This article is for those who wonder if lucid dreaming is for them or if it is a waste of time to try to learn. The fact is, successful lucid dreamers have certain habits and personality traits in common.
Lucid Dreaming Basics
Lucid dreaming is the art of becoming conscious in our dreams. Most people naturally experience a lucid dream at least once in their lives. In the last decade, a virtual industry has been created to investigate this unusual state of consciousness which is also known as conscious dreaming. The conclusion of experts: lucid dreaming is definitely a learnable skill.
By following tactics and tips of these experts, thousands have learned how to become, as psychologist Stephen LaBerge has said, “awake in their dreams.” However, countless others never get the hang of it. That’s because, while lucid dreaming is a learnable skill, it is not usually a skill that can be picked up in a day or two.
Is lucid dreaming for you? Check out these 5 traits of successful lucid dreamers to see if you are “pre-qualified” to be a great lucid dreamer.
5 Traits of Successful Lucid Dreamers
Those who are usually successful lucid dreamers may have:
Good Dream recall
Before you can become aware you are dreaming, first you have to have good dream recall. Luckily, almost anyone can develop their dream recall over time. However, if you are a sound sleeper, this may be a difficult practice to learn. As it turns out, most lucid dreamers are also light sleepers.
So, to develop dream recall, the first thing is to keep a journal by your bed and start writing down those dreams. When you wake up, rather than hopping out of bed or immediately going over today’s tasks, give yourself some time to feel the emotions that still linger, even if you can’t remember a single dream image. Often, focusing on those emotional residues are the best gateway into remembering dreams.
A Creative and Artistic Streak
Many lucid dreamers are creative people who tend to see outside the box. 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. In other words, these are folks who have an opportunity to develop their emotional intelligence far beyond what is expected of them. These people tend to avoid horror movies and are more likely to let themselves be emotionally vulnerable in life. Some natural lucid dreamers are also prone to nightmares. If you are creative, artistic, and have been told before, “you are too sensitive,” you have all the markings of a successful lucid dreamer.
Good Balance and an Active Body Practice
There is also an interesting correlation between lucid dreamers and having a better-than-average sense of balance. Weird, I know, but the connection has to do with the vestibular sysyem in the inner ear. Having good balance means you are aware of your body in relationship to the larger environment. This awareness plays an important role in lucid dreams, too.
Relatedly, good lucid dreamers often develop their good balance with an active body practice. Some classic examples are gymnastics, yoga, bicycling, tai chi, and any of the martial arts. Developing the body’s awareness makes for healthy living, and also great lucid dreams.
A Mind Development Practice
Developing lucidity in the dream world is impossible if you can’t be lucid in waking life. That’s probably why many successful lucid dreamers are also meditators. Concentrative meditation such as Zen Buddhism develops the mind’s ability to stay focused for long periods of time.
But if you are not into meditation, there are plenty of other ways to focus the mind. Researcher Jayne Gackenbach has shown that avid gamers have more lucid dreams than average. (Tweet me if you want me to write more about this connection).
Reading before bed –and especially in the middle of the night– can stimulate the parts of the brain that instigate self-awareness. And of course, any activity like playing chess or solving word problems develops the mind in ways that make lucid dreaming more likely.
A Strong Desire to Learn
This can be a self-fulfilled prophesy. 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. They learn the art of dream incubation.
So, maybe it’s a good time to ask yourself why you want to learn how to lucid dream in the first place. If you understand your motivation, you are more likely to not give up when you hit an obstacle.
A great way to develop intentionality is to journal about your desire to lucid dream before going to bed. Remind yourself what you will do when you realize “Wait a second… this is totally a dream!” I find that keeping track of my motivations is an important part of having a successful lucid dream incubation.
In Five Easy Steps?
Lucid dreaming is not as easy as often claimed, but it is learnable and it is definitely worth the effort. With strong cognitive habits during the day and an even stronger intention, you may just learn in 7 days or less. But more likely, it will take a few months for the mind to reflexively open up during the dream state. Not to worry, we have our whole life to dream.
Did I miss anything? Let me know by leaving a comment.
