Lucid Dreams: Definition, Techniques, and Benefits | Sleep Foundation (2022)

During lucid dreams, the sleeper is aware a dream is taking place but will not leave the dream state. Some further define these phenomena as dreams in which the sleeper can exercise control over different aspects of their environment, though studies have found this is not always the case, and that certain people are more predisposed to “lucid dream control” than others.

Surveys show that roughly 55% of adults have experienced at least one lucid dream during their lifetime, and 23% of people experience lucid dreams at least once per month. Some research has pointed to potential benefits of lucid dreaming, such as treatment for nightmares. However, other studies argue lucid dreams may have a negative impact on mental health because they can disturb sleep and cause dreamers to blur the lines between reality and fantasy.

How Do Lucid Dreams Work?

Lucid dreaming has been studied extensively, but much is still unknown about the phenomenon. Some researchers believe activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain is related to the development of lucid dreams. During non-lucid dreams, people are cognizant of objects and events within the dream state, but they are not aware of the dream itself and cannot distinguish being asleep from being awake. This has been attributed in part to lower levels of cortical activity.

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Lucid dreams are different because sleepers are aware they are dreaming and, in some cases, can exert control over their surroundings. Some studies have linked these characteristics to elevated cortical activity. In sleepers who have been observed during lucid dream studies, prefrontal cortex activity levels while they are engaged in lucid dreaming are comparable to levels when they are awake. For this reason, lucid dreaming may be referred to as a “hybrid sleep-wake state.”

While normal dreams can occur during different stages of the sleep cycle, studies have shown most lucid dreaming takes place during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep constitutes the fourth and final stage of a normal sleep cycle; the first three stages consist of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. The general consensus among researchers today is that lucid dreams originate from non-lucid dreams during the REM sleep stage. In this sense, lucidity is an aspect of dreams that can be triggered using different means.

How Are Lucid Dreams Studied?

Spontaneous lucid dreams are rare and difficult to foresee. To study these phenomena, researchers typically induce lucid dreams using different methods. Some of the most common techniques include the following:

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  • Reality testing: This technique requires participants to perform tests throughout the day that differentiate sleep and waking. For example, a participant may ask themselves whether or not they are dreaming during the day; since self-awareness is not possible during non-lucid dreams, being able to answer this question proves they are in fact awake. Reality testing is based on the notion that repeated tests will eventually seep into the participant’s dreams, allowing them to achieve lucidity and distinguish between the dream state and waking.
  • Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD): This technique involves training oneself to recognize the difference between dreams and reality during sleep. Subjects wake up after a period of sleeping and repeat a variation of the following phrase: “Next time I’m asleep, I’ll remember I’m dreaming.” Researchers will induce lucid dreams using the MILD method by waking up subjects after five hours of sleep.
  • Wake back to bed (WBTB): Some people can induce lucid dreams using this technique, which involves waking up in the middle of the night and then returning to sleep after a certain amount of time has passed. WBTB is often used in conjunction with the MILD technique. When these two methods are used together, the most effective length of time between waking up and returning to sleep appears to be 30 to 120 minutes.
  • External stimulation: This technique involves flashing lights and other stimuli that are activated while the subject is in REM sleep. The rationale behind this method is that the sleeper will incorporate this stimuli into their dreams, triggering lucidity in the process.

Additionally, some studies have involved inducing lucid dreams using certain types of drugs and supplements.

Once a subject has fallen asleep, researchers can measure levels of activity in the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the brain using a device known as an electroencephalogram (EEG), during which metal discs are attached to the subject’s scalp. An electrooculogram (EOG) may also be used to track eye movements to determine when the subject enters REM sleep. For some studies, subjects are asked to make specific eye movements while sleeping to signal they are having a lucid dream. EOGs are particularly helpful for detecting these movements.

Are Lucid Dreams Good or Bad For You?

