Have you ever wondered how it would feel to control your own dreams? Just imagine the possibilities! You could experience anything you’ve ever wanted! You could be a king living in a castle, the smartest person in the world, or a flying robot that saves the world from total destruction!
However, why do dreams always feel so out of your control? Why is it that once you fall sleep, your willpower basically just fades away?
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How Do Dreams Work?
Dreams are essentially the recreation of an active mind processing information while the body is resting. A person begins dreaming during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of sleep. The pons system of your brain stem initiates it, your limbic system adds emotional weight to it, and your pre-frontal cortex puts all of that together in a rational manner.
So how can you control dreaming? The first obvious step to simply be self-aware every time you dream. Usually, when you dream, the parts of your brain that control self-awareness are turned off. Thus, most people don’t even recognize the fact that they’re dreaming.
However, some people have mastered the art of always knowing when he or she is in a dream. In a study conducted by the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, these gifted individuals can consciously force the brain into being self-aware while dreaming. This ability of dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming is called lucid dreaming. Here are some easy steps to learn how to dream lucidly whenever you want!
1. Keep a dream journal
Everyone in the world dreams, but not everyone makes an active attempt to remember them. Keep a journal beside your bed where you can record your dreams immediately after waking up. It might seem prosaic at first, but keep at it nonetheless. This method will help you analyze your own dreams and pick out similarities. These similarities will help you be more aware of them if they reoccur in your dreams.
2. Set an alarm half an hour early
If you wake up thirty minutes earlier than your usual waking time, there is a good chance that you will be interrupting a dream. The sudden shift to consciousness will jar the brain awake, helping you to remember your dreams better. Another advantage is that if you fall asleep again within a few minutes, your chances of dreaming lucidly increases by 15-20%!
3. Keeping track of dream objects
As mentioned earlier, by keeping a dream journal, you can see what objects seem to frequently reappear in your dreams. In addition to this providing great insight towards your own self, these ‘special’ objects become indicators of the fact that you are in a dream. These are called ‘dreamsigns’ and they are different for different people (for example, red cats, flying objects, curly edges, etc). The more aware you are of these, the more you will be able to identify dreams from reality.
Meditate before you fall asleep. Even 20 minutes of quiet meditation will help you be more in control of your brain. Even if it doesn’t help you achieve lucid dreams, it’s still a great habit to have!
5. Reality checks
Don’t take your reality for granted! Have at least 10 reality checks every day. This may sound crazy, but bear with me. Ask yourself, ‘Am I dreaming right now?’ and legitimately try to answer the question by considering why your present reality is real. Look into a mirror and see your reflection. Read a sentence out loud. Check a wristwatch to see the time. Turn a switch on and off again. Usually in dreams, these easy acts will seem warped. Time seems hazy, reflections look strange, words swim in front of your eyes and things don’t work as they should. Therefore, if you keep up the practice of asking yourself questions when you’re awake, you will likely remember to do it even when your body is asleep.
6. Motivate your unconscious self
Before falling asleep, motivate yourself to recognize, remember and control your own dreams. Tell yourself: “Next time I’m dreaming, I will remember that I’m dreaming,” repeatedly, like a mantra. Be single-minded in your intent and focus on nothing but this mantra before sleeping. Remember not to get distracted, no matter what!
7. Boost your melatonin levels
Melatonin is a hormone in our pineal glands that regulates our sleep cycles. High melatonin levels positively affect the quality of our dreams and are imperative if you want to successfully lucid dream. But how do you increase your melatonin levels? One way is to always sleep in complete darkness. Another is to sleep and wake up at similar times every day. You can also eat foods that stimulate melatonin production, such as cherries, almonds, flax seeds, etc.
8. Learn to stay lucid
Once you do notice that you’re dreaming, it becomes quite hard to stay asleep. This is because your brain gets excited and you end up waking yourself up. But no worries! There are a few ways to prevent this from happening. For one, the excitement level will die down over time as you continue to lucid dream. Also, if you ever feel yourself waking up, simply look down at your dream floor and force your dream self to start spinning! This technique was discovered by Stephen LaBerge, a psychiatrist who studies lucid dreams. According to him, this familiar motion engages your senses and helps your brain refocus on your dream.
9. Try supplements
Research has proven that acetylcholine can measurably enhance your dreaming experience. The higher your acetylcholine levels are, the more persistent and broad your REM cycles are. You can increase acetylcholine levels in your body by taking supplements like Alpha Brain from Onnit. In addition to these, there are several other vitamins or drugs that can better your chances at being able to dream lucidly, and are readily available online.
10. Don’t lose hope
Most importantly, keep at it! Once you’ve begun knowing the difference between dreams and reality, you can grow more and more ambitious with your dream intentions. Basic lucid dreaming does not necessarily translate into being able to control your dreams completely. For that to happen, you have to keep practicing!