Do you remember your dreams?
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.
Here's how to remember more of your 100-minutes of nightly dream time.
It sounds obvious, but it's important.
During the first 4-6 hours of sleep each night, while you do dream in short bursts, your brain prioritizes NREM (deep sleep) so your body can physically rest and repair itself.
After that, you enter longer and longer periods of REM (dream sleep). This is when your mind can offload emotions and perform psychological healing. This phase holds the greatest potential for lucid dreams.
So, if you're sleep deprived on a routine basis, you're going to experience fewer dreams overall. This is bad for your mental health, and it's bad for your ability to lucid dream.
(When you do catch up on sleep after a lengthy period of deprivation, you enter a state called REM-rebound. You go into a frenzy of REM sleep to catch up, which underpins the importance to healthy brain function.)
Now, when do dreams actually occur throughout the night? Take a look at this chart:
There are five sleep cycles showing here, over a period of eight hours.
Each cycle starts in stage 1 sleep, dives down into the depths of stages 2, 3 and 4 of deep sleep, then rises back up into REM sleep. When REM sleep ends, the cycle is complete. It lasts all of 90-110 minutes in adults.
Although we enter periods of REM sleep throughout the night, we rarely remember the dreams from the first few stages of REM. That's because they're shorter - plus, we're so tired that we tend to dive right into the next sleep cycle without waking up.
And it's only when we wake up that we recall our most recent dreams.
As the morning comes, you need less and less deep sleep, and you spend more and more time in REM sleep. If you typically sleep 6-8 hours per night, you'll know how satisfying it is to sleep-in at the weekend and enjoy a 12-hour stretch of sleep. That creates a lot of REM.
Most of my lucid dreams occur from 6am onwards, and many of my longest and best lucid dreams occur during weekend lie-ins beyond 8am.
So, take the sleep your brain and body need. And allow yourself to sleep-in at weekends if you can.
Now you're getting loads of REM sleep, it's time to actively keep a record of your dreams every day. The best way is to keep a written and illustrated dream journal. I've accumulated a ton of these over the years.
All you need to do is spend 10 minutes writing down your dreams in the morning before you even get out of bed. Have a notebook by your bedside and on waking, immediately write down as many details as you can remember. When dream journaling, write in the present tense and underline unusual characters, symbols, scenes, plots, themes, or emotions.
If nothing comes to mind, it's likely you weren't dreaming. Just relax and lie quietly for a few minutes and think about what you'd like to dream about next time. (This is lucid dream incubation!)
If you want to take this technique to the highest level (and this involves real commitment, at least for one night) you can try this dream recall experiment. It involves waking yourself at the end of your sleep cycles to coincide with your REM sleep.
Why the hell would anyone do this? Studies show we remember dreams much more vividly when we awaken directly from the dream. If we go straight from REM sleep back to NREM sleep without waking, the dream is often lost forever.
So here's what you do. The free (albeit slightly random) method is to set your smartphone to wake you after roughly 4.5 hours of sleep. With luck, this will wake you during the first chunky phase of REM sleep and you'll have immediate dream recall. Write down whatever you can remember.
Then have your alarm to go off every 90 minutes for the rest of the night. You should extend it if you know it takes you a long time to get back to sleep (although if that's the case I wouldn't recommend this method for you, as it may cause excessive sleep deprivation.)
The more accurate way to perform this technique is to use a sleep tracker like the Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity & Sleep Wristband. You can trace your personal sleep profile and wake yourself with a silent (vibrating) alarm during REM sleep. This is for hardcore sleep and dream enthusiasts.
(Other REM-detecting technologies include the newly launched Neuroon sleep mask which tracks your brainwaves like an EEG. It gives sound, light and vibrating cues when you're dreaming - but instead of intending to wake you up, the goal is to trigger your awareness in dreams.)
Either way, by the time morning comes, your goal is to have recalled four or five detailed dreams in your journal. The first time I tried this, I was blown away. I had no idea I was experiencing so many long and vivid dreams every night.
Note: This is a really cool experiment and well worth trying out yourself at the weekend - but only do it a couple of times so you don't burn yourself out. It's really a demonstration of your dream recall potential.
In 2002, a double-blind study revealed that people who took a daily 250mg B6 supplement reported a significant increase in dream content. Their dreams were measured in terms of vividness, bizarreness, emotionality and color.
So if you're really excited about remembering your dreams, try a supplement. Casual experiments by lucid dreamers have found that the actual amount needed to increase dream intensity varies from 100-500mg depending on the person. So you can start low and build up to see what works for you.
I suggest a 100mg supplement like Nature Made Vitamin B6 about two hours before bedtime.
To boost your dreams further, eat foods containing Tryptophan for dinner, such as cheddar cheese, chicken, salmon, lamb, eggs, white rice, flour and milk.
Why does this help? One of the roles of vitamin B6 is to convert Tryptophan into serotonin and niacin, which helps your body regulate appetite, sleep patterns and mood.
(In fact, Tryptophan is used therapeutically to treat insomnia, depression and anxiety. Low levels of Tryptophan are also linked with poor dream recall.)
With a vitamin B6 supplement you can expect to wake up in the morning with highly memorable dreams to report, and as a result, occasionally lucid dreams too.
Another terrific dream-enhancing supplement is Galantamine. It enhances dream recall and intensity and promotes lucid dreaming. I recommend using Galantamine in combination with advanced lucid dream techniques like Wake Induced Lucid Dreams.
Note: A 250mg dose of B6 is more than the recommended maximum daily intake for adults, which is 100mg. In the study above, participants took the 250mg dose for three days. So this is not a long term experiment and should be maintained at your own discretion. Doses of 500-1,000mg, taken every day for several months, can lead to pain and numbness of the extremities.
Now you can see that remembering your dreams is essential if you want to have lucid dreams.
Life is not always straightforward, though, so don't worry if you drop the ball and pull an all-nighter. Or if you forget to keep a dream journal for a few weeks. There will be ups and downs in your lucid dream life.
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?