I fit those “criteria” except for the horror movie part, I LOVE horror movies. I am a lucid dreamer and have been for as long as I can remember, I taught myself how to do it and found out only last year that there was a name for it. I love having nightmares, because i get to be badder than the bad guys. That is actually how I started my lucid dreaming. I have been plagued with nightmares my whole life, so after I would wake from one I would relive it in my head and change it so I won. I did this so I could go back to sleep, and eventaully I din’t have to wake up from my dreams to do whatever I want because I become conscious that I am dreaming. I recently found that I have been using it more, although I don’t have many night mares anymore.
Thanks! This was a very interesting article. I’ve never heard that about balance. I don’t have exceptional balance, but I can see how it would factor in. I wonder if gymnasts have higher-than-average lucid dreaming skills?
Gaming makes sense, too, because you know that you’re in a completely fabricated universe, and you have to consciously think about what you want to do and how you’re going to do it. Makes me want to get a new game (haven’t played anything for a few years) and try.
Ryan Hurd says
Jamie – keep rocking those lucid nightmares! it’s empowering when we realize that fear can be controlled. I used to watch LOTS of horror movies too… I’m currently taking a break. So far, “the Ring” rates as perhaps the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Altho the damn clown from Poltergiest still makes a dream appearance from time to time.
KMG – your hunch is right: gymnasts are known for having more lucid dreams than average. it’s all about mastery of the vestibular system! the inner ear (ie body consciousness and where we are in space and time) is intimately tied to self-awareness and metacognition.
Awesome article Ryan. So, I keep a consistent Dream Journal, I have a creative/artistic flair, definitely very right-brain, occassionally do Gymnastics practise on the rings, I’m learning Zouk Dancing (very sexual Brazilian dance style) and I love learning new things. The only thing I’m leaving out is that hypnotic experience of being totally immersed in a video game, haven’t done that since I was about 12 with Final Fantasy VIII. Maybe I should take up the new Final Fantasy games. Lucid Dreaming is something I’ve been totally fascinated with for years, only having occassional LD’s here and there. Btw, thanks for all your ongoing research into Lucid Dreaming, Ryan, this is a great website man!
James Kroll says
Interesting summary Ryan. Without doing a survey, I probably would have arrived at a very similar list.
It’s been my observation that there are many technical people into lucid dreaming, but that they are not traditional techy types. I would soundly put myself into that category.
What I mean here, is they can operate between technical things and creative things in a rather seamless fashion. So for instance, I know an unusual number of lucid dreamers who are engineers who play musical instruments and enjoy writing original music.
My guess would be the obvious. That a strong ability to play into both technical and creative realms provides the best groundwork for lucidity. Perhaps it has to do with interlobe communication, or more precisely, the integration of different segments of the brain.
Hi Ryan, I work in Building Service Engineering and am good at improvising on installs, I paint a draw almost photographically and also read lots of pop science books. My memory is crap though and I keep forgetting to buy a pad to write down my dreams.
I practiced Judo for a few years up until 18 months ago (bad back and lots of other excuses)I would be interested to know if I had more lucid dreams when practising regularly but I can’t really remember. Started back a few weeks ago, will let you know of any changes once this damn man flu has gone!
No more SP’s, when you want them they don’t come!
This is very interesting and does fit me well overall. I have been a lucid dreamer since a very young age though I did not know that that was what it is called. I even remember my first lucid dreams and exactly how it felt to take control of my dreams. Most of these very early dreams, around age 4 or 5, maybe earlier, were nightmares. This new found control and realiztion that I was in a dream was at times relieving and others scaringly comedic (oh the stories I could tell of the tricks I played on myself in dreams). (It is interesting to note that I have even died at least 3 times in my dreams; I remember 2 vividly & neither was violent. Obviously the rumors were not true, for me. In fact, the last one left me feeling excited to discover what was next.)
I have often remembered multiple dreams each night and can give great detail. I find it interesting to learn that many ppl don’t dream in color or see much detail. What ashame!
I have had many instances in which I have even pealed away multiple levels of dream states and powers within my lucid dreams though it is hard to fully describe quickly while typing on my phone.
