Fly like a bird once. Take a look at a possible future. Talk to a deceased person again. Ideas that actually seem unattainable. And yet there is a phenomenon that makes all these ideas possible. The so-called lucid dreaming.
The conscious perception and influencing of dreams was long considered a pipe dream. Today, however, it is clear that lucid dreaming is a scientifically proven phenomenon that can be learned and trained.
In this article we want to show you what lucid dreaming is all about and how you can learn and train it as a beginner.
the essentials in brief
- Lucid dreaming, also known as lucid dreaming, is now on everyone's lips. Many are interested in it, but only very few people can dream lucidly.
- Scientific studies, experts and representatives from various fields are discussing this topic and are eagerly looking for the solution and a replicable method for lucid dreaming. However, to date without success.
- Nevertheless, there are some approaches, tips and tricks that significantly increase the likelihood of conscious dreaming and can bring you much closer to your desire to become a lucid dreamer in the long term.
Definition: What is a lucid dream or lucid dreaming?
The lucid dream, also called a lucid dream, describes a dream in which the dreaming person is aware that they are dreaming. Paul Tholey, one of the pioneers in the field of lucid dream research, describes the phenomenon as follows:
Lucid dreams are dreams in which there is an awareness that you are dreaming.
If lucid dreaming people achieve the awareness that they are in a dream, they often gain the possibility of controlling and actively shaping the dream. This creative power can even go beyond physical laws.
For many lucid dreamers, conscious dreaming is even a kind of hobby that, like doing sports or reading, is easy to integrate into everyday life.(1,2)
Background: What you should know about lucid dreams
Lucid dreaming is a hotly debated topic in science. In the following section we will show you what the term is all about and why you should deal with this topic.
In lucid dreams, unlike most other dreams, you have all your senses at your disposal. You can see, hear, feel, taste and even smell things.
Your senses can even go beyond reality and be felt even more. Many lucid dreamers report that because of this supernatural sensuality, they like to dream about food often and for example.
How does it feel to dream lucidly?
Tholey specified the difference between ordinary dreams and lucid dreams using seven criteria of lucidity (3):
- Clarity about the state of consciousness: "Am I dreaming or am I awake?"
- Clarity about your own freedom of choice: "I can decide whether, how and how long I dream the dream."
- Clarity of Consciousness: "I can act consciously."
- Clarity about waking life: "I know who I am in waking life and what I intend to do in the dream."
- Clarity of perception: "I see, hear, smell, taste and feel."
- Clarity about the meaning of the dream: "Why am I dreaming this dream."
- Clarity about the memory of the dream: One can remember one's dream in detail after the dream in the waking phase.
According to statements made by lucid dreamers, lucid dreaming therefore represents an explosion of feelings and impressions that can decisively influence their waking feelings and existence.
Dreams are pure feelings. Being able to dream lucidly is often experienced as a feeling of happiness, it can inspire. (Brigitte Holzinger, dream researcher)
Experts see this mind-expanding and euphoric effect of lucid dreams and the resulting positive mood in the waking state as reasons for the desire for lucid dreams.
What are the reasons / causes of lucid dreams?
More modern studies show that in people who regularly lucid dream, the frontal area of the frontal lobe is more pronounced and activated when dreaming, in contrast to people who do not have lucid dreams. This brain area is particularly responsible for complicated thought processes, reflecting and critically evaluating events and emotional states.
While in normal dreaming people temporary muscle paralysis of non-vital muscles occurs as a protective mechanism during dream sleep, in lucid dreamers the eye muscles remain partly voluntarily controllable.
Researchers used this finding to demonstrate the altered activity of the frontal lobe during lucid dreams.
Who Can Lucid Dream?
In principle, anyone can become a lucid dreamer. Lucid dreaming is easier for some, not so much for others. Lucid dreaming is particularly common in thoughtful people who reflect and think about their everyday life, their actions and their thinking.
A study in which around 450 psychology students were asked about the frequency of lucid dreams in their dream sleep came up with the following results:
|frequency||% of respondents|
|less than once a year||7.5%|
|about once a year||10.9%|
|about 2 to 4 times a year||26.7%|
|about once a month||16.2%|
|2 to 3 times a month||10.3%|
|about once a week||8.0%|
|several times a week||2.5%|
In untrained people, random lucid dreams are very rare. Usually only once or twice a year. The frequency varies greatly among the inexperienced, but also among the practiced lucid dreamers.
Why lucid dreaming? Does it even make sense?
Lucid dreams can be used in many different ways. Depending on your interests or individual situation, lucid dreams are suitable for various purposes (4,5,6,7) :
|Therapy for nightmares||While the dreamers in the lucid nightmare face their fears, dangers and fears, conquer them or learn to come to terms with them|
|Dealing with personal conflicts and problems||By working through these experiences, problems and conflicts in the lucid dream and then reflecting on them in the waking phase|
|Virtual reality||By living out one's desires and dreams, going beyond the limits of human reality and being able to create one's dreamed reality, such as being able to dream of flying or breathing underwater|
|creative process||Where you can give unlimited possibilities to your creativity in all possible forms|
|mental training||Professional athletes can, for example, go through certain movements mentally and train through cognitive repetitions|
|Clinical area (regarding psychoses / schizophrenia)||Training about lucid dreams can help those affected to distinguish reality from their fictitious perceived psychoses. In this context, lucid dreaming is also sometimes used as a measure against depression|
This versatile usability is one of the reasons why lucid dreaming is enjoying growing attention.
What options do I have in a lucid dream?
The special appeal of lucid dreams is doing things that are not possible in real, earthly life. This includes, for example, the cancellation of physical laws. For example, many lucid dreamers report that they have flown like a bird.
In lucid dreams you can create your own reality according to your wishes. (Image source: unsplash / Johannes Plenio)
Fictitious figures and persons can also be created, with which a dialogue can then be entered. If, for example, a job interview is due in the near future, this can be played through fictionally in the dream to prepare.
The cognitive ability to think and the whole thought process does not work in the dream as it does in reality. On the one hand, it is very difficult to do arithmetic or to read in lucid dreams. On the other hand, conscious dreams enable completely new approaches and perspectives for thought processes and problem solving.
Also very exciting are reports of out-of-body experiences of the dreaming in the dream. This describes a condition in which the person concerned perceives himself in the dream outside of his physical body and can act independently of it.
Does lucid dreaming have side effects or can it be dangerous?
The so-called "false awakening" can definitely occur. The lucid dreamer thinks that he is waking up from his dream and is waking up, although he is actually still in a dream and this process only took place within his dream.
While it is not a natural condition, there are no negative consequences either.
However, the idea of being trapped in a dream and never waking up, as portrayed in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Inception, is fictional. Overall, lucid dreaming is harmless.
Basically, there is nothing wrong with lucid dreaming as a hobby.
Can I remember a lucid dream?
In contrast to normal dreams, one characteristic of lucid dreaming is that the dreaming perceives the dream consciously, thereby activating areas of the brain that are not addressed in unconscious dreams. Therefore, many lucid dreamers can still remember the dream in detail after waking up.
More specifically, the conscious memory of the dream and the reflection of the dream is a central building block for successful lucid dreaming.
How do I know in a dream that I'm dreaming?
The easiest way to distinguish dream fiction from reality is to ask yourself the following simple control question:
Am I awake or is this a dream?
Small reality checks are useful to answer this question. In other words, verifiable features that cannot exist in reality due to physical or natural laws or other restrictions.
In your dream, for example, you can
- breathe underwater,
- Read minds,
- walk on the ceiling
- see or hear supernaturally well,
then this is a clear sign that you are still in your dream.
Lucid dreaming: The best tips & tricks for a successful lucid dream
Knowing what a lucid dream is and what causes it is a start. The real challenge, however, lies in the implementation and actual dreaming of lucid dreams.
In order to master this challenge, you can use various techniques and approaches as a guide.
Techniques for lucid dreaming
Most people do not or only rarely succeed in experiencing lucid dreams by chance. However, this is mostly due to the fact that they hardly or only superficially deal with the topic.
On the other hand, people who repeatedly experience random controlled dreams use various techniques and obtain comprehensive information on the subject of lucid dreaming.
In general, science distinguishes between different areas with regard to the possible techniques for learning lucid dreaming, which we would like to show you below.
Clarity-gaining techniques (engl. dream initiated lucid dreaming, short DILD)
The central point of this technique is that in the dream an awareness is gained that one is dreaming or that the situation is taking place in the dream.
Dream indicators and signs help you distinguish your dream from reality.
To induce a lucid dream, this technique requires you to repeatedly ask yourself whether you are awake or dreaming. The aim of this procedure is that this question is transferred into your dream by repeating it several times while you are awake. This way you can identify your dream as such and initiate a lucid dream.
Popular DILD techniques :
|MILD technique||In the waking state, planning to take an action at a later time, then in the dream state|
|reality checks||Check features that can only exist in dreams or in reality (e.g. infinitely rotating top)|
|intention to lucid dream||In the waking state, consciously make it clear to yourself that you want to experience a lucid dream|
|Combined technique||Combination of reality checks and the intention to lucid dream while awake (according to Tholey)|
Several studies show that the so-called MILD technique (mnemonic induced lucid dream) in combination with the WBTB technique (wake back to bed), where the person sleeps for 30 minutes after the first three REM sleep phases ( English rapid eye movement) is awakened and then falls asleep again, lucid dreams can be induced very well.(8)
Clarity-preserving techniques (wake initiated lucid dreaming, short: WILD)
With the WILD technique, the person who is still awake is aware of their waking state and the dream that is about to occur. She maintains this awareness while the body falls into natural sleep paralysis and begins to dream.
The idea behind this technique is that the lucid dream is initiated directly from the falling asleep phase, i.e. from the waking state.
This technique is so difficult, especially for beginners, because you have to keep your consciousness "awake" so to speak while you slowly fall asleep. You have to relax, move as little as possible and at the same time think about nothing but the conscious lucid dream.
