If you've ever tried to lucid dream but come up short, there may be a new technique you can use to increase your chances of being able to do so. A new study found that those who tended to hit snooze were more likely to lucid dream than those who got out of bed the second their alarm went off. The study, which was published in December in the journal Dreaming, aimed to examine whether there was a relationship between alarm clock use and lucid dreaming — and it turns out that, as annoying as our alarm clocks might be when we just want a few extra zzzs, they might actually help us achieve something pretty cool.
If you're unfamiliar with lucid dreaming, it refers to the ability of being able to understand that you are dreaming while you are dreaming. Now, lucid dreaming is often associated with being able to control your dreams; however, total dream control isn't a necessary component of lucid dreaming (that is, you can lucid dream without necessarily being able to control what's happening in your dream). Why bother learning to lucid dream? Beyond just being fun, there are a lot of potential benefits available to those who develop the ability, including being better able to break bad habits, improve your memory, and even improve your athletic performance.
For this study, the researchers used 84 participants who completed an online questionnaire about their frequency of alarm clock usage, frequency of hitting snooze, how often they reported lucid dreaming, and how often the participants woke up during sleep. They found a positive connection between the amount of times participants woke up during the night and the frequency of their lucid dreaming, as well as a correlation between how often the participants hit snooze and how often they had lucid dreams. "Reasons for the association might be that lucid dreamers and snooze button users share some individual difference characteristic or that the brief awakenings followed by snoozing might elicit brain activation or sleep-onset rapid eye movement periods, hence resulting in a greater likelihood of lucid dreams," the researchers wrote.
If you don't particularly like laying in bed in the morning or just don't have time to hit the snooze button on the daily, there are a number of other techniques you can use to train yourself to lucid dream. Here are just a few of them:
1. Practice Awareness
Speaking to Psychology Today about the best methods to use to induce lucid dreaming, lucid dream researcher Beverly D'Urso suggested, "The best technique for becoming lucid is to actually become more aware and look and listen and pay attention to details, because when you see things that don’t fit, that’s a clue that you’re dreaming." She continued, "To facilitate the process you can form the habit of examining the environment or your state of awareness during the day." She also emphasized the fact that the mental habits you use during waking hours carry over to your sleeping ones, so it's best to be aware of your own internal processes.
2. Keep A Dream Journal
Psychologist Stephen LaBerge's book about lucid dreaming techniques suggests that realizing you are dreaming comes from understanding the differences between reality and fantasy. This awareness can be accomplished in part by keeping a dream journal to start uncovering the factors of your dreams that separate you from your waking life. Identifying the themes of your dreams can also help to further this process of awareness.
3. Ask Yourself, "Am I Awake?"
The second part of LaBerge's recommended strategy is to start asking yourself, "Am I awake?" or, "Am I dreaming?" on a regular basis, so your conscious mind starts to recognize what state you are in. You could also answer this question with some sort of question or symbol, like touching your nose or planting your feet on the ground. "The point is to get your mind to think about the possibility of dreaming while you are awake, so that you will automatically do so when you’re asleep," Tiffanie Wen wrote of the technique in The Atlantic.
4. Stay In Bed
Almost half of a dream's contents is lost if you get out of bed, according to Harvard researcher Diedre Barrett, so try not to get up and out of bed in the middle of the night if you can help it. If you are having trouble getting back to sleep, she recommends this technique to get back into your dream: "Lie there, don't do anything else. If you don't recall a dream immediately, see if you feel a particular emotion — the whole dream would come flooding back."
5. Get Into REM Sleep
You are most likely to dream during the REM sleep phase, so if you want a shot at lucid dreaming, you're going to want to make sure you are getting adequate REM first. Rapid Eye Movement is the deepest stage of sleep and can't be accomplished if you're asleep for less than one full 90 minute sleep cycle. This means that you won't be able to lucid dream during short naps — you won't be able to drop into a deep enough sleep to dream at all, let alone lucid dream.