In terms of balance, I happened to teach myself yoga when a kid by mimicing poses in my Mom’s book that looked like trees, frogs, flamingoes, etc. Of course I did not know it was yoga until many years later when I took my 1st actual yoga class and realized that I was a natural for all balance poses.
I never watch any horror movies as they cause nightly terrors. I couldn’t even sleep after Gremlins.
I grew up with strategy games on my Apple IIc and loving all games requiring thought.
My memory is amazing in waking states and hope it always will be.
Dreams have always entertained me and I feel lucky to have such an amazing dream life/lives-many are recurring and gain even more insight with each repetition of situation, location and/or persona. I actually rarely see movies and believe it is bc I have “in-flight entertainment” each night; plus, my dreams are much better than most all current movies.
Is self-taught lucid dreaming very common in kids? Have you ever encountered or heard of this?
I loved this article. I have recently discovered what lucid dreaming is and that I am a natural. I have been told it is truly a gift to be a natural lucid dreamer. Like Brie, I have always dreamed in great detail, in color, black and white, etc. I also remember well the dreams from childhood. One in particular is a recurring dream involving vampires…altho’ I do not think I have had that dream since I was a young adult in college. As a result I do have an obsession with all things vampire, but I am not afraid of them-they fascinate me.
I am very intuitive, sometimes to the point of absorbing other people’s moods and feelings. I have been told all my life I am way too sensitive or oversensitive. I have learned to embrace my sensitivity as part of my compassionate and open-minded personality. I generally make decisions based more on feeling and emotion than anything else. I am not a fan of horror movies although if I do watch them it is generally during the daytime, as the dark in general scares me. One I thought was the scsriest is the American remake of ‘The Grudge.’ And the one that I cannnot even listen to, let alone watch, is ‘The Exorcist.’
I have always drawn and I also design, paint and tie-dye clothing as a side small business. I do not know about the tech-y part though. I am good at spreadsheets and anything else microsoft office, but I have always thought of that as being more related to the artist in me.
I think of myself as clumsy in general, but I was in marching band and dance team thru high school, and have dabbled in pliates and yoga. Maybe I should explore that more…
I just started keeping a dream journal to record my dreams and the emotions and feelings associates to my dreaming. I look forward to exploring this more and to more of your awesome articles!! Thanks Ryan.
A few commenters here have mentioned that they feel fortunate to have vivid color dreams. When I first heard that some people dreamed in black and white, I didn’t believe it. I really thought the other person was pulling my leg! I have never had a black and white dream.
GREAT ARTICLE! Everything you said applies to me. I have had lucid dreams all my life for as long as I can remember (I will be 25 in May). I was shocked when I found people did not remember their dreams let alone have the ability to control them. I dream every night and I have many many dreams each night. I have recalled as many as 10 different dreams if not more from a single night.
I discovered the term lucid dreaming back in high school but have always been aware that I could realize I was in a dream and then control them with ease. I very rarely have nightmares and when I do, I generally turn them around before I wake up. I have excellent dream recall, I remember them as if they were a movie I just watched in extreme detail that include even taste.
I am a painter/writer/artist, basically I love to create and have a very active and outlandish imagination. I consider myself an empath and I am very sensitive yet I have no problem with horror movies, I love them and have never been scared by one.
I have great balance, did a little gymnastics in middle school.
I’ve dabbled in meditation, but I love word games, thinking games, and I can focus for very long periods of time.
I also LOVE to learn, I often stay awake very late and into the early morning because I found something fascinating and research the subject for hours! Dreams have always intrigued me and I absolutely love experiencing them. I would say most of my dreams are lucid and almost every night I have at least one lucid dream.
As a child I was a HEAVY sleeper and now I am a light sleeper and I wake lots of times throughout the night. Maybe one of the reasons I lucid dream so easily is that when I was very young for many years I used to play a game as I went to sleep, I would try to remember when I woke up in the morning what the very last thought was or what the last thing I was thinking of before I fell asleep.
Oh yeah and my favorite things to do in lucid dreams are fly, eat (cause I can taste everything), and have magic powers and abilities, haha!