The popularity of self-induced lucid dreams has grown in recent years. The most common reasons for inducing lucid dreams include wish fulfillment, overcoming fears, and healing. Some studies have also shown a link between inducing lucid dreams and overcoming the fear and distress associated with nightmares.

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However, there is much debate over whether inducing lucid dreams is beneficial or harmful to mental health. Some researchers argue that creating lucid dreams intentionally blurs the lines between dreaming and reality, and that this can have negative implications for one’s long-term mental health. Lucid dream therapy has shown to be largely ineffective for some groups, such as people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Some researchers have introduced another problem with lucid dreams: they are potentially disruptive to sleep. Since lucid dreams are associated with higher levels of brain activity, it has been suggested these dreams can decrease sleep quality and have a negative effect on sleep hygiene.

Frequent lucid dreams could potentially restructure the sleeper’s sleep-wake cycle, which in turn may affect emotional regulation, memory consolidation, and other aspects of day-to-day life linked to sleep health.

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Additionally, people with narcolepsy – a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and irresistible sleep attacks – are more likely to experience frequent lucid dreams.

The study of lucid dreams is fairly new and largely incomplete. More research is needed to better understand these types of dreams and pinpoint why some people are predisposed to more frequent and intense lucid dreams.

How To Lucid Dream

Triggering lucid dreams can be fairly easy with the right methods. Those who are inexperienced with these phenomena may be able to induce a lucid dream for themselves through the following means:

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  1. Optimize your bedroom for sleeping: Practicing good sleep hygiene can help to ensure a healthy sleep-wake cycle, including a sufficient amount of REM sleep (when lucid dreams are most likely to occur). Make sure the bedroom temperature is comfortable; 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius) is widely considered the ideal sleep temperature. You should also keep the room dark and relatively quiet. Blackout curtains, sleeping masks, and other accessories help reduce light levels, while ear plugs and sound machines can block disruptive outside noises.
  2. Assess your reality: Throughout the day, practice “reality testing” by checking your environment to confirm whether you’re sleeping or awake. In a dream, the environment may look familiar but there will be inconsistencies and distortions compared to reality. By performing these reality checks several times per day, you may acquire the ability to test your reality during dreams.
  3. Try the MILD and WBTB methods: For the mnemonic induction of lucid dreams technique, wake up after sleeping for five hours (use an alarm if needed) and tell yourself to remember you’re dreaming once you’ve fallen asleep. The MILD method has proven highly effective in some studies. The wake back to bed technique also requires waking up after five hours of sleep. With WBTB, you’ll want to stay awake for about 30 to 120 minutes before returning to sleep.
  4. Keep a record of your dreams: Every morning, write down everything you remember about your dreams in a journal. You can also use a voice-recording device to log your dream memories. Detailed records will allow you to recognize dreams more easily once you fall asleep, which in turn can help trigger lucid dreams.
  5. The power of suggestion: Some people can successfully induce lucid dreams merely by convincing themselves they will have one once they fall asleep.
  6. Pick up a lucid dream-inducing device: Portable devices that induce lucid dreams are widely available today. These devices, which often come in the form of sleep masks or headbands, produce noises, flashing lights, vibrations, and other cues that act as auditory, visual, and/or tactile stimuli. Expect to spend at least $200 on one of these devices.
  7. Experiment with gaming: Some studies have shown a link between playing video games and frequency and control of lucid dreams. This is especially true of interactive video games.

Other techniques may be used to induce lucid dreams. These include transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which painlessly applies electrical currents to different areas of the brain, and certain types of medications. There is little scientific research to demonstrate the effectiveness of these methods. These techniques are also only conducted in controlled clinical laboratory settings and should never be attempted by an individual unless under the supervision of a doctor or another credentialed medical or psychological professional.

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FAQs

What are the benefits of lucid dreams? ›

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.

What is the lucid dream method? ›

In the Mnemonic Induction Lucid Dream (MILD) technique, one rehearses a dream and visualises becoming lucid while repeating a mantra expressing the same intention, such as: “Next time I'm dreaming I want to remember that I am dreaming.” For best results, it should be performed while returning to slumber during the Wake ...

