Three small tweaks could let you control your dreams, according to new research.
If they work, you'll be able to have "lucid dreams" – ones in which the dreamer is aware they're dreaming and can choose what happens. Those who have them describe them as intense, exciting experiences, often leaving those who can't jealous.
A number of techniques – more or less scientifically based – have claimed to induce lucid dreams, but many have failed. Now new research from Australia shows that the routines are incredibly reliable ways of encouraging lucid dreams.
All three of the techniques may work to induce the state. But by combining them, the chance of them occuring is far higher than the average, the research from the University of Adelaide found.
The first is relatively simple: check around your environment multiple times per day to see if you're dreaming. This presumably induces a state where you're more open to the possibility of having a dream you can control, and so helps that happen when you're actually in bed.
The second involves slightly more planning. Researcher Denholm Aspy encourages going to sleep, then waking up after five hours; staying awake for a short period after that, then going back to sleep. That's thought to encourage REM sleep, during which lucid dreams are far more likely to occur.
And the third is probably the most bizarre, though also the most obvious. It's called mnemonic induction of lucid dreams, and that long name stands for something fairly simple: after you wake up after five hours, repeat to yourself "the next time I'm dreaming, I will remember that I'm dreaming" and imagine yourself in a lucid dream.
The three techniques were tested on 47 people, of whom 17 per cent had lucid dreams in one week. That number appears low, but is actually far higher than the normal number of people who experience them.
But those who use the third technique properly have even higher success. For people who fell asleep five minutes after completing the routine, 46 per cent had lucid dreams – much, much higher than would normally be expected.
"The MILD technique works on what we call 'prospective memory' - that is, your ability to remember to do things in the future. By repeating a phrase that you will remember you're dreaming, it forms an intention in your mind that you will, in fact, remember that you are dreaming, leading to a lucid dream," says Dr Aspy, who is a visiting research fellow at the university's School of Psychology.
"Importantly, those who reported success using the MILD technique were significantly less sleep deprived the next day, indicating that lucid dreaming did not have any negative effect on sleep quality," he says.
Dr Aspy suggested that once the ability to reliably induce lucid dreaming works, it could be used to treat other problems.
"These results take us one step closer to developing highly effective lucid dream induction techniques that will allow us to study the many potential benefits of lucid dreaming, such as treatment for nightmares and improvement of physical skills and abilities through rehearsal in the lucid dream environment," Dr Aspy says.
He is conducting further experiments on making the techniques even more potent.
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