How to Identify Your Personal Best Lucid Dream Induction Method

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How to Identify Your Personal Best Lucid Dream Induction Method

I am in the backseat of a moving car with Sean Penn to my left. Rebecca is driving, and I am talking above the radio to her: I am explaining why I think reality checks are a waste of my time. As I am pleading my case (really, rationalizing why I do not do them... why the dog ate my homework), Sean finally has had enough and cracks - yelling at me that he cannot hear the radio over my “bloody crosstalk!”

- Dream journal entry, January 31, 2015

Lucid Dream Experimentation 101

I am watching Alien vs Predator. Apparently, the Predators are sent to Earth in a rite-of-passage-like ritual wherein they have to hunt the Aliens... or something like that. I don't know. I tuned out - but I love crap, so here we are.

In between scenes of interest, my mind is on the dream entry cited above and its obvious irony. Maybe I am wrong about reality checks (you think?). Either way, I am not doing them. I just don't like them.

Back to the movie: The Predators are trying to master their hunting prowess by virtue of the Aliens. But my mind cannot turn itself off: reality tests, why I am not doing them, why I am not closing the deal in these dreams with blatant dream signs laid before me.

Like some sort of Inside Out character, my academic brain decides to throw itself into this mosh pit of thoughts and offer an Alien vs Predator analogy toward the goal of lucid dreaming and why it might solve a barrier that every potential lucid dreamer faces.

Bear with me on this - as part of our lucid dream experimentation 101, we need to get our inner geek on here and speak a bit of the language of the formal experimenter:

  • The Predator is the independent variable (IV)
  • The Alien is the dependent variable (DV)

In any experiment, you want your IV to control your DV. The Predator is trying to control the Alien.

You and I are trying to control lucid dreaming.


The Independent Variable of Lucid Dreaming

Here's another example. Take a ubiquitous example of a DV: your weight.

  • DV: weight loss
  • IVs: food intake, exercise

Set aside the complex psychology of weight loss for a moment, and focus on the math. It's all math. If you treat food intake and exercise like dials with numbers (they go to 11!), you control your weight. Mathematically, it is impossible for it to be otherwise. Think Robert De Niro in Raging Bull(fit and fat). He controlled it.

Speaking of boxers, let me offer an example of an IV related to lucid dreaming, and ideally it will bring all of this into focus and why it might remove a barrier that we all find ourselves confronting.

Lucid Dreaming IV: Prospective Memory

I am reading Rebecca's article on How to Have More Lucid Dreams With Prospective Memory and decide to give it a try - specifically, waking up at a certain time. In that section, Rebecca writes, “As a teenager, I used to set my alarm for 7.30am on school days. It was pretty weird, then, when I started to wake up at 7.27am just minutes before the dreaded alarm call.” I am like that too, and I imagine a lot of you are as well.

On an index card that night, I wrote, “Wake up at 4:30am,” then I went to sleep. About 5.5 hours later, I shot straight out of bed. I had heard something. It was a boxer's bell. And it was loud. It scared the p*** out of me, really. I could feel my heart thumping against the wall of my chest. I hit the backlight of my clock and, sure enough, 4:30am.


I tried again the next night and it worked (no boxer's bell this time - thank god), and I got so good at doing this that I made it a thing - because I noticed that when I did it, either my dream experiences got funkier, more vivid, and more interesting or it just flat out induced a lucid dream.

I am thinking that those were WILDs, because when I went back to sleep, I either experienced that super-surreal buzzing prior to lucidity or felt that weird POP! sensation, like I was getting spat out of a wormhole in a part of the universe a trillion miles away. I felt like I was on to something here.

Out of all the ways to achieve lucidity, this one spoke to me - more than the dream journal, more than the reality tests that I never do, and so on. I found an independent variable for lucid dreaming.