What triggers lucid dreams? ›

The most common reasons for inducing lucid dreams include wish fulfillment, overcoming fears, and healing. Some studies have also shown a link between inducing lucid dreams and overcoming the fear and distress associated with nightmares.

What does lucid dreams do to your brain? ›

The two researchers found that during lucid dreaming, there is increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the bilateral frontopolar prefrontal cortex, the precuneus, the inferior parietal lobules, and the supramarginal gyrus.

What are the 3 types of dreams? ›

The types are: 1. Dreaming is Passive Imagination 2. Dream Illusions 3. Dream-Hallucinations.

Can you control lucid dreams? ›

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.

What are the three steps to lucid dreaming tonight? ›

How to Lucid Dream: 3 Simple Steps
  1. Start tracking your dreams. What you focus on, grows. ...
  2. Set a strong intention and a trigger. Start setting a strong intention every night just before sleep: “I will remember my dreams tonight. ...
  3. Commit to an induction practice.

How do you do the mild lucid dreaming technique? ›

MILD (mnemonic induction of lucid dreams) – which involves waking up after five hours of sleep and then developing the intention to remember that you are dreaming before returning to sleep, by repeating the phrase: "The next time I'm dreaming, I will remember that I'm dreaming." You also imagine yourself in a lucid ...

How long does it take to have lucid dreams? ›

There really isn't a short answer for this. If you want a certain time frame to work on, then we'd say about 2-6 weeks on average. The chances are you haven't been thinking about controlling your dreams much before, so it's going to take some work to build up the skill and mindset.

How do I know if I had a lucid dream? ›

Lucid dreams are when you know that you're dreaming while you're asleep. You're aware that the events flashing through your brain aren't really happening. But the dream feels vivid and real. You may even be able to control how the action unfolds, as if you're directing a movie in your sleep.

Can lucid dreams be scary? ›

What Is Lucid Dreaming? Essentially, lucid dreaming is when the dreamer is aware of dreaming. Lucid dreaming can be a fun “trip,” but it can turn frustrating or downright scary when you try to wake up from the dream, but can't. For example, you may dream that you've woken up and started your morning routine.

Can lucid dreams make you smarter? ›

In a 2014 study, researchers from the University of Lincoln found that lucid dreamer showed greater insight in waking life, with better than average problem-solving abilities.

Can you feel things in lucid dreams? ›

Myths About Lucid Dreams

Nor is it true that you can use lucid dreaming to interact with the dead, or with another living person in a different location. Of course, since lucid dreams feel very real, you might have the sensation of doing such things if you dream them, though they would not have happened in reality.

What is the rarest type of dream? ›

Most experts believe that lucid dreams are the rarest type of dreams. While dreaming, you are conscious that you are dreaming but you keep on dreaming. According to researchers, 55 percent of people experience these types of dreams at least one time in their life.

What's the opposite of a lucid dream? ›

Another distinction is that sleep paralysis involves full return to wakefulness during REM‐induced muscle atonia, whereas lucid dreaming involves the recovery of aspects of consciousness experienced during waking while the person remains asleep (in REM).

What is a double dream? ›

Double Dream is a hybrid that rides the coattails of a well-known parent strain to achieve a great taste and balanced effects. So named because it doubles down on Blue Dream, Double Dream is a cross between Blue Dream itself and Dream Star (which is sativa-dominant cross between Blue Dream and.

What are some examples of lucid behavior? ›

The definition of lucid is easily understood or clear thinking. An example of lucid is the explanation of 2 + 2 equals 4. An example of lucid is a thought by a person who understands the real reason for how he feels about a confusing event.

