Dreamscaping: How To Control What Dreams You Have At Night (Or At Least Try)

Your dreams are the one place where you can be absolutely anyone or anything. From marrying your celebrity crush to falling off a skyscraper, nothing is impossible when you're dreaming — which can either be terrifying or deeply satisfying. The only trouble is you don't get to choose whether you have a good dream or a nightmare; as dream expert and author Theresa Cheung told Refinery29, we "can never control or fully predict" what will happen in our dreams. But there still may be a way to have just a little influence over what we see in our heads when we're sleeping.


Dreamscaping pertains to the art of trying to control your dreams (maybe to dream about someone in particular — no judgment here!) and while Cheung has confirmed that you can't guarantee the course of a dream, there are techniques you can follow to increase your chances of the dream going your way. 

A 2017 study from the University of Adelaide suggests that it may be possible to induce lucid dreaming, where a person can control what is happening in the dream because they're aware that they're not fully awake. The therapy technique known as the waking dream process, meanwhile, can allow the participant to return to a dream in their imagination.

How to influence your dreams

While we can't have complete control over our dreams the way we simply select what to stream on Netflix, we can get in touch with our unconscious through the waking dream process. Therapist and author Kalanit Ben-Ari, PhD, told Refinery29 that this is "where the therapist uses relaxation techniques to guide the client to relive their dream in their imagination." The process allows participants to "can gain clarity about the deeper meaning of your psyche, emotional state, and spiritual guidance."


However, it's also possible to have some influence over your dreams without working with a therapist. Theresa Cheung told the outlet that it's simply a matter of setting an intention to dream about something in particular, because our brains are "very suggestible."

"You can write down the dream you want on a piece of paper and pop that under your pillow," Cheung explained. "Sometimes written words imprint themselves deeper onto your unconscious more strongly than thoughts." This isn't guaranteed to work, but it will give you the best chance of controlling your dream.

The 2017 University of Adelaide research posits that people can increase their chances of lucid dreaming by following specific techniques. One is to assess your surroundings frequently throughout the day to ensure you're not dreaming; this can encourage you to do the same in your sleep. You can also try waking up after five hours of sleep and instruct yourself to "remember" that you're dreaming before falling back asleep.


Using your dreams to stimulate creativity

Just as we may be able to have some influence over the dreams we have, we can also purposely stimulate creativity and imagination by tapping into certain dream states. Rather than planning in advance what will come into your head, you can utilize transitional periods between wakefulness and sleep to become aware of surrealist or out-there ideas that pop into your brain on their own. This is known as hypnagogic dreaming.


Around 70% of people experience hallucinations during hypnagogia, the period during which a person falls asleep (via Healthline). Some known creatives and visionaries are believed to have induced their own hypnagogic dreaming to come up with new ideas, including the inventor Thomas Edison and artist Salvador Dali. While you won't be able to control your dreams during this state, you can harness the creativity that can come out of them — as long as you wake yourself up to remember it.

The most well-known way to wake yourself up during hypnagogia is to fall asleep sitting upright, while holding something that will make a noise when it hits the floor. That way, you'll snap out of your hypnagogic state when you drop it, hopefully remembering the ideas that came to you as you were drifting off to sleep.