How to Lucid Dream

Techniques for enhancing sleep and controlling dreams.

Source: Unsplash

Lucid dreaming is a phenomenon that transforms how the human brain interfaces with dreaming experiences. This is a learned skill, which leads to better self-awareness, more creativity, and instills a sense of purpose in sleep.

The pinnacle of this practice is to influence, interact, and ultimately control dream experiences as they occur.

I learned how to do this at the young age of 16 within a span of 3 to 4 weeks. Through my interest, I discovered a simple, streamlined method to reach a consistent state of lucidity. These methods are backed by in-depth research and extensive trial and error on my part.

Most people are unaware of lucid dreaming, let alone understand how to do it themselves. While there’s plenty of information on the topic, there’s a shortage of comprehensive, complete how-to advice for beginners.

In this article, I’ll bring you up to speed on everything lucid dreaming, share my first-hand experience, and outline a proven plan to do it yourself.

What is lucid dreaming?

Well, the word lucid means “expressed clearly and easy to understand.” So, simply put, lucid dreaming means to foster clarity within your dreams.

In a lucid dream, consciousness remains — rather than wake up to a distant recollection, you receive the dream as it happens.

It’s best to think of this as a process of building subconscious habits that lead to improved quality of sleep and dreams.

The Benefits of Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming improves your brain’s vitality and dexterity. As you practice the routines proposed in this article, you’ll become more aware and mindful.

Mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

You have roughly 4 to 6 dreams every night; what matters is whether you remember them or not. Once self-awareness reaches a high level, it extends into sleep where dreams gradually become lucid.

They become easier to recall, hold vivid detail, and feel oddly captivating.

As you become more in-tune and present in your dreams, that’s when you have the possibility to actually control them—fly over mountains, kiss the person of your “dreams,” drive a Lamborghini—the choice is yours.

With enough persistence and practice, the dreamer’s psyche becomes a playground; you’re free to roam the imagination and explore your creativity.

My Experience With Lucid Dreaming

I came across lucid dreaming in 2011. As a helpless sophomore in high school, you bet I thought of some fun things to dream about—I couldn’t resist the thought of controlling my mind while asleep.

During my trials, my dreams were hyperactive, full of character and adventure. Each night, I recalled multiple dreams and I was even able to control a few, to an extent. While it does take time and effort, the overall process of lucid dreaming is not as difficult as one might assume.

This is how I did it.

How to Lucid Dream

  • Create a dream journal. Every morning, write everything about your dream(s) you can remember. Even if it’s vague and not so clear! Write it down. It’s important to do this as soon as you wake up. You forget 90% of your dream within the first 10 minutes of being awake, so take action asap. Write it by hand, voice record it to your phone, or type it out—whatever is easiest for you in the morning. After a solid week or two, you’ll start to recall dreams with more ease.
My dream journal from 2012
  • Think about dreaming everyday. Start to incorporate a dream mindset by frequently thinking about yourself sleeping or having a dream — just a brief thought here and there, nothing excessive. Convince yourself you’re going to lucid dream that night. Continue to record and reflect on entries in your journal. After a couple of weeks (it only took me 5–6 days), you’ll start to notice a change in your sleep.

Those two points alone will significantly impact the quality of your dreams. The more thought and effort you put in, the higher your chance of success.

Controlling Dreams

The goal is simple: realize you’re dreaming while actually dreaming. In your subconscious mind, you need to alert yourself: “Hey, this is a dream!” If you think about it, you never do this. Naturally, you’re passive until you wake up and realize “Oh, it was just a dream.”

You need to catch yourself in the moment.

To catch yourself in a dream, ask yourself one pivotal question: “Am I dreaming?” Continually ask this 5–7 times per day.

The key to accessing control of your dreams lies in the realization they are happening. Once you ingrain the “am I dreaming” question into your schedule, the question becomes a subconscious habit, thus you eventually ask it in your dream.

That’s the key.

