Psychology | Sleep | Self-improvement
How to Transport Yourself Anywhere with Lucid Dreaming
For when you’re a bit sick of reality.
How many times have you been murdered in your dreams and jerked back into reality? You knew you were dreaming, but had no control over it. The brakes on your car don’t work, your teeth are falling out, or you forgot to put on pants when going to school.
Chances are you’ve lucid dreamt at least once. The movie Inception distills this activity in a fantastic few hours, and it’s incredibly fascinating to know how much our noggins still run when we rest. With enough focus and control, you can launch yourself into flight like a bird or marry your celebrity crush. Or crushes.
Rapid eye movement sleep occurs about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Your heart rate increases and your breathing quickens. These stages last about 10 seconds initially and extend as your night goes on, with dreams becoming more intense. You are more likely to have bad dreams in the early hours of the morning but will last for a short window.
In 2012, Brooks & Peever conducted a study on rats, seeing how particular muscle groups were switched off during REM sleep. They found the chemicals responsible for muscle movement are GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and glycine. Our bodies release these hormones into our brains, freezing our muscles. This is to prevent us from acting out in our dreams. Sleepwalkers’ bodies don’t release enough of this chemical, hence their walking.
How to build and control your own dreams
Your dreams will never be linear, and plenty of divergent elements will leak in. You can catch the moment you’re on the brink of falling asleep and begin to see things your mind slowly creates. You can take reference from anything you see in your waking hours, like a beach you want to visit. It’s normal to see strange, morphed blobs. Control your thoughts and create something you want. Use your focus as a canvas, creating your lighting, landscape, and how subjects move.
Start with your breathing
The fastest way to fall asleep is by slowing your breathing. As I write this, I find it entertaining and farfetched because it’s pretty easy to knock out when doing it.
- Lie in a comfortable position and completely relax your body.
- Inhale for 6 seconds and exhale for 8. Your heart rate will lower significantly after a few minutes.
- You’ll start to see objects or people as your mind goes fuzzy. This is the key moment to start creating.
- Your breathing may quicken and become shallow. Focus hard, and visualise a chair in a meadow, or someone wearing a top hat, smoking in a dimly lit bar.
How do I realise I’m in?
How do you catch yourself dreaming if you’re already… sleeping? Practice giving yourself reality checks in your waking hours. Count the fingers on your hand, notice your fingernails, examine the clock on the wall — notice little details. Do this also while you dream, and compare those details to what you know.
When you go to sleep, continually think about wanting to dream. With enough practice, you’ll know when you’re about to detach from your waking mind.
Telling you to enjoy your dream from this point on would be a disservice to your unique experience. The experience will never be linear. You will remember the middle parts of your dream, but never the beginning, or how you got there.
One time, I vividly remember walking down a stretch of urban shopfronts at night. silver trash cans sat at the front, overfilled with trash bags. They had metal garage doors pulled over, each with a single, blue downlight at the front. They were all closed except one. The open store sold batteries, techy tidbits and guns.
As I walked further down the road, someone violently grabbed me around the torso from behind. Their accomplice walked in front of me, holding a large knife. I can’t tell you the point where I recognised I was dreaming, but I know I was always aware and in control. They stabbed me in stomach but somehow kicked my way out of their grip. I could’ve woken up at that moment, but decided to run into that open shop selling batteries and guns.
I didn’t allow myself to feel pain from the stab which is part of the beauty of lucid dreaming. I snatched a gun off their wall, a conveniently pre-loaded shotgun. I shot both attackers in their stomachs and woke up a brief time after.
How do I remember all this detail? I can’t put my finger on it. I can only say that I had a solid grasp of my mind.
Beware of sleep paralysis
If you sleep on your back, this is more likely to happen. I’ve never experienced it myself, but I’m always fascinated when I hear about people’s stories.
My mum used to tell me about her sleeping experiences during her younger years. She would wake up in the middle of the night, unable to move her body. She talked about seeing apparitions sitting on her chest, paralysing her, and suppressing her breathing. It would disappear after a while, but the traumatic experience was permanently carved into her mind. Some people go to such ends as becoming insomniacs to avoid the risk of it happening again.
To get out of this state (perhaps easier said than done), realise that what you are seeing isn’t real. Get hold of your mind and begin to wiggle tiny muscle groups. Start with your toes and fingers. Your body will begin to catch up to your already woken brain and break free of paralysis.
There is no concrete, factual reasoning behind hallucinations. Most suspect our mind projects dream imagery into reality. This can be from your fears or insecurities, but nobody can put their finger on it.
An experienced lucid dreamer may actually be aware of this state and will successfully prevent their mind from being transported to unwanted states. They will realise they’ve woken from their dream, but know their body is frozen, and keep their eyes closed as they begin to move small muscle groups.
Why do it?
Some people have traumatic nightmares, some have no issue separating their waking and sleeping life. I lucid dream because I find it fun. The freedom to forge anything you want, in your own world, satisfies my fascination for how powerful our brains are.
Tonight I may dream about eating all the cheese I want, without the digestion problems.