Hey sleep enthusiast,
Have you ever wondered ‘can you control your dreams?’. It's a curious question I get asked from time to time when I share that I work as a sleep coach. Usually from people who are interested in personal development, whether that’s other coaches or people who have been exploring ways to expand their consciousness. That could be through things like breathwork, ecstatic dance, psychedelics or other practices.
This blog article is part of a wider series on dreams, the different altered states that we experience on the way to sleep and the potential they hold for personal growth. As a lifelong learner and sleep geek, I am continually discovering new perspectives and learnings from this intriguing field. If these topics come up for exploration with clients, it’s typically from the middle to the end of their sleep coaching journey. That’s after we have covered the sleep hygiene basics. Speaking of which, if you’re struggling with your sleep at the moment, these tips for using CBTI to help your sleep routine are for you.
The dream-related blog articles are for when you have the energy to consider optimising your energy and your self-development. So if you have been doing okay for sleep recently and are curious to learn more about lucid dreaming, let’s do a reality check and then see how far the rabbit hole goes...
How common are lucid dreams?
Research shows that 55% of adults have experienced at least one lucid dream, whilst 23% have them once a month or more. People are lucid dreaming out there! Most of us can experience them, although it does take some practice to access this particular altered state. Lucid dreams are believed to mostly happen during the REM stage of sleep, so you do need to be getting reasonably reliable sleep to risk interrupting that. You have been warned!
My personal experience with lucid dreaming came along when I was well on my way out of my insomnia days, yet tentatively still following all of the sleep best practices to stay on the right track. We’re talking about following sleep hygiene guidance in my bedroom, as well as routinely dream journalling and practicing deep relaxation before bedtime.
Can you really control your dreams?
I wasn’t specifically trying to achieve lucid dreaming, my experiences came to me as more like funny gifts! In my moments of lucidity, I noticed that I would become frivolous and try to do things like fly and run into walls just to see what happens.
After lucid dreaming, I was keen to find out more about what had been going on during my wacky dreamtime adventures. In my research, I came across lots of guides about being able to control your dreams, as well as people on a mission to achieve that state of control.
For me, lucid dreaming was more about being an active participant in my dreams. Which cultivated qualities of openness and acceptance in me. Both in terms of how I saw myself, as well as experiences that took place - more on these below.
So how can you experience lucid dreams? Some methods you can try are:
Ah, the reality check! Such a useful concept to use in all areas of life. Creating that habit for lucid dreaming is literally asking yourself ‘am I dreaming?’ as you go throughout your day. It helps to suspend reality - because, of course you’re awake. But can you take a moment to get present in your body and check anyway?
You could also check if you are breathing by holding your nose. Or look in a mirror and see if your reflection looks normal (in a lucid dream it could be distorted or shifting). Seeing how you interact with solid objects can be a good way to check, that's because in a lucid dream your hand could push through a desk or chair.
Wake back to bed (WBTB)
Now this technique takes some commitment and is strictly for people who get reliable sleep and are willing to have some sleep deprivation. Yes, I’m being extra careful not to disturb anyone's hard-won, precious sleep quality here! The method involves waking in the night after some hours of sleep, staying active for a while (typically 30 - 120 minutes), then going back to sleep and hopefully a lucid dream. This can then flow into the MILD technique.
Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD)
The MILD approach makes use of the prospective memory brain function, which is the ability to remember to carry out intended actions in the future. You can practice this by remembering a recent dream and identifying a specific detail from it (dream journaling helps with the detail part). This should be something that shows you that you are definitely dreaming because it doesn’t exist in your everyday, waking life. Like living in a house with a different door, having a pet unicorn or whatever else you may dream up.
As you fall asleep, focus on the detail from your dream, repeating the phrase ‘next time I’m asleep, I will remember I’m dreaming’ in your mind. If you can stay with the altered state of lucid dreaming as you are drifting off between wakefulness and deep sleep, the next step is to take a reality check. What happens to your breath when you hold your nose? How about running up that wall?
How can lucid dreaming help with personal development?
As well as being lots of fun to explore and be adventurous, the main gifts of lucid dreaming as I see them include:
This comes through noticing and understanding the states we are in, as well as through checking reality. It can help with finding your own way, inner guidance and voice, which is one of the core values of how Restful Sleep coaching works.
Cultivating more openness
This happens in being able to accept when life takes an odd turn with less resistance. It’s also needed to practice new ways of being and take different actions for our dreams to come true in real life! Openness also relates to another Restful Sleep coaching core value: that of believing everyday things are art.
These qualities stand in contrast to when we have limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world. With limiting beliefs, we bring extra tension into our minds, bodies and lives, restricting our joy in life, as well as what we would love to have in our lives.
How Restful Sleep coaching can help create your dream life
Exploring limiting beliefs and cultivating where there may be scope for more awareness and openness gives a flavour of the work I do with clients in the Wake Up Rested & Make Bold Changes sleep coaching journey.
After establishing sleep into a more regular rhythm, we move into looking at how people would like to use the new-found energy that they reclaimed from their sleep struggles. Helping people to create lives that light them up, now they are no longer struggling with managing sleep deprivation and trying to catch up on rest.
If this sounds like something you may be curious to know more about, I can offer you a free 30 minute discovery call. This is where you can share where you’re at and find out about how coaching could support your situation. Whether you want to connect more to the life you would love to live, with actions to bring it into reality. Or if you’d like support in exploring insights you may have had from dreams and in-between states for your personal growth, a call is the quickest way for you to find out how Restful Sleep coaching could help.