Welcome to the Lucid Dreaming FAQ. This page answers all the frequently asked questions about lucid dreaming, plus some specific reader questions.
Please read this page in detail as it contains valuable advice for beginners. If you still can't find the answer you're looking for, feel free to post your question in detail in our Lucid Dreaming Forum or Ask The Experts.
What is lucid dreaming?
How long does it take to have your first lucid dream?
How do I know when I'm lucid?
How can I stay lucid for longer?
How can I change the scenery?
How can I have flying dreams?
Can I get stuck in a lucid dream?
Are my dreams psychic?
Can I talk to my unconscious in a lucid dream?
If I die in a dream, will I die in real life?
What are false awakenings?
Do lucid dream machines work?
Does brainwave entrainment help you lucid dream?
Should I take dream herbs?
Can I use lucid dreams to induce OBEs?
Am I Crazy? My Dream Was So Real!
Am I Programming My Dreams?
Are Lucid Dreams Tiring?
Are These Other Beings or My Own unconscious?
Can Everyone Lucid Dream?
Can Lucid Dreams Happen Spontaneously?
Can You Confuse Lucid Dreams with Reality?
Can You Feel Pain in Lucid Dreams?
Can You Have OBEs Two Nights in a Row?
Can You Modify Your Body in a Lucid Dream?
Can You Spend Years in a Lucid Dream?
Did The Ancients Have Better Methods?
Do You Use Lucid Dream Supplements?
Does Eating Cheese Give You Nightmares?
Does Fish Oil Induce Lucid Dreams?
How Can I Extend My Lucid Dreams?
How Do I Avoid Sleep Paralysis?
How Do I Create Dream Characters?
How Do I Lucid Dream Without Consciously Controlling It?
How Do You See Hypnagogic Imagery?
Is a Spinning Top a Good Reality Check?
Is This Lucidity?
Is Lucid Dreaming Addictive?
The Verge of Lucidity?
Was This a Lucid Dream?
Was This a Lucid Dream or OBE?
What Do My Dreams Mean?
What If I Don't Remember My Dreams?
What Is The Difference Between Lucid Dreaming and Day Dreaming?
What Level of Consciousness Do You Have in a Lucid Dream?
What Types of Dreams are These?
Which Is Better - MILD or WILD?
Why Am I Being Jolted Awake?
Why Are There So Many Misconceptions About Lucid Dreaming?
Why Aren't We All Lucid Dreamers?
Why Can't I See Hypnagogic Imagery?
Why Don't My Reality Checks Work?
Why is it Hard to Move in Lucid Dreams?
A lucid dream is when you consciously wake up inside a dream. The word "lucid" means "clear" so it literally means "clear dreaming". It is a result of heightened consciousness in the dream state, initiated by the realization that you are dreaming and self-aware.
Most people will have one or two conscious dreams in their lifetime by accident. But with practice, you can learn how to have lucid dreams regularly and act out your greatest fantasies and use it for personal development. While some children can program their dreams naturally, for most adults it requires some knowledge of lucid dreaming techniques and a dedication to the concept of waking up in your dreams.
The reason so many people are drawn to lucidity is because it sets them free and allows them to do impossible things in the dream world. Once you learn to induce conscious dreams, you can control your actions, manipulate the scenery, and drive the plot as you see fit. This enables you to explore the depths of the oceans or the edge of the universe. You can travel forward in time, fly to the moon, or run like a cheetah. There are no limits in the world of lucid dreaming.
One study showed a group of committed students were able to have their first lucid dream, on average, within 3-21 days. They were equipped with the right tutorials and practiced mindfully every day.
This is a guide only. Some people already possess the skills and have their first lucid dream the same night they discover the concept. Others may take months to learn the skill, especially if you're only making a half-hearted approach.
If you are struggling to have your first lucid dream, ask yourself:
If you feel you have been practicing for a long time with no results, your technique may be letting you down. I recommend you check out my in-depth course for beginners, The Lucid Dreaming Fast Track, for detailed tutorials, troubleshooting advice, and my personal ideal strategy for having lucid dreams as soon as possible.
~ M.C. Escher
In Dream Initiated Lucid Dreams, the moment you become lucid is the moment you suddenly realize you are dreaming.
In many movies, fictional characters often realize they're dreaming and make funny comments about it but otherwise allow the dream to continue of it's own accord and nothing changes. Lucid dreaming is nothing like this :)
In real life, the effect is quite different. Saying (and knowing) "This is a dream!" results in a rush of clarity of thought. Your surroundings zoom into focus and become much more vivid. You have far greater awareness of your body and it is more like a waking experience, having the opportunity to move freely and take in much more sensory information.
The features of conscious dreams can spontaneously change just like a normal dream. For instance, you may manifest a group of bear cubs which later change into a pile of boxes. Of course, you can easily call the bear cubs back again. But don't be surprised if you notice these subtle changes beyond your control. It is a co-created experience and your unconscious mind still plays a key role.
Beginners often find their lucid dreams end prematurely. Sometimes, the sheer excitement causes you to wake up. Other times, you may simply forget you are dreaming and the unconscious mind regains full control. In this case, the dream loses its intensity and become just like a regular dream again.
