I Tried Four Different Methods To Lucid Dream

I'm pretty sure Dante missed a circle of Hell: the one where a loose acquaintance sits down next to you in the break room and proceeds to tell you the most mind-numbingly boring dream of all time. Like, come on, it's a dream — how is it possible for someone's subconscious to be so hum drum? Hearing about other people's dreams is fairly boring across the board, though, no matter who's doing the talking. The only defense I can think of it learning how to lucid dream so you can wash their dullness off of you when you head into dreamville yourself. Sophie's dream about the copy machine breaking will all but erase itself from your memory by the time you're finished KICKING ASS IN THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE OF YOUR MIND (in like, a cool Emma Stone way, not a Walking Dead way, of course).

For anyone who isn't super clear on the concept of lucid dreaming, it's essentially how we describe those rare moments when people realize that they're in a dream. That alone is enough to rouse most of us out of our dreams, but people who are exceptionally good at lucid dreaming can keep themselves asleep and then use it to their advantage.

Some people, for instance, use the concept of lucid dreaming as a healing tool. One prominent researcher, Beverly D'Urso, credits her ability to lucid dream with helping her come to terms with her father's death and with parts of her childhood that upset her. Other people use lucid dreaming to act on fantasies that are either too risky or impossible in the real world, a lot of them revolving around sex (in case you were wondering — it is entirely possible to orgasm in your sleep during a dream).

My purposes for pursuing lucid dreaming are not at all noble. There isn't some grand event in my life that I'd like to relive to heal myself, or some fulfilling opportunity that I missed out on, or some fantasy I'd be too scared to pursue in the real world. To be honest, I just want to be able to do stuff like fly and meet Taylor Swift and eat a sushi burrito without waiting in a 45 minute line, and lucid dreaming is the fastest way to do any of that. I'm hoping that this isn't all so vain of me that the lucid dreaming gods are going to ignore my attempts to get ahold of them, but I can't blame 'em for ignoring me, either.

In order to fulfill my quest, I decided to try four different methods to bring on lucid dreaming. Did I get to meet dream Taylor Swift during this experiment? Read on to find out...

Day One

The first technique I used was admittedly a little less hardcore than some of the recommended ones, because it was an app. Beditate is one among many sleep aid meditation apps available on smart phones, and the one I ultimately chose because a) it had a lucid dreaming option, and b) it was fuh-reeeeeeeee, and I'm a cheapskate.

Here's What Goes Down

You get yourself all snuggly, pop in your headphones, and listen to a very calm woman talk you through the process of falling asleep. You're told to breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth, as you envision a warmth that starts in your toes and works it way all the way up your body. At some point the voice tells you that you are going to remain aware of your dreams, and then counts itself down from ten to one, lulling you to sleep.

Here's What Actually Happened

Who the hell falls asleep in five minutes?? I tried to stay very still and fall asleep anyway, but that was the exact moment something in a construction site nearby went KABOOM despite it being Go The Hell To Sleep O'Clock. Keeping everything the voice told me to do in mind, I eventually conked out, aggressively thinking of Oscar Isaac and hoping for the best. (Shoot for the moon and you'll end up among the stars, right? ... Which is my way of saying I'd be down for dreaming about literally any member of the Star Wars cast.)

Well, I didn't get to see Oscar Isaac with his shirt off. Instead — and I'll keep this brief, lest I bore you all with my dreams the way other plebes bore me with theirs — I dreamed about being trapped in a giant, dark mansion with my ex, my ex's ex, and a guy I have a teeny bit of a crush on. What I mean to say is, I had a NIGHTMARE. I only realized I was dreaming when we all started running around the house without knowing what we were running from, and in a total rookie lucid dreaming mistake, I woke myself up feeling bizarrely paralyzed with fear in a way that I usually never am when I wake up from dreams.


Day Two

After my wonky haunted house adventures, I decided to go a more scientific route for Day Two — namely, using this Life Wok video, which thoroughly explains how you can use your inborn mind-body independence to trick your body into entering sleep paralysis early and instigating a lucid dream.

Here's What Goes Down

I suggest watching the video in its entirety to learn the method, but I'll give you the gist: Your body gives you "rollover signals" as you're falling asleep, which you recognize as the urge to shift position when you're trying to hit the hay. This serves a specific function — your body is trying to figure out if your mind actually went to sleep or not, and this is its way of checking in, and accidentally keeping you awake in the process. The key here is to bring on the rollover signal quickly, which you can do by starting out in a neutral position on your back until your body prompts you to move to the side. For an extra hit, lay on the floor on your back for 10-15 minutes before even getting into bed.

Here's What Actually Happened

I was dreading my little floor half-nap all day, but — plot twist — it was actually oddly soothing to lay on the hardwood. I felt my brain going into that nonsense place where you have imaginary conversations with people who don't exist, so I got myself up and attempted to recreate it in my actual bed, assuming that I would fall asleep pretty quick. Aaaaaand I did not. As an aggressive stomach sleeper, the side position they advised was unnatural for me, and in retrospect I probably should have just let myself roll all the way over from the start.

