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Lucid Dreaming, Active Processing

How to lucid dream

This blog lays the foundation of what lucid dreams are and gives you practical tips on how to have more vivid, lucid dreams.

During lucid dreams, the sleeper is aware a dream is taking place, and will not leave the dream state. Some further define these phenomena as dreams in which the sleeper can exercise control over different aspects of their environment, though studies have found this is not always the case, and that certain people are more predisposed to “lucid dream control” than others.

Lucid dreaming techniques train your mind to notice your own consciousness. They’re also designed to help you regain or maintain consciousness as you enter REM sleep. Many of the ideas that help for dreaming come with the understanding that with consistent practice you may have more chances to lucid dream.

Here are 5 ideas to practice and become a lucid dreamer.

1. Reality testing

Reality testing, or reality checking, is a form of mental training. It increases metacognition (the act of thinking about thinking).

This may be related to the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in both reality testing and lucid dreaming. To enhance your metacognition, you can do reality tests while you’re awake.

For reality testing, follow these steps several times of day:

  • Ask yourself, Am I dreaming?”

  • Check your environment to confirm whether or not you are dreaming.

  • Notice your own consciousness and how you’re engaging with your surroundings.

You can set an alarm every two or three hours to remind yourself to do a reality check.

Here are common reality checks that people use to lucid dream:

  • Mirrors. Check your reflection to see if it looks normal.

  • Solid objects. Push your hand against a wall or table and see if it goes through. Some people push their fingers into their opposite palm.

  • Hands. Look at your hands. Do they look normal?

  • Time. If you’re dreaming, the time on a clock will constantly change. But if you’re awake, the time will barely change.

  • Breathing. This popular reality check involves pinching your nose and seeing if you can breathe. If you can still breathe, you’re dreaming.

It’s recommended to pick one reality check and do it multiple times a day. This will train your mind to repeat the reality checks while dreaming, which can induce lucid dreaming.

2. Wake back to bed (WBTB)

Wake back to bed (WBTB) involves entering REM sleep while you’re still conscious.

There are many versions of WBTB, but consider this technique:


  1. Set an alarm for five hours after your bedtime.

  2. Go to sleep as usual.

  3. When the alarm goes off, stay up for 30 minutes. Enjoy a quiet activity like reading.

  4. Fall back asleep.

When you go back to sleep, you’ll be more likely to lucid dream. While you’re awake, choose any activity that requires full alertness.

3. Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD)

Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD).

MILD is based on a behavior called prospective memory, which involves setting an intention to do something later.

In MILD, you make the intention to remember that you’re dreaming.

To use the MILD technique:

  1. As you fall asleep, think of a recent dream.

  2. Identify a “dream sign,” or something that’s irregular or strange in the dream. An example is the ability to fly.

  3. Think about returning to the dream. Acknowledge that the dream sign only happens when you dream.

  4. Tell yourself, “The next time I dream, I want to remember that I am dreaming.” Recite the phrase in your head.

You can also practice MILD after waking up in the middle of dream. This is usually recommended, as the dream will be fresher in your mind. The combination of reality testing, WBTB, and MILD works best. You can combine WBTB with MILD by setting alarm to wake up in five hours. While you’re awake, practice MILD.

4. Keeping a dream journal

Keeping a dream journal, or dream diary, is a popular method for initiating lucid dreaming. When you write down your dreams, you’re forced to remember what happens during each dream. It’s said to help you recognize dream signs and enhance awareness of your dreams.

For best results, log your dreams as soon as you wake up. It’s also recommended to read your dream journal often.

5. Wake-initiated lucid dreaming (WILD)

A Wake-Initiated Lucid Dream (WILD) happens when you directly enter a dream from waking life. It’s said WILD helps your mind stays conscious while your body goes to sleep. Think active imagination with sleeping actively.

You’ll need to lie down and relax until you experience a dream like feeling, or a hallucination that occurs when you’re just about to fall asleep. WILD is simple, but it’s difficult to learn. Practicing the other lucid dreaming induction techniques will increase your chances of WILD.

Dr. Ryan Westrum, PhD, LMFT uses DreamWork and dream groups as a complement to his couple, individual and group therapy practice. Focusing on the integration of dreams and healing in his client’s journey. Contact him at or to learn more about upcoming dream groups.


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