What Is Lucid Dreaming?

If you’ve noticed that you are aware you’re dreaming while you’re asleep, or that you can control what happens in your dreams, you may be lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is quite rare, so consider yourself lucky if you’re able to control what happens while you’re asleep!

Read on if you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of lucid dreams, how they work, or even how to start having them yourself.

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if questions related to one’s own health arise.]

What Is Lucid Dreaming?

Lucid dreams happen when you’re aware that you’re dreaming. They might feel more vivid than a normal dream, and you might even be able to control what’s happening as you dream. Very few people have lucid dreams regularly, and only about half the population will ever have a lucid dream.

Vivid Dream vs Lucid Dream

Lucid dreams are very memorable and vivid, but vivid dreams are not always lucid. If you remember your dream very clearly when you wake up, but were not aware that you were having a dream while you were asleep, you had a vivid dream, not a lucid dream. 

A woman sleeps on her side

If you’re interested in remembering your non-lucid dreaming better, consider using a dream journal in the morning. Recalling your dreams right after waking up can help you remember them and notice recurring themes. Notice you keep having the same dream? Check out what these common dreams may be telling you.

Sleep Paralysis vs Lucid Dreaming

Sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming both occur during REM sleep. During sleep paralysis, a person wakes up while they’re still in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. As a result, their body is momentarily paralyzed. People with sleep paralysis may experience frightening hallucinations during sleep paralysis. If this sounds familiar to you, check out our What You Should Know About Sleep Paralysis guide.

In contrast, lucid dreamers know they’re in a dream state, but do not feel physically paralyzed because their conscious mind is not aware of their physical bodies while asleep. Instead, they are simply aware that they are dreaming.

What Causes Lucid Dreaming?

Scientists are not sure why lucid dreams happen. Research suggests that a shift in brain activity during REM sleep pushes you closer to waking up, and may cause lucid dreams. Research also suggests that sleep disorders like narcolepsy may be correlated with frequent lucid dreaming. 

Curious about your sleep cycle? Read The Complete Guide to Your Sleep Cycle to learn all about the neuroscience behind sleep.

Natural vs Induced Lucid Dreaming

Natural lucid dreams are very rare and occur infrequently. But some people want to induce lucid dreams. In fact, lucid dreams have become a popular therapeutic technique for tackling problems in waking life. If you’re interested in lucid dreaming induction techniques, read on! Here are two popular methods from lucid dream studies:

How to Lucid Dream

A very popular technique for learning to lucid dream is the mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (the MILD technique). It was developed by psychophysiologist Stephen Laberge and involves setting intentions. To practice MILD, wake up after sleeping for five hours. Then, try to remember your most recent dream. Next, repeat the intention: “The next time I am dreaming, I will remember that I am dreaming.” With enough practice, MILD could lead to lucid dreaming and dream control. A dream induction study by Dr. Denholm Aspy suggests the MILD technique does work.

A woman sleeps on her side

Another popular lucid dreaming technique involves frequent reality checks. To implement this technique, ask yourself multiple times throughout the day whether you are awake. Supposedly, asking yourself this question regularly in a waking state will eventually allow it to seep into your dreams. When you ask the question while asleep, you may trigger a lucid dream.

Lucid Dreaming Benefits

Lucid dreams can have several health benefits. We’ve listed some common perks below.

  • Lucid dreaming can help prevent nightmares. Taking control of your dreams means you can stop bad ones before they start.
  • Some research suggests that practicing simple motor skills during lucid dreams correlates with better motor skills in real life. So, dreaming of yourself shooting a winning basket while asleep might actually help you score in real life.
  • Lucid dreams can help you work through anxiety by giving you total control over a situation. Practicing a scary interaction in a sleep state can help make it easier when awake. 
  • Working through trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder in varying states of consciousness can help you heal.
  • Lucid dreams help you engage in creative problem solving. Sometimes, characters in your dreams can help you find insight you didn’t have on your own.
  • Lucid dreams can increase self-awareness. You’re able to connect with your subconscious in dreams in a way you can’t while awake.

Lucid Dreaming Risks

There are a few drawbacks to lucid dreaming you might want to consider before trying to induce lucid dreams or increase your lucid dreaming frequency.

  • People trying to induce lucid dreaming may have trouble falling asleep. 
  • Lucid dreaming may negatively impact sleep quality and make you feel more tired in the morning.
  • People with certain mental health disorders may find that some types of dreams blur the line between fantasy and reality. It can make it hard to tell what’s real when they wake up.
  • Some people may take supplements to increase the chance of lucid dreams. If you’re planning to do so, consult with a health professional first.

Lucid Dreaming and Mental Health: New Study Suggests a Positive Link

For a study on dreams published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers asked 187 students to take a survey about their lucid dreaming habits, psychological health, and any sleep problems they had. Some participants then kept a dream diary for two weeks.

According to the results of the study, students who had positive experiences during high-intensity lucid dreams had “fewer psychopathological tendencies” than students with low-intensity lucid dreams. That means, on average, they were less likely to suffer from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

But the study’s results weren’t all positive. The findings suggested that students who didn’t naturally have lucid dreams, but tried to induce them, could actually worsen their mental health. Basically, researchers found that some of the techniques people use to help bring on lucid dreams, such as asking themselves if they were awake every few hours, can bring on dissociative feelings and increase sleep issues. Because sleep is critical to functioning, health, and mood, it’s important for researchers to consider both the risks and benefits of lucid dream induction.

A woman has a stressful dream

It’s important to note that there’s one major limitation to this study: The researchers asked students to self-report their own experiences, rather than collecting unbiased data in a sleep lab setting. However, the potential link between lucid dreaming and mental health is certainly interesting, and it opens the door for more definitive research down the line.

How to Wake Up from a Lucid Dream

If you don’t want to wait to wake up naturally, you can try calling out for help within your dream, blinking rapidly in your dream, falling asleep in your dream, or reading something in your dream. These activities will activate parts of the brain not used in REM sleep..


Have more questions about lucid dreaming? If so, read on!

Are lucid dreams good?

Lucid dreams are not necessarily good or bad. Some people find lucid dreams increase self-awareness, creativity, and confidence. Others find they disrupt sleep quality.

Is lucid dreaming dangerous?

Lucid dreaming is not dangerous. But limited research suggests that inducing lucid dreams could cause difficulties for those who struggle with dissociative disorders, depression, OCD, or schizotypy.

Is lucid dreaming real?

not part of reality, but they are a type of dream people can have. During lucid dreams, people are aware that they are dreaming.

Can you remember lucid dreams?

Yes, most people vividly remember their lucid dreams. In fact, being unable to remember dreams could be a bad sign.

Madison Schaper

Madison is an ex-mattress tester and current law student. When she's not studying, she puts her accumulated mattress and bedding knowledge to good use writing articles for Mattress Clarity. A few of her favorite non-work activities include trying new restaurants, reading short stories, and watching too much reality TV.