Dreaming is by far one of the most interesting, and perplexing, brain activities. Even though researchers have long studied why we dream, scientists still aren’t clear of the biological role our dreams actually play. What we do know, however, is that there are proven techniques to make our dreams more real and even ways to control them. Known as lucid dreams—and experienced by roughly 55 percent of people—these are clearer than typical dreams. Here’s what you need to know about lucid dreaming and three techniques for how to have a lucid dream tonight.
What Is a Lucid Dream?
A lucid dream is being self-aware that you are in fact dreaming. You can think of it as being the star in a choose-your-own-adventure—once you realize that you’re not really awake, your possibilities are limitless. From there, you can set the course of a given dream and dictate its content. This may be especially helpful if you’re having a nightmare and want to change the setting or circumstances. (Or just wake up!)
How to Lucid Dream: The MILD Technique
If you’re set on learning how to have a lucid dream, this technique has the most success, according to research performed at Australia's University of Adelaide. Known as MILD—or mnemonic induction of lucid dreams—it requires you to wake yourself up after sleeping for five hours. Once awake, you’ll repeat the phrase, "The next time I'm dreaming, I will remember that I'm dreaming,” to prep your mind for being aware of your dreaming. Researchers say that lucid dreaming usually happens in the last few hours of sleep, and this exercise sets an intention in your brain to realize that you’re dreaming when you return to sleep.
Of course, waking yourself up in the middle of the night may not be ideal but it's worth a try: nearly half of the study's participants found that they could lucid dream within five minutes after falling back to sleep post-MILD.
How to Lucid Dream: The Reality Testing Technique
A key aspect of having a lucid dream is distinguishing dreaming from reality. This technique has you check in with yourself throughout the day (or whenever you’re awake) to determine if you’re dreaming or not. Think of it as a way to train your brain to question reality so that you can be aware of the next time you’re dreaming. You might set a timer on your smartphone for every few hours to remind yourself to do a reality check, or enlist an accountability partner so you can prompt each other to check in.
How to Lucid Dream: The Vitamin B6 Technique
In a follow-up study at the University of Adelaide, researchers examined the connection between taking high doses of vitamin B6 before bedtime and the vividness of participants’ dreams as well as how well participants could recall their dreams. They found that taking the supplements for five nights made people’s dreams clearer and allowed people to better remember their dreams after waking up, both of which are key factors in lucid dreaming. Because recalling dreams is so important, keeping a dream journal can also help you get better connected to your dreams and train your brain to become more aware when you're dreaming.
Using these techniques, you may start to become more aware of your dreams, or simply be able to remember what you dreamt about the next morning. Keep setting your mental intentions on your dreams and you'll likely soon experience a lucid dream yourself.