It worked so well that I tweaked it and actually started a Google calendar to track it. Instead of waking up at 4:30am, I now wear a stopwatch to bed. Here's the challenge:

Use your prospective memory to wake up after 5 hours of sleep. Whenever you wake up, click "lap" on the watch. That's the official time.

The Wake Up ChallengeWhy IV vs DV Solves a Problem for Lucid Dreamers

Learning to lucid dream is a huge pain in the ass but with a payoff that is nothing short of pure transcendence - like a backstage pass to any parallel universe (I am with the band!). The paths to achieve this state are overwhelming, not only in their learning curves (pain), but in their sheer volume (larger pain). There are too damn many. You need to control them. You need to control your Aliens. That is where the IV comes in.

Don't take on multiple paths at once. Take on one. If it is an IV like my boxer's bell, keep it. If not, move on with your life by going to the next one. This is a house built brick by brick.

You and I are experimenters trying to control our DV (lucid dreaming). The way that we ultimately do it might be akin to our fingerprints - unique - but we have to go through that cold, outdoor, army-like obstacle course to figure out what our signature technique is. Are you willing to climb that wall with the giant rope net and crawl on your belly under barb wire in the freezing rain while that guy from Full Metal Jacket is yelling at you, asking you what your major malfunction is? You should. It is so worth it.

For the rest of this article, I will set up my new experiment as a template for anyone who wants to systematically eliminate or incorporate an IV - any IV - into their lucid dreaming repertoire.

The New IV Candidate: Reality Tests

I am arriving at Heathrow Airport, and as I exit my gate, I see Rebecca standing there holding a white board. I can't read it, because all the ink is smeared. I say, “London is huge. Why am I running into you? How is that possible?” She responds, “Perhaps you should first check to see if this is real or not.” “I never do that.” “Look at your hands.” I look at my hands in an open-faced gesture and see a small line-art tattoo on my inner left wrist. It is the Olympic swimmer symbol, and the little guy is swimming away. “Oh... I guess this isn't real,” I say, as I watch the animation swim up my inner forearm.

At that moment, a flash mob starts to assemble around me. Flight attendants are yelling at me derisively; passengers are glaring at me. I hear my name being shouted, but I can't make anything else out. “What?! What's your problem?!” I yell back. “Why are you on my case?! I did it [referring to the reality test] - quit yelling at me.” I then wake up into a false awakening - I am sleeping in an attic, and I have to hold the roof up with my legs. I fail to perform another reality test.

- Dream journal entry, June 30, 2015

I don't care if it worked. I still don't like doing them.

However... my curiosity is officially piqued. Maybe I am due for a much-needed attitude adjustment (you are). Maybe I can pleasantly surprise myself by proving how wrong I am about these inconvenient tests.

Now, if at this point, you are noticing how cavalier I am about openly disparaging such a staple of lucid dreaming, I ask that you frame it as a formal experimenter: When I freely - near blasphemously - declare my distaste for randomly interrupting my day with arbitrary reality tests, I am promoting what is called the null hypothesis (denoted as H0):

  • H0: There is no relationship between reality tests and lucid dreaming.

In other words, when you conduct an experiment, the null hypothesis is Move on - there's nothing to see here, people. This is all just a waste of time. This looks cynical, but it is far from it. You don't want ambiguity. You have a question and want your answer. It's like, S*** or get off the pot. Do we have something here or not? We haves lives to return to. (Or, in the words of Judge Smails from Caddyshack - “You'll get nothing and like it!”) So what is the real hypothesis - that is, in favor of reality tests?

  • H1: There is a direct and positive relationship between reality tests and lucid dreaming.

Whether we prove H0 or H1, we win either way:

  • If I prove the null hypothesis (reality checks are time wasters), then Bravo! I don't have to do them anymore, and I can channel my inner Homer Simpson.


  • If I prove my real hypothesis (they work), then Bravo! I have a new IV - a new boxer's bell - and I am delightfully proven wrong.


This is how an experiment should work.

What does that look like on paper? I am glad you asked.

