I’ll just go ahead and say it: not everyone is cut out to be a lucid dreamer. I’m not meaning to be a downer, but it’s true. While there is so much hype about how achieving self-awareness in your dreams is a learnable skill—and it surely is—some people simply will be more successful than others.
The good news is that your rate of success skyrockets when you know how to focus your motivation towards the tendancies and habits that frequent lucid dreamers do everyday.
Some of these come naturally —the way you sleep, or the way you are wired emotionally. Others are lifestyle habits that appear to push the buttons of the embodied mind for going lucid in a dream.
Below is the collective avatar—the personality traits and habits—of frequent lucid dreamers. I’m not saying all lucid dreamers have all these traits. (That would be kind of intense…)
But if you find yourself in just one or two of these traits below, you actually stand a really good chance for going lucid if you haven’t already. With further training, you could begin lucid dreaming with higher frequency too.
Without further adieu,
you know you’re predestined to be a lucid dreamer if you:
Are a light sleeper.
Self-awareness is a delicate state associated with heightened cortical arousal during REM sleep. Light sleepers are especially wired for this. All hope is not lost if you are a heavy sleeper who usually collapses without any remembered awakenings, or if you rarely wake up from disturbances. Instead, you may want to consider biphasic sleeping and other sleep disturbance tactics.1
Have time to sleep in.
Lucid dreams are more likely in the lengthy REM periods of the morning. If you are sleep deprived, and never have a chance to sleep in, it may be difficult to achieve the lucid zone. However, stealing away for an afternoon nap when your circadian rhythms naturally dip may be the second best time for lucidity.
Have good dream recall.
One of the advantages of being a light sleeper is that multiple awakenings lead to more remembered dreams. Regardless of how you sleep, without the skill of remembering dreams, there is no room for lucidity. Luckily, dream recall can also be improved—quickly too.2
Have an ongoing mindfulness practice.
Developing lucidity in the dream world is impossible if you are not very “lucid” in waking life. That’s probably why meditators are also frequent lucid dreamers compared to the general population.3 Concentrative meditation strengthens the mind’s ability to stay focused for long periods of time and improves emotional intelligence. But if you are not into meditation, there are plenty of other hobbies you probably already enjoy that can focus the mind in similar ways.
Have good spatial skills.
Strange, isn’t it? One crucial but often overlooked factor of self-awareness is maintaining centeredness during periods of dream flux: those times when your senses are confused and you don’t know up from down. Lucid dreamers tend to have good balance and may be more field independent than non- lucid dreamers.4 This trait involves the degree to which you are influenced by inner or environmental cues in orienting yourself. Having or starting an ongoing body practice—yoga or gymnastics for example—may increase your odds, and so may playing certain types of video games.
Excel at multi-tasking.
Lucidity is a balance of knowing you are in a dream and being involved in the drama. Not surprisingly, frequent lucid dreamers perform well on cognitive tests like the Stroop Task, a psychological test that measures attention during interference of multiple tasks at the same time.5
Are creative and/or artistic.
Many lucid dreamers are creative people who tend to see outside the box. They are imaginative and prone to fantasy.6
There is also a correlation with spontaneous lucid dreamers and having thin boundaries, which is a psychological term for having high levels of social alertness, and sometimes, social anxiety.7 Self-awareness is a double-edged sword, as some frequent lucid dreamers are also prone to nightmares. If you have been told before, “You are too sensitive,” you may have the markings of a powerful lucid dreamer.
Are willing to take risks.
A 2011 study found that students who had more lucid dreams than their peers also performed better on the Iowa Gambling Task, a test that measures emotional-based decision making in unknown situations.8 This is an important clue about the importance of regulating emotions—and integrating them with other forms of cognition—for mastering lucid dreaming.
Have a strong desire to stick with it.
Patience, in other words. We live in a culture of “instant success guaranteed!” But the truth is that most successful lucid dreamers have a strong, internal desire to become aware during their dreams. They don’t give up easily. They set intentions and keep trying.
Take mental breaks.
It’s also important to take a break now and again or you’ll just get frustrated, not lucid. Cognitive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Finding Flow, has much to say about the importance of idle time for all creative projects. Taking time off from a serious pursuit—be it an invention, a puzzle, or a quest to go lucid—allows “simple rules of association” to form.9 You got to know when to let your training seep in, and let the work go underground.
So do you find yourself somewhere in this collection of traits and habits? Chances are, you stand a pretty good chance of going lucid. Recent demographics suggest 1 in 2 people have had a lucid dream.10
It’s not actually that difficult to get started, provided you set strong intentions and follow through with effective practices for developing the embodied mind.
This essay is adapted from my ebook Lucid Immersion Guidebook, the central piece of the Lucid Immersion Blueprint.
First image: CC Dancing Statues by dixie_law
1 LaBerge, S., Phillips, L, Levitan, L. (1994). An hour of wakefulness before morning naps makes lucidity more likely. NightLight, 6(3).
2 Kahan, T. and LaBerge, S. (2011). Dreaming and waking: Similarities and differences revisited. Conscious and Cognition, 20, 494-514.
