How to Lucid Dream – All you need to know to get started lucid dreaming tonight!
Lucid dreaming has been something I have been able to do since I was very young. Since then I have been experimenting with techniques and reading books that have been able to challenge myself and change how I look at how to lucid dream. Because of that, I have been able to compile some of the best ways to get you lucid dreaming right away!
What is Lucid Dreaming?
Lucid dreaming has been around for a long time. The philosopher Aristotle wrote about lucid dreams in some of his writings and other key philosophers have mentioned it before as well. There is some interesting evidence that even the Egyptians may have performed some lucid dreaming techniques to get “out of this world”. We also know that lucid dreaming has been used by ancient yogis to travel within and Buddhist monks have used something called dream yoga to find their inner being.
Lucid dreaming with its long history still wasn’t taken seriously until scientific studies were conducted by Stephen LaBerge showing that lucid dreaming was in fact really something people could do. Since then more and more studies have been conducted on the altered state. Today lucid dreaming and its effects have been displayed in Hollywood movies such as Inception and Vanilla Sky all which are great movies by the way.
So what is lucid dreaming? Lucid dreaming is the realization that one is dreaming (Laberg & Rheingold, 1997). Though the definition of lucid dreaming may be simple, the ability to be lucid inside of a dream is another matter entirely. So much has been the case that until recently lucid dreaming was considered nonexistent in the scientific world. It wasn’t until Stephen LaBerge’s experiments in the lucid dreaming community did it become known that lucid does occur in some individuals (Laberg & Rheingold, 1997).
Lucid dreaming is something that didn’t just start to occur in the last twenty years, it has been around much longer than that. In Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s book “The Tibetan Yoga’s of Dream and Sleep” he describes lucid dreaming as being an active meditation practice since the practice of meditation in the Tibetan culture was formed (Wangyal, Wangyal, & Dahlby, 1998). Though not a highly known or practiced form of meditation, lucid dreaming is still a known and taught way by the Tibetan Buddhist community of exploring the unknown areas of the human psyche.
Though lucid dreaming is a relatively new area of research into the dream research community, there is still a multitude of information about it online as well as in books where people express their personal experiences and their own guides into how to lucid dream. Through years of personal trials and errors, many of those guides have become useful for my personal practice. This guide was created so that you can focus on some of those techniques and guides, and find your own system that works best for you.
Are you ready to have your Cosmic Awakening?
Getting Past the Simulation
What does it mean to be aware that you are dreaming? There are many levels of awareness and lucid dreaming. When you are in a dream you could compare your experience as though you are in a simulation of reality but you are unaware that it is a simulation. In a lucid dream, you are in the same dream simulation but are aware that you are in the simulation, you can then control some aspects of the dream world, however, there still is the simulation aspect of the dream. In even more awareness in dreams, you can get past the simulation entirely.
Lucid dreaming is the first aspect of awareness inside of a dream. You may be doing something in a dream and suddenly realize that what is taking place around you is not natural. You may also fall into a dream state and hold awareness while you fall asleep and find yourself aware that you are dreaming. These are all aspects of lucid dreaming. You can then maybe control the environment around you or make changes to dream characters. There are deeper levels of awareness past lucid dreaming that you can obtain.
Continuing to become more lucid about the dream world requires more work. This is exactly what Buddhist dream yoga is all about. It’s about getting aware of the world that creates the dream and getting past the consciousness that creates the dream simulation. This is where Out of Body Experiences come into play and also astral projection in relation to lucid dreaming. They are all a form of lucid dreaming.
Out of Body Experiences are often described exactly how they sound. They are described as stepping out of the body, floating, or exiting the body. This is experienced often right after going to sleep, or after waking up and going back to bed. The reason for this is because you are near the phases of sleep that allow for someone to be conscious and dreaming at the same time. This is called Non-REM sleep. People are able to dream and experience lucid dreams outside of REM which may be surprising to some people because REM is often referred to as the dreaming stage in sleep. In Non-REM sleep, we experience things like sleep paralysis, lucid dreams, and Out of Body Experiences much easier because we are more awake during that period of sleep. We are able to identify the dream simulation easier.
The reason you may experience the sensation of leaving your body in a lucid dream is that your brain still thinks your awake, but your brain also has a copy of your body in the simulation, and when you are dreaming you can move this simulated body as though its real. Your brain doesn’t understand your asleep. Of course, this is the more scientific reason for out of body experiences, but there are many more explanations. People often believe that they are traveling outside their body as a point of energy. I have personally experienced this sensation and can tell you that it’s pretty believable.
Astral projection is taking lucid dreaming one level deeper past Out of Body Experiences. Often people describe as going to other worlds and bringing back information from a collective consciousness. I have also experienced this and can truthfully say that its amazing. There are too many documented experiences that people have to discredit the experience. I say judge for yourself, have the experience!
