Lucid Dreaming

Astral Travel

Lucid dreaming is awareness of the fact that you are dreaming. This awareness can range from very faint recognition of the fact (which is often too brief and nebulous to be considered truly lucid) to something as momentous as a broadening of awareness beyond what has ever been experienced even in waking life. What a dreamer does with lucidity reflects personal tendencies and levels of skill attained usually through experience and practice. Although a lucid dreamer can influence the dream’s structure, characters, course, etc., it is not a given that a lucid dream is about what the dreamer wants it to be about. Seasoned lucid dreamers who are more often lucid than not will continue to encounter psychological and developmental challenges in the dreamscape. The agreeable and the distressing,the easy and difficult, beautiful and horrifying, are all occasioned much as they are in regular dreaming. But whereas a regular dream is filled with the convoluted subtleties of the subconscious mind enumerating its issues before a largely unconscious dreamer, a lucid dreamer has the opportunity to consciously explore at any level. Lucid dreams usually occur while a person is in the middle of a regular dream and suddenly realizes that he or she is dreaming. The person is then said to be “lucid”, and may enter one of many levels of lucidity. At the lowest level, the dreamer may be dimly aware that he or she is dreaming, but not think rationally enough to realize that events/people/actions in the dream are not real/pose no threat. At the highest level, the dreamer is fully aware that she or he is asleep, and can have complete control over his or her actions in the dream. However, with low mental control your decisions could be biased not by your opinion, but by your brain. You can control your dreams using the lucid dreaming methods that follow.


  1. 1

    During the day, repeatedly ask “Am I dreaming?” and perform some reality checks whenever you remember. With practice, if it happens enough, you will automatically remember it during your dreams and do it.

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  2. 2

    Keep a dream journal. This is perhaps the most important step towards lucid dreaming. Keep it close by your bed at night, and write in it immediately after waking. Or you can keep a recording device if you find it easier to repeat your dream out loud. This helps you recognize your common dream elements (people from your past, specific places, etc.), and also tells your brain that you are serious about remembering your dreams! It will also help you to recognize things that are unique to your dreams. You will be able to recognize your own “dream signs.” These will be recurring things or events that you may notice in your dreams.

  3. 3

    Learn the best time to have a lucid dream. By being aware of your personal sleepschedule, you can arrange your sleep pattern to help induce lucid dreams.

    • Studies strongly suggest that a nap a few hours after waking in the morning is the most common time to have a lucid dream.
    • Lucid dreams are strongly associated with REM sleep. REM sleep is more abundant just before the final awakening. This means they most commonly occur right beforewaking up. (Sleep-onset REM is a symptom of narcolepsy. If you have lucid dreams right after falling asleep, you may wish to consider seeking medical advice from a sleep medicine specialist. However, there are studies which show people can recall dreams after being awakened during non-REM sleep).
    • Dreams usually run in 60-minute (Weiten Psych book 2004) cycles during sleep. If you are working on dream recall, it may be helpful to try waking yourself up during one of these cycles (interrupted dreams are often the ones we remember).
  4. 4

    Try Stephen Laberge’s mnemonic induction of lucid dreaming (MILD) technique.

    • Set your alarm clock to wake you up 4 ½, 6, or 7 ½ hours after falling asleep.
    • When you are awakened by your alarm clock, try to remember the dream as much as possible.
    • When you think you have remembered as much as you can, return to your place of rest, imagining that you are in your previous dream, and becoming aware that you are dreaming. Say to yourself, “I will be aware that I’m dreaming,” or something similar. Do this until you think that it has “sunk in.” Then go to sleep.
    • If random thoughts pop up when you are trying to fall asleep, repeat the imagining, self-suggestion part, and try again. Don’t worry if you think it’s taking a long time. The longer it takes, the more likely it will ‘sink in,’ and the more likely you will have a lucid dream.
  5. 5

    Attempt the WBTB (Wake Back To Bed) Technique. This is the most successful technique.

    • Set your alarm clock to 5 hours after you fall asleep.
    • Fall asleep.
    • After you wake up, stay up for an hour with your mind focused on lucidity and lucidity only.
    • Go back to sleep using the MILD technique.
  6. 6

    Try attempting the WILD (wake initiated lucid dream) technique. Basically what it means is that when you fall asleep you carry your awareness from when you were awake directly into REM sleep and you start out as a lucid dream.

