How Do I Lucid Dream?

Lucid dreaming is to realize that you are dreaming without waking up. It's an incredible phenomenon where anything becomes possible. Once aware of dreaming, the lucid dreamer can do anything: fly, visit loved ones, fulfill desires, overcome fears, or train high-performance skills.

Learning to lucid dream is difficult but possible. It is a technique, so it is entirely learnable with the right motivation and access to the best techniques.

We advise a multi-pronged approach summarized by the following steps:

  1. Boost dream recall by writing in a dream journal.
  2. Practice "state tests” or "reality checks.”
  3. Mentally envision becoming lucid while falling asleep.
  4. Optionally: set an alarm to wake up, then fall back asleep into a lucid dream.

Boosting Dream Recall With a Dream Journal

Everyone dreams every night, but often we don't remember our dreams. By boosting dream recall, lucid dreamers remember multiple dreams every night.

The technique is simple: write down every dream you remember. Even if you only remember a small fragment of a dream or a vague theme within the dream, write it down. Even if you are asleep at 2am, write down the dream. In the morning, you can review your journal and more details will come back to you. This technique reliably works.

When you wake up in the morning or the middle of the night, remain motionless. When we move the body, we shake off the residue of the dream world, making it harder to remember what we dreamed about. By staying still, it's easier to recall the features of the dreamworld.

Eventually, lucid dreamers become so familiar with their dreams that they can recognize them. Expert lucid dreamers keep a list of dream signs, and when they experience a dream sign, they perform a state test.

Question Reality With State Tests

The singular event that leads to lucidity is asking yourself if what you are experiencing is a dream. This is not easy to do. Most people who try it quickly dismiss the possibility; after all, what we experience always feels real, even in our dreams.

There are two state tests that we recommend.

The first state test is to 1) look at a symbol, 2) look away, 3) imagine a new symbol replacing what was once there, and then 4) looking back at the symbol to see if it has changed. If the symbol changed, you're almost certainly dreaming. You can use a clock, the time on your phone, a physical sign, even just a shape on the wall.

The second state test is to try to fly or levitate. If you start flying, you're almost certainly dreaming.

State tests and reality checks need to be sincere. You are training yourself to perform these tests while in the dreamworld, so you want to truly follow through. When you perform a state test, genuinely ask yourself, could this be a dream? How can we prove that this is a dream or waking life?

A state test also needs to be convenient. Ideally you can perform the state test safely, wherever you are, without drawing too much attention to yourself.

Practice Becoming Lucid While Falling Asleep

As you go to bed each night, we recommend priming the mind for lucidity by reading about lucid dreams, listening to Shape's audio guides, or otherwise contemplating lucid dreaming. This makes it more likely that you'll recognize the dream state later that night.

You could read a book about lucid dreaming, listen to guided meditations, read a lucid dreaming blog, or read about the science of sleep cycles.

You can also practice MILD (mnemonic induction of lucid dreams), or simply envision the process of dreaming, performing a state test, realizing that you are dreaming, and then performing a pre-defined dream action like flying or visiting a person or place.

Wake Up, Then Go Back to Bed

At this point, you have all the ingredients necessary for becoming lucid. If you do nothing else, you'll most likely have a lucid dream just by following the previous steps. If you want to boost your chances of having a lucid dream, you can practice Wake-Back-to-Bed (WBTB).

WBTB is a reliable way to trigger lucid dreams. Here's how it works: set an alarm to go off between your sleep cycles, stay awake for about 20 minutes, then go back to sleep.

By staying awake for 20 minutes or longer, you're activating the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for rational decision-making, conscientious thought, and regulating our experience. When this part of the brain lights up, it becomes increasingly likely to have a lucid dream.

Additional Tricks and Hidden Tactics

There are countless non-obvious techniques that make it easier to lucid dream.

  • Meditate. Meditating dramatically improves the self-reflection and self-control necessary to recognize the dreamworld and then actively participate in it.
  • Sleep more. By sleeping longer each night, you're increasing your time spent in REM, thus increasing your exposure to lucid dreaming.
  • Seek novel experiences. Taking a different path on your daily commute, trying out a new sport or activity, attending a dance class, talking to new people, and other novel experiences boosts neuroplasticity and aids the brain as it forms new connections, making it easier to recognize dreams and react to our dreams in new ways.

Lucid Dreaming is Difficult But Possible

While lucid dreaming is difficult to learn, it is entirely possible. More than half of humans report having a lucid dream sometime in their life, and countless people have used tools like the Shape app to have their first lucid dream.

We advise our lucid dreaming students to stay focused on the fundamentals. It's easy to get attached to the goal of having a lucid dream, but the first steps outlined in this article are the critical prerequisites. Instead of triggering lucid dreams on demand, it's a healthier approach to think of each action we take as either increasing or decreasing the likelihood of having a lucid dream.

By mastering dream recall, practicing state tests, and priming the mind for lucidity, you’re dramatically increasing the chances that you'll have a lucid dream. As a final, optional boost you can try practicing Wake-Back-to-Bed. If you are extremely motivated, you might take up a meditation practice.

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