As for the dreaming? There really wasn't much. I had an atypically dreamless sleep for most of the night, and woke up a bunch of times at random intervals, which I also don't usually do. I tried to use the same principles every time I fell back asleep, and eventually did have a semi-lucid dream — but just like the night before, I was only lucid because something that terrified Dream Me was happening, this time in the form of a bunch of teenagers playing with guns and pointing them at us (Dream Me decided to give a lecture to Gen Z about gun control, ever the opportunist). I realized I was dreaming at about the point a friend of mine told me Terminator-style to hop on the back of her motorcycle (??) and jet off into the sunset with her as the bullets sprayed at our backs — but it was all for naught, because I woke myself up a second later because a) there were BULLETS SPRAYING AT US, and possibly because b) I realized that I had more than a little bit of a girl crush on my friend in this dream. Personal win, but lucid dream fail.

Day Three

So far all my lucid dreaming attempts had devolved into lucid-at-the-last-second nightmares, so on Day Three, I took another sharp left turn away from sleep techniques and decided to go one of my favorite routes: FOOD. Amy Livingston posted an article on Lucid Dreaming Leaf about the five foods that will help you dream, so I decided to incorporate them all into one beautiful dinner mess and pray for the best.

Here's What Goes Down

You basically just get your brinner game on, hard. Before you got to bed, make oatmeal with bananas, cherries, and almonds, and if you can swing it, drink some Valerian root tea, a "night night" tea that is known for its sedative properties. This oddly healthy cocktail of foods will supposedly encourage your brain to go into lucid dream land.

Here's What Actually Happened

I got hella excited about this and drank not one, not TWO, but THREE cups of Valerian root tea, you guys. And let me tell you ... it does not taste all that pleasant.

And it is a testament to just how well it knocks you out that I did not wake up once in the middle of the night, despite sleeping badly two other nights in a row and the fact that my bladder was one light breeze away from exploding.

But here's the thing — I slept hard. That REM cycle swag was no joke, guys. I didn't dream lucidly for even a few seconds at the end of the dream like I did the days before, and when I came back from my early morning gym sesh to see what notes I had scribbled about the few details of a dream I could remember, I found nonsense: Apparently, our senior fashion and beauty editor Kara McGrath was leading some choir I was in, but was also being tricked by Supreme Leader Snoke? (Sleepy Emma also helpfully wrote down "Star Wars x Pitch Perfect Crossover," for whatever it's worth, Hollywood.)

In any case, I slept deeply and pleasantly, so although this didn't grant me the lucidity I was hoping for, it was much appreciated.

Day Four

I undoubtedly saved the worst for last. LOOK AT THIS.

Yes, I get up at 5:30 a.m., and yes, I have a dorky, life-affirming, Pinterest garbage quote attached to my alarm, but I'm not here for your judgment. I'm here for your PITY, because the last night of this experiment I intentionally jarred myself out of my restful slumber twice before the sun even poked out of the sky.

Here's What Goes Down

The most torturous of these methods is the Wake Back To Bed Method, which essentially encourages you to wake yourself up, recount whatever dream you were having at the time, and then stay awake for 15 or so minutes before going back to sleep. Of course, it's impossible to predict if you'll be in the right cycle of your REM without a sleep expert watching you, but like that biochem final you took in college, all you can really do is cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Here's What Actually Happened

I woke up bleary-eyed, half-sane, and with a little letter that my 3:30 a.m. self deliriously must have left for my morning self:

"Don't f*ck with your REM guys it didn't do anything to you!!!" — a very eloquent future memoir passage by yours truly.

Seriously, I did not have one lucid dream doing this, but I did make myself miserable. I am a person who usually only has trouble sleeping once a week or so tops, which I recognize makes me extremely lucky compared to the insomniacs I know, and this felt like I was messing with the fragile order of a brain that I am lucky to have. And thus, I will not be trying that ever again.


First and foremost, I am terrible at this.

But that makes sense. I only just started, and if you're going to get really good at this, you have to commit. Experienced lucid dreamers recommend chronicling everything you dream in a dream journal that you write in the moment you wake up (trust me, it's impressive how quickly your memory will fail you), or doing "reality checks" with yourself during the day and meditating before bed. These are all long-term methods that I will probably try out myself at some point in the future, once I get over the doozy of this past week.

I would like to exercise a word of caution for those of you who might want to try this out for yourself. The first two nights of my experiment resulted in some helllaaaaaa nightmares with weird sexual undertones, which is to be expected what you start messing with your subconscious — but for some people, attempting to lucid dream can make you more vulnerable to night terrors or other sleep disorders (particularly the Valerian root tea). Lucid dream at your own risk, y'all!

As for me? I didn't get to ride Splash Mountain. I didn't get to touch John Boyega's deltoids with my bare hands. But on the last day of this experiment, feeling quite sorry for myself and my lack of success, I looked up at lifestyle editor Gaby Moss' shirt and realized that I did not need to lucid dream after all. All of my dreams were ripped out of my consciousness already and personified in this GLORIOUS PINK SHIRT OF DOUGHNUT CONFECTION.

The moral of this story, folks: Sometimes the dreams you were hoping for have been there all along.

Images: Beditate; Giphy; Rosanne Salvatore, Emma Lord/Bustle