An essential oil is a concentrated liquid generally removed from plants by distillation and containing intense aromatic properties. Essential oils are the primary tools in an aromatherapist’s arsenal. The medicinal effects of essential oils are widely debated, but I’ve chosen to write about their use in folk medicine to induce dreaming.

Many plants have supposed relaxing properties on the body and mind, making them popular in teas (some of the most commonly seen being lavender and chamomile). Some can be ingested safely raw, while others require other methods of use, like aromatic baths, skin oils, incense, and diffusion.

These essential oils are commonly used to induce sleep:

Lavender

Chamomile

Geranium

Jasmine

Lemon Balm

Rose

Neroli

Sandalwood

Marjoram

Ylang Ylang

These essential oils are recommended for inducing lucid dreams and improving dream recall:

Rose

Sandalwood

Patchouli

Clove

Mugwort

Clary Sage

Anise

Rosemary

Cedarwood

These essential oils are used to ward against nightmares:

Bergamot

Sandalwood

Tangerine

Blue Tansy

Rosewood

Orange

Lemon

St. John’s Wort

Lemon Balm

Chamomile

If you are considering adding essential oils to your dreaming tool kit, look around for local health food stores (Whole Foods carries a nice selection) or metaphysical shops. They typically come in small bottles, but rightly so–essential oils are highly concentrated, and can be extremely dangerous in large doses. When taking an essential oil, always make sure you are not allergic to the oil by dabbing a drop of oil onto your inner arm and observing for a reaction for two to three days.

To make skin oils, combine 2-3 drops of an essential oil (or several different oils) to a stock bottle of carrier oil (ie. Jojoba, Sweet Almond, Grapeseed). To make an aromatic bath, use around ten drops of an essential oil and mix into bathwater. Many diffusers are on the market these days for essential oils. Some require a traditional candle flame, others use electricity. It is easy to simmer oils in a pot to fill a room with the fragrance, but never use a pot used in cooking! Remember, it is almost always unsafe to ingest essential oils. Always consult an aromatherapist before using essential oils in teas. It is typically safer to steep dried herbs in water to create dreaming tea mixes. You can find dried herbs at your local health food store (again, my recommendation is Whole Foods).

Many of these oils have sedative effects, so use them around bedtime when you are ready to go to sleep.

Try using these remedies, comment, and tell me your results!

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Dream journaling is probably one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase dream recall and aid in lucid dreaming. It comes easily to some people, and less easily to others. But it’s something that you can implement, today, to aid in your dream recollection and chances of achieving lucidity.

Some of the advantages of recording your dreams is that you can come back on a later date and interpret them, providing insight about what was happening at the time. You may notice things that you didn’t originally see in the dream, and you may find that time has actually improved your memory of a certain dream as long as you have a summary to jog your memory. It’s also important to be able to remember your dreams for extended periods of time. Recording your dreams in a journal is just one way to immortalize them, so you never lose the valuable memory.

When recording dreams, make sure to record regularly. Recording on and off isn’t going to do you nearly as much good as it would to constantly record your dreams. You might also be able to figure out patterns that are occuring between dreams that are close together. And, of course, you don’t want to miss anything. Every dream you fail to record is one that you could lose to the depths of memory forever.

Here are some things to remember when recording dreams:

  • Keep a designated journal by your bed at all times so that you can record dreams immediately upon waking. Your memory of a dream often decreases as you go about your day, so making a habit of recording them as soon as you wake up ensures that you get all possible information out of a dream.
  • Always leave exra space on a journal page for notes to be jotted down at a later date–things that didn’t occur to you at the time of the dream, or notes on how a dream symbol may have unfolded in your waking life.
  • Record any emotions or abstract sensory experiences you may have had during the dream. Even if the experience is difficult to describe in the words we use in our waking lives, the symbols may trigger an accurate memory of the dream after long periods of time.
  • Don’t forget to jot down any characters or abstract symbols you encounter in your dreams. These are generally left to future interpretation.
  • Lastly, write any first impressions down AFTER you’re finished recording your full dream. Writing interpretations of the dream before establishing the concrete details may disturb the composition of the description and may be simply inaccurate. Write these reflections as notes on your dream, not as part of the dream itself.

Keep up these tips and your dream journal should be accurate and fruitful.

You may want to write in your journal right before going to bed to set the intention of remembering dreams that night. It essentially preps your brain for dream activity. Especially for people who don’t normally remember dreams, this can increase recollection just enough to get some notes in your journal. If you’re one of those people, don’t worry. Keep your mind open to dreams and after journaling for some time, your recall will increase significantly.

Remember, not everyone remembers it, but everyone (except in the case of severe psychological disorder) does dream.

You may have noticed I’ve added on a new page to the blog. Visit the Resources Page for a printable dream worksheet. When in doubt, Keep It Simple, Stupid.

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!

Increasing Dream Length

March 19, 2010

This is going to be a brief post; I hope you’ll tune in anyway.

One common problem with dreamers is that they will get overexcited and wake up in the middle of a pleasant dream. Sudden emotion interferes with the dreaming process, so the optimal solution would be to stay calm at all times… but this is obviously not easy, as dreaming can be exciting (especially when lucid!), and it’s not a foolproof solution as there are many other reasons for a dream to suddenly stop (including boredom, surprisingly).

Next time you wake up abruptly in the middle of a dream, visualize the end to which your dream was going and the desire you held with that. Act out the situation in your mind as long as you would like to, since the moment it ended, but as if it had never ended. This simple exercise will, before long, increase the length of your dreams and help you stay in the dream state despite any sudden excitements you will hopefully come across.

Happy dreaming,

Adriana D.