Different Levels of Lucid Dreams
Lucid dreaming can be broken up into a number of different groups. Robert Waggoner, author of the book “Lucid dreaming: Gateway to the inner self” describes lucid dreaming as five different levels.
- Stage 1: Personal Play, pleasure, and pain Avoidance- In this stage, the individual who becomes lucid explores the lucid dream with a sense of awe by seeking out those things in the dream world that provide the most amount of pleasure, and avoid those things that are troubling (Waggoner, 2008).
- Stage 2: Manipulation, Movement, and Me –In this stage, the individual may be trying to explore the common lucid dreaming experience of flight (being able to fly) or may also manipulate the dream environment to be how they would like it to be (Waggoner, 2008).
- Stage 3: Power, Purpose, and Primacy – In this stage, the individual may realize that they are in power of the dream characters and require that they obey the dreamer. The individual may also wonder what the purpose of the lucid dream and test situations to try to find out that purpose (Waggoner, 2008).
- Stage 4: Re-reflection, Reaching Out, and Wonder – In this stage, the individual may realize that the dream characters have something to offer the dreamer and in the result, they ask the characters questions into insight into reality and dreaming. The individual may also ask questions that they seemly know the answers to in order to understand more of themselves as well as the dream world (Waggoner, 2008).
- Stage 5: Experiencing Awareness- In this stage, the individual understands that something besides the “ego” is controlling the dream world. They go past the images of the dream and looks to seek to find the awareness behind the dream world (Waggoner, 2008). This is where Out of Body Experiences and Astral Projection come into play.
The ultimate goal of a lucid dreamer can be said to want to be a stage 5 lucid dreamer at all times, but often enough a single lucid dream can pertain many different stages of Waggoners dreaming scale (Waggoner, 2008). Also, It is not uncommon that a lucid dreamer who has been able to dream a stage 5 lucid dream will often dream other stages of lucid dreams again before having another stage 5 lucid dream. I wouldn’t get stuck on trying to have a stage 5 lucid dream all the time. The important thing to know about these stages is that there are different levels of dreaming (or awareness) and that you as a dreamer can experience many different levels.
How to Lucid Dream
When it comes to lucid dreaming It is important to learn a technique that works for you. The good news is that It’s usually very easy for people to have their first lucid dream, and if you don’t have success in the first few nights, then its time to mix up the technique. The key to having a lucid dream is to first understand that its possible and that you can have one. Often people have reported that just the idea of thinking positive and having the determination to have a lucid dream is enough to get people to have a lucid dream right away! I notice that when I read something about lucid dreaming I often have a much greater chance to have one myself. Below are a number of ways that you can get started creating your own lucid dreaming practice. There are a lot of options and selecting a few to get started is a good idea to get you on your way.
Different Ways of Lucid Dreaming
There are countless amounts of guides online and books about lucid dreaming. After reviewing many of the guides and books it has become ever increasingly apparent to me that there are a few practices that are common within all of them that are effective for most people. First, there are techniques that are included in many of these practices. I have broken these techniques into groups so you can easily decipher their meanings below.
- IILDs – Image Induced Lucid Dreams – The subject actively creates an image of the desired result (lucid dreaming) and implants that image into their mind with the intention to have a lucid dream during a period of sleep.
- WILDs – Wake Induced Lucid dreams – The subject falls asleep seamlessly without losing consciousness through a series of techniques of relaxations and tricking the mind to believe that the body is asleep. The person then can experience a fully conscious lucid dream without having to realize they are dreaming. Often these dreams are interpreted as producing Out of the Body Experiences (OBEs) because of the experiences felt while the individual’s body falls to sleep creating a sensation of separating from the physical body (Laberg & Rheingold, 1997).
- MILD – Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams – The subject falls asleep and then wakes up in the middle of the night knowing that they have had a dream. They then recall that dream and imagine what the dream would have been like if they had been lucid or aware in the dream. The subject then goes back to sleep, thinking about that concept while keeping the intention to be lucid (Laberg & Rheingold, 1997).
- ELDI – Electronic Lucid Dream Induction – The subject uses a device that activates when they are in rapid eye movement (REM) and indicates that they are possibly dreaming. Devices such as the DreamLight, shine a bright LED into the closed eyes that often shows up as a red dot inside of the dream of the subject. The subject then knows they are dreaming and becomes aware (Laberg & Rheingold, 1997).
- DILDs – Dream Induced Lucid Dreams – The subject realizes they are dreaming after something out of the ordinary happens such as the impossible situation, or an object out of place. In result, the person becomes aware they are dreaming and a lucid dream occurs (Laberg & Rheingold, 1997).
- WBTB – Wake Back To bed – The subject wakes up a number of times a night and focuses on the idea of producing a lucid dream. This often causes a person to remember more of their dreams and have more dreams to realize they are dreaming in. This technique is normally used in conjunction with other techniques (Laberg & Rheingold, 1997).
