Dreams are often unrealistic. This single, simple principle can keep your mind brisk enough through the hazards of a waking day to induce a lucid dream during sleep.

Let’s reflect on that simple principle. To begin with, dreams don’t always follow the laws of physics. We can often fly like birds or walk through walls. Personally, I breathe in water. Continuing that pattern, our perception is often warped. We sometimes see things larger or smaller than they usually are. Our reflections in mirrors look like an entirely different person. When we look at our watch, the numbers displayed are completely unproportionate to the time of day. You might have experienced all of none of these phenomena during dreams. Either way, the principle stands.

The way we can apply this principle is also relatively simple in nature: at random moments during the day, confirm that you are awake. If you find that you are dreaming… presto. You have just become aware of your dreaming state. You have just become conscious. You have just become lucid.

So how to we perform these “reality checks?”

The first step is to learn what constitutes a reality check. Here’s what doesn’t:

  • Checking for a physical body
  • Checking for clearness of sight
  • Checking for sense of touch

These are all things that occur commonly in dreams, and they don’t take particularly effectively to being your reality check perimeters.

Here’s what does:

  • Checking the time or a piece of writing, looking away, and checking again; written word and numbers frequently change during dreams. Digital watches are said to change numbers more frequently than analog watches.
  • Checking the lights. Light switches frequently fail to work in dreams.
  • Try breathing with your mouth and nose shut. This is often possible in dreams, but obviously not in waking life.
  • Try to put the finger of one hand through the palm of another. Hands are often ethereal objects in dreams, and therefore sometimes pass through other solid objects.

In order to make doing reality checks a habit, and in order to start doing reality checks in your dreams to start becoming lucid, you need to start performing them in your waking life. Some people choose to set their watches and perform reality checks every hour, others choose to perform reality checks when they perform other common actions such as opening a door. A handy minimalist method is to write a reminder on your hand to simply perform them frequently. Always perform reality checks after waking up, to make sure you aren’t having a false awakening.

Once you start doing reality checks in your waking life, it will inevitably become a habit and begin leaking into your dreaming life. You may suddenly remember to perform your hourly reality check while in the dream state, perform it, and realize you are dreaming. You may do the same when opening a door, or doing another associated action.

There is always a chance of a reality check failing, which is why you should always perform reality checks two or more at a time.

Reality checks have a very good reputation in the lucid dreaming community for being one of the most effective and least invasive methods of inducing lucid dreams. Start performing reality checks today, comment, and tell me your results!

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For a myriad of reasons (which I plan to discuss in a later post), people often wake up from lucid dreams prematurely. Every lucid dream ends eventually (some of them several times… which I’ll discuss in another later post). As a result, many techniques are attempted to prolong the length of lucid dreams. One of those techniques is generally referred to as dream spinning or, simply, spinning.

Spinning is widely considered by dreamers to be one of the most effective ways to prolong dreams. The technique is simple: simply turn around repeatedly on your feet or, if in a void, in the space around you. It’s dizzying to imagine that this would actually make you think more clearly. We all likely have memories of making ourselves sick from dizziness as children, playing games with friends or by ourselves. Why would such an abstract action increase dream length?

If you analyze many other common techniques for prolonging dreams, you’ll notice that they typically involve focusing on either a stationary or moving object–my personal favorite being your own hands, but that’s a story for another day–and it makes sense. It occupies the mind visually. Loss of mental stimulation is likely the most common cause of loss of lucidity. The mind has nothing to do, and thus stops focusing. That means you lose your lucidity, and either drop back into your dream oblivious or return to normal sleep. Another common method of restoring lucidity is to rub one’s hands together; in other words, stimulating the sense of touch.

The primary reason why this is believed to work is because it creates a sensory contradiction. The brain is torn between two sets of senses: the dreaming senses and the waking senses. The dreaming senses perceive a spinning sensation, blurred visual stimuli, and perhaps whooshing sounds (if you happen to dream that way), while the waking senses percieve something else entirely (the sensation of lying in bed). This is essentially the same reason why the technique of rubbing your hands together works: a sensory contradiction. The human brain has to choose one set of stimuli to run with, and likely chooses the more overwhelming sensation: an overwhelming, dizzying spinning.

There are many other reasons why this technique might work. One proposed hypothesis is that spinning engages the same parts of brain used in creating REM sleep, thus suspending the state of REM sleep required for lucidity.

When using the spinning technique, keep in mind that the dreamscape generally changes during or after the process of spinning. This can lead to dead-end dreams where the lack of stimulation leads to another loss of lucidity. However, this also makes spinning a reliable way to purposefully change your dreamscape. Whether in the middle of a nightmare or just in need of a change of scenery, some recommend vocally reminding yourself of the dream state or using a mantra or affirmation, as to keep the scene from changing into a void.

My personal experience is that I need to close my eyes while spinning in order to change the dreamscape. Perhaps this is because the mind knows it is impossible for scenery to change spontaneously, and has trouble creating the image of it doing so. Either way, try this technique out, comment, and tell me your results!