How to take control of your dreams


How to take control of your dreams


Lucid dreaming is a phenomenon in which a dreaming person is aware that they are asleep and dreaming, and are often able to control their own dreams.

According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, it is also possible to learn and perfect the technique. The study author, Denholm Aspy, Ph.D., tested the effectiveness of five different techniques to achieve lucid dreaming.

“I’ve always been fascinated by lucid dreaming. However, it wasn’t until the start of my Ph.D. in psychology that I started doing scientific research in this area,” Aspy told Medical News Today.

“I actually had a spontaneous lucid dream the night before my Ph.D. started, and when I woke up, I was so inspired that I decided to immediately change my research topic from nonverbal communication over to lucid dreaming,” Aspy said.

In order to better understand lucid dreaming, Aspy set in motion the largest known study on lucid dreaming to date: the International Lucid Dream Induction Study (ILDIS).


The two most effective techniques

Initially, 1,618 volunteers were included in the ILDIS, and asked to fill in a dedicated questionnaire prior to the start of the study. 843 participants continued to complete week one of the study, and 355 completed week two.

The final analysis focused on 190 female participants, 162 male participants, and three participants who identified as a different gender. All participants ranged in age from 18 to 84 years.

54.9% of these volunteers said that they had previously engaged with lucid dreaming induction techniques, and six people reported having participated in other lucid dreaming studies.

Over the course of the study, Aspy put to the test five different lucid dreaming induction techniques or technique combinations. These were:

  1. Reality testing:A person has to examine their physical environment repeatedly every day to ensure its reality. If this becomes a habit, a person can end up performing reality checks in dreams and thus realize that they are dreaming.
  2. Wake back to bed:This involves going to sleep, waking to an alarm after 5 hours, then going back to sleep after a short period of wakefulness. The aim is to send a person straight into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a phase associated with dreaming. In theory, this should allow a person to achieve lucid dreaming more easily.
  3. Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD):This technique also involves waking up after 5 hours’ sleep. However, people practicing MILD should confirm their intention to realize that they are dreaming after returning to sleep. They might do this by repeating the following (or a similar) phrase: “Next time I’m dreaming, I will remember I’m dreaming.”
  4. Senses initiated lucid dream (SSILD):This technique also requires waking up after 5 hours, with the difference that the person then focuses on sights, sounds, and physical sensations. They should focus on these stimuli for 20 seconds each before going back to sleep.
  5. A technique combining MILD and SSILD:After 5 hours’ sleep, the person has to focus on different stimuli from their environment, as well as repeating their intention to remember that they are dreaming when they next fall asleep.

“I chose techniques that were the most widely researched, that seemed the most promising, and that were relatively easy to learn. I then put them in several different combinations to learn as much as possible about how to get the highest success rate,” the researcher told Medical News Today.

Aspy found that overall, MILD and SSILD were equally the most effective in inducing lucid dreaming.

He also noted that he did not observe any significant correlations between the other techniques and success in achieving lucid dreams; however, he acknowledged that this is a limitation of the short study period.



The applications of lucid dreaming

Although exactly how MILD and SSILD facilitate lucid dreaming is still unclear, Aspy notes that there are some potential explanations of why SSILD is effective.

Aspy writes that one possibility is that the repeated focus on environmental stimuli “causes a generally increased awareness of perceptual stimuli that persists into REM sleep, making it more likely that the practitioner will notice that they are dreaming.”

Aspy also suggests that lucid dreaming can have some useful applications for wellbeing, making it interesting to study and potentially helpful.

“One of the applications of lucid dreaming is that it provides a way to have vivid, life-like, and fulfilling experiences while dreaming that are not possible for some people while they are awake. This could be due to debilitating medical conditions, but also due to circumstances like self-isolation or quarantine when daily habits are disrupted, and emotional stressors are high.”

Often, Aspy explained to Medical News Today, people who can frequently remember their own regular dreams can find it easier to enter lucid dreaming.

The ability to enter lucid dreaming, Aspy said, “is due to many different factors, which we are still in the process of understanding. Some factors that influence dream recall include the amount of time you spend sleeping, the amount of time and energy you spend trying to recall your dreams (this can be improved with practice), and your diet.”

The researcher also suggests that future studies should aim to find out why MILD and SSILD are so effective at inducing lucid dreaming.

“This may yield potential avenues for refinement,” he writes in the study paper.


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