Keeping a dream journal is an important part of lucid dreaming. Fortunately, it's easy and fun - and ultimately improves your awareness of the dream state, making it easier to wake up in dreams.
The average person has five sleep cycles per night. At the end of each cycle, there is a period of REM sleep. Most people dream for 100 minutes each night. The closer it is to morning, the longer your REM sleep becomes.
So you are more likely to remember dreams as you wake up in the morning - the best time to write in your dream diary...
If you have trouble remembering dreams, you can use a lucid anchor. Anchoring comes from the fascinating branch of psychology called Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). Just before you go to sleep, choose an object that you can see clearly from your bed. This is going to be your anchor.
My anchor is a picture of a big grizzly bear stuck on the wall. I look at this picture when I go to sleep, wake up during the night, and first thing in the morning. When I look at it I think "I will remember my dreams".
The phrase acts as a trigger for my unconscious brain to relate to. It reminds me to focus on my dreams and plants a unconscious intention: to associate the bear with remembering dreams. And I look at that bear multiple times each night.
How to keep a dream journal may seem obvious. But there are a few things worth remembering. So here we go...
Step 1 - Find a notebook or journal specifically to record your dreams in. Keep it within arm's reach of the bed. Dreams fade quickly on awakening so you need to write them down as soon as you wake.
If you get up, walk around and start talking about other things, it will cause motor neurons to fire in your brain. This is what "overwrites" the memory of the dream. So be ready to jot down a few details first thing.
Step 2 - Note down the date of your dream. Then write down everything you can remember. Write everything in the present tense (eg "I am walking down the street when a frog jumps out of the bushes"). This helps with remembering dreams by putting you in the moment.
Step 3 - Identify dream themes. Think about the location, characters, sensations, sounds, objects and emotions of the dream. Underline key themes that may help with interpreting dreams (eg, "the frog is sad because he knows a drought is coming").
You may want to analyze the themes and fully interpret your dream. Otherwise, continue to write down all the memorable details in your dream journal.
Anything that you can associate with established neural patterns is also important (eg, you feel protective over a puppy). This may be a dream symbol or concept that represents a real life issue.
Step 4 - Don't worry about spelling, punctuation and grammar. As long as you can read it back later and it still makes sense, you are fine.
Step 5 - Sketch any strong images from the dream. It doesn't matter if you're not an artist. A sketch is just to help you visualize the dream later on.
Step 6 - When you have finished, jot down any major life issues that are going on right now. For instance, you may be suffering from a broken heart. Over time, you will be able to link your unconscious dream symbols with real life issues.
Step 7 - Give the dream an appropriate title. Nothing flashy, just something to remember it by. If you became lucid at any point in the dream, write "L" for lucid in a circle by the title. Identify what caused you to become lucid (unless it was a WILD).
How often should I write in my dream journal? Write down your dreams whenever you get the urge. It doesn't have to be every day - a few times a week is usually enough. (But obviously, the more you remember, the better.) Sometimes you won't feel bothered because real life just seems more important. A wise choice! In fact, I would be worried if you did put your dreams before real life.
How can I improve my awareness of dreams?
If you have difficulty remembering dreams, your journal may look a little bare. Don't worry. Start by writing down little snippets - anything at all - and watch your dream recall improve over time. Try listening to self hypnosis recordings which remind you to remember your dreams. It may help to sleep in for an extra half hour on weekends. Just before you wake up, you are flirting on the border of consciousness and REM sleep. This is the best time for remembering dreams... and having lucid dreams!
How can dream themes help me become lucid? Finding common themes and symbols will also help you create lucid dream triggers. Over time, see if you can find any recurring themes, such as running away from something. Remind yourself to become lucid every time this happens. The next time you are running away from something in a dream, you may be pleasantly surprised by a conscious realization!
"Dreams digest the meals that are our days"
~ Astrid Alauda
Let's not forget that the main reason for keeping a dream journal is to have lucid dreams! These can be recorded the same way in your normal journal.
Make sure you mark them as lucid dreams and describe the moment you became lucid (if it was a Dream Induced Lucid Dream, or DILD). Decide what it was that made you realize you were dreaming. This could be a useful trigger for having lucid dreams in future.
Then go on to describe your lucid dreams in as much detail as possible. How you felt, how you achieved greater clarity, and how long you thought the experience lasted for in real time.
For step-by-step tutorials on lucid dream induction and exploration, check out The Lucid Dreaming Fast Track, my online study program for beginners and beyond.
Access Rebecca's popular e-course, 10 Steps to Lucid Dreams, plus personal insights and links to her best web content. 30,000 people are on board.
Books are a powerful way to increase our understanding and generate new perspectives. Good books are immersive and profound: they can change the way we live our lives. In teaching us new lessons, stripping away fallacies and inspiring independent thought, the following books on lucid dreaming are bestsellers for a reason - they are groundbreaking and thought-provoking reads to expand your awareness and develop your lucid dreaming skills.
Galantamine is best known for its ability to improve memory and provoke intense lucid dreams. Research by Dr Stephen LaBerge has found that taking galantamine intensifies your dreams on many levels, including cognition, lucidity, recall, control, bizarreness and visual vividness. If you want to boost your dream life, and maybe prompt some lucid dreams, it's worth taking the occasional galantamine supplement.
Why write a book about how to "hack" sleep? Well, I've suffered from sleep issues throughout my entire adult life. Sleep was such a tough thing to figure out. It didn't respond to willpower. I could beg and cry and kick and scream to myself to fall asleep, but my body would not listen. Finally, I realized that enough was enough and that I was going to fix this very important area of my life for good, or at least do my best to try. I spent nearly one year constructing a system to improve the quality of my sleep.
Humans are unique in our endless capacity for imagination. According to Steven Mithen, an anthropologist at the University of Reading in the UK, we needed to evolve seven critical mental skills before we could have imagination as we know it. Each of these abilities serve a distinct purpose in their own right, while imagination is the culmination of them all.
This dream starts out pretty violent but then suddenly goes all profound on me. I'm having a nightmare in which a thin, gray-faced man is trying to kill me. I become lucid and battle him with ease, firing shots of lighting out of my hands and hitting him in the chest. He falls to his knees and I lock him in a gated prison using only my mind. But then my lucid dream evolves into a lucid nightmare. Another villain, who looks like Krang (or Krang's body at least) from that delightful cartoon about giant mutant turtles, frees the gray man using his telepathic powers. I am no match for him.
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?