If you ask a group of people how to lucid dream, you’ll get a variety of answers. That’s because the experience is different from person to person.
Some individuals train for months to induce lucid dreaming by keeping dream journals and using the reality checking technique.
A few drink mugwort tea or do psychedelic microdosing.
Others have been experiencing lucid dreams naturally since childhood. And they’re not quite sure why it happens to them and not everyone. (According to researchers, 55% of people have experienced a lucid dream.)
But there’s one thing all three people we spoke with agree on: lucid dreaming is being aware that you’re dreaming. Some lucid dreamers can will themselves to control their actions, their surroundings, or the actions of others in their dream.
If the thought of experiencing a lucid dream for the first time has your skin tingling with excitement, here are 10 techniques you can try.
How to Lucid Dream
Margaret Banasik’s journey started in high school, when she developed an interest in sleep and its benefits. Before long, she was researching how to induce a lucid dream. “I did a deep dive,” she said. “I spent months training.” One part of Margaret’s training was keeping a dream journal.
Technique #1: Keep a Dream Journal
Writing your dreams down in a journal can help you find patterns and recurring themes.
Say you discover, through journaling, that you dream about the ocean often. Remind yourself of this often. The next time you’re dreaming and see your trigger—that big, blue, boundless sea—there’s a good chance you might recognize what’s happening and stay lucid, or conscious.
“You’re training your brain to remember what happened in your dream, to remember the details,” Margaret said. “Write down details like the color of the shirt you were wearing, or descriptions of the people you talked to. If you took the first step with your right foot, write that down.”
Technique #2: Increase Willpower
In addition to keeping a dream journal, Margaret willed herself to visualize things that weren’t there. The idea is that building willpower during the day means having more willpower at night—and a better chance of willing a lucid dream to happen and controlling the narrative.
“I would stare at something and focus on it,” Margaret said. “Then I’d blink really hard and pretend it was something else. Or if I was standing in front of a mirror, I’d picture what I wanted to be wearing then blink and pretend I was wearing it. You can’t just go through the exercise 10 times, you really have to will it. At first I’d blink, blink, blink, and nothing would happen. But I’d keep trying—I’m wearing a curve cut instead of a v-cut. I see sequins there.”
Margaret’s results were incredible. “After training, I was able to get into solid lucid dreaming within a month or two. I was lucid dreaming most every night,” she said. “I would wake up and come back into my dream where I left off.” She could control her dreams, too.
“During the dream if I wanted to fly, I’d just will myself into the air.” - Margaret Banasik
Technique #3: Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD)
You might be familiar with setting your intentions for the day. Maybe you repeat a mantra in the morning to get yourself in the right headspace.
Lucid dreaming experts say you should do a similar ritual before bed. Setting your nightly intention is as easy as choosing a short mantra and repeating it while you lay in bed. Try a phrase like “I will lucid dream tonight.”
Technique #4: Writing Induced Lucid Dreaming (WrILD)
This fourth method of lucid dreaming induction has a fancy name, but it’s really simple. Instead of saying your mantra out loud while lying in bed, write it down over and over.
Technique #5: Reality Testing
Another way to induce lucid dreaming is reality testing. In simple terms, it’s the process of determining whether information comes from an external or an internal source.
Experts believe the more aware and conscious you can be during your waking hours, the more aware and conscious you’ll be when you’re asleep.
How can you practice reality testing to increase your chances of lucid dreaming? Look at a clock. In real life, time moves slowly. In a dream, time moves quickly—and often in a nonsensical way.
Flo Marinez has been lucid dreaming since she was a child. Although she can manipulate her dreams for the most part, time is outside her control. “Last night [in my dream] we were at a friend’s gathering, a wedding of sorts,” she said, “We were dancing, and then we went to another state. You go from once space to the next. There’s no travel time.”
“I have control of what I’m saying or doing, but no control over the location. OK, now I’m going to China!” - Flo Marinez
Technique #6: Microdosing Mushrooms
Evidence suggests that microdosing psychedelics can improve cognition and creativity.
