Kaiser's lucid dreaming guide [Published]

edited September 2011 in Life
This is a guide I put together for a support group I attend. Because of the nature of this group, I had to 'sanitize' it and remove all references to sleep deprevation and dream enchancing substances etc, but I think it's pretty good for beginners.

What is lucid dreaming?

A lucid dream is a dream in which you are aware that you’re dreaming. With the right technique and practise one can learn to remember all their dreams clearly, become lucid during those dreams and ultimately, control and create their dreams. Although sometimes connected to spiritual elements (similar to astrology and astronomy, in a way), lucid dreaming is well documented and scientifically proven. The movie Inception has popularised lucid dreaming and caused more people to take interest in it. Although much of the movie is sci-fi, the basic idea is totally real. The Matrix is also quite a good way to think of lucid dreaming.

To clear up some common confusion, let me also start by saying what lucid dreaming is not:

1. Many popular forms of meditation involve relaxing and imagining yourself to be somewhere else. Although this also involves ‘creating’ and entering an imaginary world in your mind, it isn’t lucid dreaming.
2. Hypnagogic imagery, or ‘closed eye visuals’. Almost dreaming, but not quite. This is where you perceive actual images and sounds with your eyes closed and is basically a more intense version of the above. It’s the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep and is sometimes used as a method of inducing lucid dreams.
3. Some people report having had experiences where they felt as if they left their body and were able to view themselves from above and travel about. This is known as an out-of-body experience, or ‘OBE’. It’s also sometimes known as astral projection. There is little evidence to support the idea that this is possible and are most likely just dreams in which the person is dreaming that these things are happening.

Some people might wonder why one would put effort into something that isn’t real. What is ‘real’? Must something be physical for it to be real? Our thoughts and emotions are products of electro-chemical reactions happening in our brains and therefore are made of physical matter just as much as the world around us is, albeit on a tiny scale. Take for example the sun and the earth. The matter and energy making up the sun is infinitely greater than that of the earth, but does that make the earth less real than the sun? No. In fact I’d say there are far more amazing things happening here than on the sun. Does then, the fact that the matter making up our dreams is so small make them less real than ‘reality’? I can’t answer that myself – you decide.

Imagine being able to create and live in any world you can imagine, with it feeling as real as the world around you feels right at this very moment. Imagine being able to do anything at all, with no physical or social restrictions. When you’ve experienced a truly amazing lucid dream (or even just an amazing non-lucid dream) you’ll understand – nothing worldly comes close. Lucid dreaming is the ultimate form of entertainment and meditation.

Lucid dreaming has been used as a form of advanced meditation by many cultures over thousands of years. The first verifiable, written documentation originates to the ‘Upanishads’ – a group of philosophical texts of early Hinduism around three thousand years ago and the first written account from the west is in a letter written by St Augustine in 415AD.

Why do we dream?

One theory is that dreaming serves as a ‘filing system’ for the brain, processing the day’s events and clearing up unnecessary clutter in our minds. Freud explained dreams as a manifestation of our subconscious - dreams allow us to be what we cannot be and to do things we cannot do in our more repressed daily lives. There could be many other reasons, but while that might explain why we dream, it doesn’t explain the content of our dreams.

There are different opinions on dream interpretation. Some people believe dreams have supernatural properties and can predict the future, provide insight into present events or convey messages from the deceased. Almost every society throughout history has had their own beliefs on the subject.

Our dreams can be strongly influenced by the events of the previous day, which Freud referred to as ‘day residue’. Although our dreams might be manifestations of our subconscious, their meaning can be heavily disguised as the dream may have no obvious link to what it may stem from. Common nightmares feature things such as oversleeping on a work or school day, being naked in a public place, falling from a great height, being unprepared for an exam or being chased by someone. These dreams are commonly accepted to indicate and result from anxiety, vulnerability and fear in our real lives.