- CAT – Cycle Adjustment Technique – Much like WBTB the objective of this technique is to put the body out of the normal circadian rhythm cycle. In this technique, the subject goes to sleep at different times of the night “tricking” the body to fall into more REM sleep and produce more chances for an individual to remember they are dreaming (Laberg & Rheingold, 1997).
- SILD – Supplement Induced Lucid Dreams – The subject takes a series of supplements that aims at reducing the amount of REM a person experiences during the first part of the night and extends it during the ending cycle (Yuschak, 2006). These supplements also improve recall and normal sleep processes that occur by increasing the amount of neurotransmitter a person has. This technique is used in conjunction with other lucid dream techniques to become aware (Yuschak, 2006).
- CWILD – Caffeine-withdrawal Induced Lucid Dream – The subject uses caffeine until an addiction is formed where they end their use and produce the withdrawal symptoms. The subject then falls asleep and wakes up when they are most likely able to be in their REM cycle. They then administer a caffeine based substance and fall back to sleep. The withdrawal symptoms go away and act as an indication to the dreamer of being in a dream. (Mortal Mist Community, 2009)
Now that you have the techniques down, let’s talk about the basic steps that will get you lucid dreaming in no time.
Seven Basic Steps to Lucid Dreaming
- Before you sleep / Reality Checks – During your day, reality check – During your day you need to be aware of how things are. How things feel, how food taste, how your hands look, how you interact with things. The reason for this is because in a dream we often notice something that isn’t real or something that is out of place. This makes us lucid. Throughout the day ask yourself “are you dreaming?” Say it out loud if possible, really question this idea. Believe the question and examine why you know you are awake. Use reality checks to assist you in understanding if you are dreaming.
- Before you sleep / Set the alarm – Set your alarm to go off at around 4-6 hours after you go to sleep. The reason for this is because we want your brain to be rested, to have gone through a number of REM cycles before you start to even try to have an out of body experience. The more detailed reason for this because the more cycles that your body goes through the more and more you stay in REM, the cycles extend as the night continues. Each sleep cycle is around 90 minutes. This also makes it possible for you to have longer and more intense dreams.
- Before you sleep / Set your intention – Tell yourself that you are going to have a lucid dream. Tell yourself that you will remember your dreams and that dreams are important to you.
- Sleep / Wake up from the alarm – When your alarm goes off, get up and go get some water, go to the bathroom and do some activity for about 45-60 minutes Whatever you feel comfortable with.
- Sleep / Get Ready to go Back to Sleep – Lay down in bed and relax. Set the intention again that you are going to have a lucid dream.
- Sleep / Go back to sleep – This part is a little more tricky as you may be overly stimulated at this point and sleeping may be difficult. Relaxing and doing your best to think about nothing will assist you in going back to sleep. If you manage to get back to sleep your brain will automatically wake you up and allow you to go back to sleep pretty often. Every hour or less your body will go through a phase of sleep and you will wake back up. At this point try your best not to open your eyes or move. You should notice that you’re awake, but try to imagine seeing yourself in the mirror of your bathroom or imagine a face or object in your mind. If you can do that, then don’t move your body, but imagine your body being able to move in your mind. If you move or noting is working, that is okay. Lucky for you, you will have a number of tries before you wake up for the day. The main part of all this is to allow yourself to relax but also have the self-determination to really have the experience happen. It will happen! Additionally, if you did have a dream and remember it, actively focus on the dream and imagine yourself in that dream and what you would have done if you were lucid in it. Think about that dream as if you were lucid and set the intention to have a lucid dream while going back to bed. This is the MILD technique we talked about before.
- Get involved – Regardless of if you wake up for the day after having a lucid dream or not, getting into discussions with others about lucid dreaming will help you get to the next level. You can join in the discussion in the Taileaters online discussion group here.
Additional Techniques and Information
If you are one of those people like myself who enjoys knowing as much as possible when it comes to lucid dreaming, I have provided additional information below about lucid dreaming, including more advanced techniques.
The biggest part and maybe the only part that is important in lucid dreaming are remembered your dreams (Laberg & Rheingold, 1997). It’s very possible that all of us have lucid dreams every night we go to sleep, but we don’t remember any of them because we don’t remember our dreams, or in enough detail (Laberg & Rheingold, 1997)(Berrett & McNamara, 2007). According to Allen Hobson and his theory of sleep with his Activation-synthesis hypothesis, the area of our brain that controls long-term memory shuts down (Hobson, 2002). With this process shut down we may shortly remember our dreams while we are dreaming, but when we wake up we soon forget (Hobson, 2002). Often in a night, we have a number of dreams and many of these dreams we don’t even realize we have because of this exact process. To overcome this problem a number of techniques have been created in order to increase the ability of the dreamer to remember their dreams. They are listed by importance and put into easy groups for those who are the hobbyist lucid dreamers and expert groups for those who don’t mind losing a little sleep to obtain their lucidity:
Set and setting: Though the term is used for those who experiment with psychoactive drugs, the dream experience is much of the same type of situation. Make sure you are sleeping in a comfortable situation. Keep things that will irritate your sleeping out of the bedroom. Keeping lights off will help with your eyes not picking up photo waves as the pineal gland is photosensitive and will not produce melatonin (a natural sleep aid) when it detects light. How you position your body also has a great deal on how you may lucid dream. Lying on the side has said to produce more normal dreams as lying on the back may produce more OBE type lucid dreams (Lucidology, 2008).
