There are five main types of dreams - daydreams, normal dreams, false awakenings, nightmares and lucid dreams. Take a look at the features of these hypnotic states and how each one can introduce you to the phenomenal world of lucid dreaming...
Scientific studies reveal that most people daydream for a whopping 70-120 minutes per day. During this time, you are only semi-awake - not asleep, but not fully checked-in with reality, either. It starts with a compelling thought, memory, or fantasy about the future, and your imagination runs away. The longer you daydream, the deeper you becomes immersed in your private fantasy land.
Contrary to popular belief, daydreaming is an important part of dream research. As with all types of dreams, you enter a kind of hypnotic trance and allow your unconscious thoughts to rise to the surface.
In daydreams, the right (creative) brain is dominant and you lose awareness of reality. Deeper worries or concerns will surface, usually by acting themselves out in the daydream. This only serves to reinforce negativity - so next time you are fantasizing about bad situations, turn it around and consciously create a positive outcome.
Similarly, many successful people use their daydreams to visualize their future. Athletes imagine winning their next big race. Business leaders mentally rehearse an important speech. They daydream about a positive outcome and in doing so, help make it happen. You can even look at the past and re-enact an upsetting event with a different outcome. These types of dreams are very healthy, helping you temporarily escape the demands of reality and release frustrations without physically acting them out.
I also use daydreams to initiate my next lucid dream by setting a lucid dream intention. I make a mental list of things I want to do in my next conscious dream, and visualize how I will get there. Let's say I want to: play the piano, fly to the moon, and meet an alien. First I'll visualize a concert hall (the place I expect to find a piano in my dream), then I'll imagine flying up and passing through the roof and into the night sky. I'll see myself landing on the moon (space rocket not required) and finding a super-intelligent bunch of aliens sitting around in a crater. These guys will give me very interesting conversation, offering insights directly from my unconscious.
The next time I become lucid, I will remember my daydream instinctively and begin to perform it all in the vivid detail of my lucid dream reality. Without this preparation, it's likely I'll just fly around and examine the dreamscape. This is great fun, but I prefer to follow goals to make the most of my lucid dreams.
I know "normal dreams" is a contradiction in terms, but let me assure you I simply mean your usual types of dreams, where you have no idea you're dreaming - at the time, anyway. In a typical dream, you could be having tea with the Pope and think nothing of it; you accept your dream reality as it is.
Everybody in the world has normal dreams every single night. These dreams that arise out of REM sleep are essential to our survival - we would die without them. Assuming you get eight hours of shuteye, you will dream for about 100 minutes, with longer and more vivid dreams occurring shortly before you wake up.
Normal dreams present us with important messages from the unconscious mind. They are based on your thoughts and experiences from the day before, and sometimes memories from long ago. The unconscious mind releases repressed fears, anxieties and desires through conceptual imagery - the coded language of the unconscious brain.
These typical types of dreams are also the gateway to lucid dreams. Anyone can become spontaneously lucid from within a normal dream. All it takes is to consciously recognize that you are dreaming. This awakens the conscious brain and the sensory system, so that the lucid dream looks, feels, sounds, smells and even tastes like anything you experience in reality.
Even bizarre experiences - like shape shifting into an atom - feel astonishingly real (or at least, what you expect that sensation to feel like). However, if you forget you are dreaming - it happens - your lucid dream will revert to a normal dream again and you will lose conscious control of your awareness within it.
Lucid dreams are the best types of dreams and I'm guessing the reason you are here reading this. Most lucid dreams arise spontaneously from normal dreams (called Dream Induced Lucid Dreams). All you need to do is teach yourself to constantly question your reality and you will become lucid much more often.
Alternatively, you can have lucid dreams by walking your brain from a conscious state directly into a dream state. This technique has been used by Tibetan Buddhists for over 1,000 years and is today known as Wake Induced Lucid Dreams. It involves a two-step process of meditation and inducing sleep paralysis. You will soon enter your very own lucid dream world.
