Go to desired places when you sleep with lucid dreams
Want to fly or hang out with celebrities? With simple techniques you can learn to control your dreams, writes "The Guardian".
What if you could go to bed every night, fall asleep, and have complete control over your dreams? That's what happens when you lucid dream, and when it happens it's like being the architect of your own world, the director and star of your own movie.
You can change scenery, add characters and orchestrate events. People say it feels like you're in a computer game. It's an alternate universe; like Second Life, where, if you know how to control it, you can choose any identity you want.
Although lucid dreaming has been a recognized practice in Buddhist culture for thousands of years, it has only been recognized in Western culture and science in the last few decades. The studies of neuropsychologists Ursula Voss and Martin Dressler showed that brain activity during lucid dreaming is similar to sleep REM (rapid eye movement), however, is different from a state of non-lucid dreaming or waking – suggesting that something different is going on.
Although lucid dreaming can happen spontaneously, with a little practice it's something you can control. I enrolled in a short course at Charlie Morley, a lucid dreaming expert, offered these simple techniques to help you master the skill:
Keep a dream journal
When you wake up, write down everything you can remember. This will help you identify the signs of the dream – aspects that will alert you to the fact that you are dreaming. Sometimes I dream about my father, who I don't see that often, and Charlie advised me to practice thinking, "The next time I see my father, I will dream," several times throughout the day. It worked – the next time I saw my father, I knew I must be dreaming.
Lucid dreamers often use reminders as a means of reality checking. Charlie recommended that I use my hand, so several times throughout the day I looked at my hand and asked myself, "Am I dreaming?" During the dream, my hand would not look the same twice, and it would jolt me into lucidity. Another good reality check is reading – it's almost impossible to read in your dreams because it's a left brain skill and dreaming uses our right brain. My lucid dreams are always detailed and there is often a script written in the scenery, but I can never read it.
Sleep scientist and researcher Steven LaBerge developed the mnemonic-initiated lucid dream (MILD) technique, in which you try to fall back asleep and into a lucid dream immediately after having a vivid dream that you can remember. It's our 'prospective memory' that does this - if you've ever gone to bed determined to wake up at a certain time, then you've already used this skill. You can find a more detailed account of this in his book Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming.
The Wake Up, Go Back To Bed Method
Lucid dreaming author G Scott Sparrow describes a technique that has become known as the "wake up, go back to bed" method, and it's the method that works best for me. Research suggests that going to sleep, then waking up, and going back to sleep increases the likelihood of lucidity. Set your alarm a few hours earlier than usual and engage in waking activity for an hour or so (I recommend reading up on lucid dreaming), then go back to bed with a strong intention to dream.
Finally, a subtle change in your environment can also help induce lucidity. Charlie suggests moving your pillow to the opposite end of the bed for a night, because anything that slightly disrupts your routine can, he says, cause you to "wake up" in your sleep.
With practice, Charlie tells me, I'll be able to stay in the lucid dream state longer, but I've already managed to choreograph some big lucid dreams. I spent the other night hanging out with Tina Fey on the set of 30 Rock in New York. I managed to stay lucid enough to tell her a joke that she found funny. Hopefully one day I'll be lucid enough to write Mean Girls 2 together. In my dreams.
There are many lucid dreaming apps and aids that can encourage you. Shadow, which is particularly interesting, allows you to upload your dream log, creating a huge international database of dreams.
Confessions of a Lucid Dreamer by Becky Barnicott
I have always been fascinated by my dreams, which are often epic. I swim with giant sea creatures, escape tornadoes, or explore cities made of crumbling marble.
At some point in my life I experienced something exciting: I became aware that I was dreaming while in a dream. It wasn't something I planned to do; it was more the realization that, of course, this bizarre, upside-down world must be a dream.
After realizing this, the first thing I wanted to do, of course, was fly. But while in a normal, non-lucid dream, I undoubtedly fly, with grace and ease, in this new "rational" state, I knew that humans cannot fly. The resulting effort, which involved a lot of desperate arm flailing – was a bit like a flying fish.
But still, I flew! And in a way the limitations made it feel more real. If I wanted to fly in waking life, it would be like this: unpleasant, hard work, but still a little magical.