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What is it Like to Have a Lucid Dream?

In this video, I'm going to talk a little bit about what it's like to actually have a lucid dream, so that you know what to expect. But before I get into that, let's make sure that were on the same page and define what a lucid dream is.

This is a free video from Week 1 of my Lucid Dreaming Training Video Course. You can get the accompanying Week 1 Coursebook by subscribing to my eNewsletter.

Video transcript:

What are lucid dreams?

Lucid dreams tend to be extremely vivid and very exciting, however, that's not what defines a lucid dream. A lucid dream is simply any dream where you know for sure that you're in a dream while the dream is still happening.

Lucid dreaming gives you the ability to control the dream deliberately, however, this also doesn't define a lucid dream, and in fact many lucid dreamers prefer to simply explore passively without trying to control the dream at all.

So again, a lucid dream is simply when you know that you're dreaming while you're still asleep and in the dream.

Lucid dreaming has been scientifically validated

For a long time, scientists we're actually very sceptical about whether lucid dreaming was a genuine phenomenon at all. Many of them dismissed the reports of lucid dreaming as either wild fantasies or instances of vivid daydreaming. Fortunately, in the 1970s we got scientific confirmation that lucid dreaming is a genuine phenomenon, and it's really interesting how this was done.

During his PhD in psychology, Dr. Keith Hearne asked an experienced lucid dreamer to go into the laboratory and then send a signal from within a lucid dream, which he could record. But how could you do this? How could you get a person within a dream to send a signal to someone who is awake?

Most of the muscles in the body are paralysed during sleep. However, the eyes, as well as the lungs and a few other muscles are exceptions. So, what Dr Hearne did, was ask the lucid dreamer to send a signal using eye movements. Specifically, the eye movements were left-right-left right-left-right-left-right.

Dr. Hearne was able to record these eye movements using electrooculogram in the laboratory, and on one night the dreamer was able to successfully produce the signal. They then woke up, and said “I had a lucid dream! Did you catch the signal?” Dr. Hearne did, and this was the first confirmation of lucid dreaming as a real phenomenon. Since then, many other scientists have been able to successfully reproduce this finding.

The eye signalling method has made it possible to conduct some fascinating experiments about mind-body relationships within the dreaming state. For example, it's been possible to ask people to do simple tasks within dream and do eye movement signals before and after. So for example, you could say to someone, “we'd like you to do an eye signal when you become lucid, and then estimate the passage of ten seconds of time. Then do another signal.” Using this method, we now know that at least short periods of time can be quite accurately measured within a dream. We see that the distance between the two signals is approximately 10 seconds when people do this.

How do lucid dreams occur?

Lucid dreams can occur in one of two main ways. One of them is a Dream Induced Lucid Dream and the other is a Wake Induced Lucid Dream, or DILD and WILD for short. In fact, many, lucid dreaming terms are acronyms that include “ILD” at the end. You've got MILD, SSILD, FILD and many others.

A Dream Induced Lucid Dream is when you're in a non-lucid dream to begin with, and then at some point during that dream you realise that you're dreaming. That's the point where you become lucid. So, you become lucid from a non-lucid dream, hence the term Dream Induced Lucid Dream.

The other way to become lucid is to have a Wake Induced Lucid Dream. Not many people know this, but it's actually possible to enter into a dream directly from the waking state, without ever having a lapse in conscious awareness. It's not the easiest thing to do, but with a little bit of trial and error most people can get the hang of it.

Basically, what you do is you keep your mind active during the process of falling asleep, and if you're able to prevent yourself from falling unconscious, you actually get to observe the whole process of falling asleep. Eventually, you'll see a dream form around you. The beauty of this is that your lucid right from the start of the dream, which allows you to have the maximum duration of lucidity possible.

Later in this course, I'll teach you how to do both DILD and WILD techniques.

How long do lucid dreams go for?

Most lucid dreams go for between a few seconds, up to about 10 or 15 minutes. The shorter dreams usually happen for beginners who haven't yet learned to stay calm in their dreams and who end up waking up prematurely as a consequence, but with practice, you're able to extend the length of your dreams and it's possible to have lucid dreams to go through an entire rapid eye movement sleep period. This means that it's possible to have lucid dreams that go up to an hour or more with practice.

The experience of becoming lucid

Once you're in a lucid dream, most people report that the experience is extremely exciting and exhilarating. Most non-lucid dreams are actually either negatively valanced in terms of emotion, or neutral. However lucid dreams tend to be somewhere between neutral and positively valanced in terms of emotion. In other words, lucid dreams are really fun, and they feel good most of the time.

One exception to this is if you've become lucid during a nightmare. This is actually fairly common, and when you think about it, it's not surprising. During a nightmare, you're in a heightened state of awareness. You're probably quite stressed. You're quite vigilant about what's going on around you, and as a consequence, many people become lucid in their nightmares. However, the negative emotions of this are due to the nightmare, not lucidity itself.

How realistic are lucid dreams?

