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It tends to work best when you are getting more than enough sleep. At the end of the night your sleep becomes much lighter and your dreams last longer. If you are not getting enough sleep, you may be able to get by during the day, but it will be harder than it has to be to become familiar with the qualities of your dreaming so you can recognize them in the future. Even with reality checks, what often happens in the actual dream isn't the reality check first and the recognition of dreaming second. Something triggers your suspicions and then you do the reality testing second to confirm what you already know: that this is a dream. The more familiar you can be with your dreaming, the easier it becomes to know how it feels to be in a dream and how it compares with being awake. I saw my favorite reality test used in the movie "Inception". They were in a cafe outside talking about how dreams seem to start off in the middle, during the action, and it can be difficult to say what came before. When you are awake you can easily go back several hours or even days and work out how you got to be where you are right now. In dreams such recollection can go back a matter of minutes usually. What often happens now is that I will remember the storyline of the dream, but I will also know and be able to say what my waking life is like and describe it in detail. I will know that it is a dream. That's when I normally either let it go to see what happens next, or I will try my flying lessons again. Swimming (and breathing underwater) came much more easily than flying for me.
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