Identifying a Dream State

So, you ask yourself if you’re dreaming, now what? How do you separate a dream state from reality? There are a few ways check:

  • Look at clocks around you — in the classroom, on your phone, or by watch. In dreams, clocks don’t work properly. They change every time you look at them (meaning hours change in a matter of minutes) or they show times that don’t make sense. If you see a clock that reads 4:67 or 27:84, then you are dreaming. That’s your signal.
  • Examine your body; observe your hands, clothing, and shoes. Often in dreams, hands appear distorted, fuzzy, or “off.” Clothing tends to be unfamiliar. If your hands appear altered or you’re wearing shoes you never bought, that’s a good indication you’re in a dream state.
  • This last one is easy—pinch yourself! You cannot feel pain in dreams. If you do, you’re awake. If you feel nothing, then hallelujah, it’s a dream.

Do 1 or 2 of these “signal exercises” every time you ask yourself if you are dreaming. Need a reminder?

Dot your knuckles with a marker; every time you notice them, ask the pivotal question.

“Where will lucid dreaming take you?” Source: Unsplash

Possible side-effects

In attempts to alter your subconscious brain activity, you may be exposed to unusual, perplexing phases of sleep. More specifically, you may experience sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis occurs when a person is half awake, half asleep; the mind is alert, but the body is asleep. This creates a feeling of paralysis—you’re awake, but can’t control your body. Within paralysis, sleepers sometimes hear sounds or see visuals. This is due to the brain’s partial neural activity in sleep state.

Now, this sounds really scary, but I went through it myself. From my experience, I remember feeling like my body weighed a ton. I didn’t have any visions, but I heard some kind of droning sound, almost like I could hear my brain working.

Sleep paralysis is not permanent or physically harmful.

If you Google “sleep paralysis,” you will inevitably find horror stories associated with it. Some people claim they saw devilish black figures in the room or heard voices coming out from under their bed. Sleep paralysis can be a terrifying experience for someone who is not aware of it. Without prior knowledge of what it is, people tend to go into shock when it happens. Once the mind senses fear, fearful experiences often occur.

Important note: sleep paralysis could happen to anyone on any night—it’s not entirely unique to lucid dreaming.

The trick is to be aware of sleep paralysis, so if it happens, you don’t freak out and panic. By reading this, you’ve already eliminated the “shock” factor. Once you realize what’s happening, just remain calm. Relax. If anything, look at it as a sign you’re getting closer to lucid dreaming.

“Once I realize I’m dreaming, what should I do?”

This, I can’t answer. It’s hard to predict the degree of control you’ll have over the dream. This part of lucid dreaming is unique across all people (which makes it so personal and special).

I should admit, I never fully experienced lucid dreaming to the magnitude I wanted. I never got to fly or live out some wild fantasy. However, I enjoyed the process and I did have my own version of a lucid dream—I’ll never forget it.

One night was very different…

I was in my room, in my bed, surrounded by darkness. As I checked my phone, I noticed the entire screen was unfamiliar; in fact, it was a completely different phone. Immediately, all the things I learned clicked at once.

I was in a dream.

As I sat on the edge of my bed, the moonlight peered in. I looked around the room; it felt so spacious and everything seemed to glisten. This truly was a special moment. I was dreaming and completely conscious of it! I heard a commotion coming from outside my room. I saw vibrant light shining under the door as if heaven were behind it. I stood up, began towards the door—instantly, I flashed back to reality and woke up face down on my pillow.

It felt like teleporting across the room.

It was completely surreal. I pushed my mind to do something it had never done before. My moment of control wasn’t filled with flying or scaling of the Eiffel Tower—it was practical and short-lived. Nevertheless, I realized my dream state and lived inside of it. I will remember that experience forever.

Because I felt accomplished in my pursuits, I gave up my “dream routine” and stopped doing the things I’d been doing. Sadly, my above average dreams began to fade and soon returned to normal.

Like I said, lucid dreaming is a process.

It takes time and a level of dedication to achieve. It’s not like riding a bike—learn once and do it forever. No, it’s more like building muscle. You have to persistently work at it to see results; once you stop, progress declines.


Lucid dreaming is a journey of self-discovery and mindfulness. It’s an eclectic look within yourself, exposing depths of your psyche you didn’t know exist.

Developing the routine takes time—daily journal entries, consistent dream mindset, questioning, and signal exercises—it all requires diligent effort and awareness… But the results are eye-opening and inspiring.

- AZ

Bored, uneducated, homeless — em dashes are my specialty. I write what I see, think, and feel. That’s it.

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