My background in lucid dreaming

Ever since I was very young I dreamt a lot. As I got older it happened even more and then the lucid dreaming started (about twelve or thirteen). I thought it was totally normal and that everyone must be the same so I was really surprised to later learn that many, if not most people report never having had a single lucid dream in their life! Perhaps even more baffled at how many people claim to mainly dream only in black and white, and some, to hardly dream at all. Looking back, I realise that this happened at about the same time as my bipolar and other mental and social issues started. Did it happen because of it, or was it simply a coincidence? I can’t be sure, but I do know that today, the two have become inseparable.

Although I’m rarely able to experience happiness and excitement in reality, for some reason I’m perfectly capable of feeling those things in my dreams, which raises questions as to how much of the problem is actually chemical. That, and the fact that my life back then was quite unpleasant and incredibly boring makes it no wonder why I chose to embrace the world of lucid dreaming. It was a way for me to escape all that and live in a world I preferred to live in.

Who can lucid dream?

Just like any form of meditation, the more busy and stressful your life and the more clouded your mind is with worldly distractions and concerns, the harder you will find it. But just like other types of meditation, these things can be a reason to start. Like every other activity in life, a large part of our ability is down to innate talent. I could never be an Olympic athlete even if I wanted to, but that’s not to say that I couldn’t become much better at it if I really put my mind to it and worked hard at it. Learning to lucid dream and eventually control those dreams isn’t easy, but the work it takes is worth it a hundred times over when you finally manage it.

Here’s the good news: it’s accepted that people with bipolar and schizophrenia dream more frequently and vividly than others.

Let’s begin.

STEP 1: Dream recall

It’s sometimes thought that young children dream more than adults but this isn’t true at all. It’s just that for whatever reason, children remember their dreams more. Perhaps it’s because their minds are more open or that they don’t have the worldly burdens that adults have which consume our minds all day. Or perhaps they remember them more because they don’t think of dreams as ‘nonsense’ as much as adults do.

Your brain uses its resources as you tell it to. If you have no interest in something your brain won’t put any effort into it. Most people aren’t inherently stupider than anyone else. By stupid, I mean their brain’s ‘processing power’ – wisdom and common sense however is another story… I struggled with maths at school because I really couldn’t care less about it at the time. I’d forget the day’s class barely a few hours later, but later on when I developed an interest in certain areas I actually found it quite easy.

This is the case with dreaming. In order to start dreaming more and remembering those dreams you have to want to do it. Our brains aren’t conditioned to care about dreams. They serve their purpose but because they’re not ‘real’ the brain sees no need to make space for them in its ‘schedule’, so to speak.

The first and biggest step is learning to remember all your dreams clearly. This will ultimately increase the number of dreams you have as well as increase the vividness of your dreams.

What every beginner dreamer needs to do is get a notebook which you will keep near your bed to record all the previous night’s dreams. It is essential to write them down as fully as possible within minutes of waking up as they fade from your memory very quickly. What’s even better is setting your alarm clock for about five hours after going to bed. This way, you’re very likely to be woken in the middle of a dream and should remember it and those before it very clearly. If you can’t bring yourself to write a long story at 4am, write down as many keywords as possible before going back to sleep – anything notable about the dream that will help you remember it later.

Do this every morning for as long as it takes for you to start remembering your dreams well. Ideally, you want to be able to remember them as clearly as events that happened to you a few days ago. Your dream life and memories must become as important to you as your waking life. It could take a few days or it could take as long as a month. When you do eventually, it’s important that you don’t stop doing this. If you neglect it for too long you’ll eventually start to lose the ability again. Make it a part of your morning routine.

Recalling at least one dream a night is sufficient. When you feel that you’re ready, you can move on to step 2.

STEP 2: Attaining lucidity

Many people often have vivid dreams, but attaining lucidity is something quite different. In order for us to become lucid, something has to happen in the dream to make us realise we’re dreaming. This is easier said that done.

Often we dream of bizarre, impossible, fantasy situations but we still never realise it’s just a dream. Why? During the REM sleep phase (when we dream the most) our brain is as active as it is when we’re awake. The only difference is that our brain’s logic centre is almost totally shut down. How often during the day do we stop to wonder whether the world around us is actually real? Not too often for most of us. For this same reason our brain has no reason to question the reality of our world while we dream, unless we train it to. This is where reality checks come in.

