Lucid Dreaming Day commemorates the date that dream research pioneer Dr. Keith Hearne successfully had a lucid dreamer communicate to the outside world that he was dreaming (while firmly in a dream state).
That date: April 12, 1975.
A Brief History of the Scientific Validation of Lucid Dreaming
Keith Hearne’s dissertation on lucid dreaming at the University of Liverpool was published in 1978. He presented the topic at several academic meeting halls as early as 1977.
In Hearne’s pioneering lucid dreaming study, brain activity during sleep was measured via EEG and correlated with the experience of lucid dreaming via specific predetermined eye moments that served as signals (EOG) that the subjects were making volitional choices while asleep. The lucid dreamer who sent the eye signals was no other than Alan Worsley, who has since gone on to perform over 50 signal-verified lucid dreams in the lab.
However, Hearne was not able to find a peer reviewed mainstream science journal to publish his findings.
Meanwhile, apparently unaware of Hearne’s work, Stephen LaBerge and his colleagues in the United States used a similar laboratory method, and, in 1980, published their results in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills. LaBerge’s work on this topic cannot be overstated, as his publications got worldwide attention, especially a 1982 article in Omni Magazine titled “Design your dreams.”
Also, a third group of researchers, led by Robert Olgivie and Harry Hunt, independently isolated lucidity in the REM sleep during this same time period.
All together, these pioneering studies confirmed that lucid dreaming is not some kind of “micro-awakening,” but rather an actual state of mind capable of reflective thought.
Many other researchers continued mapping out the psychological, cultural and spiritual aspects of lucid dreaming, such as Jayne Gackenbach, Peter Fenwick, George Gillespie, Scott Sparrow, and Patricia Garfield. And many, many more.
So while the date chosen for Lucid Dreaming Day is a respectful nod to the creative first that Keith Hearne achieved, in a grander sense the event is a celebration of all the creative potentials inherent in lucid dreams.
Thanks go to lucid dream educator Daniel Love, author of Are you Dreaming?, for founding this celebration back in 2014 and continuing to spread the good news of lucid dreaming with his YouTube channel.
Enter my drawing to win a free Lucid Talisman!
- Subscribe to Dream Studies Portal (if you haven’t already) and then
- Enter a comment below about your favorite method for triggering lucid dreams.
I’ll randomly choose (ie engage in some light chaos divination) the winning commenter/subscriber, and send you the Lucid Talisman of your choice for free. This beautiful and mysterious object fits in your pocket and reminds you to perform reality checks and ask… Are you dreaming?
The contest is open for the next 3 days, though until April 16th.
Hearne, K. (1978). Lucid dreams: electrophysiological and psychological study. Doctoral dissertation: Liverpool University.
LaBerge, S., Nagel, L., Dement, W., Zarcone, V., (1981). Lucid dreaming verified by volitional communication during REM sleep. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1980, 51, 1039–1042. (c).
Olgilvie, R, Hunt, H., Tyson, P., Lucescu, M., Jenkins, D. (1978). Searching for lucid dreams. Sleep Research, 7: 165.
Leslie Northcutt says
I still have not found the key for lucid dreaming. It occurs occasionally, naturally, usually in the last 30 minutes or so of my sleep. I would love to learn how to do this intentionally.
Ryan Hurd says
you’re the first commenter this year Leslie! the fact that you occasionally have spontaneous lucid dreams means that you should be able to increase your yields using lucid dreaming induction techniques. I’m sure you’ve tried — the truth is that there’s still variability of what works best for folks. We shall get you lucid!
My favorite way to induce lucid dreaming is actually meditation before bed!
I had a dry spell for quite some time and only when looking through my notes in my dream journal did I find that there was a pattern to find in my successful lucid dreams (I usually write down what different tactics I used, what I’ve done during the day etc) – and more often than not meditation before bed was there as a note under the lucid dreams.
The bonus of this tactic is that it also leads to a more mindful life!
I already have a Talisman so if I would win I’d probably give it to my partner (:
Happy belated Lucid Dreaming Day!
Ryan Hurd says
that’s so cool. I love that you have a retrospective perspective here that alerted you to the benefits of meditation before bed. Ben Baird has done some recent work in this area: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31058200/
Peter M Fellows says
The first time I realized, while dreaming, that I was dreaming, was on a summer’s morning in August of 1977.
I had no understanding of what had happened, lucid dreaming not being much known, but I knew something paradigm shifting had occurred.
I was awake…but in my dreaming!
And my first question was “How do I do this again?”
It took me four months to come up with a technique having failed with those offered by Carlos Castaneda and Patricia Garfield.
It was a simple technique: since I knew that in school, I always remembered best what I wrote down, I decided to write down “I am dreaming!”
That worked within three days and I had my second experience.
But it seemed to lose its power over time and I was again on the outside looking in.
By July of 1978 I came up with my second iteration, which consisted of awakening during the early morning, and using my last remembered dream to rehearse that I realized that I was dreaming.
I added modifications of this over the next few weeks so that I actually got up for a few minutes after awakening (so I wouldn’t just fall back to sleep without rehearsing), and the rehearsal included me deciding to go flying (sort of a reward for realizing I was dreaming).
I began teaching this along with other dreamworking techniques at the Ottawa New Age Centre.
In 1980 a student gave me a newspaper clipping about Keith Hearne’s work. I immediately wrote him and received his reply along with some printouts on his work on the Dreammaker in May.