Dream journals: Keeping a dream journal is maybe the number one most important aspect of all lucid dreaming guides because it seems to help to keep active our long-term memory during sleep. It increases our motivation to remember dreams and therefore increases our dream recall ability while in sleep and outside (Wangyal, Wangyal, & Dahlby, 1998). It may have also other altering effects as we have more intelligence to realize we are dreaming while we are in the dream world.
Sleep Masks: Though most people don’t consider sleep masks an important tool for lucid dreaming, they are essential in having a dream practice. They have to reduce distracting light from entering the eyes. Sleep masks also are great ways to determine if you are lucid dreaming. If you wake up and can see while remembering you had a sleep mask on when going to bed, you are for sure to know you are lucid dreaming or having an Out of Body Experience.
Mediation on awareness: Being aware of your daily life is very important in becoming lucid. Paying attention to things that you are doing at a single moment creates a focus on the reality of the situation and also allows for the dreamer to realize they are dreaming when reality changes. Practice clearing the mind by focusing on breathing as is done in meditational practices is one way of increasing awareness. Focusing on an object or focusing on breathing while awake is one of the greatest ways of increasing your dream recall and becoming lucid (Wangyal, Wangyal, & Dahlby, 1998).
Aware of the processes of sleep: Understanding what your body does before it goes to sleep is an important aspect of understanding when you are asleep. This technique helps in the WILD type of lucid dreaming because it allows for consciousness to know when the body is asleep and you are dreaming without becoming unconscious. The body will twitch often when you are about to fall asleep, temperature changes will occur and images will start to appear with the eyes closed. Often laying on the back while practicing breathing techniques (meditating on breathing) will cause an OBE preceded by sleep paralysis and possibly a hypnotic hallucination, such as a dweller. You can also purposely twitch your body like it does before you fall asleep to sometimes trick the mind into believing it’s ready for dreaming.
Use MILD: MILDs is considered one of the most powerful ways to remember and improve your lucid dreaming ability. There have been many studies showing that the MILD technique is one of the best ways to improve your chances of having a lucid dream over all others.
Waking often: Waking up often can break up our sleep cycles and cause our brains to be more aware while we should be sleeping. This in a way tricks our brain to be awake while we are dreaming. Not only will this increase our dream recall, but overall the control that we have in our dreams. Just like working out at the gym and mixing up your routine, it’s important to mix up our sleep habits when it comes to lucid dreaming so that our brains and body don’t get used to a routine.
Foods and Drinks: What you eat and drink before you go to bed is very important to if you will have any lucid dreams or not. If you have a heavy night of drinking the night before you will awake to often remember having a lot of dreams. This is because alcohol increases the amount of serotonin in your system and serotonin does not allow for REM to occur until it’s out of your system. Once the serotonin is out of your system you have what is called REM relapse where REM occurs for a longer than a normal period at the end of the sleep cycle at the point when you will awake. Even though REM rebound is ideal situation while trying to remember a lucid dream alcohol also produces a lot of negative effects. Drinking milk or eating fish before going to bed will naturally increase the amount of serotonin in your body and allow for REM rebound. Supplements such as 5-HTP are precursors (where your body naturally converts the chemical into another substance) to serotonin and can be taken before going to bed.
Changing the cycle of sleep: Just like it’s good to mix up your workouts when you are trying to build muscle, it’s good to mix up the times you go to sleep to build lucid dreams. Your body and mind start to remember what time it’s normal to go to bed and the processes put into motion to make it so you have a good night’s sleep without remembering your dreams. If you mix up the sleep cycle then the mind may not be fully asleep when you don’t want it to, making it so you have a better chance to be lucid.
Supplemental support: In Thomas Yuschaks book “Advanced Lucid dreaming: the power of supplements” he lists a number of supplements that he experimented with in order to increase his lucid dreaming (Yuschak, 2006). After experimenting with these supplements my colleague and I have found that the supplements that support acetylcholine, serotonin, and histamine production are the most productive for lucid dreaming as they are used naturally as neurotransmitters during sleep (Yuschak, 2006). You can always read more about lucid dreaming supplements on our site as well.
