Have you ever been aware that you’re dreaming? Many people have experienced the sensation at some point in their lives. This state of consciousness is called lucid dreaming.There are various ways to train your brain to explore its dream-state while still staying asleep. When practiced regularly, lucid dreaming can also offer many wonderful benefits including increased creativity, better sleep, and improvement of motor skills.In this article, we’ll explain in detail what lucid dreaming is, provide a list of techniques for how to initiate it, and outline both the benefits and risks involved.What is Lucid Dreaming?Lucid dreaming is the awareness of your dreams while staying asleep and exploration of those dreams. It involves training your mind to notice your own consciousness so that you can make decisions within the dream, instead of simply experiencing the dream like a movie.These conscious dreams are most likely to occur during the REM, or rapid eye movement, stage of sleep which is associated with improved regulation of emotions, memory, and focus. You reach deep REM sleep 90 minutes after you initially fall asleep, and then about every 90 to 110 minutes after that.There are two types of lucid dreaming: dream-initiated and wake-initiated.In a dream-initiated state, you become conscious during your dream state and realize that you are dreaming. In the wake-initiated state, you transition from being awake directly into the lucid dream. The latter tends to be more controllable of the two.How to Lucid Dream – TechniquesAs lucid dreaming has become increasingly popular, many induction techniques have emerged.Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned lucid dreamer, these methods are designed to increase awareness of your dream-state. You will want to practice them regularly for the best results.Reality TestingThis is a way of increasing your minds’ ability to notice your own awareness while sleeping. There are a few different ways to test your reality. Here are the most common ones:In everyday life, while you’re awake, make a habit of asking yourself, “am I dreaming?” Afterward, investigate and take note of your surroundings to determine whether or not you are. Do this every few hours.Try pinching your nose and closing your mouth. Can you still breathe? If the answer is “yes,” then you’re in a lucid dream!Take a look down at your hands and feet. Do you recognize them, or do they look strange and unfamiliar? Limbs are often distorted in dreams, so this method can help you to make the distinction between real-life and dream-state.Read text or the time on a clock. Then, look away and back again. This is a useful method because letters and dreams tend to be blurry and nonsensical. They may even appear different each time you glance at them.Push your index finger straight through the palm of the opposite hand. Once you do so, ask yourself multiple times whether or not you’re dreaming. During a dream, your finger will pass straight through the hand. In reality, this is impossible and abnormal, so seeing it will allow you to realize you’re lucid.Wake Back to Bed MethodThe WILD method is the process of entering REM sleep while you’re still conscious.To initiate it, you’ll want to set an alarm for 5 hours after your bedtime. Go to sleep as you normally would. Then, when your alarm clock sounds, stay up for 30 minutes afterward. Engaging in a quiet, enjoyable activity can help. After the half-hour is up, fall back asleep.When you do this, you’re more likely to experience lucid dreams.Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (aka MILD)MILD is one of the first documented methods of inducing lucid dreams. The concept is to set an intention that will help you remember that you’re dreaming. Then, as you fall asleep, think of a recent dream and try to return to it.Examples of effective intentions that you can say aloud are: “The next time I dream, I want to remember that I am dreaming,” or “I will be aware that I”m dreaming.” Repeat it to yourself a few times.Something that helps many people is to identify a “dream sign,” something strange or significant within the dream. Examples of common dream signs include the ability to fly, having your teeth fall out of your mouth, being chased by something, or appearing in public without clothes on.By acknowledging that this bizarre occurrence only happens during dreams, your subconscious will be better equipped to make the distinction between dreams and reality while you’re sleeping.Wake Initiated Lucid Dreaming (aka WILD)WILD dreaming is when you directly enter a dream from waking life. This method is simple once you get the hang of it, but many find it difficult to learn initially. Note that it will probably require some practice and time.The basic premise is that you concentrate on staying awake while allowing the body to enter sleep paralysis. This results in your body going to sleep, but your mind remaining conscious. It is very powerful and once mastered, you can easily induce a lucid dream whenever you please.For the best results, try to remain as relaxed as possible. To do so, you can do breathing exercises, remove extra noises or lights, and set your bedroom thermostat to a comfortable temperature.Try Combining Two TechniquesUsing two techniques together may increase your chances of experiencing lucid dreaming. You can try staring at your hands while incorporating mnemonic induction right before sleep. Another option would be to complete a couple of different reality tests in a single dream.Tips for Increasing Your Chances of Lucid DreamingThere are various ways you can improve your odds of lucidity while dreaming. Here are some of the most popular ones:Keep a dream journal.When used consistently, a dream journal can provide valuable insights into the types of issues your subconscious is working on and through.When you wake up, if you’ve had any dreams, jot them down in a bedside journal as soon as you can. This helps because physically writing down the details forces you to recall and relive what happened, further enhancing your awareness of the dreams.An alternative option is to keep a recording device at your bedside that you can quickly grab to describe the dream.You will want to refer back