    • The easiest way to attempt this technique is if you take an afternoon nap or you have only slept for 3-7 hours.
    • Try to meditate into a calm but focused state. You can try counting breaths, imaging ascending/descending stairs, dropping through the solar system, being in a quiet soundproof area, etc.
    • Listening to Theta binaural beats for an amount time will easily put you into a REM sleep.
    • See the warnings at the bottom, as these are very important.
  7. 7

    Another technique for overall “dream awareness” is the Diamond Method of meditation, which can shortcut the overall learning curve, of Lucid Dreaming.

    • When one meditates, try to visualize your life, both awake and dream-life as facets on a diamond. Some choose to call this “diamond” the Universe, others God, and even “your Spirit.” The point here is to begin to recognize that life is happening all at once. It is only our “Perception” that arranges our dramas into linear or “timed” order. So just as a diamond just is, each facet if viewed as an individual experience, still is going on at the same time the “Dream Body” experiences as well. This method is also known by Remote Viewers. Remember it is just a slight shift in awareness that this exercise calls for.
  8. 8

    Immerse yourself in the subject of lucid dreaming. For example, you can look on lucid dreaming websites, watch movies with lucid dreaming (eg. Waking Life, Vanilla sky, Inception), read books about it, etc…

  9. 9

    Try marking an “A” (which stands for “awake”) on your palm. Every time you notice the “A” during your waking hours challenge whether you are awake or asleep. Eventually you may see the “A” in your sleep and become lucid.

  10. 10

    What time is it?Get into the habit of doing reality checks. Do at least three reality checks every time something seems out of the ordinary, strongly frustrating, or nonsensical, and that habit will carry on into your dreams. In a dream, these will tell you that you are sleeping, allowing you to become lucid. In order to remember to do reality checks in dreams, you need to establish a habit of doing reality checks in real life. One way to do a reality check is to look for “dream signs” (elements that frequently occur during your dreams, look for these in your dream journal), or things that would not normally exist in real life, and then conduct the reality checks. When these actions become habit, a person will begin to do them in her or his dreams, and can come to the conclusion that he/she is dreaming. Frequently doing reality checks can stabilize dreams. This is also known as DILD (Dream Induced Lucid Dreams). Some tactics include:

    • Looking at a digital clock to see if it stays constant;
    • Looking at a body of text, looking away, and then looking back to see if it has changed;
    • Flipping a light switch;
    • Looking in a mirror (your image will most often appear blurry or not appear at all in a dream). However, your figure can be horribly disfigured in a mirror, frightening you into nightmare or a dream.
    • Pinching your nose closed and trying to breathe;
    • Glancing at your hands, and asking yourself, “am I dreaming?” (when dreaming, you will most often see greater or fewer than five fingers on your hand);
    • Jumping in the air; you are usually able to fly during dreams
    • Poking yourself; when dreaming, your “flesh” might be more elastic than in real life; a common reality check is pushing your finger through the palm of your hand;
    • Try leaning against a wall. In dreams, you will often fall through walls.
  11. 11

    Prolong lucid dreams by spinning your body or falling backwards in the dream (suspected of prolonging REM), and rubbing your hands (prevents you from feeling the sensation of lying in bed). Take care while spinning. Remind yourself even as you spin or fall that you are dreaming, as you will find yourself in a completely different location when you stop spinning or hit the ground and may lose lucidity otherwise. If you feel a dream ‘shakes’ or is about to fade out, look down to the ground and visualize your surroundings, reminding yourself you are dreaming.

  12. 12

    Be Pro-active about your dream. Have a goal in mind and try to accomplish it.

  13. 13

    Listen to Binaural Beats. Binaural Beats are often used to induce lucid dreams, and many assure this method dramatically improves success rate. Theoretically, listening to Binaural Beats lowers brain frequencies, triggering different effects such as relaxation and dream induction. Look for Theta bin-aural beats, as they use the same brainwave frequency used in dreams. You may also want to listen to Alpha and Delta binaural beats as they help you relax and fall into non-REM sleep.