Caffeine: Coffee, as well as other caffeine-based stimulants, help produce a number of chemicals that help with sleep if taken in small amounts. Caffeine has been shown to increase adenosine in the body, which helps to convert serotonin into melatonin in the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin is one of the bodies best sleep aids and is produced while the eyes are closed due to the light-sensitive of the pineal gland (Oneirology, 2009).
Serotonin: as discussed earlier, serotonin helps with reducing REM until later in the sleep cycle. Using 5-HPT is a good way of increasing your serotonin production. Serotonin also has benefits during the waking day as it’s known to reduce depression, elevate mood, and reduce the need to overeat (Yuschak, 2006).
Acetylcholine: this neurotransmitter helps with memory and is tied directly to modulate levels of wakefulness (Yuschak, 2006). Choline salts are good supplements to be used to increase the amount of acetylcholine in the system but I much more prefer an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor called galantamine (Yuschak, 2006). An acetylcholinesterase inhibitor makes it so that the normal breakdown of acetylcholine is reduced and allows for the buildup of acetylcholine in the brain. Galantamine is used to help reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s and seems to improve the ability to recall and remember things better (Yuschak, 2006).
Histamines: though histamines are not talked about often in the lucid dreaming community, they are quite frankly maybe the most important. Histamines are tied to being one of the easiest ways of releasing serotonin into the body as well as releasing a substance called PDG2 into the system that is theorized to be the cause of sleep activation. Niacin or vitamin b-3 is a good supplement for this, however; it must obtain the flush ability (Barrett & McNamara, 2007). The flush causes a rash type of feeling over the body that is the release of serotonin and PDG2 into the system. It is frankly one of the best sleeping pills that my colleagues and I have found that’s over the counter.
Having the right supplements seems to be half the battle by using them at the correct time is also just as important. The best technique for the use of these supplements is by using the WBTB system as follows:
- A day before: Have some type of caffeinated foods, drinks, or supplements. This will produce a later withdrawal.
- The day before: Don’t use any caffeinated substances a day before or in a time period that will be needed in order to produce the withdrawal symptoms during sleep.
- At bedtime: Take a 5-HTP or a Niacin supplement combination. This will increase the ability to have WILD type lucid dreams as well as allowing you to remember your dreams later in the night after you wake up the second time.*Note niacin causes a niacin flush that will make your body feel warm as though having a reaction. It’s best not to move very much after taking the supplement combination.
- 2 Hours after sleep: Wake up, take an additional 5-HTP along with a galantamine supplement as well as a small form of caffeine. This will increase memory and sleep cycle proficiency along with increasing the REM rebound about 4 hours into sleep.
*Note- Removing the CWILD type instructions is also an option to produce lucid dreams. The CWILD is just one of the most effective way of having lucid dreams.
Make sure not to do this technique every night or if you are not going to get more than 6 hours of sleep.
An important note here is to make sure that the supplements that use are safe for the individual to use. A doctor must be consulted before any levels of supplements are used to ensure that there will be no reactions. Only recommended use must also be maintained.
Daily ritual timeline
In order to practice lucid dreaming to the point of having a common occurrence lucid dreaming experience, there is an easy to follow a timeline of systematic events that will lead to this conclusion.
- A. Supplements/Mediation) Prior to sleep the individual takes a supplement combination of niacin and serotonin. The person relaxes in a meditative state with a breathing technique that allows them to be calm and ready for sleep.
- B. Sleep occurs after the meditation practice is complete.
- C. The person awakes after 2 hours of sleep allowing for the body to become rested and ready for the lucid dream. The awakening allows for the taking of the additional supplement galantamine. A meditation practice is then used to calm the mind and allow for sleep again.
- D. A highly likely occurrence of a WILD type lucid dream is prominent at this point of the night because of the relaxation from meditation support of the galantamine supplement in produce REM stages of sleep, and the support of the serotonin supplement reducing REM earlier during the night’s rest.
- E. The person can attempt to produce a number of WILD dreams by repeating steps C and D until the end of the sleep process.
- F. After waking the person will write down their dreams in the journal that they experienced that night as well as how they slept and the things they would like to improve on in the next night. This will help to reaffirm the goal of having a lucid dream.
Understanding the body
Understanding how the body feels when a person is falling asleep as well as when the body is experiencing different events related to lucid dreaming is also very important. Some of the experiences can be terrifying as well as confusing and can cause a lucid dream to become negative or end suddenly if poorly understood. Relaxation during these events often results in a meaningful and sometimes blissful experience (Lucidology, 2008).
Ready to sleep feelings
Ready to sleep feelings are the experiences of the mind interpreting the body being ready to sleep. Twitching and jerking is a common occurrence right before sleep. Some techniques of lucid dreaming encourage individuals to try to trick their body into being ready to dream by imitating the twitching (Lucidology, 2008). I have found this to be not helpful in most cases. Temperature change is common before sleep due to the body naturally exhausting heat during this phase of relaxation (Roger, Bowes, Lushington ,& dawson, 2009). Hypnotic Hallucinations are common right before sleep and are often tied to WILD type lucid dreaming. Images may be seen with the eyes closed as well as intrusive thoughts that don’t make sense.
