The term “lucid dream” was first used by Dutch psychiatrist Frederik Willem van Eeden. One begins to doubt reality whenever one encounters a strange phenomenon while dreaming. Oneirologist Paul Tholey described different conditions of awareness that characterize lucid dreaming. This includes a realization that a dream is occurring with the awareness of its environment and meaning, active memory functions, cognitive clarity, ability to make decisions, and awareness of personal identity.
Tholey believed that all of these conditions had to be met in a lucid dream to occur. Some skeptics state that lucid dreaming is simply an intermediate state between wakefulness and sleep. Despite of this, lucid dreams have still become a point of fascination for many cultures. The concept of becoming conscious of the dream environment is being practiced in Hinduism and Buddhism through Yoga nidra. The Senoi tribes of Malaysia also believe that lucid dreaming will bring them stronger mental health.
It is commonly believed today that dreams carry hidden deep meanings about life and many try to induce lucid dreaming in order to discover these. Some have tried looking into other sleep-related phenomena, such as REM, sleep paralysis, and out-of-body experience. A few simple techniques have been known to bring about lucid dreams.
Checking the reality of the dream
The easiest and most instant way to induce a lucid dream is to do a reality check. The dreamer must try to differentiate between the dream and reality by noticing any inconsistencies. The easiest inconsistencies to notice are the physical ones, such as being able to fly or running very slowly, as if through water. When you realize that these are not normal occurrences, you can easily know that you are in a dream instead of being in the real world. You can also look out for strange visuals, such as giant creatures or psychedelic colors. It is also possible to know you are dreaming when you get to encounter people who have been dead.
However, the difficulty with reality in dreams is that the dreamer will not normally find anything to be strange, no matter how absurd it may be. A common reality check involves always checking the time, as in dreams, numbers are often garbled or distorted and time appears to be independent of what is happening. Once dreamers realize it is a dream, they experience a dream-initiated lucid dream, which begins as a normal dream that eventually becomes lucid.
Recognizing dream signs
Dream signs are recurring occurrences unique to the dreamer. These may be certain images that always appear or physical behaviors the dreamer experiences. Some people report constantly seeing men or women they have never met before in their dreams. Dream signs are often interpreted as being important parts of the dreamer’s character. These signs serve as good reality checks as the dreamer is more familiar with such events and is more likely to acknowledge it as part of a dream. A helpful technique for recognizing dream signs is writing them down in a journal or keeping note of them. With practice, a dreamer can pinpoint dream signs with ease and quickly induce a lucid dream.
Wake-induced lucid dreaming
Lucid dreaming can often be brought about after waking up in the middle of a dream. Wake-induced lucid dreaming occurs when waking up usually after 5 or 6 hours of sleep. After waking, the dreamer must put him or herself in a state susceptible to lucid dreaming. The dreamer must think about the kind of dream he or she wants to have. Watch a movie or listen to a song and think about the images you want to see while trying to go back to sleep. This increases the likelihood that you will have a lucid dream about these images.
Another approach to wake-induced lucid dreaming involves the dreamer trying to continue the dream he or she had before waking up. They have to think about their previous dream and think about continuing it while going back to sleep. If the dreamers are able to successfully continue it, they will experience a lucid dream and may even be able to control certain aspects of the dream.
Externally-induced lucid dreaming
There are some devices that attempt to activate lucid dreaming. The dream mask detects REM and stimulates the mind while leaving the body asleep. The mask will give visual cues, such as musical tones or lights to signal to the dreamer that they are dreaming and induce a lucid dream. Dream goggles work similarly and when the dreamer is able to detect the signals, he or she will recognize the dream state.
Keeping a dream journal
Keeping a dream journal will help in recognizing dream signs and remembering dreams. It is best to write down about your dreams immediately after waking in case they are forgotten. Writing down the details and common themes of a dream while trying to interpret its meaning will allow the dreamer to understand his or her dreams better. When keeping a dream journal, make sure to place it where you can easily reach for it when you wake up. Because dreams fade quickly in our memory, you should be able to grab the details immediately and write them down before you completely forget some part of it.
Make sure to note the date when your dream occurs. Details like the environment, sounds, object, emotion, and characters of your dreams should be noted too. If you think you can sketch your dream, the better. You don't have to be an artist to do this. The only purpose for sketching your dreams is to help you retain the images later for easy visualization. Writing down the major events in your life can also be a good way to correlate your dream to reality. Lucid dreams may be showing some symbols about your subconscious.
You can master how to induce a lucid dream with practice. You can learn different skills for lucid dreaming here!