“I was standing in a field in an open area when my wife Pointed in the direction of the sunset. I looked at it and thought, “How odd; I’ve never seen colors like that be-fore.” Then it dawned on me: “I must be dreaming!” Never had I experienced such clarity and perception— the colors were so beautiful and the sense of freedom so exhilarating that I started racing through this beautiful golden wheat field waving my hands in the air and yelling at the top of my voice, “I’m dreaming! I’m dreaming!” ~ Excerpt from Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge
If you had a chance to control your dreams, what would you do? Imagine you are the architect of your story, as you play around with the exceptional abilities buried in unused parts of your brain, you are in total control of your dream. Lucid dreaming is about being aware that you are dreaming and accessing the deepest areas of your brain while you’re sleeping.
Lucid dreaming has been practiced in the Buddhist culture for thousands of years, and is closely related to the ancient technique of Yoga Nidra. The only difference is that in lucid dreaming, we are only (or mainly) cognizant of the dream environment, and have little or no cognizance of our actual environment. While in Yoga Nidra we are fully cognizant of our physical environment and of the actual content of sounds and other events
“Deams are more real than reality itself, they’re closer to the self.” ~ Gao Xingjian, Dialogue and Rebuttal
To understand how to increase one’s chances of lucid dreaming, you first have to understand the different phases of dreams and in which phase are you most inclined towards lucid dreaming.
The Dream Dynamics
The sleep pattern is divided on the basis of brainwaves biochemistry, eye movement patterns, muscle tones, and psychology, etc – namely into two kinds: Quiet Sleep or non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep and Active sleep or as rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep.
Quiet sleep is further divided in to three patterns. First is light sleep, a transition between wakefulness and sleep, where you can wake up easily and this stage lasts for 5-10 minutes.
From light sleep, you quickly drift to stage 2 that is classified by the presence of waves: sleep spindles or K complexes, which are beneficial in neurocognitive functioning and refreshment of the mind. John Cline, Ph.D. and a Diplomat of the American Board of Sleep, said that we spent majority of the time in Stage 2 while we are asleep.
From here you further drift into Stage 3 of quiet sleep called the Delta sleep. The deepest level of dreamless sleep, where the brain is at rest, it leads to tissue growth and repair, increases blood supply to muscles, restores energy and releases hormones such as growth hormones. From here the dramatic transition to the second kind of sleep pattern sets in, i.e. to Active sleep, which is approximately 90 minutes after you fall asleep.
Active sleep or REM sleep is the phase where the brain is actively working just as much it is working when you are awake but the body is paralysed. The body tenses a little, blood flow & heart rate are higher and you are dreaming vividly. This phase of REM sleep lasts for 10-15 minutes again to drop us into sleep spindles or delta sleep.
LaBerge said, “..the length of the REM periods increase as the night proceeds and the intervals between REM periods de-crease with time of night, from ninety minutes at the beginning of the night to perhaps only twenty to thirty minutes eight hours later.”
Methods to increase lucidity
Remember the dream
“Everything is dependent upon remembering..” said LaBerge, as everything boils down to this basic yet pivotal step. When you remember your dreams and are able to recall them, a series of dimension flings open. The ability to recall our dreams, will not only support us in telling later about our lucid experience, but would also, lead us to recognise the dream as a dream while you are in it.
The practice of remembering would also aid us in recognizing the factors which are otherwise impossible in real life.
For instance, a dream will seem like reality, but only if you observe that the houses are changing positions or that you are unable to talk or something is extraordinarily different from the real life, you can identify the situation as a dream. This identification is the factor we are looking for when we start lucid dreaming.
It is further suggested to have plenty of sleep because as you enter into a restful sleep pattern the shift from Delta to REM happens easily and the REM time increases gradually, which is where lucid dreaming occurs. Then start by remembering at least one dream per night and gradually progressing to more than one. If initially you only remember a part of the dream, try building a story from there on. Ask questions like, what was I thinking, what was I doing before/after this or try to recall the surroundings, etc.
Keep an account
A dream journal is a catalyst to dreaming lucidly. It is suggested to keep a dream journal by your bedside and each time you get up from a dream, try to jot it down. It is okay to write briefly to help you recall later, but to postpone writing only when you get up is not advised. Because the general tendency of our mind is to forget almost everything from the dream as we wake up.
Even a sudden thought or body movement when you wake up or a sharp sound can lead us to forget the dream. So it is best to keep an account of every detail each time you wake up between a dream during the night or morning, even though you feel it is an unimportant piece of information.
Wake up Calls
Once you have recognised your internal clock pattern, i.e. when you sleep and wake up, you know that the first REM phase typically occurs ninety minutes after you first fall asleep, with additional phases roughly every ninety minutes afterward. But to wake up consciously can be difficult even after setting an outright intention.
So if you set an alarm for 4.5, 6 or 7.5 hours after you go to sleep, chances are you’ll wake up just at the end of a REM period. With practice you will be able to understand your sleep rhythm and fine tune your timing.
You must fill your mind with thoughts of lucid dreams, as the most recent thoughts and experiences before going to bed often occur during dreams that night. This will heighten your chances of lucid dreaming. Reading books, articles, or watching movies related to lucid dreaming is one of the most common techniques. One study shows that staying awake for somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes gives the highest chance of a lucid dream.
LaBerge calls this the Wake back to bed technique (WBTB) where you wake up just before REM cycle, set an outright intention to lucid dream, watch or read about lucid dreams and go back to bed.
Another significant way to identify you are dreaming is the identification of dream signs. “..dream signs can be like neon lights, flashing a message in the darkness: “This is a dream! This is a dream!” said LaBerge.
These signs could be any and usually will be odd or away from your expectation of the real. To become consciously aware of your surroundings in the waking life will also help in identifying the dream signs. Our mind draws models for the dream from the waking life, therefore any weird or absurd detail can give a hint of being in a dream.
For instance, check the placement of the bed or the window, if there is something weird or absurd about them, chances are you might be dreaming. Clock and hands can also prove to give a reality check because it would be usually difficult to count the fingers or the time might change with every glance in a dream.
Lucid dreaming is achieved by conscious practice and effort. Keeping at it with patience and clear intention is helpful. Also, listening to binaural beats, meditating, or eating foods that increase the production of melatonin like mustard, almonds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, cherries, shrimp, salmon, food rich in Vitamin B6, etc. can lead to enhanced lucid experiences.
Why everyone should Lucid Dream?
Lucid dreaming offers multiple long-term benefits some of which includes –
- Enhanced restful sleep
- Improved memory & energy levels
- More aware of the present moment
- It shows us the incredible power of our brain as it allows you to explore the depths of human consciousness.
- Many also use it for combating their fears through visualisation techniques. For example, an amateur pianist can use to overcome stage fear or a sportsman can use lucid dreaming to polish his techniques and improve on his skills.
- Unravels your creative potential and imagination. Dreams have inspired famous painters like Salvador Dali, William Blake and Paul Klee, and composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner.
What has been your experience with lucid dreaming?