Lucid Dreaming

by Vlad Dolezal on June 11, 2008

When I was a kid, I wanted to know how to fly, or to be a powerful wizard in a fantasy world. I wanted to fight evil sorcerers and rescue princesses and all that usual stuff. I can’t say any of these has come true in my real life. And I don’t think they will, either. I’d need a virtual reality machine for that.

A lot of us probably wish the scientists invented a virtual reality machine. Well, guess what…

You already have a virtual reality machine in your head. It’s called your brain. Or, more specifically, the part responsible for dreaming.

Sure, there’s one major problem with dreaming. You don’t control what you dream about. But imagine for a second you could. Imagine you could become fully aware of the fact that you’re dreaming, while you’re dreaming, and decide what you want to dream about next. Wouldn’t that be totally awesome?

It is totally awesome! And it’s called lucid dreaming, and you can do it!

Lucid dreaming

If you ever tried getting yourself to exercise or run regularly, you’ll know the first step is the hardest. It takes incredible amount of effort to put on your running shoes and step out the door. Once you’re out there, the running itself is trivial by comparison.

Similarly, lucid dreaming itself is as easy as riding a bike downhill. The tricky part is becoming aware of the fact that you’re dreaming.

Becoming lucid

If you want to become lucid, you’ll have to notice you’re dreaming. And to do that, you’ll need to notice inconsistencies around you. Stuff that makes you say “hey, this absolutely couldn’t happen in real life. This must be a dream!”.

How often during the day do you check if you’re dreaming? If you’re like most people, then never. And that means that you won’t check it while you’re dreaming either. Dreaming is, after all, just a rehash of your daily experiences.

The first and basic method for achieving lucid dreaming is called reality check. It involves checking whether or not you’re dreaming during the day. And doing it often.

1. Reality check

In movies, the traditional way of checking if you’re dreaming seems to be pinching yourself. Too bad it doesn’t work in real life (or rather, real dreams). You can imagine the pain quite vividly.

Then how do you check? After all you can imagine anything.

It turns out reading something in dreams is damn difficult. The letters tend to blend and jump around, and if you turn away and look back the text will usually change to something completely different. (I can also confirm that you can’t play chess in dreams. Quite a shame, since I was hoping to get some chess practice during dreams. Then again… I could imagine anything in the whole world… and I wanted to play chess??? Talk about unimaginative…)

Therefore a good way of doing your reality check is to carry around a special piece of paper for that. Write a text on both sides, something like “Reality check! Am I dreaming?” on one side, and on the other side “Hmmm… apparently not.”

Then, during the day, simply often check the piece of paper. Read one side, then flip over, read that side, then look away and look back. If the text is still the same, you’re probably awake. If the text has changed and now says “Soviet submarines cause cancer” or “gurbuz mbodut qgzup cthulhu!”, it’s pretty damn likely that you’re dreaming.

Reality check also makes you more sensitive to other inconsistencies around you. When I had my first lucid dream, I became aware of the fact that I’m dreaming precisely because there was an inconsistency. I was locking the door of my flat. I turned the key once. I turned it twice. I turned it a third time. Then I was like “Wait a second, my lock only turns twice.” And bam! I became aware of the fact that I’m dreaming!

2. Wake up and go back to sleep

Another technique that really worked great for me is waking up and getting back to sleep. It works as follows:

1. Set your alarm clock an hour earlier than usual
You could try different times too. Maybe an hour and a half earlier than usual would work better for you.

2. Do something for 20 minutes
Go grab something to eat, or write a journal, or do anything else you’d like. Just avoid activities that could stop you from going back to sleep (like exercise).

3. Go back to sleep

This method is supposed to make you about 20 times more likely to have a lucid dream afterwards. I have no idea how accurate that figure is, but from my experience it could be pretty damn close.

My first couple of lucid dreams always happened in this situation. Sometimes even not on purpose. Like one night, I woke up at about 4 am to go to the bathroom. I was awake for about 5 minutes, then went back to sleep. It was enough – I had a lucid dream afterwards.