  14. 14

    Look through previous dreams in your Dream Journal. If you start to notice patterns in your dreams, you will notice dream-signs, or certain things that continue to reappear in your dreams. This may be as basic as all dreams are in your backyard, or all your dreams have fans in them. Get into the habit of doing dream checks every time you see your dream sign, and eventually you’ll see your dream sign IN a dream, do a check and realize you’re dreaming.

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Modified Look at Hand Method

A Modified Version of Gritz’s “Looking At Your Hands”

  1. As you prepare for sleep each night, sit in your bed and take a minute to relax. look at the palms of your hands for 30 minutes, and repeat to yourself, “I will dream about”, “your own dream.”
  2. Continue to repeat this phrase, “I will dream about”, “your own dream” as you look at your hands.
  3. After the thirty minutes, or whenever you get tired turn off the light and go to sleep.
  4. When you wake during the night, Look at your hand, and say the same phrase. If you did not see your hands, remind yourself of your intent to see your hands in the next dream.
  5. With consistent practice of this phrase each night before sleep, you will suddenly see your hands pop up in front of you when dreaming, and consciously realize, “My hands!” Oh my gosh! This is a dream.


  • There can be special cues to lucid dreams to find. For example, you may find colors or walls shifting and changing in unnatural ways, try to pick up these changes and you may realize you are lucid dreaming.
  • Lucid dreaming may be helpful for people who frequently experience nightmares, as it gives them a chance to take control of their dreams.
  • It is fun to fly in lucid dreams. To start flying try bouncing higher and higher after each step (while “walking” in the dream.) Some find that they need to train themselves, while others can just think that they want to fly, and therefore lift off the ground, and start to hover. You can also try walking on walls or the ceiling, as flying for the first time can be intimidating if you are not totally convinced that you are dreaming. Many people experience flying as being very natural and very exhilarating.
  • It is also cool to teleport. Close your eyes, spin your dream body, and envision a brand new landscape and open your eyes.
  • You can also try shape-shifting. It is hard to do it on command, but you can also make an ‘excuse’ to transform by making a transformation machine or a magic assistant that can change you into an animal.
  • These aren’t the only things you can do. You can create anything you want, be whatever you want, do whatever you want. Of course, you need experience in lucid dreaming, or else it will be more difficult to dream.
  • Performing reality checks upon awakening can help you to detect “false awakenings” within dreams, wherein you dream that you have woken up, and thus lose lucidity.
  • If you want to dream about something or someone specifically, as you slip into a light sleep, think about that person or that object. The way it feels, the way it looks, the way it smells, etc.. This will cause your mind to focus on that object or person and chances are your dream will reflect upon it.
  • If you have recurring dreams, then aspects of these dreams can act as reality checks. If you notice something happening that is part of a recurring dream, think to yourself, “this only happens in my dreams, I must be dreaming.”
  • If you notice something happening that is impossible in real life, such as being able to breatheunderwater, this can act as a reality check to alert you to the fact that you are dreaming.
  • If you ask people in your dream “Am I dreaming?”… most of the time they’ll say “No.”
  • When recalling a dream upon waking, try not to move. Activating your muscle neurons can make it more difficult to access the parts of your brain that allow you to recall your dream.
  • If you cannot remember the dream, focus on the feelings that you felt. Trying too hard to remember the dream will only take your mind away from it. Chances are your mind will think of everything but the dream.
  • When you wake up naturally – that is, without an alarm – focus your gaze on the first object you see as you open your eyes. Look at the object; focus on it. That object will most often take the vague recollection of your dream to a place mark in memory where it is easier to recall details. A doorknob, a light bulb, a set of car keys, or a nail in the wall, for example, will quell your urge to begin your day, and will help you to settle into memories of what you had experienced while sleeping.
  • Do not use a radio alarm clock. If you hear talking or a song, it will distract you and may clear the dream out of your head. If you have to use a radio alarm clock, don’t think about what is playing and quickly turn it off. Alternatively, change the radio setting to a non-assigned frequency so the alarm creates static (white noise).
  • To end sleep paralysis (which is not dangerous) try wiggling your toes or swallowing. When you are in sleep paralysis, your brain is sending a signal to the rest of your body to immobilize your muscles so you don’t thrash around while you sleep. The larger muscles are usually more affected than the smaller ones. So trying to wiggle your toes tends to wake you up during a state of sleep paralysis.
  • Pre-determine what you want to achieve in a lucid dream while you are awake. When you become lucid in a dream, you will already know what you want to do.
  • It is a good idea to purposely wake a few minutes after becoming lucid, once you have experienced what you wanted to experience. This way, you can wake up with the dream very fresh in your mind, and have excellent recall. If you do not wake up, the dream may simply fade away into the night, and could be forgotten.
  • Some people find it helpful to take a low dose of caffeine (a caffeinated tea, for instance) shortly before sleeping. They claim that this keeps them mentally aware while the body is going to sleep. For other people caffeine may postpone or disrupt sleep.
  • Do not drink any fluids for one hour prior to sleeping. The last thing you want is to wake up from successfully lucid dreaming just because you had to use the bathroom.
  • As you get older, it will be harder to lucid dream, and it starts getting difficult during the teenage years of puberty.
  • Before you go to sleep, think really hard about getting up without actually doing so. You will be able to lucid dream at the beginning of your dream.
  • If you find the dream is not going how you want it to, “close your eyes” for a bit and then open very forcefully. It might not work the first time but you will eventually end up actually opening them.
  • Be careful about looking in mirrors – it can often help you determine that you are asleep, but be prepared to see how you feel about yourself.
  • Try not to worry about what might happen in the dream. Try to remember it’s only a dream, and nothing there can hurt you. If you worry a lot about the people in your dream attacking you, for example, quite likely they will.
  • Write down what you remember when you remember it. Most people remember dreams from nights before If you write down whatever you remember, your brain will get used to remembering instances from your dreams.
  • When you are aware you are dreaming, make sure you know it is a dream at all times. Remember, there are no social consequences, everything, even the characters are just part of your imagination, you cannot get hurt, you need make to keep your dream stable, and you have total control of everything, including your actions, other characters actions, the environment, even physics with a few thoughts. Remember that and you will have total control over dreams at all times.
  • You can try visualizing something in your hand, or in your pocket. Trying to feel its weight, shape, and texture may help. In case of a nightmare, or other frightening dream, if practiced, this can become a self-defense system against any of those perils. Of course, they will not really harm you, but it IS fun to blast a horribly disfigured monster at point-blank with a rocket-launcher of some sort…