An Experiment in 3 Steps - The Reality Test

Step 1: Keep Everything Kool + the Gang

In Pulp Fiction, Jules (Samuel L. Jackson... as if you didn't already know) asks a bunch of lamb-like youth, “What's Fonzie like?” He does this to reassure them that all will be all right (but all was so not all right - KA-BLAMMO!). The intrepid youth respond, “He's cool.” For our purposes, you want to be like the Fonz.

In the language of the experiment, you want to keep all other variables constant - except for the 1 potential IV. In practical terms, make it a point to stick to your routine and change only that 1 variable in question (in this case, the reality test). Otherwise, you risk getting what are called confounding variables.

Essentially, if you introduce both the reality test and a B6 vitamin and get a lucid dream... then what caused it? The former? The latter? Both? The variables are now confounding. But keep this in mind for a future experiment: a reality test + a B6 vitamin can be an IV together. Just make that declaration at the beginning, rather than changing the rules after the experiment has begun.

Step 1 - Be Fonzie: I will stick to my routine and add only the reality test, doing nothing else new with respect to lucid dreaming (changing sleep routine, taking supplements, etc).

Step 2: Lucid Dreamers (Put a Number on It)

(With apologies to Beyoncé - oh god I am so sorry... that is just awful [but here we are]).

When you write an entry into your dream journal, you providing what are called qualitative data. Prominent in the psychology field, qualitative data are essentially testimony - how people felt or what they thought about whatever (variable x).

For our purposes, we need some numbers here - we need quantitative data. Take my prospective memory calendar from earlier. That comprises quantitative data. I can take a month's worth of numbers and try to glean conclusions about how much time I need to sleep before I spontaneously wake up so that I can return to sleep and achieve a lucid dream (for me, 4:50 appears to be the sweet spot [as averaged out over the year]).

I know adding numbers to this cool skill set might harsh some people's mellow, but actually this where things get exciting. What if you found the magic number of reality tests that you need to get the job done? There has be a sweet spot for us all, right? That Goldilocks number: that point at which anything more is a waste of time but anything less will yield nothing.

What if you found that? Think about how valuable that number is. In weight loss, I know exactly how many calories I need to either maintain my weight or drop a couple pounds (or stones... whatever they are [I am from the US]). It'd be nice to have that equivalent for lucid dreaming.

For our purposes, I am going to use 10 reality tests as my baseline value. Not only that, but I am going to standardize how they go down - that is, you know how you can go into any Starbucks or McDonald's anywhere in the world and order something, and it should theoretically taste the same no matter where you are. That product is standardized, subject to the same rules and processes to yield the same result.

Again, that might come across as a buzz kill to the free-spirit nature of this endeavor, but what if you found the magic formula? Wouldn't you do it over and over and over? Are there any bakers out there? (Stop sniggering. I mean the flour-and-sugar kind of baker.) Bakers know more than anyone that baking recipes are very standardized - one wrong measurement can yield something inedible that would otherwise be devoured by your greedy friends and family.

For this experiment, I am going to follow our fearless leader's lead: “A reliable way to do [a reality check] is set your digital watch to chime every hour” (see MILD).

I have a swimmer's lap watch with a vibration function that I am going to use for this experiment. So I am ready to standardize my potential IV. Remember - the more specific, the better:

Step 2 - The Numbers Game: For 4 weeks, every Sunday through Friday (with Saturdays off), I will turn on my hourly alarm before noon (<11:59 am) and turn it off after 9 pm - for a total of 10 reality tests per day, 6 days a week. Every time I feel the little vibration on my wrist, I will ask, “Is this real?” and then I will look at my left inner wrist for an answer (reality vs lucidity).

Equation: (1 reality test per hour x 10 per day) x 6 days x 4 weeks = X lucid dreams

For this experiment, I bought a sheet of temporary tattoos. Every night when I brush my teeth, I will apply a fresh one on my wrist. When I do my reality test, I will look at it 2 times: once to see if anything funky is going down (à la the animation cited earlier) and a second time as a reliability test (in experimental language, reliability means Let me see if I got that right - I am going to do it again to make sure).