I have experienced vivid, abundant, detailed, colorful and lucid dreams since childhood. When LaBerge’s book was published I finally learned the name for my “awake dreams.”
I have great dream recall, am creative + artistic, am athletic, meditate by “living in my head”, and enjoy learning.
My dream life is fascinating and I am always stunned when people tell me that they never dream. The details in my dreams makes me wonder if I have had former lives. I see places and structures that I do not recall ever seeing in this life, on TV or in a movie.
I am an INTJ, an empath, have had recurrent depression since childhood, and am a physician.
Interesting, I am also an INTJ.
Can someone help me? My problem is a little different from lucid dreaming. Yes I am able to control my dreams “when I dreaming” but I think I’m also suffering from sleep paralysis almost everytime I fall asleep. I researched the topic and my only difference is that Im never “dreaming.” I began to fall asleep and suddenly “awake” before I began to “dream” but yet am paralized. I can see my husband lying next to me, can see and hear the TV. When the room is quiet I hear a extremely loud roaring sound in my head, its so long that when I finally awake I have a headache. My husband now stays up during the night because i’m so scared. He listens for my moans because thats my signal to awake me. I can feel myself lifting out of my body but yet Im in complete control, with the exception of moving my body. When Im “lifting” I get so paranoid I pull myself back. One time I let myself lift as far as I could but got a burning sensation in my body so I became paranoid and pulled myself back. The paralysis can last anywhere from a few seconds to 2 minutes. I am currently taking lisinopril for high blood pressure and norco for fabromyalgia but have been expereincing this before taking these meds. Im afraid that if I “lift” from my body I wont be able to return and I fear going to sleep at night. Please help. Im not sure where else to turn. Thanks
Ryan Hurd says
wow – I am surprised that this article has hit home for so many – thanks all for commenting. Some are mis-interpreting this article as a “checklist” for lucidity, but I didn’t mean to suggest that someone needs to have ALL these traits to pick up lucid dreaming easily, or to be a natural. rather, each component comes from solid research that I cobbled together. I’m really pleased so many are “finding themselves” in this list tho.
and a special note to Nicky504: I want to offer you comfort that your sleep paralysis is natural, and not to worry about the out-of-body sensations. the key is to relax into it. Here’s more about my take on sleep paralysis plus a free article to download.
william galison says
I lucid dream all the time, but my balance is so bad that I failed a drunk driving test and registered zero alcohol in my blood!
In any case, I’d love to take part in lucid dreaming studies.
I have had lucid dreams my entire life, once I realized I could control them it really let me open up and really explore what seems to be a whole other world. I too could not believe that most people cannot control thier dreams, or barely remember them. I have figured out mathematical formulas and woke up to write out the answer, brought it to my office, checked it, and found it to be correct. I have to say that I too enjoy flying, and creating beautiful women to have steamy sessions with, lol. I think your article was great and thanks for bringing light to this matter.
I found the article most interesting. Like Jamie, I too love horror movies. Although, I have to admit, my fear of clowns probably stems from the clown in Poltergeist too.
My dreams have been becoming much more vivid lately. I’m suffering from multiple false awakenings and also dream re-entry. I have no difficulty remembering my dreams and often repeat them over and over again…each time adding more detail. I’ve been able to remember dreams that I’ve had as far back as early childhood.
In my false awakenings, I dream that I wake up, start and continue through my day. They proved very useful in college as I would dream about taking an exam or a final and see questions and realize that I didn’t quite understand that part of the material. It would allow me to study that info more in depth for the actually exam.
Lately, I am finding it increasingly difficult to wake up in the morning. I hit snooze and immediately re-enter the same dream. It seams hours pass in the 4 minutes between “snooze’s”. Finally my cat was able to wake me up by pawing at my nose. Thank goodness for her or I would have probably been late.
Great article! I felt like you were describing me exactly…except for the gamer part. I’m 29 and have been having a mix of crazy nightmares and lucid dreams ever since I can remember. Also, not often, but sometimes experience sleep paralysis followed by a waking hallucination when my eyes open. I guess I naturally developed the lucidity as a defense from the scary nightmares. When you realize the control you have, you can do whatever you want with no fear.