  • Galantamine used with Choline bitartrate or Alpha-GPC can dramatically increase your odds of becoming Lucid.
  • An Amino Acid Blend made up of 2000mg L-aspartic acid, 4000mg L-glutamine, and 300mg L-theanine can substantially increase your odds of having a Lucid Dream.
  • 5-HTP is the immediate precursor of serotonin, and can increase your odds of having a Lucid Dream greatly.
  • Vitamin B6 can increase dream vividness. (Bananas, Most fish)
  • Fish Oil helps recall dreams.
  • Ginko Biloba may have a similar effect to B6.
  • melatonin makes dreams seem extremely vivid and usually only on one subject.

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  • Please note that attempting WILD has a very small chance of causing you to suffer from sleep paralysis, rapid vibrations and noises that don’t really exist, floating and other out-of-body experiences, and hypnagogic hallucinations/images, and anxiety. There is no reason to be afraid, as Sleep Paralysis happens every night – you just sleep through it. Hypnagogia is just your mind being overactive. Remember that with lucid dreaming you are aware and can always wake yourself up if you feel overwhelmed.
  • Remember if you get very excited during your lucid dream, it might cause you to wake up suddenly. At this point, focus on your dream, rub your hands, or spin around and concentrate.
  • If you lucid dream, remember to make it a great experience, and do not be disappointed when you wake up.
  • Do not watch pornographic material before going to sleep, it will keep you from focusing on your dreams.

Turning Vivid Dreams Into Reality

Donna Tapellini  03.19.01

For lucid dreamers, sleep can be even better than reality.

Researchers at Stanford University are now developing software to help people become aware that they are having a dream so that they can then live out their fantasies during REM sleep.

Oneironauts, or lucid dreamers, are conscious when they are having a dream and can control how the dream develops. During lucid dreams, people are “awake” within their dreams, and can sometimes direct what happens next in the dream.

With enough practice you can fly, visit exotic places, experience vivid colors, or eat all the ice cream you want, all without taking your head off the pillow.