Remember, a lucid dream is any dream in which you:
That's all! Lucid dreams don't have to involve 100% dream control - far from it! Most of the time I only control my own movements and simply follow the action going on around me. You can also be lucid and fully aware of the dream and assume zero control; just a silent observer of a miraculous dream world. Not surprisingly, most people use lucid types of dreams to fulfil desires they can't fulfil in reality. But once you look past this novelty feature, lucid dreams offer brilliant insights into the unconscious mind. Read Robert Waggoner's Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self for some extraordinary applications of lucid dreams.
Ever watched Groundhog Day with Bill Murray? False awakenings are a bit like that. You may wake up as normal and plod into the bathroom, get dressed, eat breakfast, and be half way to work before you realize "oh my God, I'm still dreaming!" It's a bizarre place to be.
False awakenings are basically very vivid types of dreams. They begin in your bedroom, with you waking up, and somehow your conscious brain mimics every detail of the room, exactly as it should be. Unless you question your reality on waking (like many lucid dreamers) you don't stand a chance...
It usually takes something quite obvious to shock you out of these types of dreams. Maybe you look in the bathroom mirror and see yourself 20 years from now. Or maybe you're driving down the road and realize there are no other cars. I once had a false awakening, where I did my reality check as I got out of bed - but that wasn't enough. I sat for about 5 minutes banging on the glass of my bedroom window, trying to figure out if I could push my hand through. I simply couldn't get the conscious part of my brain to wake up! In the end, the dream revealed itself when I walked into the kitchen and found my partner cooking a roast dinner at 7am. I immediately became lucid and flew away!
Some people even report multiple false awakenings, one after the other in quick succession. They get trapped in a seemingly never-ending cycle, tired of getting dressed for work for the seventh time that day. If this happens to you often, I strongly recommend getting into the habit of doing reality checks on waking - and give yourself a fighting chance! Truly recognizing a false awakening can go two ways: either you are shocked into waking up - or you enter a lucid dream.
Perhaps most importantly, false awakenings may be frustrating but aren't at all harmful. They are also extremely vivid but not nightmarish in content. And if nothing else, they provide a fascinating talking point the next day.
In the western world, nightmares are considered to be normal types of dreams with a very scary twist. In nightmares, you don't know you're dreaming so the unconscious mind takes everything on board as if it were really happening. Some nightmares can be so vivid that the sensory system is triggered and you can feel certain types of pain. It can be very unnerving.
According to dream analysis, being chased by a monster or dark character in a nightmare represents our evolutionary fear of being hunted. Children - who are arguably more vulnerable than most adults - report this type of dream the most. Studies show that nightmares are usually caused by sickness, stress, trauma, and drugs or alcohol.
One excellent way to stop nightmares and recurring types of dreams is lucidity. By questioning your reality, you stand a better chance of recognizing a nightmare when it occurs, particularly if you plant a monster (or whatever the common theme) as your dream symbol. Whenever you think of this symbol in waking life, do a reality check. The next time it appears in a dream, your habitual reality test will lead to lucidity. Then you will have the conscious courage to confront your monster in the lucid dream state - and reason with it!
For step-by-step tutorials on lucid dream induction and exploration, check out The Lucid Dreaming Fast Track, my online study program for beginners and beyond.
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Mirrors present an interesting puzzle in lucid dreams because their main property in real life - reflection - is driven by the laws of physics. Yet these laws are entirely moot in dreams. In fact, the only reason things do follow the laws of cause and effect in any dream is because we expect them to. Physical law drives our entire conscious experience and we carry it with us - both consciously and unconsciously - into the dream world.
Meditation is an excellent primer for having lucid dreams. In this review I've ranked my favorite brainwave entrainment products for meditation, helping to kick-start your journey by improving your skills in self awareness, visualization skills and dream incubation.
Stop humping unwitting dream characters and go on a REAL adventure. Planting these dream seeds will help cement your lucidity and give your lucid dreams more meaningful direction. Next time you're lucid, think hard to recall a meaningful lucid dream intention.
A sleep mask is a handy lucidity aid to have handy in your bedroom. There are various reasons why sleep masks promote lucidity. I'll briefly run through the most important before detailing my top 5 recommended sleep masks for lucid dreaming and meditation.