Filed Under: Science Facts

What Is Lucid Dreaming?

What would you do if there were no repercussions? What if the laws of nature couldn’t hold you back?

Today we’ll answer the question: what is lucid dreaming?

What is lucid dreaming

The Quick Answer

Lucid dreaming is a state of dreaming in which the dreamer is aware that he or she is dreaming.

Not all lucid dreaming includes the ability for the dreamer to control their actions, but during some instances, the dreamer may “wake up” inside of the dream and find that they have control over their actions, their location, and even the nature of the environment.

False awakenings are a common occurrence during lucid dreaming. This is when the dreamer thinks that they have awakened. They may be talking to a loved one about their dream or embarking on their normal morning routine only to realize that they are still dreaming.

Here is a short clip from Waking Life that touches on some of the possibilities of lucid dreaming:


A lucid dream may begin as any other type of dream and then at some point become lucid. It is also common for a person to go from being awake to being in a state of lucid dreaming.


Several scientific studies have been done about lucid dreaming such as the two briefly explained below.

  • Keith Hearne, a parapsychologist showed that he could communicate with people experiencing a lucid dream and that they could respond to his communications. In a 1973 study, Hearn showed that someone who was having a lucid dream could respond with a series of specific eye movements. Read More >>
  • A 2009 study, done by Neurological Laboratory in Frankfurt, proved that people experiencing a lucid dream are conscious. They showed this by taking EEGs of participants who displayed increased activity in the parietal lobes of their brain.  Read More >>

Inducing Lucid Dreaming – The Long Term Method

Many times lucid dreaming will happen on its own. As mentioned above, this could happen when a typical dream morphs into a lucid dream or when one goes directly from being awake to being in a state of lucid dreaming. But can you instigate lucid dreaming? Is this something that can be summoned on command? Some experts say that it can.

Scientists and other dream experts offer several methods of inducing lucid dreams. One of the most popular is explained below.

Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming (MILD)

The MILD method of inducing lucid dreaming includes four steps. This is not something that will happen overnight. Instead, each step will build upon the last and, over time, the ability to induce lucid dreaming can unfold.

  • Dream Recall: The first step in learning to induce lucid dreaming is to start writing down details of your dreams when you wake up. To be most effective, this should be done immediately upon waking, so keep a pen and pad next to your bed. Also, you must do this every time that you remember a dream upon waking. It doesn’t matter if you remember the whole dream. Just write down as many details as you can.
  • Reality Checks: Begin to ask yourself whether or not you’re dreaming throughout the day. Use visual queues — such as looking at your watch — to ask yourself if you’re dreaming.  Soon enough, you’ll start to ask these questions during an actual dream.
  • Develop a Mantra: One of the methods of remembering a dream is to choose a mantra and use it when dreaming. Examples include: “is this a dream” or “focus on the details.”
  • Imagine Dreaming: Finally, after waking from a dream and recording the details, spend some time relaxing and picturing yourself back inside of the dream.

Over time these steps may help you develop the ability to induce lucid dreaming or, at least, to experience lucid dreaming more often.

How to Lucid Dream Tonight

If you’re intent on having a lucid dream ASAP, there are methods, though it is admittedly difficult to induce a lucid dream on command.

Redditor Urbanjamjar gives his quick and dirty method:

If you are determined to have one tonight you can do it but it requires mental discipline and willpower. The trick is simply to lie in bed very relaxed and not move an inch. Your mind uses feedback mechanisms to see if you’re asleep. You’ll feel the urge to move or itch, if you do it you’re reaffirming the point that you’re not asleep. What you want to do is to trick your body into falling asleep. As you get more tired and relaxed you may notice ‘hypnagognic imagery’; images of the mind. By immersing yourself in these images, clarity and vividness is intensified untill you can drift into the dream state. Some problems come with this as if you’re not use to these images you can ‘shock’ yourself out of them and have to start again. It’s all about the state of mind, observant and passive. At a point you will notice phantom movements, maybe vibrations or tingly sensations in your body. This is a precursor to sleep paralysis, the biological mechanisms that stops you flailing around like a madman while dreaming.

Famous Lucid Dreamers

A number of well-known people across a variety of fields openly attribute some of their successes to the fruits of lucid dreaming. Here are just a few examples.

Friedrich Kekule

Kekule was a chemist who made some very significant contributions to this field of science. One of his most important contributions was the ability to explain the structure of the benzene molecule. This discovery came to him during lucid dreaming. When he awoke, he went about proving the theory in his lab.

Salvador Dali

Years before scientists would write papers on the subject; Dali spent time studying lucid dreaming. He claimed to have developed methods in which he could decide what to dream about, and many of his most well-known paintings came to him during lucid dreaming.

James Cameron

This famed Hollywood director makes no secret about the fact that some of his inspiration comes from lucid dreaming. Anyone who has seen some of the beautiful imagery in the move Avatar has seen the fruit of some of Cameron’s lucid dreams.

Lucid Dreaming Can Help Cure Nightmares

Some studies have shown that lucid dreaming can help reduce the impact of nightmares.

The excellent radio program Radiolab did a great segment on lucid dreaming, and how one man used it to overcome a terrifying recurring nightmare.

If you have a few minutes, give it a listen:

Final Thoughts

So, what is lucid dreaming?  Lucid dreaming is awesome.

Myths about lucid dreaming abound. Some think lucid dreaming is tied to the occult or to a particular religion. This isn’t the case. While the study of lucid dreaming is fairly new, the phenomenon is not. Scientists don’t know the purpose of lucid dreaming, but are sure to continue to study it in the hope that such answers can be made known.

Learning how to take control of your dreams isn’t easy, but when you learn how, its a lot like this:

Lucid dreaming is like this

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