Dreams can be wild and random, confusing and terrifying, but no matter how baffled you are when you wake up, real-world logic rarely applies to the dream world. Even if you’re breathing underwater or flying with dragons, you’re unlikely to realise anything’s different until you wake up. But what if you did?
Lucid dreaming is the act of taking control of your dreams: becoming conscious of the fact you’re dreaming, while you are dreaming. Clearly, it provides limitless opportunities to experience – and consciously enjoy – things out of reach in the waking world. The benefits, however, also extend beyond the realm of night-time adventure, as Lucid Dreaming Teacher Charlie Morley explains.
Anyone Can Learn To Lucid Dream
While learning to become aware when you’re dreaming takes time, the good news is almost anyone – with enough patience and perseverance – can learn. ‘There are some suggestions that creative people are more adept at lucid dreaming,’ says Morley, ‘but I’ve taught those who are on the autism spectrum – people who are really “left-brained” [the side of the brain associated with logic and analysis] – who have been amazing lucid dreamers.’ More on techniques shortly, but Morley says one of the reasons analytically minded people are able to lucid dream is because they’re good with detail: ‘The dream might seem exactly like reality, but if there’s the slightest thing different, they can spot it and realise they’re in a dream.’
Techniques For Taking Control
While there are a number of techniques to becoming lucid, all of which can be found in Morley’s book, Lucid Dreaming, he suggests the following three starting points:
1. Keep a diary
‘Dream recall is one of the most important aspects of lucid dream training,’ explains Morley, and the easiest way to recall your dreams on a regular basis is to record them. ‘Whenever you wake up from a dream,’ he says, ‘recall as much of it as you can and then write it down or document it in some way. You don’t need to record every tiny detail – you’ll know what feels worth noting and what doesn’t.’ This should be done as soon as you remember them, even if that’s the middle of the night, so Morley advises keeping a journal, pen and small lamp on your bedside table.
‘A dream sign is any improbable, impossible or bizarre aspect of dream experience that can indicate we’re dreaming’
2. Spot the signs
Once you begin to remember your dreams, you have made the first step becoming conscious within them, and key to that state of awareness is an aforementioned attention to detail. ‘A dream sign is any improbable, impossible or bizarre aspect of dream experience that can indicate we’re dreaming,’ says Morley. ‘Basically, if it’s something that doesn’t usually occur in waking life, it may well be a dream sign.’
This is where your dream diary comes into play, because by regularly logging your dreams, you can begin to see patterns of dreaming. In his book, Morley writes: “If you dreamed that you were walking down a street and saw Barack Obama standing next to a blue dragon, then your dream signs would be ‘Barack Obama’ and ‘blue dragon’...Before bed, remind yourself again and again: “The next time I see Barack Obama (or whatever your particular dream signs are), I'll know that I’m dreaming!” Then, when you next dream about your dream sign, the lucidity trigger will be activated, making you spontaneously think, Barack Obama? Aha! This is a dream sign, I must be dreaming!”
3. Take a reality check
Even if you’ve spotted the signs, your dream may be so familiar that you refuse to believe that you are, in fact, dreaming. In this instance, Morley says ‘reality checks’ – actions you would be able to do when awake, but are contorted or changed in the dream – can act as confirmation.
In Lucid Dreaming, he writes: ‘During a dream, the brain is working flat out to maintain the projection of our elaborately detailed dreamscape in real time, and although it’s amazingly good at this, once prelucid it often struggles to replicate the detail of an intricate image (such as a piece of text or an outstretched hand) twice in quick succession. So, if we try to make it engage in such a replication, it will provide a close but imperfect rendering, and it’s the acknowledgement of this imperfect rendering that makes us lucidly aware.’
Some examples include reading text twice in quick succession without it changing in some way, and using an electronic device without it malfunctioning.
‘Athletes can use lucid dreaming to practise their technique and hone their sports skills during sleep’
Lucid Dreaming For Enhanced Reality
When you become conscious within your dreams, you can make any number of real-world improvements relating to everything from athleticism to career choices. That’s because lucid dreaming can provide clarity and a renewed sense of purpose. ‘Athletes can use lucid dreaming to practise their technique and hone their sports skills during sleep,’ says Morley, and if that sounds far-fetched there is science to prove it. One study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, for instance, showed that ‘practice in lucid dreams is effective in improving performance.’
Lucid dream training is also used in a healing capacity. ‘I’ve taught lucid dreaming to numerous people suffering from PTSD, including ex-soldiers and those who experienced abuse during childhood,’ says Morley, ‘and I’ve seen first-hand just how powerful lucid dream training can be.’ In his book, he also explains how lucid dreaming can help us connect with our inner psyches: ‘This means that we can encounter these powerful representations of our own psychology in a very real way, make friends with them and step into the powerful energy that they contain.’ Used in this way, your dreams can be used to access hidden truths and a heightened sense of self.
WHAT NEXT? Watch Charlie Morley’s TED Talk, Lucid Dreaming, Embracing Nightmares
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations.