Lucid Dreaming Techniques
By Ian Wilson (2010)
The techniques contained in this article will also assist normal dreaming and dream recall. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “Lucid Dreaming”, it stems from Dutch psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden from his publication, “A Study of Dreams” in 1913 . A Lucid Dream is a dream where you know you are dreaming.
Scientific evidence for the existence of lucid states started in the late 1970 suggesting lucid dreams stemmed from REM sleep. Empirical evidence started to arrive in 1981 from prearranged eye signals when people practicing lucid dreaming were instructed to move their eyes when they became lucid. LaBerge, Nagel, Dement & Zarcone (1981)  reported that the occurrence of lucid dreaming during unequivocal REM sleep had been demonstrated for five subjects.
Unlike regular REM dreaming, lucid dreaming does involve skill and attention focusing. Normal REM sleep without any lucid awareness is a form of passive dreaming, where remaining consciously alert and focused during sleep is active dreaming. The introduction of logical analytical and rational cognitive function into a dream gives way for a much more conscious and self-realized focus state.
By being fully awake, the dreamer is now able to make logical decisions and explore the dream in a state similar to how we experience our physical reality when awake. Which leaves us with the question, how do I have a lucid dream?
There are certain requirements that must be met. The first is having a stable sleep environment. It is best to practice lucid dreaming without cell phones next to the bed, alarm clocks set and having people know not to barge into your room and wake you up. You need to have a sleep environment that allows you to sleep.
When I was very dedicated to lucid dreaming, I would use cardboard, tinfoil and blinds to cut out all light from my windows. I would wear ear plugs to cut out any external sounds like cars, airplanes and people on the street outside. Phones, alarm clocks and any other distraction that could wake me up were left outside the bedroom. People around me were informed not to wake me up unless told to.
Creating a very controlled sleeping environment helps eliminate outside influences that might otherwise disturb your focus and wake you up. These are not a requirement, you can still have lucid dreams with normal sleeping conditions, but having extra control over the environment has helped in my case.
For an example of environment and interruptions, here is a quick experiment I just conducted for the sake of argument, what happens when you try to lucid dream with no control in your environment. an attempt to lucid dream during the day with no environment control from 1:00pm – 2:30pm, June 13 2010:
- Phone rang 2 times.
- Kids outside skateboarding and screaming to each other.
- Kids outside switch to basket ball.
- Loud truck drives past.
- Ice-cream truck drives past.
- Wife opens door to bedroom.
This would clearly be outside the scope of an optimal time to lucid dream. I could barely get relaxed enough before a loud sound had me focused on it rather then the requirement for sleep.
Your sleeping environment is critical to minimize interruption from sleep only.
There is a widely used technique that has helped lots of people achieve lucid dreams. This technique has been called, “MILD”, “The Lazy Mans Technique”, “The Suneye Method”, and Robert A. Monroe talks about it in his book “Journeys out of the body”.
What it simply is, is an interruption of your normal sleeping cycle where you get out of bed for a small period of time, roughly 30-60 minutes of wakefulness after 4-6 hours of sleep. Then return to bed to apply any lucid dreaming techniques. This method has been proven with research stemming from the Lucidity Institute .
It was this sleeping pattern technique that helped in my breakthrough moments with lucid dreaming and from discussions with other people, they also find it offers a much easier control for having lucid sleep.
What I have noticed in this from my personal experience is my mind is refreshed from sleep, but my body is still tired. If I get out of bed, have no more then half a glass of water, go to the bathroom to eliminate being woken up because of that particular need. There is a queue, a point when my body seems to drop in energy and I feel sleepy within the 30-60 minute break.
It is that queue, when the body suddenly feels tired, the energy almost drops. That is when I return to bed to then practice lucid dreaming. It is this second sleep that seems to cause the body to fall asleep much faster then the mind. Even by slightly focusing on being lucid with no real other techniques, I have found this second sleep very rewarding for lucid dreaming.
With environment and a sleeping pattern proven to help yield lucid dreams, all that is left is how you focus your attention when you fall asleep.
When falling asleep with the intent to remain awake through the process, there are certain signals and queues that emerge which indicate you are closing in on sleep and a potential lucid dream. The first obvious signal is the body starts to drop off and relax. Your mind might become busy with thoughts, and these thoughts may take on more visual and audible traits.
Flashes of color, clouds and fractal geometry may emerge. This is known as hypnogogia, a term coined by Alfred Maury for the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep (i.e. the onset of sleep). If you start to experience hypnogogia, it is an excellent sign that you are progressing naturally into a dream.
The problem with hypnogogia, is like the name suggests, it can be hypnotic and trance setting. You can experience abstract thoughts, vivid images and audible sounds. It is akin to a type of hallucination, but what it really is, is just the doorway between wakefulness and lucid dreaming. It is in this arena that you may confront some unease or fear due to your lack of experience. Just reassure that all these new or strange shifts into a dream are normal, you are only now more aware and conscious of the shifts than before.
As we progress into sleep, we experience an unusual trait where our physical senses invert to start to perceive the dream. This inversion of the senses causes a shift in our awareness to allow for the dream experience to engage the similar mechanics of perception that we take for granted in our waking sense.
What is interesting about the inversion of the senses is that in a dream, how we perceive this state is one of virtualization. Our senses virtualized into a virtual body of which we then roam about in a dream. Our dream body is like an avatar in a video game, and the dreamstate is a vast mind-generated computer simulation, a virtual reality.
You may notice vivid pictures, loud audible sounds like popping, music or people talking. You may start to have tactile feelings, vibrations even be able to reach out and touch a image or thought that you are seeing during this final inversion of the senses. This may also trigger some fear due to the newness of the experience, again affirming this is an expected and normal part of the natural progression to a lucid dream may help.
If you are this far into it, you are almost fully lucid in a dream, and the shift can come very sudden. It is here that you might feel a rush as the dream information expands and you are fully submersed into the amazing world of your own dreams.
After this point, it is up to your own intent and desired exploration of the dreamstate. There are no limits, so do not set one.
- Frederik van Eeden (1913). “A study of Dreams“. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research
- Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D. (1990) “Lucid Dreaming: Psychophysiological Studies of Consciousness during REM Sleep
- Stephen LaBerge, Leslie Phillips, & Lynne Levitan “An Hour of Wakefulness Before Morning Naps Makes Lucidity More Likely”
- Ian Wilson (1998) “A Course On Consciousness”
- Joe Russa (1999) “SUNEYE, Lucidity & Enlightenment”
- Robert A Monroe (1971) “Journeys Out of the Body“
- Stephen LaBerge, Leslie Phillips, & Lynne Levitan (1994) Lucidity Institute “An Hour of Wakefulness Before Morning Naps Makes Lucidity More Likely
- Maury, Louis Ferdinand Alfred (1848). ‘Des hallucinations hypnagogiques, ou des erreurs des sens dans l’etat intermediaire entre la veille et le sommeil’. Annales Medico-Psychologiques du système nerveux Hypnogagia Wiki