One summer, the 19th century lucid dream researcher, Marquis d'Hervey de Saint-Deny, took a bottle of an unfamiliar scent on his travels to France. He whiffed his scent-laden handkerchief by day, making an unconscious and emotional connection between the French countryside and his chosen scent. On returning home, he put the bottle away, out of sight and out of smell.
His cunning plan was to have a servant sprinkle a few drops of the scent on his pillow at night. Lo and behold, Saint-Deny recorded dreams that took place at his vacation spot: the mountains of Ardeche.
So how did Saint-Deny program his dreams with smell?
Smells are processed in the brain's limbic system, an area closely associated with memory and emotion. So even though smell is not a primary sense for humans, a little whiff can invoke powerful emotions.
We also know that our dreams are emotional realms: a place where we can express strong urges and unresolved feelings from our waking days. Anything that shapes our emotions, shapes our dreams...
Not only does this provide an opportunity to shape our dreams (consider lightly spraying your partner's perfume or aftershave on your pillow tonight) but we can also provoke lucid dreams with scents too.
Consider essential oils. These are concentrated plant extracts. (They're called "essential" because they contain the essence of the plant's fragrance. It's not that they're vital or indispensible.)
Certain essential oils have been repeatedly linked with improved dream recall, better sleep and stronger visualization ability. These are all associated with lucid dreaming.
Try these popular essential oils, alone or in combination, to influence your lucid dream life.
1. Rose Essential Oil
Perhaps the most widely used essential oil in perfumery, rose oil is prized for its rich floral scent. It has calming properties, helping to soothe emotions and promote relaxation before sleep.
2. Helichrysum Essential Oil
With strong antioxidant properties, helichrysum is good for wound healing, infections and stomach aches. It's also recognized as a good natural treatment for insomnia.
3. Sandalwood Essential Oil
Revered in India for centuries, Sandalwood is a calming oil which helps reduce nervous tension. It's considered one of the premier oils for use in meditation by helping to quiet mental chatter.
4. Palo Santo Essential Oil
Less is more with this one. As a soothing essential oil, it's known for help with stress and anxiety, as well as aiding a good night's sleep.
5. Patchouli Essential Oil
When diffused, Patchouli can help alleviate nervous tension and worry and is a soothing oil for meditation. Ideal for your pre-bedtime lucid dream incubation routine.
6. Clove Essential Oil
For a restful night’s sleep, use Clove in a diffuser or applied to your pillow for long-term inhalation. Clove is also renowned for its antibacterial and antifungal properties and is used in dentistry.
7. Mugwort Essential Oil
A tonic for the nerves, mugwort serves to both physically relax your body while stimulating your mind to alertness. As a result it's one of the better known lucid dreaming oils.
8. Anise Essential Oil
Anise oil is used as a sedative for anxiety, nervous afflictions, depression, anger and stress. Ideal if you're feeling agitated before sleep due to its tranquilizing and relaxing effects.
9. Clary Sage Essential Oil
Clary sage helps to calm the body and provide a restful night's sleep. It's also proven as a powerful antidepressant among a comparison of essential oils.
10. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil has a calming scent which makes it an excellent tonic for anxiety issues. The aroma removes nervous exhaustion and restlessness while also increasing mental activity in preperation for conscious dreams.
There are a few ways to use essential oils. Consider direct application to the skin (careful - see below), or inhalation, either neat or through a diffuser.
Essential oil diffusers like the URPOWER Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser combine a few drops of your chosen essentials oil with 100ml of water to release a fragrant mist for up to six hours.
This provides extended exposure for influencing your dreams, which typically build up towards the last few hours of sleep. Note that you can use a single essential oil or any combination of the above to help boost your lucid dreams.
In the style of Saint-Deny - apply a drop to your pillow and/or close your eyes and take a deep breath from the bottle in through your nose. Do this twice just before bed. At the same time, repeat silently in your mind "I will have lucid dreams tonight" and visualize your lucid dream goal.
Careful here. You can dilute some types of essential oil into the palm of your hand. Then rub the oil directly onto the soles of your feet.
Why the sole of the foot? Believe it or not, this is one of the most permeable areas of skin for essential oils. Other areas include the palms of your hands, behind your ears, inside your wrists and your forehead. The oil enters your bloodstream within minutes.
However, if you have sensitive skin, you may not want to go putting neat oils on yourself. Some, especially rose oil, are known to cause irritation if applied undiluted.
For a quick entry into the world of aromatherapy for lucid dreaming, check out the Lucid Dreams Scent Inhaler with clove, anise, clary sage and frankincense.
Notice how the act of calm focus, a familiar dream-connected scent and setting a lucid dream goal is great mental preparation for a lucid dream.
If we're completely honest, lucid dreaming isn't really known for being the most social of interests. In fact, often it's a lone pursuit - just you, your dream journal and the landscape of your mind. But this technique called PAL (or Partner Assisted Lucidity) breaks down that wall and turns lucid dream exploration into a social event.
Members of our lucid dream forum have been asking how to create dream characters in lucid dreams. The most common problem is having characters who look nothing like they should. Or they seem disinterested in your company. Or they fail to show up on command altogether. So, how to combat this? It's a matter of finding creative solutions that bypass logical expectations.
To lucid dream, I recommend being able to remember at least one vivid dream per night. That will boost your self awareness in dreams (making lucidity more likely) and also means you can actually remember your lucid dreams. Which is nice. Here are four detailed tips on how to remember your dreams more frequently. And if you don't think you dream at all - trust me, you almost certainly do. It takes an extraordinarily rare sleep disorder to deprive someone of dream sleep.
It is estimated that these wise and wily Indians have been using mugwort in their healing and ritual practices for 13,000 years, where it is known as the ‘dream sage’. They use the herb to promote good dreams, which they consider an essential aspect of normal human functioning! But that’s not all...
Silene Capensis has been used for millennia by the Xhosa shaman of the river valleys in the eastern cape of South Africa, where it is known as Undela Ziimhlophe or 'white paths'. It's fragrant white flowers open only at night, when they emit a fragrant and almost hypnotising aroma. Also known as African Dream Herb or Ubulawu, Silene Capensis induces spectacularly vivid dreams - yet has never entered the mainstream and remains a fringe taste within western culture.
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?