WILD and OBE feelings
There are a number of experiences that are felt when having a WILD or OBE type lucid dream that is often confusing and terrifying. Buzzing sounds are often heard before or during sleep paralysis and are a good indicator that a WILD or OBE type lucid dream is about to occur (Lucidology, 2008). Hypnotic hallucinations, paralysis, extreme vibrations and a sense of floating often are tied to these types of dreams as well.
There are also a number of great guides online which can provide you with additional information. Here are some best ones that have a lot of support:
- Phase Evolution – An amazing series of videos on Lucid dreaming/Astral Projection
- Reddit – The Three Steps to Lucid Dream
Things to Expect in a Lucid Dream
When an individual becomes lucid in their dreams and they experience the different stages of a lucid dreaming they may become more aware of a few remarkable things. The first noticeable learned experience is that in stages 1 through 4 a person only is partially lucid during a lucid dream. There is still the element of the separation between the dreamer and the creator of the lucid dream. The idea is that the lucid dreamer is the conscious mind and the director (the consciousness creating the dreaming world) is an entirely different identity. The realization that these consciousnesses are exactly the same thing creates a perception of awareness that caused the dreamer to become fully aware inside of the dream or a stage 5 lucid dream.
Depending on the different levels of awareness you are in a lucid dream you can experience many different concepts or sensations while dreaming. I have provided examples of those experiences below.
Often when a person first starts to explore a lucid dream they are often found testing the environment around them to see how real something is or not (Lucidology, 2008). In a normal lucid dream, there has been described a type of realism that is below the realism of reality (Lucidology, 2008). Often there are mistakes in the psychics of the dream world, or unrealistic characters may be involved in the dream. In cases where people experience Out of Body Experience type lucid dreams, the realism is increased to another level. It is possible that the lucid dreamer’s ability to test the dream reality in Out of Body Experience dreams has become reduced and lucidity lowered, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In contrary, in Out of Body Experience lucid dreams, the individual seems to realize more than ever that they are dreaming or traveling to another level of reality. Details are ever more vivid in Out of Body Experience experiences than in normal lucid dreams, and testing the reality of the experience seems to fail almost in every situation. Psychics may not be exactly correct, but for the most part, the rules apply the same as in waking reality. Dream characters in Out of Body Experience type lucid dreams seem to follow their own set of rules and seemingly seem far more intelligent than in normal lucid dreams. This experience of Out of Body Experience lucid dreaming is often considered so real that many people have been perplexed to believe that these dreams are in fact real (Wangyal, Wangyal, & Dahlby, 1998). Simple experiments inside of Out of Body Experience lucid dreams have shown that they often fail simple reality tests, indicating they are more than just basic lucid dreams. In the following dream I tested the reality of the dream:
Falling asleep I felt the vibrations that normally came when I knew I would have a Out of Body Experience type dream. I opened my eyes and was in my room. Things seemed slower and I knew that there was a good chance I was dreaming. I walked around my room and thought that there was a chance that I was sleep walking as everything was very slow but still realistic. I feared my roommates would see me walking around the house but figured the risk was worth it and continued on my way to the bathroom to look in the mirror. I flicked on and off the light in the bathroom and it worked how it should have which caused me to believe more that I was sleep walking. I looked at my face in the mirror and noticed everything was slightly green. I walked down the stairs which lead to outside the house and saw my shoes. I positioned my shoes so that when I awoke the next day that I would see I was sleep walking. I continued outside where the sky was full of amazing stars and supernovas. After a while of walking around I lost my lucidity and had a long dream. I awake and checked my shoes. They were not positioned in any strange manor and I noticed that the temperature outside was around 15* which would have caused me to wake up if I went outside in my sleeping cloths.
Though in my experience I thought the Out of Body Experience was real I still was unable to produce any results where the dream interacted with reality. Theories have been presented that when we have an Out of Body Experience our minds tend to create a world that resembles the one which we went to sleep in. Often there is a portal (a door or window) in these dreams that when we walk through them (or fly through them) we are transported into a dream world that is unique. It is unknown why these dreams seem so much more real than other types of lucid dreams, but it could be hypothesized that the area of the brain which deals with long-term memory and intention is still very active. This could be because of the result of the improper sleep process of the WILD type dream. Often people who experience Out of Body Experiences have the sensations of vibrations, auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, as well as sleep paralysis.