In March 1982 when the Omni magazine article about Stephen La Berge’s work came out, I was astonished to see the La Berge had independently come up with a very similar induction technique so I wrote the magazine a letter which was published in the next issue.
I contributed a few articles to Jayne Gackenbach’s Lucidity Letter and wrote a section for the seminal CONSCIOUS MIND, SLEEPING BRAIN published in 1988.
I taught a one-on-one 30 day program on the Internet in 1992 using the Prodigy Interactive service.
And a mythic approach called Dreamquest in 1988 I believe, but not much since. Good to see your valuable work, Ryan.
Ryan Hurd says
wow Peter it’s wonderful to hear from you! — I consider you one of the unsung heroes of lucid dreaming research. I’ve got your essay on Lucid dreams right next to me — I was consulting Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain earlier today in fact. I wonder if you are still working with the frame of Dream Speakers as personalizations of selfhood? Such a rich perspective.
I have had lucid dreams on the past, like years ago. My last one was a Christmas present to me on 12/24/21. They are all very short so I’ve been working on increased focus/mindfulness during the day. When I first go to bed, I remind myself to remember my dreams and go over what I will do when lucid. I review triggers and repeat that I will have a lucid dream tonight over and over. I want it so much that I keep working on it as I lay there. I find that hours go by and I’ve disrupted my ability to fall asleep.
Maggie Beaumont says
For years I have very occasionally been aware that I’m dreaming — usually without any ability to change the dream, except that sometimes I have been able to wake myself up.
I used to have nightmares a few times a year, but that has stopped a decade or more ago — I’d love to know why, or why they happened to begin with.
I’m back to recording my dreams nightly again after a hiatus of a few months.
Joe Lobsterman says
My favorite way to induce lucid dreaming is by gunning for an Out of the Body Experience (OBE). My current method involves medication to “hemi sync” music. This is the “second to last meditation”. The final meditation occurs prior to sleep. Both meditations are in the laying down position.
This method improves the chances of having a lucid dream in the beginning of the night. As more hours are clocked in, another method that could be used is the “Awake Back to Sleep” method. The result is not always immediate; however the dreams get better. The first dream is usually a vivid dream, followed by a short waking period, followed by a lucid dream, followed by a short waking period, followed by an OBE.
There’s no need to do any “reality tests” in the OBE, as the vibrations that are experienced in the beginning, followed by a departure from the physical, followed by a floating sensation form the “instant reality check”.
I read Robert Monroe’s “Journeys Out of the Body,” back in the 1980s in high school, and was able to induce spontaneous OBEs on a regular basis. As I got older, the instances went down, but still occurred occasionally. I reread the book this year, along with the other two books in Monroe’s “Journeys Trilogy.”
I recently obtained the Gateway Experience program from the Monroe Institute and it has done wonders in the sleep and dreaming department. The number of lucid dreams that “spontaneously occur” have started to occur more frequently than before. If OBEs are the stars, then lucid dreaming is the moon. Aim for the stars.
Chris Cunniffe says
Hi Ryan. Great article. My favorite way to induce a lucid dream is Laberge’s MILD (visualization) method. Hope to meet you at IASD in Ashland if you are going.
Jennifer Pope says
i have always had an interest in dreams and have used them to influence change in my waking life. I am back keeping a dream journal again but I wake up remembering dreams whether I keep writing things down or not. I do remember them better when I do write and my writing has been so helpful in reminding me of things. I have enjoyed reading Edgar Cayce, Carlos Castaneda, Rosicrucian texts and have learned much over the years through Robert Moss. Now I am delighted to have an opportunity to see what you share! Thanks for the sample download!
Really like this article. My lucid dreams so far happened more often when I read books related to this topic, drift into sleep with the intention to get lucid and put also throughout the day to being / getting lucid. Which so often results in questioning everything during the day, if this is a dream, illusion or not 😉 And I love to dive deeper and deeper in all those topics. Actually this changed so much in my life….
I’ve been fascinated with lucid dreaming for 4 months now. In the first month I had 3 lucid dreams but since then it hasn’t occurred anymore. I would love to do it more to explore the endless opportunities for (self)exploration.
Kim – The Netherlands
Alexia Hebel says
I cannot induce a lucid dream, but whenever my dreams take a turn for the bizarre (e.g. a nightmare, a dream I’ve had before, a place that’s supposed to be real but isn’t) it makes me realize that I’m dreaming. If it’s a nightmare I’m usually being chased so I turn around and confront the ‘monster”. Otherwise, I want to fly and meet up with people. If I fly, I usually can’t stay lucid, I get pulled back into dreaming again. When I try to meet up with other people the challenge is finding them, I get close, i sometimes see them, but I can never get them to wake up in their dream and talk to me.
Arthur Gillard says
My favorite lucid dream induction technique is WBTB combined with galantamine and sometimes L-DOPA. This combination gives me the greatest odds of getting lucid
My favorite method of triggering lucid dreams is not one single thing, but many things that accompany eachother. However, if I had to choose just one thing, it would be dream recall. Dream recall allows us to recognize patterns in the dreams we’ve had, then associating the recognized patterns of experience in the dream-state with waking life. For me, this builds a bridge between the two states. There are multiple “bridges” that can be built for the sake of inducing lucid dreams, but this is the most important one in my opinion because it trains the brain to think of everything we experience, even in waking life, as a dream. Recalling dreams from the previous night in a relaxed state just before bed is a powerful way to set intention to remember dreams subconsciously, this paired with a wake-back-to-bed technique almost guarantees lucid dreams for me.