Going to bed can be a bit of a gamble. Will your brain take you on a whimsical adventure, or a journey through your weirdest anxieties?
What you probably didn’t realize is that the choice is entirely up to you.
You’ve probably had a lucid dream before - realizing you’re in a dream is called a “Dream-Induced Lucid Dream” (DILD), and most people report having experienced one. What most people haven’t experienced is the god-like powers they gain once they realize they’re dreaming.
Becoming king or queen of your dream world is surprisingly simple, it just takes more than lavender and a dream journal. There are three main ways to control your memory-foam raft as it drifts through dreamland, but remember: patience is key. Trying too hard to dream or realizing you’re in a dream can be enough to wake your brain up, and each method usually takes a few tries.
Go to sleep at your normal time. As you settle in, think affirmative thoughts like, “I am going to have a lucid dream tonight.” Visualize yourself slipping into a specific dream - it helps to picture your desired dream throughout the day as well - while repeating this to yourself as you drift off. If you are awoken while drifting off, you’ll have to start the process over. The idea is to have your repeated mantra carry over into REM.
Go to sleep normally, with an alarm set to wake you up in 5-6 hours. When you’re awoken in the middle of the night, immediately start the mnemonic method without turning on any lights or getting up. While doing this, lightly move your fingers like you’re touching your keyboard but not pressing the buttons. Continue the finger movements as you drift off for as long as you can. Users report that the physical action is more likely to stay with your subconscious it transitions to dreaming.
This is a master-level method that straddles the line between lucid dreaming and induced hallucination. WILD is essentially the express train from consciousness to dreamland without sleep in the middle, and is considered a cousin of Sleep Paralysis. This results in vivid, waking visions that can be controlled to varying degrees. Not recommended for beginners.
Now that you’re dreaming, it’s time for a reality check. Count your fingers, plug your nose, or throw a punch to show your conscious brain that you’re not in the real world - rules do not apply here.
Simply realizing you are lucid in a dream can be exciting enough to jolt you back awake, so try to keep it together. You just got here! Let’s explore a little.
Meet your dream
The more aware and connected you are with your dream, the more control you will have over what happens in it. Rub your hands together; touch and even taste your surroundings. The sights and sounds of the dream will sharpen in focus as your brain fills in the details.
Now, what did you want to do? It’s your choice - you are a god here.
No seriously. To really get the hang of lucid dreaming, you need to get into that Kanye-With-A-Microphone mindset: anything you desire is within your grasp and might as well already be yours already.
Make stuff appear
Lucid dreamers are able to summon objects at will, but trying and failing can cause the dream to collapse.
Let’s try getting you a puppy. Just want it. Like really want it, with the conviction that you deserve it and you will find it. While you’re visualizing this item, start looking around like you’ve lost your keys. Go through your surroundings - under things, behind things - until you find a box or a door that wasn’t there before. Open it, and you’ll the puppy of your dreams!
Keep an eye on that thing, we’re going somewhere.
Flying is as easy as Superman makes it look: simply raise your fist like Mr. Kent and believe like Mr. Kelly. There are no physical limitations, so many dreamers recommend giving outer space a quick tour. You can travel to untold lands that only you can describe, or just to the beach finally because you didn’t get to go all summer. The more you visit and interact with a location, the more detailed it will be with each dream.
Now that you’ve gotten the hang of things, let’s try making some friends.
Anybody you’ve ever remembered, real or fictional, is liable to pop up in any dream. But you already knew that. What you may not know, and almost certainly haven’t tried, is that you can learn to control who you run into and what you do with them. Anything - and I mean anything - is possible. Just remember: these characters are extensions of your subconscious, which means sometimes they can be harder to control and sometimes downright annoying. If one of them tries to ruin your fun or wake you up, just remember that Kanye mindset and don’t mince words telling them to leave. Physical aggression might also scare them off, but negative emotions affect your brain’s focus on the rest of the dream.
With these tools, you should be able to bring anything to life. Re-enact Age of Ultron line-for-line as Scarlett Johansson, team up with the Street Sharks, or finally be able to grow a beard for once - dreams are a place where nobody can judge you.
If you get really obsessed, /r/luciddreaming and dreamviews.com are full of people sharing their stories and advanced tips for “lucid living.” Comment below or tweet us @endysleep with your lucid dreaming experiences!
Liam Scott is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Ontario. He graduated Ryerson University's Journalism program and is always looking for new stories to tell. You can follow him on Twitter @Liam_pScott.