How do you lucid dream the first night? ›

9 tips & techniques for lucid dreaming.
  1. Frequently test reality. ...
  2. Get more sleep to make dreams more likely. ...
  3. Use the power of suggestion. ...
  4. Keep a dream journal. ...
  5. Recognize recurring themes or characters in your dreams. ...
  6. Take naps. ...
  7. Try a "Modified Castaneda" technique. ...
  8. Think about your previous dreams.
Aug 24, 2021

Why do my dreams feel so real? ›

During non-REM sleep, the thalamus is inactive, but during REM sleep, when we are dreaming, the thalamus is active, sending the cerebral cortex images, sounds, and sensations, which is why we are able to hear, feel, and see in our dreams similarly to how we do when we are awake.

How do you trigger a dream? ›

By following these eight tips, I've have more lucid dreams each night and recall them better the following day.
  1. Give your melatonin levels a boost. ...
  2. Start a dream journal. ...
  3. Get a good night's rest. ...
  4. Reduce stimulants. ...
  5. Change your body position. ...
  6. Relax before bed. ...
  7. Tell yourself that you're going to dream.

How rare is it to lucid dream every night? ›

In our questionnaire samples, the proportion of individuals who reported spontaneous lucid dreams on close to a nightly basis constituted approximately 1 in 1,000 respondents.

How often do lucid dreams occur? ›

For most individuals lucid dreams spontaneously occur infrequently, however there is substantial variation in lucid dream frequency, ranging, by current estimates, from never (approximately 40–50%) to monthly (approximately 20%) to a small percentage of people that experience lucid dreams several times per week or in ...

Can you have lucid dreams during the day? ›

Lucid Dreaming During the Day - Are Daytime Lucid Dreams Possible?

Can I lucid dream without waking up in the middle of the night? ›

How to Lucid Dream Without Waking Up - Intention Technique - YouTube

Can you feel pain in dreams? ›

Although some theorists have suggested that pain sensations cannot be part of the dreaming world, research has shown that pain sensations occur in about 1% of the dreams in healthy persons and in about 30% of patients with acute, severe pain.

Do dreams last for 3 seconds? ›

The length of a dream can vary; they may last for a few seconds, or approximately 20–30 minutes. People are more likely to remember the dream if they are awakened during the REM phase.

How can you tell if you are in a dream? ›

The easiest way to tell if you're dreaming is to practice checking if you're dreaming while you're awake. That way, it will become a habit and you'll start doing reality checks in your dreams! If everything looks and seems normal, then you're awake. However, if things are slightly off, it could mean you're dreaming!

Can lucid dreaming improve skills? ›

Motor practice in lucid dreams is a form of mental rehearsal where the dreamer can consciously rehearse motor skills in the dream state while being physically asleep. A previous pilot study showed that practice in lucid dreams can improve subsequent performance.

Do lucid dreams lead to sleep paralysis? ›

People who frequently lucid dream may occasionally experience sleep paralysis or false awakenings21, which can be frightening experiences but which generally resolve on their own.

Do lucid dreams make you tired? ›

It's not the lucid dreaming that makes you tired. It's the actual act of cutting your sleep in half, waking up at 4AM and then going back to sleep to try and lucid dream. The lucid dream itself actually doesn't make you more tired than normal sleeping or dreaming.

Can lucid dreams be scary? ›

What Is Lucid Dreaming? Essentially, lucid dreaming is when the dreamer is aware of dreaming. Lucid dreaming can be a fun “trip,” but it can turn frustrating or downright scary when you try to wake up from the dream, but can't. For example, you may dream that you've woken up and started your morning routine.

Videos

1. #044 - Dream Yoga - The Lucid Dreaming Practice Part II
(Sleeptrust)
2. Understanding and Using Dreams to Learn and to Forget | Huberman Lab Podcast #5
(Andrew Huberman)
3. Psychology of Sleep: Dreaming
(Alex Reynolds, PhD)
4. Tech for Dreaming — Benjamin Baird, Ph.D. — The Cognitive Neuroscience of Lucid Dreaming - SEP 2021
(Tech for Dreaming)
5. InstaDreamer - Take control of your dreams
(ProductHype)
6. How to Lucid Dream for ABSOLUTE Beginners
(Lucid Dream Portal)

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