Can You Actually Make Yourself Start Lucid Dreaming?

Dreams have many benefits for the mind and brain. A 1985 research study from Piedmont suggests that dreams help consolidate newly received information, activate brain connections, and encourage sharper thinking. Ninety minutes into your sleep, you'll usually enter stage R, otherwise known as rapid eye movement (R.E.M.). During this time, your brain activity and your breathing typically go up, sending you into vivid dreams. Most of the time, we don't have any control over what we encounter in our dreams. Some dream of riding on brooms, while others see themselves chased around by demons. When it's a long and vivid dream, we tend to wake up believing the content of the dream really happened IRL. 


There are moments, however, when we're asleep but aware of what's going on in our dreams. In these dreams, your mind becomes unusually alert, and you even get a strong sense of conviction that you're dreaming. When you know everything is a dream and it will come to an end, you'll be more able to control the shape and size of its narrative. This phenomenon is known as lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming, per a study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, is to dream while knowing that you're dreaming, and you have some control over your dream state. Here's why and how lucid dreaming comes about. 

How lucid dreams happen

The Greek philosopher Aristotle first described a lucid dream in his essay "On Dreams," where he talked about becoming aware that what he was experiencing was just a dream. Truth be told, there's not much science-backed information as to how and why lucid dreams happen. The majority of lucid dreaming, per the Sleep Foundation, happens during R.E.M., the fourth and last stage of a regular sleep cycle. Studies also suggested that the people who are most likely to have lucid dreams are those with a bigger prefrontal cortex, which is often seen in people who are more reflective and creative. The frequency of lucid dreams tends to decline with age and is higher in women.


Lucid dreams, albeit infrequent, have many benefits for your mind. When you're in a lucid dream, you are the protagonist who writes your own ending, and the rest are just supporting actors. That sense of control makes you feel less anxious, more empowered, and more fulfilled when you wake up. It also improves your creativity and reflexes. If you have nightmares a lot, lucid dreaming is your saving grace. Lucid dreaming is not a given, but it's a skill you can learn.

You can train yourself to lucid dream

To navigate your inner worlds with awareness more often, there are techniques that you can practice to maintain consciousness as you enter this stage. According to Healthline, you can train your mind to understand your own thought processes, keep a sleep journal to recognize your dream signs, get more R.E.M. time by following a fixed sleep schedule, or wake up at a preset time and retire to bed after a short period of wakefulness. While it's fun to tread the narrow line between dreams and reality, lucid dreaming might pose some pitfalls to your mental well-being. People who experience more vivid lucid dreams tend to have a higher risk for sleep problems, depression, and dissociative disorders, the Sleep Foundation warns. Intense and emotional lucid dreams can also disrupt sleep and evolve into nightmares.


Lucid dreaming, albeit unpredictable, can give you relief by helping you regain control over your dream state. Because of its association with metacognition, which involves understanding your own thought processes, lucid dreaming can also be used in therapy to treat recurring nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you have pre-existing mental or sleep conditions, speak to your psychologist or a healthcare provider for expert opinions before attempting to induce lucid dreams.