3 Gackenbach, J. (2010). Psychological considerations in pursuing lucid dreaming research. International Journal of Dream Research, 3 (1), 11-12.
4 Gruber, R.E., Steffen, J.J., & Vonderhaar, S.P. (1995). Lucid dreaming, waking personality, and cognitive development. Dreaming, 5 (1), 1-12.
5 Blagrove, M, Bell, E., Wilkerson, A. (2010). Association of lucid dreaming frequency with Stroop task performance. Dreaming, 20 (4), 280-287.
6 Schredl, M. and Erlacher, D. (2004). Lucid dreaming frequency and personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 1463-1473.
7 Galvin, F. (1990). The boundary characteristics of lucid dreamers. Psychiatric Journal of the University of Ottawa, 15, 73–78.
8 Neider, M., Pace-Scott, E., Forselius, E., Pittman, B., and Morgan, P. (2011). Lucid dreaming and ventromedial versus dorsolateral prefrontal task performance. Consciousness and Cognition, 20, 234–244.
9 Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity : Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: Harper Perennial.
10 Schredl M, and Erlacher D. (2011). Frequency of lucid dreaming in a representative German sample. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 112(1):104-8.
Just read your 10 habits and traits and i can’t believe that out of the 10 i am 5 of them, 1~time to sleep in, 2~dream recall, 3~practice, 4~sensitive, and 5~and to stick with it. Hope i get better. Thanks Ryan.
Ryan Hurd says
nice! I attribute my success to sleeping in and taking lots of breaks..the lazy man’s approach to lucid dreaming. 🙂
Maria Isabel Pita says
Yes! 10 out of 10! Honestly!:-) But it took me a while to stop feeling guilty about taking a break now and then. This is absolutely true: “You got to know when to let your training seep in, and let the work go underground.” Yep. BTW, I loved reading your Lucid Immersion Blueprint and a couple of the audo interviews were especially interesting. Thanks!
Ryan Hurd says
wow Maria you’re an all-star — a true blue dreamer!
to be absolutely honest I’m a 9 out of 10… I suck at multitasking.
thanks for the encouraging words about the Blueprint too.
Doug Stewart says
So I waken frequently at night (10-18 times/night, measurable on the Zeo). But I do have most of the traits you talk about here. I have lucid dreamed before the insomnia, but I’m wondering if I should try it again? Maybe focused lucid dreaming would help with the awakenings?
Ryan Hurd says
Hey Doug! thanks for commenting. There’s a natural lucid dreaming practice that works well with middle-of-the-night insomnia — it’s Scott Sparrow’s middle-of-the-night meditation combined with going to sleep with the intention to lucid dream. (his post is about dream reliving but it’s easily adaptable)
here’s the link:
Keep in mind lucid dreaming will not directly lessen awakenings, as far as I know, especially in cases of trauma-induced insomnia. Still, the goal of lucid dreaming involves relaxation processes which can help with getting to sleep, as well as coming to terms with awakenings. Changing the attitude of awakenings can lead to some creative times in the middle of the night. I discuss that in this recent piece I wrote for Zeo:
By the way – I love your blog — your story is inspiring and I know many people will benefit through your research and experience.
Morgan Sharp says
You’ve covered a lot of good points here, but there’s one biggy that you don’t mention. In my opinion it’s the major difference between lucid and non-lucid dreamers. Somehow, during the phases of sleep when the mind’s powers of judgment, logic and discrimination are supposed to be shut down, some people seem to be able to maintain a certain degree of these higher cognitive powers, enough so that when they see those extrememly unlikely dream situations they recognize it as a dream. Robert Waggoner provides several examples of this in his book Lucid Dreaming. It is this ability that I lack–I blindly accept whatever I see in a dream. My mental acuity shuts down to zero during sleep. Conclusion: I think to a large degree it comes down to the gift of keen mental analysis, even while sleeping.
If anyone knows the LOST GIRL and NCIS LA series of shows they know what I’m talking about I had a seriously Lucid dream the other day it started off strangely though,I was standing on the Roman Colosseum and in a split second I just got Pulled with intensity in a downward spiral I had also taken on the form of a shard of mirror spiraling down with me and a small glimpse of different worlds each turn after a while i just touched the realm i was interested in and I was there, the first choice was weird It landed me in the middle of the lost girl show, actually interacting with Bo, Trick, Dyson, Kenzie Honestly I really like this show and to be in it and experience the show and the episodes in first hand Honestly I couldn’t tell anyone my expression of solemn happiness, after what it seemed to be DAYS in that world I glanced down at the mirror shard i had in my pocket and I could see the reflection of the inside of the NCIS LA tech lab area where they get the assignments so out of curiosity i went into it, everything is and was so incredibly strange, being introduced as a newer character and just having the chance to live that experience… It was pure temptation, like Adam Vrs the snake and the Fruit from the tree of Knowledge It was absolutely intoxicating and incredibly addictive cause once you figure out how to get there, go be in your favorite shows you make the world and no one can rule over you or tell you different