Being awake during a dream may seem like a contradiction, but to those involved in lucid dream research, it’s all, well, crystal clear.

“Lucid dreaming lets you make use of the dream state that comes to you every night to have a stimulating reality,” said Dr. Stephen LaBerge, founder of the Lucidity Institute at Stanford University, a research lab that teaches people how to have a lucid dream.

LaBerge said that controlling dreams can also have therapeutic value. Potentially, he said, people can overcome nightmares that haunt them repeatedly. It may even help a person improve in sports, enhance self-confidence or confront problems that elude being solved in waking life.

Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, a book co-authored by LaBerge and Howard Rheingold, is one of many books to help wannabe lucid dreamers get started. The Lucidity Institute offers a variety of tools for people set on taking charge of their subconscious life.

The Institute’s SuperNovaDreamer kit includes a copy of LaBerge’s book, and the kit recommends reading a few chapters before getting started. The book asks that you learn to recognize “dreamsigns,” or signals within a dream that alert you to your altered state. One common dreamsign: elements within your dream are out of context. Objects are not where they belong within a room, or certain people are in locations they normally wouldn’t be – how often do your parents drop in at the office?

The NovaDreamer includes a mask that tracks eye movement to recognize when you’re in REM as well as to determine the amount of time you take to get to sleep.

Depending on how you configure NovaDreamer (a determination made partially on the basis of how light or heavy a sleeper you are), the NovaDreamer flashes a series of red lights into your (hopefully closed) eyes, providing yet another signal that you are dreaming and can now do whatever you please in the dream.

LaBerge advises novice lucid dreamers to be patient, adding it can take as long as four months or more to regularly have lucid dreams.

LaBerge’s research indicates that when a person does something in their dreams, the experience may be closer to reality than you’d think.

Early experiments show that lucid dreamers have a good comprehension of time while dreaming. Researchers that asked lucid dreamers to move their eyes in a specific pattern, and then repeat the pattern 10 seconds later, found they did so in about the correct amount of time.

LaBerge said dreaming of doing something causes the same reaction in your brain waves as actually doing it. During REM sleep, says LaBerge, “the brain is working full-tilt, yet it is disconnected from the outside world. If you dream of doing a long jump, your brain reacts the same way it would if you actually did it.”

LaBerge, who is studying the mind-body relationships of lucid dreamers, believes that controlling your dreams may also improve your health.

“It’s totally possible we’ll find a way to use it to enhance healing, because there’s a very strong mind-body connection during REM sleep,” LaBerge said. Although he admits that the ability to use dreams to cure illness is mere speculation at this point, he said there is anecdotal evidence that lucid dreamers may be able to contribute to their own healing processes.

Most applications of lucid dreaming remain in the very early research stages, LaBerge said. “We’ve been focusing on access to the state (of lucid dreaming),” he said. How practical those other applications are will depend in part on how easy it is to get people into a lucid-dream state.

For example, Tibetan Buddhists, avid practitioners of lucid dreaming for more than 1,000 years, devote years to meditative practice that helps them refine their techniques.

For the rest of us, learning to control your dreams is something like learning to play the piano – some will find it easier than others. “But it’s a lot easier than it was 20 years ago, when there weren’t any techniques,” LaBerge said.

Lucid dreams are also helping scientists understand the nature of all dreams. “By watching the signals provided (by the lucid dreamer), we can come a little closer to getting information about a dream as it occurs,” said Dr. Alfred Kaszniak, a neuropsychologist, and the director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona. Monitoring a lucid dream provides more accurate information than waking a subject up since people will forget or edit their dreams.

“Lucid dreaming also gives us a very different way of asking questions about the nature of consciousness during sleep,” Kaszniak adds. “(A lucid dream state) actually satisfies certain criteria of consciousness.”

With enough effort, just about anyone can induce lucid dreaming, Kaszniak said. But some people are more predisposed to it than others, he said. Those with sensitive inner ears have a better chance of lucid dreaming. People with a greater sensitivity to the force of gravity are more likely to vividly conjure up images of flying, which in turn helps them become lucid in their dreams.

Last summer, Stanford University hosted a 10-day conference that included lectures, lucid-dreaming practice and a visit to the dream lab to watch research in action. In May, the Lucidity Institute will take enthusiasts on a seven-day trip to Hawaii for a lucid-dreaming retreat.