To prevent this, cultivate a calm and focused mind set in the dreamworld. Remind yourself that you are dreaming often to stay mentally grounded.
A simple way to enhance your lucidity and thereby prolong your dream is to rub your hands together while saying "I'm dreaming". This kinetic sensation stimulates the conscious brain, while drawing awareness to your dream body and away from your physical body lying asleep in bed.
These techniques have helped me experience lucid dreams as long as an hour.
Making the dream scene morph in front of your eyes can sometimes be difficult - mainly because you simply don't expect it to happen. This is typical of the results beginners complain about because they lack the anticipated dream control.
If you're having problems with dream control (and I should stress that not everyone does have such issues) the best way to change things is to work with your unconscious dream logic. For instance, to change the scenery:
As you can see, there are many creative solutions to issues of dream control. The most important thing to remember is that your conscious expectation plays a major role. If you question your own ability to manifest new scenes, then your abilities will falter. But if you remain confident and learn from your experiences, you'll soon find that absolutely anything is possible inside a lucid dream.
Learning how to fly in lucid dreams is something we all want to master first.
However, it's not like you've had any practice in real life, so the concept can be a little difficult on the lucid dreaming mind. While some people take to the sky like Superman, others can get stuck in power lines, bump into buildings, or waver as if gravity is acting against them (which of course it isn't!)
Think of the movie The Matrix, when Morpheus asks Neo how he beat him in a virtual reality fight. Was it because he was stronger, faster, or fitter in this simulated world? No. It was because he truly believed he was better.
It's the same in lucid dreams. See how to have lucid flying dreams which explains the expectation principle and a three-step flight training program.
The short answer for 99% of people is no.
You dream for around 100 minutes every night in total, across multiple sleep cycles. A proficient lucid dreamer can expect to lucid dream 2-4 times a week, on average, with each session lasting 10-40 minutes. Even if this were considered "lost sleep" (which is a stretch) it isn't that much time at all. On the contrary, a lucid dream can leave you on a natural high for the rest of the day, which gives you more mental and physical energy.
For some people, lucid dreaming occurs naturally every night, in multiple sleep cycles. It's all they've ever known. So the numbers do add up on this. But does lucidity leave them feeling tired?
Some say they let go of the lucidity as soon as it arises, preferring to have normal dreams as they don't really have ideas for things to do. Some choose to wake up and go back to sleep again. A rare few have told me they feel engulfed by their conscious dreams and unable to sleep deeply. This leaves them feeling sleep deprived.
If you're a natural lucid dreamer and feel overwhelmed by the consistent intensity of your dreams, I recommend seeing your doctor, who may further recommend you to a sleep specialist. Anything in excess can have profound effects on the mind and body, and there may well be a solution to "always on" lucidity.
If you are imagining getting stuck in a lucid dream that way a child gets stuck in a painting in a horror movie, then no, that's science fiction.
You can no more get stuck in a lucid dream than you can get stuck in a regular dream or nightmare. "Dream limbo" is just a plot device for the movies.
In fact, lucidity affords you the opportunity to wake up on demand. Many people learn to start lucid dreaming naturally by using it to wake up from nightmares. Just open and shut your dream eyes firmly while saying "WAKE UP!" You can use the same moment of clarity to transform your nightmare into a guided dream.
While it is possible to become engrossed in a lucid nightmare or false awakening, this is not the same as being trapped in a dream forever. Perhaps frustrating, perhaps enlightening, they are no different in length from typical periods of REM sleep, which max out after a certain period of time.
I'm sure you want them to be, but wanting something doesn't make it real. Otherwise we'd all win the lottery, look like A-list celebrities and solve world hunger.
To date, there is no good scientific evidence for psychic dreams. Everyone has heard of a friend-of-a-friend who "had this amazing psychic dream, so it has to be real" but please bear in mind that such stories are often embellished, and coincidences do happen.
Also, consider this:
1) Nobody has identified a mechanism for psychic information to travel from the future into your dreaming mind. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but it's a tad premature to believe in something we can neither perceive nor explain.
2) It's far more likely that so-called psychic dreams are caused by coincidence. How many deaths and accidents have you dreamed about that didn't come true? Though it may seem unbelievable at the time, mathematically it is commonplace.
3) It's also quite likely that "psychic" information is received unconsciously. In other words, if you know your friend is a risk-taker behind the wheel, it's not psychic to dream of him having a car accident which later happens.
There is a scientific principle known as Occam's Razor, where the observed minimalist solution is always better than calling upon additional unknown factors. In other words, lose the wild unproven theories and accept the simple proven explanation.
I'm not 100% dismissive of alternative theories. If solid evidence emerged for psychic dreams, I would accept that they do exist. Lucid dreamers are best poised to take on this task, as explained in my article on Precognitive Dreams. Until such time, I'm going to base my beliefs on observation and calculated reasoning.
As the lucid dream is a co-created experience, you can find profound communication with the unconscious arising from dream events or the fabric of the dream itself. The easiest way is to start a dialogue with the dream: just ask questions out loud. See the article 10 things to ask your lucid dream self for specific questions to pose to your dreaming self.
