A Beginner's Guide to Lucid Dreaming and How to Do It Tonight

Welcome, cosmic warriors. I'm Aliza Kelly Faragher, your resident astrologer, and this is Allure Astrology, a column dedicated to astrology, esotericism, and all things magick. Today, put on your pajamas and jump into bed — it's time to lucid dream.

We all know that sleep is a big deal. The cognitive, physical, and emotional benefits of snoozing are profound. But simply closing your eyes and shutting your brain off for a bit isn't enough. Approximately an hour and a half into your nightly slumber, you enter the last (and most important) stage of the sleep cycle: REM, or rapid eye movement. The acronym references the sleep phase defined by the eyes speedy twitches beneath the lid, which tracks the vivid mental images we have while we dream. And cosmic warriors, there's another facet to dreaming worth exploring — lucid dreaming, which is a form of taking control of your own unconsciousness.

The REM phase usually occurs 90 minutes into slumber, and we spend approximately 20 percent of our sleep in this state. Over the course our snoozing, each REM interval gets progressively longer: The first REM phase is fairly short, while the final REM stage of the night can last up to an hour (though according to the National Sleep Foundation, duration of sleep cycles varies greatly depending on age).

Can your dream world become your reality?

Although our bodies are technically off duty when we sleep, during the REM phase, our minds are extremely alert (the irony was not lost on scientists, who also refer to this phase as paradoxical sleep. In fact, our brain functions during REM are identical to those that occur in wakefulness. And while all this mental activity sounds exhausting, it’s actually essential.

Though scientists don’t yet know why dreaming is so important, studies suggested that those deprived of REM sleep suffer may from increased risk of obesity, memory problems, and increased inflammation. It's clear that REM sleep adds to our quality of life, and that to live is to dream. There is truly no distinction between our conscious and subconscious minds — these states simply coexist on the continuum of life.

But what happens when you fuse your conscious and subconscious states? Can your dream world become your reality? While there are plenty of ways to manifest intentions during wakefulness, you can also explore the inverse effect through lucid dreaming. Simply put, lucid dreaming is being aware that you’re dreaming while you're doing it. That's it.

Unlike sleep paralysis (the experience of being in a half-dream, half-awake state), Daniel A. Barone, associate medical director and assistant professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, explained that lucid dreaming refers specifically to the style of dreaming — not the sleep experience at large. Sleep paralysis, for instance, is the phenomena when, if abruptly woken out of REM sleep, the body remains paralyzed in a half-dream, half-awake state. Suffice it to say, sleep paralysis is not a state you would like to access.

Of course, becoming aware of consciousness, either in a dream or reality, can be unsettling, too. Psychologist Juli Fraga tells Allure, "We tend to process uncomfortable emotional and psychological experiences in our dreams," and as such, these memories may be triggered during our sleep. Further, Fraga says, "If the dream affects the person's ability to get a good night's sleep, that can affect mental health, especially for people with anxiety or depression who may have trouble sleeping."

By practicing lucid dreaming, however, you may begin to feel more comfortable remaining in your dream state. Eventually, you can begin controlling your dreams by doing things like opening specific conversations, moving physical objects, and even walking away from unpleasant, even nightmare-like, situations. Ahead, learn how to access your psyche through lucid dreaming. Go ahead and hit that “snooze” button, cosmic warrior. We’re about to get dreamy.

Let’s dive into the specifics of lucid dreaming.

While some are more affected by their dreams than others, everybody dreams. After all, the REM phase is part of our biological cycle. Dreams can vary from the extremely active and filled with intense, seemingly life-or-death circumstances, to the extremely mundane (for example, dreaming about buying juice at a grocery store). In a regular dream, our subconscious takes over and does whatever it wants. Whether we’re chasing a murderer down a dark alley or rocking peacefully on a hammock, we’re just along for the ride.

Lucid dreaming, however, puts you in the driver's seat. Aware of your subconscious world, you start to have more agency over your dreams. So if you’re not in the mood to chase a murderer down a dark alley, you can actually shift the narrative. Maybe you stop running. Maybe you decided to chat with this ethereal murderer, only to discover they aren’t actually threatening — they're just trying to return some dropped headphones. Or maybe you decide to switch up the story altogether and propel yourself into a completely different area of your subconscious with a new setting, new characters, and a new theme. You decide where you go and what you'll do when you get there.

