What are Lucid Dreams? & 4 Methods to Experience Them

A lucid dream sees that even though the person is asleep, they are aware that they are dreaming, allowing them to control the context and happenings of the dream as they keep a level of consciousness. 

Here, we have worked with Head Sleep Expert Martin Seeley at Mattress Next Day to reveal what lucid dreaming is, the science behind it and 4 ways to experience them.

55% of the UK has experienced a lucid dream, which occurs throughout the REM stage of sleep, a stage where a combination of rapid eye movement and reduced muscle tone in the body causes a person to dream. 

As lucid dreams are associated with consciousness, scientists associate them with metacognition, an awareness and understanding of your own thought processes, AKA ‘thinking about thinking’.  Studies that have observed those experiencing a lucid dream as they happen identified prefrontal cortex activity that is akin to when participants were awake, hinting that lucid dreams occur when the body is in a hybrid state of half-awake and half asleep.

There are tried and tested methods to encourage a sleeper to experience a lucid dream including:

  • Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD): MILD is a popular way to encourage lucid dreams. Before you fall asleep, set the intention that you will remember your dreams, and visualise you doing so. You can even recite mantras such as, ‘I will know when I am dreaming’. When you wake up and recall a dream, replay the dream in a way that you would like to experience it. For instance, what would you like a person in the dream to do or say? Then, recite your mantras. MILD uses intention and visualisation to tap into the subconscious and persuade lucid dreams.
  • Testing Your Reality: A way to achieve a lucid dream is to actively recognise when you are awake and when you are dreaming. Throughout the day, acknowledge that you are awake and that the present time is your reality. Look in a mirror, read a book and take real notice of the words. Look at the detail of your hand. In a dream, these will look slightly different, aiding you to differentiate between dreams and reality, helping to recognise when you are dreaming.
  • Create a dream journal: Before you sleep, ‘ground’ yourself by inhaling for 4 and exhaling for 7. When you awake in the morning, write down anything that you remember about your dreams. The journal entry doesn’t have to make sense, as it’s a true reflection of what you can remember. After a minimum of 2 weeks, look back at your diary and identify any themes. Do most of your dreams take place at a childhood location, are they at school or work? Once you have identified a common theme, actively think about the theme before you go to sleep in the evening. This will encourage the brain to hold the theme, whilst you are actively manipulating the brain to dream of certain events.
  • Interrupt your sleep cycle: Set your alarm for an hour earlier. This will interrupt your sleep. As you fall back to sleep, there will be a state where you are particularly aware of your surroundings, encouraging a lucid dream.

Frequently experiencing lucid dreams can negatively impact your quality of sleep as you are semi-conscious. It’s important to adopt good sleep practices to safeguard health, mood and productivity.

Charlotte Giver

Charlotte is the founder and editor-in-chief at Your Coffee Break magazine. She studied English Literature at Fairfield University in Connecticut whilst taking evening classes in journalism at MediaBistro in NYC. She then pursued a BA degree in Public Relations at Bournemouth University in the UK. With a background working in the PR industry in Los Angeles, Barcelona and London, Charlotte then moved on to launching Your Coffee Break from the YCB HQ in London’s Covent Garden and has been running the online magazine for the past 10 years. She is a mother, an avid reader, runner and puts a bit too much effort into perfecting her morning brew.