Prolonging Lucid Dreams

By Stephen LaBerge

People frequently awaken from lucid dreams sooner than they would like. Nothing is more frustrating than to invest hours or weeks of effort aiming at the goal of having a lucid dream, and then to wake up within seconds of becoming lucid. Fortunately, however, there are several effective techniques that allow beginners and experts alike to prevent premature awakenings from lucid dreams.

The earliest method for stabilizing lucid dreams was described by Harold von Moers-Messmer in 1938. Moers-Messmer, a German physician, was one of the handful of researchers who personally investigated lucid dreaming in the first half of the 20th century. He was the first to propose the technique of looking at the ground in order to stabilize the dream. [1]

The idea of focusing on something in the dream in order to prevent awakening has independently occurred to several other lucid dreamers. One of these is G. Scott Sparrow, a clinical psychologist and author of the classic personal account, Lucid Dreaming: Dawning Of The Clear Light. [2] Sparrow discusses Carlos Castaneda’s famous technique [3] of looking at his hands while dreaming to induce and stabilize lucid dreams and argues that the dreamer’s body provides one of the most unchanging elements in the dream, which can help to stabilize the dreamer’s otherwise feeble identity in the face of a rapidly changing dream. However, as he points out, the body isn’t the only relatively stable reference point in the dream: another is the ground beneath the dreamer’s feet. Sparrow uses this idea in this example of one of his own lucid dreams:

“…I walk on down the street. It is night; and as I look up at the sky I am astounded by the clarity of the stars. They seem so close. At this point I become lucid. The dream ‘shakes’ momentarily. Immediately I look down at the ground and concentrate on solidifying the image and remaining in the dreamscape. Then I realize that if I turn my attention to the pole star above my head, the dream image will further stabilize itself. I do this; until gradually the clarity of the stars returns in its fullness.” [4]

A problem with using vision to stabilize a lucid dream is the fact that when a dream ends, the visual sense fades first. Other senses may persist longer, with touch being among the last to go. The first sign that a lucid dream is about to end is usually a loss of color and realism in visual imagery. The dream may lose visual detail and begin to take on a cartoon-like or washed-out appearance. This may all happen very fast; within a few seconds, the dream can fade to black, leaving nothing visual to focus on! For this reason, one might speculate that focus on sensory modalities other than vision may be more useful to stabilize dreams. As it turns out, one would be right.

Dream Spinning

In December, 1978 I had the good fortune to discover a highly effective technique to prevent awakenings and produce new lucid dream scenes. I started by reasoning (mistakenly but as it happens, felix culpa!) that since dream actions have corresponding physical effects, relaxing my dream body might inhibit awakening by lowering muscle tension in my physical body. The next time I was dreaming lucidly, I tested the idea. As the dream began to fade, I relaxed completely, dropping to the dream floor. However, contrary to my intention, I seemed to awaken. But, a few minutes later became clear that I had actually only dreamed of awakening. I repeated the experiment many times and the effect was consistent–I would remain in the dream state by dreaming of waking up. However, my experiences suggested that the essential element was not the attempted relaxation but the sensation of movement. In subsequent lucid dreams, I tested a variety of dream movements and found both falling backward and spinning in the dream to be especially effective in producing lucid dreams of awakening (and, of course, thereby preventing premature awakening).

Out of the one hundred lucid dreams in the last six months of the record in my doctoral dissertation, I used the spinning technique in forty percent. New dream scenes resulted in eighty-five percent of these cases. Lucid consciousness persisted in ninety-seven percent of the new dreams. For comparison, during the six months before I developed the technique, in over a third of my lucid dreams I woke almost immediately after becoming lucid and certainly most ended before I was ready.

In the summer, 1989 issue of NightLight we first attempted to determine the general effectiveness of spinning in stabilizing lucid dreams. The results derived from this study were promising, but unfortunately, statistically inconclusive due to too few subjects completing the experiment. There was a trend for lucid dreams to last longer following spinning compared with a control condition.