Your subconscious world — vast, mysterious, and eternal — is a huge
part of your identity.

If this all sounds a lot like Inception, you’re not wrong: The movie was inspired by the concept of lucid dreaming. The practice of lucid dreaming is quite old — ancient, in fact. The phenomenon has been documented since classical antiquity (Aristotle himself mentioned the phenomena in his 350 B.C. treatise, On Dreams), with its popularity steadily increasing over time. Since then, sleep has become a popular topic in modern science, hotly debated by philosophers, scientists, and spiritualists over the centuries, though the conversation may not have been as popular in the mainstream.

But then, in 2010, Christopher Nolan’s trippy blockbuster put lucid dreaming on the map for us regular folks. Today, with the subconscious back in the collective conversation, it’s easier than ever to lucid dream. Why, you ask? With the support of greater society (and science, your psyche simply more accessible. Lucid dreaming is no longer reserved for those experienced in the supernatural. Now, you can practice with your peers: a real-life slumber party.

Why would someone want to control their dreams?

Each day, we encounter innumerable pieces of stimuli. Of course, we can’t process everything in the moment as we would never get anything done, so the vast majority of our indirect experiences are stored within our subconscious. We dump a lot into this mysterious internal world — but that doesn't mean it's an emotional junkyard. In fact, the subconscious is an extremely sacred place. We tuck away some of our most life-changing memories, powerful emotions, and creative musings in this landscape. In a beautiful irony, accessing your dream world is actually the key to your honest reality. Lucid dreaming can help you unlock that door.

The subconscious may seem dangerous and unpredictable, but for many, lucid dreaming is actually a lot less scary than regular dreaming. During a normal dream, you cruise into your emotional inner-world as if you're strapped to a rollercoaster. It could be fun, but it also could be terrifying. With lucid dreaming, however, you’re the one building the ride. What's the theme? Where does the dream take place? Who is part of the story?

In addition to deepening your relationship with yourself (a practice that enhances psychic abilities, lucid dreaming can also help you communicate with those who have crossed over. Spirits rely on conduits to deliver messages, and since your subconscious world isn’t tethered to form, loved ones often visit us in dreams. During a lucid dream, you can actually engage with these entities — and, because your senses remain engaged, you may even enjoy the comforting feeling of a warm embrace. And just to set the record straight on one of the biggest misconceptions about lucid dreaming, a dream death does not trigger a physical death. It's totally safe.

How do you start lucid dreaming?

For many of us, the concept of actively participating in a dream can feel a bit daunting. The great news, however, is that's it's super easy. Ani Ferlise, an avid lucid dreamer and founder of Kozmic Ryder, says, “You begin [lucid dreaming] by simply turning your awareness to the idea of it. This wakes up your subconscious to the practice.” Sounds simple enough.

Ani explains that we actually strengthen our lucid dreaming abilities when we're awake. Become more aware of your physical surroundings by observing small details, such as taking note of your hands or feet throughout the day. Dream expert Beverly D'Urso agrees, telling Allure, “Mental habits you practice during the day tend to continue in dreams." She says that by becoming more observant during your waking hours, you'll notice when you're dreaming because you'll notice subtle changes in your dream environment.

Your subconscious world — vast, mysterious, and eternal — is a huge
part of your identity.

Activating the senses also promotes lucid dreaming. Ani encourages using “a dream journal” and “gifts from the earth” to jumpstart your practice. Her Lucid Dream Kit is a thoughtfully curated collection of the best tools to enhance subconscious exploration, and includes a notebook, an amethyst, calming tea, an essential oil blend, and more.

Your subconscious world — vast, mysterious, and eternal — is a huge part of your identity. Through lucid dreaming, you learn how to tap into your complete multidimensionality. For some, the practice can help you realize just how much magick exists within you. Just be sure to practice it safely and to check in with yourself about how you're feeling during the process.

Find Aliza on Instagram, Twitter, and her website.

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