When you're in a lucid dream you'll find that the kinds of environments you see around you are usually just as real as waking life. Object feels solid. All of the senses are usually working at full capacity. Usually, when people talk about their dreams, they don't report much in the way of smell or taste or touch. It's usually more to do with vision and hearing, but this isn't because those senses are not present in the dream. It's more to do with the fact that we're such visual- and hearing-oriented creatures in the first place.

Think about yesterday – if you think about your memories of yesterday, most of them probably involve what you were thinking about, what you were looking at, and what you were hearing. You'd have to specifically think about what you ate or times when you smelled something to recall those sensations. But the whole time, the senses of touch, taste, and smell were available all day. The same is true in dreams.

One of the wonderful things about a lucid dream, is it gives you a chance to deliberately have a look around and see what it's like. You can test out all of your senses, and most people when they have their first lucid dream are amazed to find that it really does feel just as real as waking life most of the time.

Lucid dream environments

Now, let's talk a little bit about dream environments, or the kind of situations and locations you can be in. These usually fall into one of three different categories: we've got typical environments, surreal environments, and minimal environments.

As the name suggests, typical dream environments usually resemble the kinds of things that you might encounter whilst awake. So, you might be dreaming about houses or other people. You might be in a forest or walking down a street. These are all examples of typical dream environments.

Less commonly, you can have surreal dream environments. These can take any number of different forms. You might find yourself in a strange alien world. It might feel like you're in a video game or that you're in some kind of anime movie.

Another relatively uncommon kind of dream environment is the minimal perceptual environment. These are usually quite dark and shadowy. You might not even be able to see anything at all, and they most commonly occur during the transition between a typical or surreal environment and waking up.

So, if you enter a minimal perceptual environment it could mean that you're on the verge of waking up. Later in the course I'll teach you what to do if you find yourself in that situation to come back into a more fully formed environment and continue your lucid dream.

Mental abilities within lucid dreams

Normally, the ability to think clearly and recall information from the waking world is just as good in a lucid dream as it would be when you're awake. However, these abilities can vary in lucid dreams and they can be a little bit impaired. The reason for this is that normally when we're dreaming, the parts of the brain that are involved in critical thinking and self-awareness are selectively deactivated. This is one of the reasons why we dream about such strange things but don't realise that they're strange until we wake up and reflect on them and know that they really were very bizarre.

When you become lucid, those parts of the brain in the frontal cortex actually become a lot more active again. However, there can be some fluctuations in this. For this reason, I always recommend that if there's something you want to do in your lucid dreams, you should plan it out in advance and even act it out before you go to bed. That way, when you become lucid you won’t have to think about it – you will just be able to do what you intend to do automatically.

Mind-body relationships in lucid dreams

Before, I mentioned some of the experiments where scientists looked at time duration using the eye signalling method. Well, many studies have looked at mind-body relationships and have found that when you perform an action in your dreams, it's basically real for the body and to the mind.

We see very minor muscle activation in the same muscles of the physical body when you move in your dreams. We also see the same activation in the motor cortex of the brain. When you're looking at things and when you're feeling things or sensing things, again, we see the same parts of the brain light up as if you were actually awake.

Dream control in lucid dreams

The last thing I'm going to talk about is the exciting subject of dream control. Now, just like learning how to have lucid dreams to begin with, controlling your dreams is a skill that can be developed and improved with time with practice. As you get better at this, it's possible to do virtually anything you can imagine. You can fly through the sky or breathe underwater, walk through walls, or shoot fireballs out of your hands. You can also manifest specific objects or people you want to talk to or change to different locations.

However, this raises the question of whether there's any harm associated with controlling your dreams. Some people have wondered whether dream control might interfere with some kind of important unconscious psychological process.

There's currently no evidence to suggest that this is the case, and in fact most people feel invigorated and inspired when they wake up from lucid dreams, and they carry these feelings over into the day ahead. Also, if you think about it, even if you have a lucid dream tonight, most of your dreams are going to be non-lucid. And even if you do control your dreams, that control is still going to be a small portion of what's happening in the dream. Most of what's going on will be determined by unconscious processes, so next time you have a lucid dream, you can rest assured that if you want to try controlling the dream it's probably not going to cause you any harm.

Later in this course I'm going to teach you some techniques for achieving specific outcomes and controlling your dreams, and then we'll talk about some of the applications of lucid dreaming. But as you're first learning, I'd recommend that you just focus on keeping the dream going for as long as possible, which I'm going to talk about in the video called “What to do if you have a lucid dream”.

If you've enjoyed this video and if you're interested in learning how to have lucid dreams, then I invite you to check out my Lucid Dreaming Training Course. My course is based on the latest scientific research, including my own International Lucid Dream Induction Study. The course is also based on my experience of teaching people all over the world how to have lucid dreams one-on-one via Skype. I’ll teach you my best tips and tricks for learning lucid dreaming, and at the end of the course I'll show you how to make your own personalised lucid dreaming training program based on the techniques that were most effective for you. If you'd like to find out more about the course, simply visit:

Thank you for watching!


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