What Causes Lucid Dreams – Investigating Potential Triggers for Lucidity

July 9, 2023 (Last updated on: July 19, 2023)
A woman just realised that she is dreaming.

Have you ever had a dream where you realized you were dreaming? Maybe you took control of the dream and did something impossible.

These are called lucid dreams and can be an incredible experience for some people. But what causes lucid dreams? How do they work? And how can you induce them?

In this article, we’ll investigate the potential triggers for lucidity and sleep disorder, exploring what the latest research has to say about the science and psychology of lucid dreaming. We’ll also look at different techniques to induce lucid dreams, common themes in lucid dreams, and the benefits and risks of lucid dreaming.

The Science of Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreams occur during the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep, which is usually associated with more intense and vivid dreams. During REM sleep, the brain is active, and the body is paralyzed to prevent physical movements that might harm us while dreaming.

Lucid dreaming occurs when there is a signal of lucidity in the dream state of the sleeping brain, which means that the sleeper becomes aware that they are in a dream. This lucidity signal is believed to arise from the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for self-awareness, reflection, and planning.

According to scientific research on lucid dream research and dreaming, the phenomenon is still a relatively new communication channel between the conscious and unconscious mind. However, evidence suggests that lucid dreams may have higher self-awareness and control than ordinary dreaming. In other words, lucid dreamers can intentionally and purposefully interact with their goals.

Common Triggers for Lucid Dreams

Many techniques and practices may increase your chances of having a lucid dream. Here are some of the most common triggers for inducing lucid dreams:

Reality Testing

Reality testing is a technique that involves checking whether you are in a dream or in waking life. By establishing a habit of doing this throughout the day, you can increase the chances of performing the same reality checks in your dreams, which may help you realize that you are dreaming. Reality testing can be as simple as asking yourself if you are dreaming, trying to fly or levitate, or pinching your nose and seeing whether you can still breathe.

Dream Journaling and Recall

Keeping a dream diary and regularly recording your dreams can help increase your dream recall and may help you recognize patterns in your dreams. This practice can also help you identify dream signs, which are events or objects that appear frequently in your dreams. If you can identify such or only a dream sign while in a dream, this may trigger lucidity.

Sleep Hygiene and Sleep Schedules

Getting enough sleep and maintaining a regular sleep schedule can help improve your sleep quality, which may increase your likelihood of having lucid dreams. Lucid dreaming is most common during the later REM periods of sleep, so it may help to set an alarm to wake up during these times to try to induce a lucid dream.

Meditation and Mindfulness Practices

Meditation and other mindfulness practices can help increase self-awareness and improve focus, which may be beneficial for inducing lucid dreams. These practices can also help you develop the ability to observe your thoughts during lucid dreams, which may be helpful when recognizing that you are dreaming.

Supplements and Substances that May Induce Lucid Dreaming

Some several supplements and substances are believed to increase the chances of lucid dreaming, though scientific evidence on their effectiveness is mixed. Some commonly used supplements include galantamine, choline, and vitamin B6. Substances like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol may also affect the likelihood of lucid dreaming.

Unusual Triggers for Lucid Dreams

In addition to the more common triggers of lucidity, there are some more unusual techniques that people use to induce lucid dreams. Here are a few examples:

Sleep Masks and Light Therapy

Some people use sleep masks containing LEDs to provide light therapy at night. This may help stimulate the brain during REM sleep, increasing the chances of lucid dreaming.

Binaural Beats and Brainwave Entrainment

Binaural beats are a form of sound therapy that involve playing different tones in each ear to create a specific frequency in the brain. Some believe listening to binaural beats before sleep can help induce lucid dreaming.

Hypnosis and Lucid Dream Induction Audio

Hypnosis and lucid dream induction audio programs are also available online. These programs often involve guided meditation and visualization exercises to help induce lucid dreams.

Lucid Dreaming Techniques

Once you have established a practice or technique that works for you, the next step is to induce a lucid dream. There are several techniques for doing this, including:

Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD)

Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD) involves staying aware during the transition from wakefulness to sleep. This can be one of the most effective methods for inducing lucid dreaming, but it takes time and practice to master. To try this method, start by lying comfortably and focusing on your breath while you let your body relax. Keep your mind active and alert, and try to visualize yourself entering a dream while maintaining awareness.

Mnemonic-Induced Lucid Dreaming (MILD)

Mnemonic-Induced Lucid Dreaming (MILD) involves setting an intention to have a lucid dream before going to sleep. Before you fall asleep, repeat a mantra or affirmation to yourself, such as “I will recognize that I am dreaming” or “I will have a lucid dream tonight.” Visualize yourself becoming aware and taking control of your dreams.

Wake Back To Bed (WBTB) Method

The Wake Back To Bed method involves waking up after several hours of sleep and returning to bed to have a lucid dream. This method can be done by setting an alarm to wake up during the REM stage of sleep, typically around 5-6 hours after falling asleep. After waking up, stay awake for 15-30 minutes before going back to sleep to have a lucid dream.

Common Themes in Lucid Dreams

Lucid dreams can involve a wide range of experiences and themes, and they are often highly personal and unique to each individual. Some common themes in lucid dreams include:

Flying and Levitation

Many lucid dreamers report the ability to fly or levitate in their lucid dreams as good., which can be a thrilling and liberating experience.

Superpowers and Abilities

Lucid dreamers may also experience a range of superpowers or abilities in their lucid dream workout, such as x-ray vision, telekinesis, or shapeshifting.

Meeting People and Characters

In lucid dreams, dreamers may encounter people and characters from their waking life, or they may encounter entirely new personalities and entities.