Reality checks

A reality check is a simple action that will confirm whether or not you are dreaming. In the movie Inception a spinning top is used; the logic being that in a dream the top would keep spinning forever and thus be a sure sign of a dream. Reality checks can be even simpler than that. The most popular are:
· Holding your nose closed with your fingers and trying to breathe.
· Lifting yourself up on your toes and trying to ‘float’.
· Try reading a sign or a page of text. Reading can often be difficult in dreams, with text sometimes appearing as meaningless shapes and patterns.
· Look at your watch or a clock. Clocks in dreams often have very many hands with strange numbers and markings on them. Digital clocks often display impossible times.

You need to start questioning the reality of the world around you and constantly testing it. Keep performing these reality checks until they become second nature to you. Our basic personality and habits generally are the same when we dream, so the more reality checks you do in real life the more likely you are to do them in your dreams. Mindfulness is a big part of it. Start paying more attention to your immediate environment. Try to identify the different sounds you can hear, the smell of the air around you, the temperature of your skin etc.

Even when aware that you’re dreaming, there are degrees of lucidity. Sometimes, although I know that I’m just dreaming, I still have hardly any memory of my real life and the situation feels very hazy. It’s quite a strange feeling. Other times, I’m fully aware of my waking life and can recall every detail. The more aware you are of your waking life, the more power you will have to influence the dream.

When you dream (non-lucid) you have no knowledge or memory of your waking life. You look and act like yourself, but lack your self-awareness. You’re essentially an ‘avatar’ of your real self. A split personality or an alter ego. You’re you, but not you. This is another thing I find hard to comprehend or describe. As I’m typing this I’m thinking of the dream I had last night. That <my name> went about his day for what felt like a few hours with not a thought as to whether his world was real or not. He knew nothing about me and if presented with information about myself while having that dream, it may have caused me to become lucid or I may well have just found it totally unrecognisable. And now here I sit. However, if I were to have become lucid, both those versions of myself would become one. What I do know is that in order to start becoming lucid more, those two characters must become much closer to each other.

False awakenings

A false awakening is where you dream that you’ve woken up. You get up, start your morning routine and only after a few minutes realise that you’re actually just dreaming. At this point you either actually wake up or remain lucid. It is possible to experience a ‘double’ (or more) false awakening; ie: a dream within a dream. Some people report this phenomenon after coming out of a general anaesthetic.

Sleep cycles

There are five stages or cycles of sleep. Four stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) and rapid eye movement sleep (REM). Stage 1 is very light sleep; you drift in and out of consciousness and are easily woken. Half of our time sleeping is spent in Stage 2. During this stage eye movement stops and brain waves become slower. Stage 3 and 4 are when our deepest sleep happens. These two stages are essential for rest. After about an hour REM sleep occurs – this is when we dream. The sleep cycles repeat through the night with the length of the REM stage increasing each time.

Lucid dream induction techniques

There are a number of different techniques used to induce lucid dreams. These are very important to use. Some of these take advantage of sleep cycles to increase our likelihood of having a lucid dream. The most common and worth using are one or more of the following:

1. Wake-Induced Lucid Dream (WILD). WILD is more a type of lucid dream rather than an actual method, but can be induced using a WBTB or DEILD method. A wake-induced lucid dream is where a person enters a lucid dream directly from being awake with no break in consciousness. This sometimes happens naturally but is difficult for most people to consciously achieve when attempting while fully awake.

2. Wake-Back-To-Bed (WBTB).
This method was invented by Dr Stephen LaBerge, one of the world's foremost researchers on lucid dreaming, as part of his studies for his Ph.D in psychophysiology.

It’s important that you wake up before a REM cycle starts. Because they become longer and closer together as the night goes on, setting your alarm to go off around five hours after you’ve fallen asleep should ensure you wake up during or just before a REM cycle. Once awake, immediately write up your dream journal, recalling as much of what you may have dreamt as possible. During this time your thoughts must be solely on lucid dreaming. Constantly perform reality checks. Other things can include listening to relaxing music, reading about dreams (or perhaps about something you might like to dream about). Another good thing to do is just repeat a simple mantra in your head. Eg: ‘I am going to lucid dream. I am going to do reality checks. I am going to remember my dreams’. The ideal length of time to stay up depends on the person. 30 minutes should be long enough and never more than an hour.

