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!