Sex and Intimacy

Some lucid dreamers report experiencing intense sexual experiences or intimacy in their dreams. This can be a way to explore desires and fantasies in a safe and private setting.

Overcoming Fears and Nightmares

Lucid dreaming can also overcome fears and nightmares by confronting them in a safe and controlled environment.

The Benefits and Risks of Lucid Dreaming

While intense lucid dreams and dreaming can be thrilling and rewarding experiences, it’s important to consider both the benefits and risks before attempting to induce lucid dreams.

Positive Effects of Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming can be a source of psychological growth and self-reflection. It can also be used to treat nightmares and sleep disorders and improve prospective memory and problem-solving skills.

Negative Effects and Potential Dangers

While lucid dreaming incidence is rare, there have been reports of people experiencing sleep paralysis, false awakenings, and other phenomena that can be frightening or disorienting. Additionally, lucid dream control can raise ethical questions about the boundaries between dreaming and reality.


Lucid dreaming is a fascinating and relatively unexplored area of dream research and human consciousness. By understanding the science and psychology of this phenomenon and the many techniques and practices that can induce lucid dreams, you can begin to explore this unique and hallucinatory world for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do lucid dreams occur?

Lucid dreams occur due to increased activity in specific brain areas during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Specifically, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for logical reasoning and decision-making, shows more activity in such dreams than in regular plans. This lets dreamers know they’re dreaming and sometimes even control the drive.

What do lucid dreams indicate?

Lucid dreams don’t necessarily indicate anything unusual. They’re a natural phenomenon experienced by many people. However, some researchers propose that people who frequently share lucid dreams might have a slightly different brain structure, with more developed areas associated with metacognition and self-awareness. Lucid dreams are also explored as potential tools for treating PTSD and anxiety.

What type of people have lucid dreams?

A wide variety of people can have lucid dreams. However, research has suggested that naturally more introspective or self-reflective individuals might have them more often. Lucid dreaming also appears to be more common among children and can diminish with age, although people of all ages can experience lucid dreaming frequency have it.

Is lucid dreaming good or bad?

Lucid dreaming is generally considered neutral—neither inherently good nor bad. Some people enjoy the experience and find it thrilling to be aware and often in control of their dreams. It can even be used therapeutically—for instance, to confront fears or work through psychological problems in a controlled environment. On the other hand, some people might find the experience unsettling or disruptive to their sleep.

What causes a lucid dream?

Lucid dreaming isn’t fully understood, but it’s thought to be related to brain activity. Specifically, increased activity in the prefrontal cortex during REM sleep—a region associated with decision-making and self-awareness—can lead to lucid dreams. Some factors that might induce lucid dreams include: maintaining a regular sleep schedule, meditation, and using specific techniques like reality testing and waking back to bed (WBTB).

What happens when you lucid dream?

When you lucid dream, you become aware that you’re dreaming while still in the dream. This awareness can range from a faint recognition of the fact to broadening horizons. Some people can control their goals by manipulating the narrative, characters, or environment. Others may be aware they’re lucid dreaming compared to having direct control over the dream’s content.

Is it rare to have a lucid dream?

Lucid dreaming is a relatively common phenomenon, though its frequency varies significantly among individuals. Some people might never experience a lucid dream, while others have them regularly. A study suggested that about 55% of people have experienced one or more lucid dreams in their lifetime.

What triggers lucid dreams?

Several techniques can help induce lucid dreams, such as reality testing, waking back to bed (WBTB), and mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD). Specific lifestyle changes, like maintaining a regular sleep schedule, engaging in meditation, and keeping a dream journal, can also increase the chances of having a lucid dream.

Is it good or bad to have lucid dreams?

The answer to this question largely depends on the individual’s perspective. For some, lucid dreaming is an exciting experience and a chance to explore the dream world with full consciousness. It can be used as a tool for personal growth and psychological therapy. For others, it may lead to less restful sleep or be a source of distress. Therefore, good or bad depends on personal perception and experience.

What does it mean when you have very lucid dreams?

Having very lucid dreams doesn’t necessarily signify anything out of the ordinary. However, frequent lucid dreaming might suggest that the individual has a heightened self-awareness or introspection. Some individuals also train themselves to have lucid dreams, using various techniques to increase lucidity during their dream state. In some cases, it might be linked to narcolepsy, but in many cases, it’s simply a benign and even enjoyable aspect of one’s sleep pattern. If your frequent lucid dreams cause distress or significantly disrupt your sleep, it might be worth discussing with a healthcare provider or a sleep specialist.

If you’re interested in learning more about your lucid dreaming research, consider checking out some of the following books:

  • “Exploring The World of Lucid Dreaming” by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold
  • “Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self” by Robert Waggoner
  • “Are You Dreaming?: Exploring Lucid Dreams: A Comprehensive Guide” by Daniel Love

As always, it’s essential to approach any new practice or technique with caution and to consult with a healthcare professional if you have any sleep problems or concerns.


  • LaBerge, S., & Rheingold, H. (1990). I am exploring the world of lucid dreaming. Ballantine Books.
  • Waggoner, R. (2009). Lucid dreaming: Gateway to the inner self. Moment Point Press.
  • Love, D. (2013). Are you dreaming?: Exploring lucid dreams: A comprehensive guide. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  • Schredl, M., & Erlacher, D. (2011). Frequency of lucid dreaming in a representative German sample. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 112(1), 104-108.
  • Stumbrys, T., Erlacher, D., & Schredl, M. (2012). Frequency of lucid