Wellness

A Sleep Expert Reveals The Secret To Pulling Off A Lucid Dream

Enjoy your nighttime adventure.

How to lucid dream, according to sleep experts.
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There you are, falling asleep peacefully in bed when suddenly... you start flying? Clearly, you’re having a dream. So why does it feel like you can sometimes control where you go, almost as if it’s really happening? Well, you can actually learn how to lucid dream in order to have more nighttime adventures like that.

“Lucid dreaming is when you are in the midst of a dream and then suddenly have the awareness that you are dreaming,” Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a professional dream analyst, tells Bustle. “It is essentially being awake and asleep at the exact same time, having a foot in both worlds. And it is absolutely the coolest experience ever.” I mean, how often can you say you hung out with ghosts (even if it was just a super-realistic dream)?

While this kind of experience can happen during a peaceful dream — like when you’re flying — it’s also fairly common during nightmares. “A lot of people become lucid within a nightmare because what they are experiencing is so frightening, the adrenaline rush seems to trigger a certain amount of consciousness,” Loewenberg says, which is why you can usually wake yourself up.

This half-awake state can happen all on its own, often when you least expect it. But if you practice lucid dreaming techniques, you can actually learn to control your nighttime experiences and move around in them without waking up. It sounds next-level, but Loewenberg believes anyone can do it. If you’re down to give it a try, here’s how to lucid dream.

1

Set Your Alarm 30 Minutes Early

One of the easiest ways to have a lucid dream, according to Loewenberg, is to set your alarm 30 minutes earlier than usual in the morning. Once it goes off, make sure the snooze is set for an additional half hour, and allow yourself to fall back to sleep while repeating “I am dreaming, I am dreaming” to yourself.

“This small window of time will allow you to fall back asleep and dream, but it's not long enough to fall back into the deep delta stage of sleep, which is what tends to keep us from remembering all of our dreams throughout the night,” she says.

The mantra will help get you in the right frame of mind as you drift into the lighter side of sleep. With that extra bit of consciousness, Loewenberg says it’ll be easier to remain aware if you start to dream.

2

Find An “Anchor Point”

It’s often tough to stay in a lucid dream without waking up or falling into deeper sleep. But it can help if you find an “anchor point,” like your hand, and focus on that. “Just concentrate on it for a few seconds,” Loewenberg says. “That can help lock you into this state of mind a little longer.”

From there, you can bring your thoughts back to whatever you’d like to focus on in your dream. You can even take advantage of being in this subconscious state and ask yourself a few questions, perhaps as a way of connecting with your inner self, she explains.

According to Loewenberg, you can try asking something very specific, such as “What should I do about X?” or you can ask a more general question, like “What do I need to know right now for my life?” If a character comes along in your dream, you can even ask them. “Throw out a question to your dream universe,” Loewenberg says, and you will (hopefully) get the answer.

3

Go To Sleep With The Goal Of Lucid Dreaming

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Whether you’re falling back asleep in the morning, drifting off for the first time at night, or trying to fall back asleep at 3 a.m., try setting the goal of having a lucid dream. “Repeat to yourself, ‘Tonight in my dreams I'll be aware that I'm dreaming,’” Tzivia Gover, MFA, a certified dream professional, tells Bustle. “If you wake in the middle of the night, repeat this intention again.” You might find that telling yourself to have a lucid dream does the trick.

4

Take Deep Breaths

Another lucid dreaming technique involves gentle breathing exercises. To do it, “inhale normally for a count of four, then gently hold it for a count of four, slowly release to a count of four, and hold empty for a count of four,” Gover says.

Do a few rounds of this four-part breathing and you might just experience a lucid dream. Why does it work? “It may be that the breathing technique relaxes the body and mind and primes us for dreamy sleep,” says Grover. “It may also have to do with the fact that in REM sleep we breathe irregularly, and most lucid dreams occur during REM sleep.”

5

Write Your Dreams In A Journal

Also helpful? Journaling. “Actively practicing dream recall and writing your dreams in the morning are two more ways to become a more conscious dreamer,” Gover says. All you need to do is keep a notebook by your bed and jot them down the moment you wake up. “Affirming that you dream several times each night is one way to become more lucid, or conscious about the fact that you are dreaming.” Test these out to see which technique works best for you, and happy dreaming.

Studies referenced:

Drinkwater, K. (2020). Lucid Dreaming, Nightmares, and Sleep Paralysis: Associations With Reality Testing Deficits and Paranormal Experience/Belief. Frontiers in Psychology. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00471/full

Xie, A. (2012). Effect of sleep on breathing - Why recurrent apneas are only seen during sleep. Journal of Thoracic Disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3378217/

Experts:

Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a professional dream analyst

Tzivia Gover, MFA, a certified dream professional

Sources:

Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, professional dream analyst

Tzivia Gover, MFA, certified dream professional