As an aside, it is worth noting that while in my experience with the spinning technique, the new dream scene almost always closely resembled my bedroom, this was not the case for others. For instance, one lucid dreamer found herself arriving at a dream scene other than her bedroom in five out of the eleven times she used the spinning technique. These results suggest that spinning could be used to produce transitions to any dream scene the lucid dreamer expects. In my own case, it appears that my almost exclusive production of bedroom dreams may be an accident of the circumstances in which I discovered the technique.

How Does Spinning Work?

Why should dream spinning decrease the likelihood of awakening? Several factors are probably involved. One of these may be neurophysiological. Information about head and body movement, monitored by the vestibular system of the inner ear (which helps you to keep your balance), is closely integrated with visual information by the brain to produce an optimally stable picture of the world. Because of this integration of information, the world doesn’t appear to move whenever you move your head, even though the image of the world on your retina moves.

Since the sensations of movement during dream spinning are as vivid as those during actual physical movements, it is likely that the same brain systems are activated to a similar degree in both cases. An intriguing possibility is that the spinning technique, by stimulating the system of the brain that integrates vestibular activity detected in the middle ear, facilitates the activity of the nearby components of the REM- sleep system. Neuroscientists have obtained evidence of the involvement of the vestibular system in the production of the rapid-eye-movement bursts in REM sleep. [5]

Another possible reason why spinning may help postpone awakening comes from the fact that when you imagine perceiving something with one sense, your sensitivity to external stimulation of that sense decreases. Moreover, and this is probably the most important factor, if the brain is fully engaged in producing the vivid, internally generated sensory experience of spinning, it will be more difficult for it to construct a contradictory sensation (i.e., lying motionless in bed) based on external sensory input. When presented with two contradictory interpretations of the state of our body or the world, our consciousness chooses one or the other, but not both models.

If this is the major reason why spinning helps to prevent awakening, one can readily think of other techniques that should work with similar effectiveness. For example, if you rub your dream hands together as the dream is fading, as long as you are experiencing the sensation of rubbing hands, you cannot experience the contradictory lack of sensation that you would need to feel to wake up and perceive the actual condition of your hands. The experiment in NightLight 7.1 was designed to test this idea and to collect additional evidence on the effectiveness of the spinning technique.

The Experiment

Lucidity Institute members were invited to compare each of the following three “techniques for prolonging lucid dreams.” (In fact, one technique–“going with the flow”–was intended as a control.)

A. Spinning When in a lucid dream and the dream began to fade, while they still felt their dream body, they were to spin around like a top, as rapidly as possible. Beginning in a vertical or standing position, they were to turn around on a point with their arms outstretched. It was indicated that it is important to experience a vivid sense of movement. They were to continue to spin until they were in a vivid dream scene, or awake. They were instructed to repeat to themselves over and over while spinning, “The next scene will be a dream.”

B. Going with the Flow When subjects were in a lucid dream and the dream began to fade, they were to persist in doing whatever they were doing in the dream before it started to fade, ignoring the fact that the dream was fading. Also, they were to repeat to themselves while carrying on with their dream activity, “The next scene will be a dream.”

C. Rubbing Hands Together When subjects were in a lucid dream and the dream began to fade, while they still felt their dream body, they were to vigorously rub their (dream) hands together. They were informed it was important to experience a vivid sense of movement and friction. Participants were to continue to rub their hands until they found themselves in a vivid dream scene, or awaken completely. Also, they were to repeat to themselves over and over while rubbing their hands, “The next scene will be a dream.”

Subjects were instructed to try the above three techniques once each, in an order determined by the first letter of their last name.

Several times each day, until their next lucid dream, subjects were to rehearse the technique they were to try next. While awake and pretending they were in a dream, they were to follow the instructions for the technique. Subjects were to repeat to themselves during the practice, as they would in the dream, “The next scene will be a dream.” Next, they were to follow the instructions for the respective technique:

* SPINNING: Imagine you are in a lucid dream and it is fading. Then actually spin around, as you will in the dream.

* GOING WITH THE FLOW: Imagine you are in a lucid dream and it is fading. Then continue to do what you are already doing while remaining aware that you are dreaming.

* RUBBING YOUR HANDS: Imagine you are in a lucid dream and it is fading. Then vigorously rub your hands together, as you will in the dream.

