I wake up from my slumber. It is still dark outside. I wonder how much longer I have to sleep before my alarm will beg for me to get up, so I lazily look over to my phone. It states 1:00 a.m., and I instantly become confused; I had just woken up at 4:00 a.m. in order to attempt a lucid dreaming method. I glance back at the time only to notice that it had increased to 7:00 a.m. This was the clue I needed to indicate that I was in a dream. My brain had attempted to fool me by creating my surroundings to look almost identical to the bedroom that my actual body was currently asleep in. However, since I had noticed this underlying sense of uncanniness and ruled out the possibility of me actually being awake, I was ready to go on any adventure that my heart desired.
Back about ten years ago when I was a pre-teen, lucid dreaming was a taboo and almost far-fetched topic in which the only information out there was about reality checks. However, during the height of COVID-19, I had rediscovered this phenomena and decided this would be the skill I would develop while stuck at home. Through this personal journey I learned that lucid dreaming is like a muscle that needs to be stretched; there is always room for growth and improvement.
Although I could reach the lucid state, I would— and still occasionally— struggle with stabilization and control. This has encouraged me to add to the Wake-Back-to-Bed (WBTB) method as well as make a game plan on what to stay focused on once achieving lucidity.I am not one of the lucky people who are able to experience lucid dreams without trying, so I decide when I want to make an attempt. It is recommended to come up with a plan ahead of time so you are able to focus on what you would like to accomplish once you become lucid. It is perfectly fine to wing a lucid dream, but I find it easier to gain control of what I would like to do by having the plan in mind before falling asleep such as hoping to fly or wanting to conjure a friend. Once I have my plan in mind, I set my alarm for about four to five hours after I go to bed. Do not worry too much about lucid dreaming yet, but ensure that you sleep well during the first half of the night.
Many people know about the Wake-Back-to-Bed method as it is probably one of the most popular techniques to attempt lucidity. The reason why one should set their alarm about four to five hours after falling asleep is to try to interrupt the REM cycle, the cycle in which dreams are most common. By interrupting this cycle you are more likely to reenter a dream once falling back to sleep. I find the WBTB method most effective for me if I stay up for thirty minutes with a soft light, writing down my dreams from the previous sleep cycle as well as replaying my plan in my mind. Once those thirty minutes are over, I try to become relaxed without falling asleep by laying in a position I am not used to.
Since I am not able to immediately fall asleep in this position, I am able to affirm over and over again, “I will lucid dream.” Affirmations personally aid me greatly by sticking what I want to accomplish in my head. I am not a perfect person, so sometimes I get lazy in my lucid dream attempts. Affirming adds a second layer for me so that I feel as if I am working even harder for this goal, and I have found that it increases my chances of gaining lucidity. This affirmation may not work for everyone, but feel free to come up with an affirmation that resonates with you. Some even find it more helpful to rewrite these affirmations rather than reciting them.
Becoming lucid is only half the battle. Like I mentioned earlier, I still occasionally struggle with stabilizing and controlling my dreams. Especially when becoming lucid for the first time, it is common to become so excited that you wake up before achieving anything. The key to sustaining a lucid dream is to ground yourself. The easiest way for me to ground myself is to stare at my hands or something I am holding. Focusing on the intricate details of an item will not only keep you in the dream but also amaze you with how high-def your dreamscape can appear. If you have the patience, you can stabilize the dream even more by including all of your five senses. Some may come more easily than others, but sometimes you have to fake it until you make it to smell the dream-flowers. Remember to use your senses constantly throughout the dream to prevent the moment from ending too early; if I find my dream fading, sometimes just staring at my hands will come to my rescue.
Once you feel confident enough, you are ready to reach your lucid goal. However, if you have a hard time flying into the sky or conjuring the Eiffel Tower, start small. The key is proving your power to yourself so you gain more confidence to achieve whatever you want. If you find flying difficult, try jumping higher and higher each time until you catch some major air. If you are not able to create something big, try creating something smaller that you are familiar with first such as an apple or a balloon. If you are unable to control the dream entirely, it is okay because you can always try again later. I have had many lucid dreams that I have not been able to control, but I still find a way to take advantage of it by just searching the dream; you never know what you might find that way.
With lucid dreaming comes a lot of trial and error. Methods do not work the same way for everyone, but I have a few more tips that may be little nudges to help personalize your journey. Firstly, one of the most common tips is to keep a dream journal. It may be difficult remembering to jot down the long stories that occur in your head overnight, but once you are able to consistently take note of your dreams you may be able to pinpoint specific dream signs that may become a hint for you that you are dreaming. The second most common tip would be to use reality checks during the day. Whether you would prefer to count your fingers or check the time on the clock, if you are persistent enough you will hopefully think to do this within a dream. The Oniri app is a great resource for keeping up with both writing down your dreams and remembering to do reality checks throughout the day.
My last tip that I have discovered on my own is that it is great to have a friend to join you on your lucid dreaming journey. I am very thankful that my former roommate became interested in lucid dreaming when I did, so we would perform the WBTB method at the same time. We would spend that 30 minutes in the middle of the night together by sharing our dreams, talking about what goals we hoped to accomplish, and encouraging each other about what we were about to do. Because we had each other, we would even become each other’s dream sign many times. Having a buddy growing alongside you enhances the lucid dream experience. Although we have since moved apart, we still manage to have occasional calls at 4:00 a.m. to continue our shenanigans.
No two lucid dreaming journeys are the same. Although these methods work for me, they may not work for everyone who tries. The Wake-Back-to-Bed method is an amazing foundation to build on, so it is up to the individual to try new things to enhance and make the most out of this method. Lucidity may be a daunting concept, but the best results come to me when I work for it. Not every lucid dream is perfect, but make the most out of those crazy experiences such as false awakenings and dream characters that lead you astray. Just keep trying, and do not give up.