No, this is a myth. I have not found any action in a lucid dream to have a negative physical impact on my body.
I once died in a dream of epic proportions. I was standing on the roof of one of the Twin Towers in New York. I watched in the distance as a tsunami wave headed towards the city. I was soon immersed in water, knocked off the building and drowned as I fell.
I then "woke up" in the dream to find myself on an alien planet, being watched by a group of my alien peers. They had big heads and slender limbs, and waited for me while my memory of them returned. Apparently my whole time on Earth was just part of a larger lifecycle. It was a great dream. And it certainly didn't kill me in real life.
In false awakenings, you believe you have woken up but are in fact still asleep. It's a very vivid experience and shares some intriguing characteristics with lucid dreams.
Some people get dressed, have breakfast and leave the house in their false awakenings. Most of these actions are performed on auto-pilot so it's not really a fun or controllable dream experience. However the realism can be shocking in hindsight - which is why people don't often recognize false awakenings while they occur.
Lucid dreamers tend to have more false awakenings than other people, because this is a state in which consciousness clashes with the dream world. It is an odd side effect but not at all dangerous and can actually lead to the creation of more conscious dreams. This occurrence is often used in movies to reveal their character's fears coming true - and was used to the extreme in the comedy movie Groundhog Day.
The best way to work with false awakenings is to check your reality every time you wake up and if your impossible action comes true... it means you're still dreaming ;)
Lucid dream machines like the NovaDreamer, REM Dreamer or DreamMask provide external lucidity triggers which are incorporated into your dream. It is up to you to recognize the cue and in doing so, realize that you are dreaming.
They do not guarantee effortless conscious dreams - nothing can, unless you are a natural - but used correctly they can certainly increase your self-awareness in dreams and help bring your consciousness into the dreamscape. To learn more, read my reviews of popular lucid dream machines.
Brainwave entrainment is a scientifically proven method of entering meditative states at will. It's based on precision audio technology like isochronic tones and ushers the brain into a deeply relaxed state.
I believe entrainment is good for lucid dreaming on two levels. Firstly it helps you to attain deeply meditative states on demand, which improves your self-awareness, visualization skills and ability to stay conscious throughout altered states.
Secondly, it enhances your ability to enter the Mind Awake / Body Asleep state (used in Wake Induced Lucid Dreams) which is a powerful way of having lucid dreams and out of body experiences on demand. It focuses your mind on staying consciously aware while putting your body into a sleep and dream state.
For more information see my Lucid Dreaming MP3 review.
Dream herbs are very good at temporarily improving your dream recall, as well as giving you very intense and meaningful dreams the same night. Sometimes these are lucid dreams and at the minimum they are very vivid and memorable dreams.
I find certain dream herbs create interesting dream experiences and are worth experimenting with just for fun and to understand more about the dreaming mind. Beginners may want to try the popular herb like Calea Zacatechichi.
Some people believe out of body experiences (OBEs) are literal, physical projections of your awareness outside of your body. It may also be called astral projection. There is no denying the experience is somewhat similar to a lucid dream and there is nothing stopping you from inducing an OBE from within a conscious dream state.
You may also find that while practicing lucid dreaming techniques, you have some other unexplained experiences which may feel like you're moving out of body. In reality, this may just be a transition from your physical body into an imaginary dream body - a bit like a false awakening, which begins with you waking up in bed.
To learn more about the connection between lucid dreaming and OBEs / astral projection, take a look at Paranormal Activity.
Remember, if you still can't find the answer you're looking for, feel free to post your question in detail in our Lucid Dreaming Forum. The most compelling topics will be published on this page for all to benefit.
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For centuries, Tibetan Buddhists have been working on waking up in their dreams, so that they can "wake up" at the moment of their death. They also believe that whatever cultural assumptions you have during life will become true upon death. Can lucid dreaming prepare us for the dying process? What might happen at the actual moment of death? Why are we scared of death and how might bodiless lucid experiences help to reduce our fear? In this interview, Dr Clare Johnson and Dr Keith Hearne dive into the lucid void, Tibetan Buddhism, and lucid dreaming as an emotional and spiritual preparation for death.
Does this face look familiar? It should. This is the result of image averaging - a technique in which multiple headshots are averaged out into a single face. In this case, our composite guy was generated by psychology student and photography enthusiast, Bill Lytton. Lytton averaged out 32 attractive male celebrity faces. To avoid personal bias, he referred to Maxim's Hot 100 and other opinion polls. He also averaged out a bunch of unattractive male faces for comparison.
It's a myth that you could exhaust yourself having a great big run in a lucid dream. After all, your real muscles are paralyzed during sleep. Your body isn't really running or burning up energy. So why would you feel depleted? So, in terms of physical energy depletion, there's really no logic to this argument. But what about dreams being mentally or emotionally tiring? The best way to test this is to survey lucid dreamers themselves. Go ahead, take our poll. My intuitive response is no - and that's based on my 17 years of personal experience. Lucid dreams aren't tiring for me at all.
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?