This is somewhat accurate…
1) I’ve fairly good dream recall. I used to write down every detail of my dreams (3-5 a night) but it would take me an hour or two to write them down every morning. So now I only bother to write it down if I think it’s ‘memorable’ or unsolvable.
1b) Depends. I’ve slept through an earthquake once and have been awoken by a clock ticking 4 rooms away.
2) I’m a concept artist. So I guess this one’s spot on!
2b) I’m not socially shy, but I pretend to be irl. I don’t like wasting my time with smalltalk and gossip. I do avoid horror movies as they’re usually too shallow, but I will gladly write my own for stories/games.
3) I’ve terrible balance and can’t take much spinning motion. Car sick easily. But doesn’t affect me in my dreams. 🙂
4) I’m a sometimes gamer and often play with character abilities. I don’t need to take their form, but it’s fun to shapechange. I think this should expand to anyone who roleplays or can imagine them self as someone else. Like method actors.
5) I love learning! I’m a polymath at heart and autodidact. I’d never have learned how to lucid dream if I didn’t experiment by myself. Was just not enough info out there years ago. :S
Neat to see a simple list like this. I’m a newcomer to this place. Will be back soon. 🙂
Great article. I am a natural lucid dreamer and they appear frequently, but I would like to learn to make them appear more often. I often have sleep paralyses that are combined with lucid dreaming, though :/
I can relate to some of the points written in this article. I have been lucid dreaming since I was a child. The first lucid dream I remember was when I was 8 years old. I am now 31.
I am a female, artistic and also a have a strong desire to learn. I am a software developer by field and have solved software related problems in my dreams. I have also discovered new ideas in my dreams.
The only thing I don’t do is meditate and although I have had a pretty active lifestyle most of my life, right now I am not so active. But I still lucid dream.
I have long lucid dreams once every 5-6 months which really isn’t that often. Most of my lucid dreams do not last very long. I don’t try to lucid dream though, it just happens. I have vivid dreams several times a week however. I have also dreamt for what felt like an hour when in reality was only 5 minutes.
This is my recall of my last lucid dream:
I was walking down a nice neighborhood situated near a beach (a bit like something you’d see in tourist areas of Dubai), the day was clear, blue skies and warm. I came to a house on a dead end street, the house was a light in color, looked like a spanish style home because of the many arches; nice tropical plants surrounded it.
I saw a little indian looking boy running around but I thought nothing of it, just some random kid playing. I walked into the house which I felt I had some connection to although it was not one I’d recognized before.
Inside the house I saw rooms with doors slightly open. One room stood out to me so I walked in. The entire room was white.
There was a dresser with a mirror, a wardrobe and a chair I did not look at the rest of the room. They were all white. The room was amazing, I’d never seen anything like it before. Thats when I became aware that I was dreaming.
— I remember having a conversation with my cousin (same age) when I was 17, who told me if you ever dream; try to look in the mirror, you will look so out-of-this-world beautiful, more beautiful than anything on earth. I guess she is a lucid dreamer too now thinking about it. I have looked in a mirror before and she was right. Going back on topic of the dream, even though there was a mirror in the room, I ignored looking at it, because I had looked at one in the past. —
Being aware, I knew I could control things in my dream. I decided to open the drawers of the dresser to confirm I was lucid dreaming. I started with one of the top smaller drawers and yanked it open with excitement.
At this time I was feeling pretty elated about the fact that I was aware. I opened a larger drawer from the same dresser, and inside there was 1 flat sheet of paper.
As I went to pick up the paper, I became distracted and noticed a small figure run past the doorway. I assumed it was the little boy and I went to see what he was doing. As I looked out the doorway into the hallway I saw him standing there, he paused to look at me and smiled at me, he giggle like a happy child as if he wanted me to play. He then scurried off into another hallway out of sight.
I went back into the room to read the paper. I had a feeling of euphoria at this point, I was getting really excited about my knowing that I could explore this realm, but could also feel my dream starting to get fuzzy. I lost control of my dream right at that point and woke up before getting to see what was on the paper.