Dream characters can be as dynamic as the dreams themselves. Often these dream characters can be broken into a few groups:
Mindless- this type of dream character seems to be pre-programmed to do a number of tasks but when asked questions can only reply with a fixed number of replies and often cannot perform complex tasks of any kind. These characters are easily tricked and often have little insight into the dream world, assuming that they too are awake. Some examples of this type of dream character can be described in a number of dreams I had:
I dreamed I was at a college in Boise and noticed that I was dreaming. Knowing I was lucid I decided to go find people and ask them questions. I found a large church and went inside. Inside were a number of people all doing homework. I asked them what they were doing and they replied with “Doing homework.” They had no other answer besides that and no description of what homework they were doing.
I became lucid in a building that I was dreaming of. I saw a number of people around me and asked them if they wanted to see a magic trick. They said sure. I said I could make a million dollars appear with the words abracadabra. I said abracadabra and then nothing happened. The dream characters expressed how lame the trick was, but I expressed for them to wait a moment. Soon enough a woman with a suitcase walked down the stairs and she opened it with the result of a million dollars inside. The dream characters asked how I did it and I replied, it’s magic.
Intelligent- These dream characters can answer complex questions that the dreamer may not know the answer to. They often are insightful to dream world as well as reality and can be asked questions that the dreamer doesn’t seem to know the answers to. Some examples of this type of dream character can be described in a number of dreams I had:
I had an OBE type experience and was fully lucid. I went to the door to the outside of my house and walked through it. I met an older woman which told me her name was Jabooty. I asked her if I had known her before, she said yes. I asked her what I should do with my life and she said that it’s very simple what we should all do with our lives, we should enjoy it and take care of it. She said she had to go because she was playing games with some kids.
I dreamed I was at work and then noticed that my hair was acting funny and then became aware of dreaming. I looked around the building for a panda because I had intended to find a panda before I had fallen to sleep. I found the panda but it was a person with dark eyes and dark ears. I laughed at the idea and he laughed too. I asked him about the reality of dreams and he told me that dreams were real and not real at the same time. He said that dreams were a way for our subconscious mind to communicate with other people’s sub-consciousness and dreams were a visual representation of that. I found it interesting and continued on my dream.
Dwellers- the last type of lucid dream characters are what I describe as the dwellers. These dream characters often resemble monsters or feelings of fright in a lucid dream and are often not any more intelligent than mindless dream characters. They often present themselves during sleep paralysis or during a lucid dream that the dreamer is actively trying to control. Often they are found in Out of Body Experience type lucid dreams and though often don’t actively attack the dreamer they provide the dreamer to produce fearful thoughts. Often dwellers are described as sitting on one’s chest and pushing down on the dreamer making it hard to breathe (Lucidology, 2008). Often bells, screeching metal, or the shuffling of feet across the floor are heard before a dweller is hallucinated. The experience of the dweller often is experienced by a portal object (door or window) being opened with the dreamer unable to move due to sleep paralysis.
Many common monsters of our day are attributed to dweller based experiences. The succubus, vampires, old hag, and even the term nightmare derive from the word Mara which means “The Crusher” which is termed after the experience of sleep paralysis.
Though not much research has been spent on understanding these dweller based characters, it has been theorized that they are a form of negative emotions produced by the mind or shadow. In some cases, lucid dreamers have been known to accept these characters and they often go away. When the lucid dreamer awakes after accepting these types of characters they often feel better about themselves and rarely have these character experiences. Some examples of this type of dream character can be described in a number of dreams I had:
I awoke in my room and noticed a shadow like a figure in my room. I ran at the figure to try to scare it way or to destroy it. After a number of attempts, the figure dissolved.
I awoke in my room and walked down the hall. I knew I was dreaming of a type of OBE dream and remembered I wanted to face my fears and accept it. I thought about seeing that dweller based dream character and it appeared. I was fearful but walked up to the character and asked it what it wanted. It stated that it was unsatisfied. I asked it what it was unsatisfied about. It said it didn’t know but was just unsatisfied. I then saw another dweller character and it walked towards us. We all sat down on the ground and I molded them into each other like clay. They then both disappeared. I woke up feeling refreshed and happier.
Though these groups of dream characters are defined there are many different variations of them inside of dreams. Some dwellers are intelligent and perform complex strategies to try to scare the individual as they become actively aggressive. There are also mindless based dream characters that have the capacity to learn and become somewhat intelligent. In a dream world environment, there is truly an endless amount of possibilities with complex and different characters.
The Benefits and Negatives of Lucid Dreaming
The benefits of being able to lucid dream are truly endless based on the belief system of the person and their culture. Some believe that through lucid dreaming you can travel to other worlds or become enlightened much like the Buddhist culture believes Siddhārtha Gautama did in his meditational practice. Other lucid dreamers take the more western approach of believing that lucid dreamers have the ability to communicate with the subconsciousness helping with improving on ailments such as depression, PTSD and more. Whatever your belief systems are, there is great utility in lucid dreaming and some of the negatives and benefits are listed below.