Another increasingly popular method of inducing lucid dreaming is meditation.
Meditation has been used across cultures for centuries to enter a trance-like, lucid dream-like state.
Modern studies prove the significant connection between regular meditation and the frequency of lucid dreams.
The reason why meditation is recommended for initiating lucid dreaming can be explained by the fact that several states of meditation have certain similarities with lucid dreaming.
The following tools should not be considered as a technique, but as the name suggests, as a supporting tool for lucid dreaming.
With the help of electronic aids, external stimuli can be generated outside of the dream event, to which the dreaming person is exposed. This gives the dreaming person stimuli that indicate that they are currently in a dream sleep, which can further lead to the initiation of a lucid dream.
Examples of such electronic aids are visual stimuli, eg in the form of flashes of light, or auditory stimuli, such as tone sequences.
Warming lamps in pleasant and soothing colors are often used as electronic aids to induce lucid dreams (Image source: unsplash / Sundeep Basi)
Another possibility for stimulus transmission in this context could be light, non-dangerous alternating current surges on the skull of the dreaming person. This allows the dreaming person to recognize that they are in dream sleep and thus induce a lucid dream.
Lucid dreams mostly occur in the so-called rapid eye movement phases (REM phases) of the sleep cycle. These phases of sleep and the dreams that occur in them are mainly controlled by cholinergic substances.
The addition of the following cholinergic substances therefore has the potential to induce lucid dreams or to influence them positively(9):
- Huperzine A
- Alpha GPC
Furthermore, studies show the influence of bupropion, propranolol, the amino acids L-aspartic acid, L-glutamine and L-theanine, as well as the plants Silene undulat and Calea ternifolia on lucid dreaming.
Herbs such as sun openers, goosegrass, campion campion and wild asparagus can help you with lucid dreaming.
Despite the now intensive scientific research in this field, no reproducible technique has yet been developed that guarantees lucid dreams.
The biggest problem is that the effectiveness of the various techniques can vary greatly depending on the person and their individual characteristics. The success of certain techniques for learning lucid dreaming can differ greatly for you compared to other people.
Long-term lucid dreaming -- that's how it works
In addition to the instructions on how you can learn lucid dreaming as a beginner, in this section we want to give you a few tips and tricks that can support you on your way to becoming a successful lucid dreamer and make your practice easier.
The following tips are not intended to replace the instructions for learning how to lucid dream, but rather to supplement them and support you in your learning:
- Music for lucid dreaming. Used to relax and calm you down while you fall asleep
- Natural substances such as tea and herbs. Natural substances and herbs have been shown to increase the likelihood of lucid dreams when taken before bed. Pay attention to your taste, intolerances and possible allergies.
- Don't sleep too long. If you rarely remember your dreams, this can also be because the time between waking up from sleep and the end of your dream phase is too long. Therefore, make sure that you get up early and keep this time as short as possible.
- Eat a healthy diet and get enough exercise. Studies have shown that people with a healthy diet and enough exercise have a more regular sleep pattern and usually have better thinking and concentration skills.
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs. Alcohol and other drugs reduce your memory and thus the ability to lucid dream. They really ruin your dream sleep.
So that you can dream lucidly and not leave it completely to chance, you should consider the following points before, during and after dreaming:
- Interest. As a first step, you should be interested in the subject of lucid dreams and expect a positive effect from them.
- Intensive study of the topic. Get involved with the topic, inform yourself and get inspiration from experts and representatives.
- Keeping a dream journal. Reflect all dreamed dreams very accurately and in detail. This will help you train your dream memory.
- Make it a point to remember. As you fall asleep, prepare yourself to remember your dreams.
- Wake up and immediately pursue the dream. As soon as you wake up, try to remember and reconstruct your dreams. After that, you can always snooze.
Lucid dreams are much more than just mind games. They can help you find yourself, fight your fears, process positive and negative experiences, train your mind, give you mental support in the event of illness and much more. Lucid dreams are so versatile and useful. That is exactly what makes it so appealing.
Conscious dreaming has become a socially accepted trend. In order to make this trend your hobby, you have to deal extensively with the topic and be fully convinced of the possibilities and effects of lucid dreaming. Professional experts can help you find the right path to successful lucid dreaming.
Because: There is no pattern technique or method that is guaranteed to work. However, there are many approaches and instructions that can lead you as a beginner to successful lucid dreaming.
- Ursula Voss, Romain Holzmann, Inka Tuin, and J Allan Hobson
- Ryan Hurd, Kelly Bulkeley
- Paul Tholey
- Isaac Taitz
- Karen Konkoly, Christopher T. Burke,
- Daniel Erlacher, Tadas Stumbrys, and Michael Schredl
- Daniel Erlacher, Michael Schredl
- Stephen P La Berge, Lynn E Nagel, William C Dement, Vincent P Zarcone, Jr.
- Stephen LaBerge, Kristen LaMarca, and Benjamin Baird