Digital Watch / Tattoo Reality Check

This setup has an advantage in terms of discretion: in public, the watch can cover the tattoo (I really don't want to get into a lecture about Alien vs Predator and lucid dreaming if someone spots this temp tattoo and inquires about it). Also, when the chime goes off, I can discreetly look at my watch and take a peek at the tatt, and no one will be the wiser.

Step 3: Your Data Journal

When I went through Rebecca's Lucid Dreaming Fast Track annotating it, I had a lot of shorthand for the terms. For dream journal, I often notated it as DJ, but then the further I got into it, I realized that DJ is not necessarily limited to mean dream journal - it is a data journal.

Any data are good data. Do not restrict yourself to dream recall only; write what happened in general. Again, this is near heresy, but sometimes I think simply writing what happened can be just as important, if not more so, than recalling the dream itself - for example:

Last night I took a B6 vitamin at 7pm and had a long, intense dream about my high school reunion. I don't have the time to rehash into every single detail - I just know that I could see everyone's face clearly and hear that horribly wonderful 80s music in the background as if it were a live concert. I need to try this again.

- Journal entry, March 31, 2015

Earlier in this article, I allude to an operative word here: curiosity. When you embark on an experiment, go into it with a sense of curiosity rather than a sense of closing a deal.

  • Yes: I am curious to see what happens when I...
  • No: This better work! (shaking fist)

For our purposes here, I am going to satisfy 2 criteria in terms of data collection (1 quantitative, 1 qualitative):

Step 3 - Data: For data collection, I will make 2 recordings:

Quantitative - In my calendar, I will write L! if I have a lucid dream, and I will leave it blank if I do not (in the experimenter's language, this is a binary value, like 0 and 1 - either I did or did not have a lucid dream, easily expressed as a ratio at the conclusion of this study).

Qualitative - In my data journal, I will note anything that seems different since I started doing these reality tests (see entry below; written during a trial run of this experiment).

This better work... (kidding).

I have a false awakening where I come into a kitchen and see Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale [a celebrity couple in real life] at the breakfast table in their just-waking-up clothes, like it is a slow Sunday morning and I am a guest. They look up at me with faces that say, “Coffee's on. Grab a cup and a plate and join us.” I think, “How is this possible? You're celebrities and we don't hang - oh wait. Is this real? I need to check my wrist.” I turn my inner wrist upward to look for the tattoo, and at that moment when I see it, it explodes into a POP! of confetti.

- Journal entry, July 31, 2015

What's Your Experiment?

My experiment officially commenced August 16, 2015 (the day I wrote this article), and I am very curious to see what happens over the next 4 weeks. I suspect that the above (successful) reality test was more so a result of my mind being preoccupied with this experiment and article, as opposed to the test itself - that cruel beginner's luck so often associated with lucid dream success.

So what about you? Where will you start? Pick an IV, any IV:

  • WILD
  • MILD
  • CAT
  • Reality test
  • Dream journal
  • Meditation
  • Vitamin B6
  • Galantamine / choline
  • Calea Z
  • Incubation
  • 61-Point relaxation

If only someone assembled a reference guide to potential IVs. Oh wait. She did - for each and everyone of us to find our own private Idaho.

I mean, come on. Do you seriously want one of Rebecca's flash mobs to spontaneously appear in your dreams to shame you into compliance? Start knocking these IVs out 1 x 1.

She didn't supply all this information to facilitate your rampant humping of unwitting celebrities. (Those poor celebrities... flailing their arms all about while you have your way with them.)

Conduct your experiment and find your boxer's bell (listen to it again - come on, you know you want to!).


About The Author

About The Author

Rebecca Casale is a lucid dreamer and a science writer with a special interest in biology and the brain. She is the founder of World of Lucid Dreaming and Science Me.