Have you ever consciously changed the course of a dream? If so, then you are one of the 55 percent of people who have experienced a lucid dream. Lucid dreaming is rare. Only about 23 percent of individuals have a lucid dream once a month or more. Some of the benefits of lucid dreaming include a significant decrease in sleep deprivation. But they may also be beneficial for healing trauma, controlling unhealthy behavior and dealing with nightmares.
For the first time, techniques by Dr. Denholm Aspy, a visiting professor at the School of Psychology at the University of Adelaide in Australia, have been independently verified to induce lucid dreaming. During his week-long study on 169 participants, a record-breaking 53 percent of participants had lucid dreams, with 17 percent successful each night.
“Lucid dreams feel just as real as waking life most of the time,” said Aspy. “You move around and walk, all the senses are there.”
Aspy’s research concerned three induction techniques, none of which require any external equipment (except an alarm clock).
The first is called reality testing. In reality testing, participants check their environment several times a day to confirm whether they are dreaming.
The “wake back to bed” technique involves waking up after five hours, staying awake for about five minutes, and then going back to sleep. This increases the chance of entering a REM sleep period, in which dreams are more likely to occur.
The final technique is called mnemonic induction of lucid dreams, or MILD. MILD involves waking up after five hours of sleep, and developing the intention to remember that you are dreaming before going back to sleep. This is achieved by repeating the phrase: “The next time I’m dreaming, I will remember that I’m dreaming.”
“The MILD technique works on what we call ‘prospective memory,’—that is, your ability to remember to do things in the future,” explained Aspy. “By repeating a phrase that you will remember you’re dreaming, it forms an intention in your mind that you will, in fact, remember that you are dreaming, leading to a lucid dream.”
Those who tried the combination of MILD and reality testing had the greatest chance of having a lucid dream, at 53 percent. Those who tried reality testing alone, however, showed no benefit.
Does all this dream control make you, well, need a nap? According to Aspy, no. “Importantly, those who reported success using the MILD technique were significantly less sleep deprived the next day, indicating that lucid dreaming did not have any negative effect on sleep quality,” he said.
Aspy hopes this research will have benefits that reach to the waking hours. “These results take us one step closer to developing highly effective lucid dream induction techniques that will allow us to study the many potential benefits of lucid dreaming, such as treatment for nightmares and improvement of physical skills and abilities through rehearsal in the lucid dream environment.”
You can read the full study in the journal Dreaming.