I once had a lucid dream loop that freaked me out so much I couldn’t fall back asleep. I “woke up” in my bedroom, only it wasn’t quite the same; the bedroom window was located on the wrong side of the room. The moment I realized that something was wrong, I became aware that I was dreaming. I immediately tried to get out of bed, but I couldn’t – I felt sluggish, too tired to move, and fell “back asleep”. I awoke, relieved, only to notice that the bedroom ceiling wasn’t the high, peaked roof that it usually was. The lightbulb went off in my head, and I realized I was still dreaming.
I had several false awakenings in my bedroom, each with small details that made me realize I was dreaming. The more false awakenings I had, the more desperate I became to physically wake up. However, I was still experiencing trouble moving in my dreams. It felt like my body was too drowsy to get up. Before I would end a new dream and start another, I felt the sensation of falling back into my “body”. It was as though I was aware I was dreaming, but unaware that I could change the outcome of my dreams.
I made it my goal to get up and splash water on my face, sure this would “wake up” my body and get me out of this lucid dream loop. I managed to get out of bed and to a water fountain. The water was already flowing, so I dipped my hand under … and my fingers began to get sucked down the drain! The loop reset, and I woke up in my dream bedroom again. I declared that I would wake up – physically, this time – after counting down from three. It didn’t work the first time! But I was determined (and freaked the heck out), so I counted down again. And when I finally woke up, I had a very hard time falling back asleep.
Lucid dreams are essentially dreams during which you are aware that you are dreaming. Not all of them pan out the way my personal experience did; you could, in fact, use lucid dreaming to better your waking life. A recent study by the University of Lincoln on England suggests that lucid dreamers have problem solving skills that are higher than average. It is believed that lucid dreamers possess a higher level of insight, resulting in their brains detecting that they are dreaming due to events and situations that don’t make sense.
Lucid dreaming has the potential to improve your mind and body in your waking life. Professionals suggest that practicing certain actions – like running a race – in a lucid dream will actually train your body and mind as if you were physically performing the task. Charlie Morley – a hip hop artist gone Tibetan Buddhist – is so skilled at lucid dreaming that he was granted traditional Tibetan authorization to teach within the lineage devoted to “dream yoga”. According to this Tibetan practice, practicing meditation and yoga during lucid dreams actually brings you closer to enlightenment than in the waking world!
You could also use lucid dreaming for more fun activities, like soaring through the sky, eating your favorite dessert and living the life of your dreams. Realizing you’re dreaming during a nightmare could give you the opportunity to face down your fears, or turn a frightening hellhound into a soft, cuddly puppy. When it comes to dreams, there are no limits once you are lucid! I wonder if I could catch a couple of Pokemon while lucid dreaming, or ride around in a Titan. That sounds like a good dream to have.
So how do you train yourself to lucid dream? Essentially, you need to train your brain to recognize that you’re dreaming. The best way to go about this is with routine; one popular method is to ask yourself throughout the day, “Am I dreaming?”. If you are a forgetful person like I am, make it a habit to ask yourself every time you go to wash your hands. Most people wash their hands several times a day, ensuring your will get a couple of reality checks in. And take a look at your hands while asking. If you are dreaming, your hands might have extra fingers, or look fluid, or be a different color, or have some other defining characteristic that makes them not normal.
Theoretically, practicing this will help your brain to deduce when you are dreaming more often. You will also need to make a habit of recalling your dreams, or your lucid moments might escape your memory; make it a habit to record your dreams when you wake up, such as writing in a dream journal or typing it up in your mobile device’s notepad. During one lucid dream, I was recording my dream in my journal when the page suddenly turned blank, cueing me that I was still dreaming! Keeping a dream journal might also familiarize yourself with your typical dream elements and make lucid dreaming easier to accomplish.
And whatever you do, don’t stop playing your favorite video games! Past studies have shown that people who play videogames are more likely to experience lucid dreams. It could be because gamers have a higher level of concentration and focus (also attainable through activities like meditation). And they do have a point; video games often involve other worlds, realities or universes, similar to dream experiences. The next time another adult tells you videogames are bad for your brain, feed them those facts! It looks like my daily routine of daydreams, video games, meditation and yoga is a good mix, after all.
Have you ever had a lucid dream? Share it in the comments – I love talking about dreams, especially weird ones!