to your entries often, as this increases your chances of noticing any dream signs or recurring patterns that may be happening.Play video games.Gamers report a much higher rate of lucid dreaming than the general population; even a couple hours a week can dramatically increase the chances of experiencing it.A study conducted in 2017 suggested that this could happen because of gamers’ immersion and familiarity with fictional settings, similar to what they experience during conscious dreaming.Keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.You can use blackout curtains to help darken the room, eye masks to block out any ambient light, and earplugs for silence. These all support a restful nights’ sleep and may help enhance your ability to lucid dream.Have a calming bedtime routine.Unplugging from your electronic devices, taking a warm bath, and/or journaling are all great ways to practice good sleep hygiene and help the body and mind wind down in preparation for sleep.Try to keep your dream going.When you first begin lucid dreaming, it can be difficult to spend a substantial amount of time within the dream. Once it happens, people have a tendency to get over-excited or stimulated by the realization which results in waking themselves up. This is perfectly normal and happens because the mind is still becoming accustomed with the sensation.There are a few ways that you can attempt to “stay” in the lucid dream for a longer period. One method is to fall backward or spin in circles in your dream. Another is to rub your hands together vigorously. Some people claim that continuing what you were doing before you realized you were dreaming can prolong it, too. This may help convince the brain that you’re still there.The Benefits of Lucid DreamingThe practice of lucid dreaming offers many advantages. By communicating with the subconscious while you sleep, you may be able to increase creativity, improve motor skills, get relief from anxiety, overcome fears, and enhance overall sleep. It can even help facilitate problem-solving skills as your mind is actively working through a particular problem even while you’re asleep.Lucid dreaming is gaining notoriety as a potential treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD. Nightmares can be very distressing for people struggling with PTSD because it forces them to relive the event(s) that traumatized them in the first place.It’s a particularly useful and promising method for this population because it gives the dreamer a level of control over their dreams. This allows them to change the context of it and, in some cases, even turn it from a nightmare or phobia into a pleasant experience.Reports of athletes utilizing lucid dreaming are becoming increasingly popular as well. It can serve as a mental exercise where they practice their skills or a visualization where they see themselves excelling in competitions.The Risks of Lucid DreamingWhile lucidity can be a helpful tool for some people, it can raise concerns and bring about negative outcomes in others. Here are the potential consequences that you should be aware of before deciding whether or not lucid dreaming is a good idea for you:Sleep DisruptionSince some of the lucid dreaming induction techniques interrupt sleep, they should be used with caution. The Wake Back to Bed method is the most notable, as it requires you to purposely wake yourself from a slumber.Insufficient, disrupted sleep can lead to sleep problems, so this is one risk to be cognizant of before trying lucid dreaming.Sleep ParalysisSleep paralysis occurs when a person is conscious but cannot speak or move. It happens in the moments between wakefulness and falling asleep and can be a very unsettling sensation. Thankfully, it is usually a short-lived experience, lasting seconds to a couple of minutes at most.When evaluating different induction techniques, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each; The WILD method incorporates sleep paralysis.Exacerbation of Mental Health ConditionsLucid dreaming can increase the intensity of symptoms in those with mental illnesses including, but not limited to, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and/or depression.FAQsCan you have a lucid nightmare?This is unusual, but yes, there have been people who reported experiencing lucid nightmares. In them, you know that you are having intensely negative experiences, but do not have any control over them, which can be a frightening feeling.Is lucid dreaming dangerous?For most people in a healthy mental state, lucid dreaming is safe. However, there are a few exceptions.People who have been diagnosed with mental illness or a history of being mentally unstable may not be good candidates for lucid dreaming. Dream-reality confusion could occur which makes it hard to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not. This dissociation and derealization can be very unpleasant for the dreamer, or even worse, exacerbate their mental illness.How do you wake yourself up from a lucid dream?If you want to wake yourself up in the middle of a lucid dream, there are several methods to help you do so. One of the most popular is to verbally call out for help. You can also try blinking your eyes repeatedly or reading text in the dream.Taking these actions will communicate to the brain that it’s time to wake up.What does lucid dreaming feel like?The sensations and feelings will vary from person-to-person during a lucid dream. Some common themes that people frequently experience include heightened senses, intense emotions, and lack of local spatial awareness.Can anyone lucid dream?If you can dream, you can lucid dream. People of all types, whether young or elderly, healthy or chronically ill, have experienced lucid dreams.ConclusionHaving the ability to explore and access the subconscious mind while sleeping is a fascinating concept. Lucidity makes it a reality.While lucid dreams have several advantages and hold great promise for the treatment of PTSD, they are not right for everyone. Before implementing the techniques mentioned above, you’ll want to use caution and assess to ensure you’re a good candidate to try it out.If so, with patience and regular practice, you’ll be lucid dreaming in no time.