In their next lucid dream, subjects were to do whatever they wanted to do, but as soon as they noticed the dream fading, attempt the technique they were scheduled to test. They were cautioned not to wait until they were already awake, and to be sure to persist with the technique until either they were in a vivid dream or completely awake. When they believed they had awakened, they were not to move, and to continue doing the technique in their mind for about 60 seconds. This step was recommended because some people have reported returning to the dream state after having fully awakened if they persisted with practicing the technique in their imaginations. If at this point, subjects felt as though actually awake, they were to be sure to use a reality test to check carefully to make sure they were not still dreaming, to prevent false awakenings.

When subjects actually awoke, they were to estimate how much time passed (in seconds) from when they started the dream-prolonging technique until they awakened or lost lucidity. Then, they were to immediately answer the questions on the Report Form about their experience and to write out complete reports of the lucid dreams.

Subjects also filled out a short questionnaire on their dream recall and lucid dreaming ability which they sent in with the rest of their reports after they completed all three conditions of the experiment.


Thirty-four subjects turned in data. However, not all subjects were able to try all three conditions. Eighty percent tried rubbing, 68% spinning, and 65% going with the flow. Some subjects failed to turn in lucid dream reports or otherwise failed to follow instructions. Only eighteen subjects (53%) tried all three conditions of the experiment correctly.

The lucid dream reports were scored by two independent judges. For each report, judges evaluated whether or not the dream appeared to be prolonged following the spin, flow, or rub technique. If a subject had done more than one technique, the two or three reports were ranked according to the judge’s estimate of the relative effectiveness of the different techniques for each subject. Reports which the two judges scored differently were scored by a third judge, using a majority rule to resolve discrepancies.

Both the spinning and rubbing techniques were significantly more likely to be judged as successful in prolonging the dream compared with the going with the flow (control) technique. The same was true of the rank ordering analysis. Only 33% of the flow technique lucid dreams were prolonged, compared with 90% of the rubbing and 96% of the spinning lucid dreams.

The following report illustrates a dream judged to have been successfully prolonged by spinning:

… at that point, the oddness of this super-calculator prompted me to say aloud, “I think this is a dream!” And so it was. However the calculator started to fade and de-materialize, and as it did, so did the dream environment. Immediately I remembered to do the spinning-top experiment.

As everything around me turned to blackness–no visual content whatsoever–I started to spin round and say, “The next scene will be a dream” … I was astonished to find a hole of brightness opening up… the bright hole literally appeared as a break in the black clouds around me, as if the sun were breaking through. I could see the branches of a tree through the hole. As I continued spinning (and it’s strange that even though I was spinning round, my sight of the hole was unbroken), I seemed to pull myself towards and through the hole into the countryside of the next lucid dream scene…

The following is an example of a dream judged to have been successfully prolonged by hand rubbing:

I am walking through a beautiful forest. Suddenly I realize I am dreaming. I guess the excitement begins to wake me, so I remember its time for the rubbing hands experiment. I drop a towel I hadn’t realized I was carrying, and began to vigorously rub my hands together. I feel my hands rubbing together, experiencing warmth from the friction… My dream stabilizes! I am so happy, I decide to keep walking and explore my beautiful dream forest…

Overall, the odds in favor of continuing the lucid dream were about 22 to 1 after spinning, 13 to 1 after rubbing, and 1 to 2 after going with the flow. That makes the relative odds favoring spinning over going with the flow 48 to 1, and for rubbing over going with the flow, 27 to 1.


The results of this experiment seem very clear: both the spinning and rubbing techniques are effective means of prolonging lucid dreams. The fact that the rubbing technique worked as well as it was predicted to supports the theory behind the prediction: that interaction and sensory experience in the dream inconsistent with perception of the state of the body in bed will suppress awakening.

Although the spinning technique was somewhat more effective (relative odds 1.8 to 1 favoring spinning over rubbing) than the rubbing technique, the difference in effectiveness was not statistically significant with this relatively small sample size. Matters for future research to decide are whether spinning has any of the special effectiveness beyond what is explained by the sensory inconsistency theory and if so, whether it is explained by the vestibular stimulation theory.

If there is in fact no difference in effectiveness between spinning and rubbing, rubbing does possess a practical advantage: spinning itself tends to destabilize the visual components of the dream, while rubbing does not. On the other hand, if one is using the technique to change dream scenes, that “disadvantage” becomes an advantage.

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