Nightmares and Fearful Experiences
Dreams including lucid dreams can result in some pretty troubling experiences. If you are not ready for this it can come as a shock. Sleep paralysis, as well as hypnagogia, can create the sensation of not being able to move and induce troubling hallucinations in the process. Many people including myself have had this happen to them while exploring lucid dreams. Additionally, false awakings can also cause some people to no longer want to continue lucid dreaming. The idea of waking up over and over again without being actually awake can cause some people to get upset.
The Tibetan Buddhist practice in dream yoga has only one purpose, to become enlightened and end suffering. The Buddhist believe that life is based on a cycle of death and rebirth and that in order to end the never-ending cycle one must understand that the true reality of consciousness is based on dualisms and a type of psychological drape that covers up what true reality is (Wangyal, Wangyal, & Dahlby, 1998). It takes years of study into the philosophical beliefs of the Buddhist to really understand what their true beliefs are to give them full justice, however; lucid dreaming in the Tibetan culture is one way of ending this rebirth cycle (Wangyal, Wangyal, & Dahlby, 1998). In order to do this one must realize that the dream world is made up of pure images produced by the subconsciousness or what they call the awareness (Wangyal, Wangyal, & Dahlby, 1998). Once the dreamer realizes that the dream world is an illusion then they can experience true awareness dreams called white light dreams. These white light dreams ultimately lead to the understanding of reality and enlightenment (Wangyal, Wangyal, & Dahlby, 1998).
Some people are gifted lucid dreamers and have amazing experiences in the dream world. This approach to lucid dreaming can allow those individuals to have a more meaningful spiritual life through their experiences in the understanding of reality.
Traveling to Other Worlds
Many lucid dreamers truly believe that these dreams have an alternate reality to them. The reality of our world ends once they travel through the portal in the real world (a window or door in their house or place of sleep) and are then able to travel to other worlds and experience real events in those realities. These individuals have said to have experienced saving other worlds from destruction and taken part in Star Wars like experiences across the universe.
The benefits of these experiences are that the dreamer can have a more adventurous life however we can see many problems that are produced psychologically by this experience. As a very important part of lucid dreaming is to understand that reality is still a very important big part of a person’s life and that negative actions, in reality, have very real long-lasting consequences. Because of the degree of the realistic dreams, at times individuals have had problems determining the difference between reality and dreams.
The greatest benefit from lucid dreaming experiences is the ability to communicate with the mind in a very visual and unusual way. During the dream, states experiments can be conducted to find out the limitations of the narrator based dream creator that illustrates the dream world and manifest the dream characters. A true personal relationship with the subconsciousness can be achieved through lucid dreaming, something that Sigmund Freud expressed was impossible. Through these experiments, alternate theories of the sub copiousness models like those provided by Carl Jung have slowly become a more realistic view of how the subconsciousness works (Gustav, & Shamdasani, 2009).
Lucid dreaming is a complex and for most individuals an extremely challenging form of dreaming to master. There are many different ways to lucid dream and many different types of lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming can be extremely gratifying in one’s life by supporting the understanding of reality, understanding self, and overcoming fears with little to no negative effects. With continuing research into the area of lucid dreaming, we can better understand the subconscious. Lucid dreaming has become one of the final frontiers to explore.
Barrett, D., & McNamara, P. (2007). The New Science of Dreaming. Greenwood Publishing Group.
Gustav, C, & Shamdasani, S. (2009). The red book. W W Norton & Co Inc.
Hobson, A. J. (2002). The Dream Drugstore: Chemically Altered States of Consciousness. MIT Press.
LaBerg, Stephen, & Rheingold, Howard (1997). Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. Ballantine Books.
Lucidology, (2008). Lucid Dream Forum, OBE Forum. Retrieved March 30, 2009, from Saltcube Lucid Dream and OBE Forum Website: http://www.saltcube.com
Mortal Mist Community. (2009, October 5). caffeine–the overlooked lds? . Retrieved from http://mortalmist.com/forum/lucid-aids/caffeine-the-overlooked-lds/
Oneirology. (2009). Strassman interview. Retrieved February 9, 2010,
Rogers, N. L., Bowes, J., Lushington, k., & Dawson, D. (2009). Thermoregulatory changes around the time of sleep onset. Physiology & Behavior, 90, 643-647.
Waggoner, R. (2008). Lucid dreaming: gateway to the inner self. Red WheelWeiser.
Wangyal, T, Wangyal, T, & Dahlby, M. (1998). The Tibetan Yogas of dream and sleep. Snow Lion Pubns.
Yuschak, T. (2006). Advanced Lucid Dreaming – The Power of Supplements. Lulu.
Lee Adams is a Ph.D. candidate in Jungian Psychology and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute and host of Cosmic Echo, a lucid dreaming podcast, and creator of taileaters.com, an online community of lucid dreamers and psychonauts. Lee has been actively researching, practicing, and teaching lucid dreaming for over twenty years.