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, muwgort 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.
What do blind people dream about? Can they "see" in their dreams? Take a look at scientific studies into the dreams of the blind, colorblind, and black-and-white dreamers. In 1999, dream researchers at the University of Hartford analyzed 372 dreams of 15 blind people. They found that both the congenitally blind and those who went blind before five years old did not have any visual dreams at all. That's because our dreams are made up of real world experiences and our innermost thoughts, anxieties and desires. So for someone who has never perceived images or light (or can't remember any) their dreams simply can't manifest visually.
Not long ago, scientists at Frankfurt University discovered how to produce lucid dreams with electronic stimulation. It was a world first. And - astonishingly - it worked in non-lucid dreamers 77% of the time. Now you can buy the same technology for yourself. The foc.us V2 - which delivers the proven optimum 40 Hz transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) - was originally developed to increase working memory in video gamers and improve sleep.
As technology continues to move us towards more immersive dreamlike experiences, one can only wonder what digital wonders lay just beyond the horizon of tomorrow. We may also question just how the future of virtual reality will impact the study and practice of lucid dreaming. Are we, perhaps, the last generation to whom lucid dreaming will maintain an appeal?
Jeremiah Morelli is a whimsical fantasy artist and visual storyteller. He places conceptual fairytale creatures in vivid dreamscapes to capture the imagination. He's also a school teacher, and amazingly finds the time and motivation to create this huge gallery of artwork. Such light and dark fairytale paintings make beautiful places to visit in your lucid dreams.
Inspired and named for the notion of Flatland, artist and photographer Aydin Buyuktas has created a series of works where "a space of surprises creates a space that creates surprises." Based on photos of Istanbul, Buyuktas explains: "We live in places that most of the times don't draw our attention, places that transform our memories, places that the artist gives another dimension; where the perceptions that generally crosses our minds will be demolished and new ones will arise. These works aim to leave the viewer alone with a surprising visuality, ironic as well as a multidimensional romantic point of view."
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?