The problem with this method is that not everyone can afford to loose the sleep required, especially those with work or school commitments the following day. It’s best to only use this method when you can sleep an extra hour or so the next morning.

3. Dream Exit Initiated Lucid Dream (DEILD).
This is a good method for those who can’t (or don’t want to) stay awake for the period necessary for the WBTB method. Like with WBTB, it requires setting your alarm for around five hours after you go to sleep. You don’t even have to make any dream recall notes while you’re up – just go straight back to sleep with your wish to have a lucid dream dominating your thoughts. If you were awoken from a dream, you will very possibly return to that dream, perhaps lucid.

Once you’ve got to the point where you are remembering your dreams clearly, instinctively performing your reality checks and making use of one or more of the above techniques you will almost certainly have a lucid dream. Most of the time we become lucid quite by accident. It’s usually a relatively small detail in a familiar situation that seems out of place. Perhaps the layout of your house is completely different or your car is all of a sudden a left-hand drive.

One problem with lucid dreaming is that often, as soon as you become aware that you’re dreaming you automatically wake up. This is the brain’s automatic response as it sees no need to maintain the illusion once it realises that it was just a dream. The third step is learning to maintain your lucid state and take control of your dreams. When you’ve become lucid a few times, no matter how short it may have lasted, you can move onto step 3.

STEP 3: Maintaining lucidity and dream control

Becoming lucid in a dream for the first time can be quite exhilarating. You’re overcome with excitement at having succeeded and the potential of what you are now able to try. Unfortunately, this will often cause you to wake up. The trick is learning to wake your consciousness without waking your body. Think of it as ‘waking up without waking up’.

As soon as you become lucid you’ll immediately want to try something interesting or amazing. For example, you may want to try and fly up in the air to see the view from above, or go up to someone and start a conversation. The dream as it is may not be able to handle this and may fade away, waking you up. This is referred to as ‘breaking’ the dream. This will most likely be the case with your first few lucid dreams. There are a number of techniques that you can use to maintain your lucid state.

The moment you realise you are dreaming the first and most important thing to do is remain calm. Don’t become too excited and don’t try doing anything at all. Just stand where you are for a few moments. Gradually start looking around and taking a few steps. If you feel the dream fading, the following techniques can usually preserve it for a while longer.
· Close your eyes and rub your hands together.
· Stare at something close up and try making out the details. It can be the texture of the wall, the lines on your palm etc.
· Spin around slowly for about ten seconds and then stop and look around again. If you do wake up, closing your eyes and imagining yourself back in the dream can sometimes return you to it, but only if you are still in a REM cycle. The more lucid dreams you have and the more you practice the longer they’ll last.

Dream control

Being lucid simply means you’re aware that you’re dreaming but doesn’t necessarily mean that you can control the dream. Once you are able to maintain your lucid state for at least a minute or two, you can start working on actually controlling and shaping your dreams.

Start small. The first, most popular and surprisingly easiest thing to do is flying. Rather than jumping, lift yourself up your toes and try to float even just a foot above the ground. If you struggle, keep repeating to yourself that this is your dream and that the laws of physics do not apply. If you’re able to, gradually get higher and higher and start moving around. Being in <my city>, <local landmark> is my favourite place to fly to. Tell yourself that when you enter a room a particular person will be there, or that when you turn into another street you’ll be somewhere totally different from where it would usually have lead.

From here on the rest is up to you. The more you practise the easier it is and the more you’ll be able to do.

Dream creation

While dream control is about doing whatever you wish with the dream you became lucid in, dream creation is about actually designing and creating dreams from scratch and then entering and experiencing them exactly the way you’d imagined without waking up or experiencing any other restrictions. This is the final, hardest and most advanced level of lucid dreaming and slightly beyond the scope of this guide as I certainly can’t do it fully yet. It is incredibly difficult and can take many years to master so don’t expect do be doing it any time soon.