What to do once you’re lucid

Ok, now you’re aware of the fact you’re dreaming, while you’re inside that dream. Go wild!

To quote from DreamViews, a website about lucid dreaming:

To fully experience lucid dreaming, you have to remember that you are not governed by any laws in your dreams: you have complete freedom. Instead of walking to school or work, you can fly. While in mid-flight you may spontaneously decide you’d rather explore the elusive depths of the ocean without a breathing apparatus, or travel at incomprehensible speeds and explore the endless heavens around us without a ship. Or perhaps you’ll remember a book or a movie that captured your soul—perhaps you’ll become the main character of that book or movie and live for a short while in that story. Or maybe you’d just like to live your own life, with the added bonus of not being restricted by any consequences of your actions. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to tell off your boss, or push your car to its maximum speed (and beyond) on an open stretch of highway. Regardless, it will likely take a while for you to fully appreciate the idea that you can do whatever you imagine—you’ll likely think things are not possible during your first few lucid dreams, and be unable to do them.

One of my personal favorites is flying. I definitely recommend you to give it a try.

Things to watch out for

Don’t worry. Lucid dreaming is perfectly safe. The only things you need to “watch out for” is things that could prevent you from having lucid dreams.

1. Becoming too excited

This isn’t from my own experience. But I heard that some people, when they first became lucid, were like “Yeey! Yippee! Woohoo! I’m having my first lucid dream!” – and woke up from the excitement.

So, when you first have a lucid dream, try to stay calm. Of course you’ll be terribly excited. Just try to enjoy a calm exhilaration, without jumping around going “Weeeee!”.

2. False awakening

This one was huge for me. I think that most of my lucid dreams ended in a false awakening. Definitely more than half of them.

The thing with lucid dreams is that they’re extremely vivid. And I mean extremely. You can’t easily tell a difference between lucid dreams and real life (that’s why reality check is so tricky).

Often, you’ll have a lucid dream… and then you’ll dream that you wake up (false awakening). You’ll lose your lucid dream. And if you don’t realize you’re still dreaming, you’ll go back to normal dreamless sleep.

Let me repeat – this experience will be extremely life-like. I fell for it the first couple of times, and even later, when I was well aware of it, it still often got me.

So here’s what to do. When you wake up from a lucid dream, do a very, very thorough reality check. The chances are, you’re still dreaming. Best keep some text to read by your bed at night, so you can immediately do a reality check when you wake up.

One time, I had a lucid dream. Then I had a false awakening. But I spotted it (there was some inconsistency, can’t remember what), so I enjoyed another lucid dream. Then I woke up. At least that’s what I thought. Actually, it was another false awakening, but I didn’t realize it this time. Shame, I wonder how many false awakenings I could string in a row :)

Odds and Ends about lucid dreaming

If you want to find out more, check out this website about lucid dreaming. You will find more detailed explanations, more reasons to try lucid dreaming, more techniques, more personal stories, and other stuff related to lucid dreaming. (You’ll also finally get to find out what that bloody word lucid means :) )

And one more thing…

If you had any personal experiences with lucid dreaming, or are going to give it a try after reading this article, please leave a comment or drop me an e-mail. I’d really like to know.


On my last post a reader suggested I make summaries. I’m giving it a try. Following twitter’s example, I’ll make it 140 characters or less.

Summary: Lucid dreaming means consciously being able to control your dreams as you’re dreaming. You can then enjoy the unlimited dream world.

Stay tuned for the second of six incredibly awesome mind states you can experience. We’ll explore a state very similar to sleep – relaxation. But a kind of relaxation you’ve likely never done before.

Update: Hi StumbleUpon users!

If you enjoyed this article, I would appreciate a thumbs up. And if you have any personal experiences with lucid dreaming, feel free to share them in the comments. I read all the comments, and they make me feel warm inside. I finally found lots of fellow lucid dreamers through writing this article 😀

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