Lucid dreaming happens when you’re aware that you’re dreaming.
You’re able to recognize your thoughts and emotions as the dream happens.
Sometimes, you can control the lucid dream. You may be able to change the people, environment, or storyline. This type of dream of control could potentially reduce nightmares and anxiety.
Keep reading to learn more about lucid dreaming — what it is, when it occurs, and what you can do to experience it.
When lucid dreaming occurs
When you sleep, your brain cycles through rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep.
Non-REM sleep includes three separate stages. During non-REM, your brain waves, heartbeat, and eye movements gradually slow down.
In REM sleep, your brain is extremely active. Your heart rate and eye movements also increase.
Lucid dreaming, like most dreams, usually happens during REM sleep.
In a lucid dream, you know that you’re dreaming. You’re aware of your awareness during the dream state.
About 55 percent of people have experienced one or more lucid dreams in their lifetime. However, frequent lucid dreaming is rare. Only 23 percent of people have lucid dreams at least once a month.
How to experience lucid dreams
To explore lucid dreaming, try the following tips:
Get more REM sleep
Since lucid dreaming usually happens during REM sleep, spending more time in this stage will increase your chances of lucid dreaming.
You can extend REM sleep by getting enough sleep overall. When you have healthy sleep habits, your body can properly cycle through all four stages of sleep.
To practice good sleep hygiene:
- Follow a sleep schedule.
- Exercise daily.
- Avoid electronics before bed.
- Create a relaxing sleep environment.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
Even if you don’t lucid dream, these habits will help you get restorative sleep.
Keep a dream journal
Many people use a dream journal, or dream diary, to aid lucid dreaming.
Writing down your dreams forces you to recall them. This is thought to help your brain become more aware of dreaming.
To keep a dream journal, keep a notebook and pen beside your bed. Write down your dream as soon as you wake up. Read your journal regularly to familiarize your brain with your dreams.
Practice reality testing
Your level of consciousness is similar when you’re awake and dreaming. So, by increasing your awareness during your waking state, you can enhance your awareness during your dreaming state.
Reality testing is a popular way to do this. It trains your mind to recognize your own awareness while you’re awake.
The method involves doing reality checks throughout the day. As reality testing becomes a habit, you’ll be able to induce awareness while dreaming.
Popular reality checks include:
- Finger through palm. Push your fingers against your opposite palm. If they pass through, you are dreaming.
- Mirrors. In a dream state, your reflection won’t look normal.
- Nose pinch. Pinch your nose. You’ll be able to breathe if you’re in a dream.
- Reading. Look away from text then look back again. If you’re dreaming, the text will change.
- Tattoos. If you have tattoos, look at them. They’ll look different in a dream.
Choose one reality check and do it several times a day. You may have to experiment with different reality checks to determine which works best for you.
Try induction techniques
While lucid dreaming often happens randomly, it’s possible to initiate lucid dreaming through induction techniques.
These methods include:
- Wake back to bed (WBTB). Wake up five hours after bedtime. When you go back to sleep, you’ll be more likely to enter REM sleep while you’re still conscious.
- Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD). Tell yourself that you will lucid dream tonight. You can do it before bed or when you’re awake during WBTB.
- Wake-initiated lucid dream (WILD). In WILD, you enter REM sleep from wakefulness while maintaining your consciousness. It involves lying down until you have a hypnagogic hallucination.
To increase your chances of lucid dreaming, use these techniques with reality testing and dream journaling.
The benefits of lucid dreaming
Lucid dreaming has several potential benefits:
While occasional nightmares are normal, recurring nightmares can be taxing. They can interfere with consistent quality sleep.
Frequent nightmares usually affect people with:
Lucid dreaming could provide relief by reducing recurring nightmares.
During a lucid dream, you’re able to realize that the nightmare isn’t real. It also lets you control the dream, which allows you to turn a nightmare into a more neutral or pleasant scenario.
By decreasing nightmares, lucid dreaming may ease nightmare-related anxiety. It’s also used to relieve anxiety due to PTSD.
There’s also anecdotal evidence of lucid dreaming helping general anxiety, but more scientific research is needed.
Some people say it allows them to overcome the source of their anxiety.
Increase motor skills
Visualizing physical movements can increase the actual ability to do them. This may be done during a lucid dream, where the dreamer can mentally practice motor skills.
When you perform motor skills while dreaming, your brain’s sensorimotor cortex activates. This is the part of the brain that controls movement.
In this regard, lucid dreaming could help physical rehabilitation for people with physical disabilities.
It may also benefit people without physical disabilities by improving sports performance and other motor skills.
Lucid dreaming could potentially boost your creativity.
Typically, people who are more creative are more likely to lucid dream. This might be due to their heightened ability to recall dreams and visualize events.
But according to anecdotal reports, it also works the other way around. People claim lucid dreaming increases their creativity and imagination.
While this hasn’t been proven by science, many individuals use lucid dreaming to sharpen their creativity.
Interpreting lucid dreams
It’s possible to interpret a lucid dream, just like you would with a normal dream. Dream interpretation can help you understand the relevance of your dreams.
In fact, people say dream interpretation is easier during a lucid dream. Your awareness increases your ability to observe the dream as it happens.
Lucid dreams are also more vivid, which helps you remember the events and details.
To interpret your lucid dreams, keep a dream journal. Writing down your dreams will help you discover significant themes.
It’s also recommended to keep a regular journal. By recording your dreams and daily life, you’ll be more likely to find connections.
The risks of lucid dreaming
Lucid dreaming is generally considered safe, but there are some risks for people with mental health disorders.
- Sleep problems. Since lucid dreaming techniques purposely interrupt sleep, getting enough sleep can be difficult. The risk is higher if you have a sleep disorder.
- Depression and anxiety. Sleep issues can intensify depressive symptoms and anxiety.
- Derealization. Lucid dreaming induction meshes reality and dreaming, making it difficult to determine what’s real.
- Dissociation. The overlap of reality and dreaming can also cause disconnection from your surroundings or self.
During lucid dreaming, you’re aware of your dream as it happens. In some cases, you might be able to control the dream’s storyline.
If you’d like to explore lucid dreaming, try the tips in this article. Lucid dreams may potentially reduce nightmares, relieve anxiety, and improve motor skills and creativity.
Use caution if you have a sleep or mental disorder. Attempting to lucid dream poses several risks, including sleep interruptions and derealization. Talk to a therapist or sleep specialist before trying to lucid dream.