body gradually falls asleep, allowing your mind to maintain consciousness within the dream state. While it may take practice, the hypnagogic hallucinations that often precede sleep can serve as a gateway to initiating a WILD dream. Developing proficiency in our other lucid dream methods can significantly enhance your ability to achieve a successful WILD experience.

Reality Testing

Reality testing is a technique designed to bridge the gap between your waking and dream states by training your mind to recognise the subtle shifts between being asleep and awake. This method involves performing “reality checks” while you are awake to boost your metacognition, which remains active during dreams. The prefrontal cortex’s role in both reality monitoring and lucid dreams underscores the effectiveness of this approach. You can implement reality testing by:

  • Ask yourself the simple question – “am I dreaming?”
  • Check your environment to confirm whether you are asleep or awake
  • Notice your own surroundings and how you are engaging with them. Are you conscious?

You can set alarms on your iPhone or watch every 2 or 3 hours to do these – it helps. But I know what you are thinking, what do these checks consist of? Here are some ones we recommend:

  1. Check your reflection in a mirror and see if it is normal
  2. Push a solid object and see if it reacts as if it should. You can use a wall or table, or even your own body
  3. Check your hands. Is everything looking normal? 
  4. Check the time. Time in dreams moves really strangely and jumps about. But in reality, time moves slowly
  5. A really common check is to see if you are breathing. Pinch your nose and if you can still breathe through it, you are dreaming. 

Wake Back to Bed (WBTB)

The Wake Back to Bed (WBTB) technique involves a conscious return to sleep after briefly awakening during the night. To implement this in your daily life, set an alarm to wake you approximately five hours after your initial bedtime. Stay awake for about 30 minutes, allowing your mind to become alert and active, and then return to sleep with the deliberate intention of entering a lucid dream. This method capitalises on your body’s natural propensity to transition into a REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase, the stage of sleep most conducive to lucid dreaming.

When you go back to sleep you are way more likely to lucid dream. 

Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD)

Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) employs prospective memory to encourage the recollection of dreams.

 As you prepare to fall asleep, recall a recent dream you’ve had and identify a “dreamsign” – a peculiar or implausible element that signifies you are in a dream. While drifting off to sleep, affirm your intent to recognise that you are dreaming when you encounter such a dream. 

Here are the four steps for using the MILD technique to induce lucid dreams:

  1. As you drift into slumber, recollect a recent dream that you’ve had.
  2. Pinpoint a “dreamsign” within that dream, something unusual or out of the ordinary, like the ability to fly.
  3. Visualise yourself reentering that dream and acknowledge that the dreamsign is a clear indicator that you are, indeed, in a dream.
  4. In your mind, repeat the affirmation, “The next time I dream, I intend to remember that I am dreaming,” firmly engraving this intention in your subconscious as you embark on your journey into the world of dreams.

Additionally, you can practice MILD during nocturnal awakenings from dreams, making it a versatile technique for promoting lucidity.

Dream Journaling

Maintaining a dream journal is a powerful tool to augment your capacity for dream recall and raise awareness of recurring dream signs. We would say this is one of the most important things you can do in your dream journey. You can use our dream interpreter and start your very own journal.

But if you want to do it manually (we don’t know why you would) the process is pretty straightforward: immediately upon awakening, record the details of your dreams in your journal. Over time, regularly reviewing your dream journal reinforces the habit of recording your dreams, enabling you to recognise patterns, recurring themes, and discrepancies within your dream experiences. This heightened awareness can significantly contribute to the success of your lucid dream induction efforts.

How to wake up from a lucid dream

At times, you might want to bring an end to a lucid dream. Lucid dreamers employ various techniques for this purpose. Here are simple methods to wake from a lucid dream:

  1. Call for Help: If you wish to rouse from your dream, try calling out for assistance. Shouting in your dream signals your brain that it’s time to awaken. Alternatively, if you manage to speak out loud within the dream, it may trigger your awakening.
  2. Blink Repeatedly: Repeatedly blinking in your dream can help prepare your mind for waking up.
  3. Fall Asleep in Your Dream: If you are conscious of the fact that you are in a dream, try going to sleep within the dream itself. This can facilitate your return to the waking world.
  4. Read Something: Attempt to read a sign or a book within your dream. This act can activate areas of your brain that aren’t typically engaged during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, potentially aiding in your transition to wakefulness.

Benefits of lucid dreaming

Lucid dreams offer many potential therapeutic benefits. Here are just a few:

Overcoming Nightmares

While occasional nightmares are common, recurring nightmares can lead to stress and anxiety. These are often linked to conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, stress, sleep disturbances, or medication and substance use.

Lucid dreaming empowers individuals to take control of their nightmares. When you know you’re in a dream, you can recognise that the nightmare is not real. Lucid dreaming is often incorporated into imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT), where therapists guide individuals to reshape recurring nightmares into more positive scenarios. When combined with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), IRT with lucid dream induction can enhance dream control. 

In a small 2017 study involving military veterans with PTSD and recurring nightmares, those who received CBT with IRT reported greater dream control and reduced nightmare-related stress.

Relieving Anxiety

While most scientific research has concentrated on anxiety related to PTSD and nightmares, anecdotal evidence suggests that lucid dreaming may also help reduce anxiety stemming from various sources. People claim that by taking charge of their dreams, they can confront situations that trigger anxiety.

We have spoken to hundreds of our community who believe this to be true. 

Enhancing Motor Skills

Lucid dreaming has the potential to benefit physical rehabilitation.

 A 2013 study suggested that mentally rehearsing motor skills during lucid dreams might improve the physical ability to perform these actions. This indicates that individuals with physical disabilities could use lucid dreaming to practice motor skills. Furthermore, the study speculates that even those without physical disabilities could potentially utilise lucid dreaming to enhance their motor skills.

Cautionary advice with lucid dreaming

Negative aspects of lucid dreaming are only sometimes caused by the induction techniques. Here are the negative aspects you might want to consider:

  1. Sleep problems. Some techniques such as WBTB and MILD involved waking up in the middle of the night. This could clash with getting enough rest, especially if you suffer from insomnia and an irregular sleep schedule. 

Even though we recommend these techniques you should always make sure you have ample sleep so you feel well-rested.

  1. Derealisation. This means that you may feel things aren’t real and could be dreams. These include people, the environment and feelings. 
  1. Depression. Interruptions of sleep and trying hard to lucid dreams may increase depressive symptoms. Put your well-being above lucid dreaming.
  1. Sleep paralysis. Sleep problems can increase the risk of sleep paralysis. Coupled with lucid dreaming that may occur with sleep paralysis it can be unsettling, but it is important to note this is usually brief. 

When you should seek medical expertise

Some sleep and neurological symptoms are signs you should seek medical expertise. Some of the following symptoms may be signs of PTSD, a mental health issue, or a sleep disorder. Watch out for the following:

  • Recurring nightmares that disrupt sleep
  • The fear of falling to sleep
  • Traumatic flashbacks
  • Changes to emotional well-being
  • Memory issues

A note from me

Lucid dreaming is when you know you’re in a dream, and you can even control what happens in it. It usually occurs during a stage of sleep called REM.

People have found that lucid dreaming can be helpful for things like stopping recurring nightmares or dealing with PTSD. Some even think it might be useful for physical therapy.

If you want to try lucid dreaming, you can use the techniques we talked about earlier. They teach your mind to stay aware while you’re dreaming.

If you think you have sleep problems, PTSD, or other mental health issues, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor.

To make your journey into lucid dreaming even more exciting, check out our Dream Journal and Interpator,  join our community of dreamers and learn together.