However, there are some things you can try once you’ve become adept at dream control.
· Close your eyes and picture the environment you wish to be in when you open them again. Will it to happen.
· Walk up to a door and tell yourself that when you open it, beyond will be the place you want to be.

Dream and lucidity enhancing foods and substances

It’s quite possible that for a variety of reasons, certain foods and the way they’re digested can have an effect on our brain while we sleep, and thus, potentially increase dreaming. Here are the most popular and best in my opinion.

Cheese: some of us may have heard the story that eating cheese before going to bed will give you nightmares. There’s no reason why it should give you nightmares in particular, but it’s quite possible that it could make you more likely to dream. Cheese contains a number of neuroactive compounds including the amino acid Tryptophan, which aids in reducing stress and inducing sleep and Tyramine, which provokes the release of adrenaline. Particularly strong cheeses such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Stilton seem to have the greatest effect. Possibly, because these cheeses (as opposed to non-fermented cheeses such as cheddar, Edam etc) contain relatively high amounts of psychoactive bacterial compounds.
Vitamin-B: studies have found that vitamin-B (particularly B6) increases dream vividness and recall ability in some people, possibly due to the effect it plays in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. Some good food sources of vitamin-B are potatoes, bananas, beans, fish and eggs.
Green tea: caffeine itself does not increase dreaming but does increase your ability to remember your dreams as well as your ability to realise that you’re dreaming. Green tea is the best way to obtain caffeine in this way as it contains less than coffee which is more likely to give you trouble sleeping.

Binaural beats and brain entrainment

To put it as simply and unscientifically as possible, the theory of binaural beats is that listening to sounds of a certain frequency can influence the brains own frequency, putting it into a state of either a Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta or Delta range of waves. The process is called ‘brain entrainment’ and each of these frequency ranges are associated with different things. Gamma waves are associated with higher mental activity such as problem solving and intense emotion, while Delta is the deepest state of sleep and unconsciousness and Alpha, with dreaming.

The human ear is limited to a range of between 20 – 20 000 Hz, with the average brain frequency being about 40 Hz. For example: if you wanted a Delta frequency (13 – 39 Hz) you would need a 300 Hz beat in one ear and a 320 in the other, making up the 20 Hz. For this reason you must listen to them through headphones and not just by playing a CD etc.

While of interest to neurologists, scientific research into binaural beats is limited and I’ve found no definitive proof that they definitely work, apart from many anecdotal accounts which may possibly just be down to a placebo effect, but neither is there proof that they don’t. There are a myriad of websites out there selling brain entrainment software and binaural beats to download and making impressive claims about their success. Don’t bother with these as there are also equally good free versions which I can provide you with if you wish.


I hope this brief guide has been of interest and will be of use to anyone looking to get started with lucid dreaming. If anyone would like to know more about a particular area or have any other questions please feel free to contact me.

Web resources

Here are a few websites and discussion forums on lucid dreaming which are worth checking out:



  • Darth BeaverDarth Beaver Meine Ehre heißt Treue
    edited August 2011
    This is a great guide. Thanks for the contribution. This needs to be published in the CMS.
  • DfgDfg Admin
    edited August 2011
    Excellent work. Keep this up mate :)
  • edited August 2011
    Fucking FANTASTIC guide. Dream recall is such an amazing technique to use when you're getting lucid dreams working. If you can identify when you're dreaming, you can literally flick the switch whenever you want to start lucidity. I've developed the ability to actually realize when I'm dreaming without doing anything... I dunno how I managed it, I can just tell the difference between dreaming and real life now. It's crazy, and it's awesome.
  • thewandererthewanderer Regular
    edited August 2011
    Published. If you decide to add anything about dream enhancement, pm me so I can add it.
  • edited September 2011
    Sticky, perhaps? Thought I'd take a chance :)
  • RemadERemadE Global Moderator
    edited September 2011
    Just thought I'd say that this guide was a great help in me learning about Lucid Dreaming. Getting to grips with it as I love to push the envelope of un/conciousness. Keep up the good work :thumbsup:
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