I’m always anxious thinking I’m not living my life to the fullest, you know? Taking advantage of every possibility. Just making sure that I’m not wasting one second of the little time I have.
I’ve always loved that line from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (one of my favourite movies) and always done my utmost to live my life like that, squeezing every last drop of adventure and intrigue from myself, my relationships and the world around me. But what about when I’m ASLEEP??? Am I taking advantage of every sleeping moment…?
Why it’s important to me
Note: If my personal back story doesn’t interest you, please feel free to skip ahead to the next section…
For me, it all started the day my brother – a healthy, happy, beautiful eleven year old boy laid down and died for no apparent reason. And in my world-changing, all-encompassing grief (I’m a super sensitive soul), I thought FUCK IT, you know. And I made a vow to myself to go on as many adventures as I possibly could and never mind about the consequences. That’s me dancing the day away in a small town in Bolivia (pictured above)
I think I’ve done a pretty good job until now. But recently it dawned on me that I’m not getting every little bit of adventure from every part of my life. Because I’ve forgotten about my dreams. And no, I am not talking about the airy fair kind…I am talking about my actual dreams – the ones I have while I’m asleep.
Enriching my dream life
I used to have a super enriching, adventurous and enlightening dream life. But somewhere in the daze of sleepless nights and breastfeeding, I realised I don’t even remember my dreams anymore. WTF!? I am not OK with that! If I am to spend several hours sleeping every night for the rest of life (bar a few dozen if I’m lucky) I need to get my dreams back.
Not only is it an amazing opportunity to enjoy those hours of my life but it’s also an unparalelled opportunity to try out anything I can possibly imagine (from flying to living my life as a cat to visiting the The Far-away Tree and hanging out with Moonface), ANYTHING!! And without any consequences on my waking life! Well, maybe some consquences….but mostly good ones I think.
So I’ve come up with a dream plan to reach my goal of dreaming as naturally and lucidly as I did when I was a little girl. That means not only knowing I’m dreaming but controlling what happens so I can live out my ultimate dream bucket list…
Want to join me on this adventure? Here are the first steps…
Step One: Improving dream recall
According to the experts, the best way to improve your dream recall is to focus on it. That means getting plenty of sleep (dream periods get longer and closer together as the night proceeds), keeping a dream journal next to your bed to record your dreams upon waking and reminding yourself as you fall asleep that you want to remember your dreams. It’s also important to concentrate on your dreams when you wake-up. If possible (I know it’s pretty hard for me with a two-year old) spend some time each morning thinking about your dreams. Before you let your daily thoughts crowd in and before you even pick-up a pen to write down your dreams, stay still and spend a minute or two trying to recreate your dream stories in your head.
These steps alone should be enough to improve your dream recall (I know they’re certainly working for me) but if they’re not, you may want to try setting an alarm to wake yourself up at a time you’re likely to be dreaming. According to The Lucidity Institute, the best times to do this will be in multiples of 90 minutes after you go to sleep, with later REM periods at 4.5, 6 or 7.5 hours post falling asleep (I wish!) the absolute optimum.
Step Two: Enhance sleep quality
In order to have more vivid (and hopefully lucid) dreams it’s important to improve your quality of sleep and that means boosting melatonin. Research shows light and in particular blue light (from electronic devices and energy efficient lighting) supresses melatonin, reducing sleep quality and increasing our risk of certain types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. So according to Harvard Medical School, in order to sleep better, dream more vividly and improve overall healthhere are a few steps you can take:
- Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin
- Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed.
- If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses.
- Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.
Step Three: Differentiating dreams from reality
Just as in reality, when we’re dreaming we usually accept the world at face value (no matter how strange it may be!). So in order to know you’re dreaming it’s important to learn how to differentiate bwteen your dreams and reality.
The best way to do this is to get in the habbit of doing reality checks throughout the day. That way if you are dreaming, you’ll know it.
Some common reality checks include:
- Breathing: When you shut your mouth and block your nose, can you still breathe?
- Mirrors: Does your reflection look normal?
- Jumping: Do you fall back down normally or do you float or even fly?
- Clocks: Can you read the time on a clock or watch? Does it change when you read it a second or third time?
- Maths: Can you do simple sums?
- Hands: Can you push them through soild objects
Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to these checks. Instead come up with your own procdures and if reality isn’t behaving like it “should”, chances are you’re dreaming. Once you know this Wham! You’re in a lucid dream!
Equally important is recognising your dream signs. Are there some things that happen more often when you’re dreaming than they do in real life? For example, maybe in you’re dreams you’re awesome at riding a skateboard when in reality you suck. Or maybe in your dreams you’re always forgetting to put on clothes or running out of petrol?
Your dreams’ location and characters could also be a clue. For example, perhaps a lot of your dreams take place in your grandparent’s cabin in the woods. Or in the house where you grew up? Or maybe you’re always dreaming about people you went to school with (who in reality you haven’t seen for ages). Whatever you’re dream signs, learn to recognise them so you can recognise when you’re dreaming.
On top of all of this, when you’re falling asleep at night use positive affirmation to ensure you remember you’re asleep. For example, repeat to yourself “I will remember to be aware that I’m dreaming. I will remember to be aware that I’m dreaming.” This helps alot.
Step Four: Encouraging lucid dreaming
For many, the first three steps will be enough to set you on the path to lucid dreaming but if not, there are a few things you can try to help the process along:
- Altering your diet: Some foods are believed to increase the intensity of dreams. In particular foods that are rich in B6 or trytophan (meat, fish, poultry, fish, soy, dairy, beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, bananas, and dried fruit) and/or in melatonin (mustard seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, cherries and flax seeds) are cited to improve sleep and induce more vivid dreams.
- Dream herbs: Some herbs are known to increase dream recall and heighten the vividness of dreams. Some reknowned ones include Calea Zacatechichi (the Mexican dream herb), Silene Capsensis (African dreamroot) and mugwort (a close cousin to worwood of absinthe fame). But milder sleep herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower, valerian and hops could also help by relaxing the nervous system and improving sleep quality. For those in the US and Canada, you can find these common sleep herbs at Moutain Rose Herbs, along with mugwort and their own purpose-built dream blend. For the more exotic herbs and for people outside the US and Canada, I recommend searching Amazon for dream herbs. But first make sure you check the legal status in your country of residence!
- The Wake Back to Sleep method: Many experts swear by this method for inducing lucid dreams. Simply set an alarm to wake yourself up during the dreaming sweet spot. Lucidity experts say this is generally two to three hours before you normally wake up. After you switch off your alarm, return to your sleeping position, stay completely still and think about the dream you would like to have. Then let yourself drift off to sleep while remaining focussed and aware that your dreaming. Sounds easier said than done right? But by all accounts, practice makes perfect!
Step Five: Taking control of your lucid dreams
While lucid dreaming (simply being aware that you’re dreaming) is a totally rad and a super worthwhile goal. Why stop there? Now that you know you’re dreaming and nothing bad can happen to you, you can use that fact to experience a world of possibilites. For example, if you are being chased by a scary monster, why not simply launch yourself into the sky and fly away?
Once you’ve mastered the technique of dream control, you can use it to not only live out your dreams (literally) but also to improve your day-to-day life. this includes using your dreams to work through fears and phobias, solve problems creatively, communicate with your lucid dreaming self and make contact with deceased loved one or spirit guides. It’s a whole new world of possibilities just waiting for you to grab it. I know I’m going to…TONIGHT!
Do you take advantage of every sleeping moment? Do you have lucid dreams and out of body experiences? If so I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
If not, I’d love for you to join me on this adventure and let me know how you go…