Flo suffers from migraines. Every once in a while when her prescription medicine isn’t helping, she turns to microdosing psychedelic mushrooms for pain management. And while she never took mushrooms to trigger lucid dreams, she discovered that microdosing did have an effect.
“My dreams are more explicit,” Flo said. “I’m consciously floating within the dream. I’m like, OK. This is happening. I’m floating and it doesn’t feel scary.”
Geometric patterns pop up for her, too: “I’ll be walking and having a conversation with someone [in my dream]. On the floor will be a geometric pattern that suddenly shifts.”
Editor’s note: Microdosing has risks and is illegal due to lack of understanding in many areas of the world; consult your physician before trying it.
Technique #7: Mugwort Tea
Many people achieve good sleep by enjoying a steaming mug of tea before bed. Dream tea with mugwort not only helps to relax your body and mind, it can also trigger lucid dreaming.
Experts say mugwort can enhance your dream texture, resolution, complexity and recall. It can be safely used in conjunction with other techniques like dream journaling and intention setting.
Technique #8: Wake Back to Bed (WBTB)
Lucid dreaming happens during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This technique helps you enter the REM sleep stage while you’re still conscious.
If you go to bed at 10 p.m., set your alarm for 3 a.m. When the alarm goes off, get up and do something relaxing for 30 minutes. Then go back to sleep.
Technique #9: Interactive Video Games
If you enjoy gaming, you’re in luck. Scientists have found a correlation between playing physically interactive games (like Nintentdo Wii) and lucid dreaming.
Specifically, more time spent playing leads to more frequent lucid dreams as well as more control of what happens.
Technique #10: Lucid Dreaming Induction Devices
If you have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, you could invest in a high-tech lucid dreaming induction device. They use stimuli (light, sound, vibrations) to trigger lucidity.
How to Control Your Lucid Dreams
After you’ve reached your goal of lucid dreaming for the first time, you might set a second goal: controlling what happens in your dream.
Some people are naturally able to control what happens in their dreams with little effort. Others, like Margaret, have to train to gain control. The following techniques, as described above, can help you control your lucid dreams:
- #2: Increase willpower
- #3: MILD technique (with a mantra like “I will control my dreams tonight”)
- #4: WILD technique
- #7: Mugwort tea
- #9: Interactive video games
Levels of Lucid Dream Control
While some people may be able to control their actions, their surroundings, and the actions of the other people in their dream, many can only control their own actions.
Flo falls into the latter group. She compares controlling a lucid dream to having a conversation. “You can control it on one end but not on the other end,” she said. “I can control how I act and what I do, but not what happens outside of myself.”
Controlling Lucid Nightmares
While experiencing a lucid dream is generally positive and pleasant, occasionally someone will experience a lucid nightmare.
“Four years ago, I was living with a friend in a 2-bedroom apartment when I had a horrible lucid nightmare” Flo said. “I basically relived my grandmother’s passing. I woke up and I was crying to the point that he couldn't understand what I was saying. He was like are you hurt?”
Like Flo, Phil Tomlinson has experienced lucid dreams since childhood. And like Flo, he’s had lucid nightmares, too. “A nightmare that’s also a lucid dream is a whole other level,” Phil said. “I never die in my dream, but sometimes I come close and then I wake up.”
But Phil has been able to will himself to control the outcome of his lucid nightmares.
“I’ve turned lucid nightmares into good dreams by outsmarting the bad guys.” - Phil Tomlinson
“Once there was a murderer chasing me, and we decided to team up—that was the strategy in my head to stay safe,” he said. “Then I double crossed him and defeated him.”
Phil has more control over his nightmares than his other lucid dreams. “There have definitely been some sexual lucid dreams,” he said. “Those are fun, and those are the ones you want to jump back into when you wake up. But I don’t have control of those like I do the nightmare ones—maybe because there’s more at stake.”
Written by Erin Balsa.