To many of us, being the masters of our own dreams is of great interest, and numerous techniques have been devised to enable individual dreamers to induce a state of lucid dreaming, wherein the dreamer realizes that they’re in a dream-state, and can thus take control. But, as it is with many other phenomena, different lucid dreaming techniques will deliver varying levels of effectiveness, so what technique will produce the most consistent results? A new study on the subject pitted a number of these different methods against one another in an attempt to answer that question.
Researchers with the National Australian Lucid Dream Induction Study focused on three popular techniques: the reality check, where the dreamer tests whether or not they are in regular reality, such as Mal’s "totem" technique in the movie "Inception"; the wake-back-to-bed technique, involving waking up for a short period after initially sleeping for five-hours, then going back to sleep; and the MILD technique, an acronym for "mnemonic induction of lucid dreams": this is simply the wake-back-to-bed method, but includes the recitation of an affirmation such as "next time I’m dreaming, I will remember that I’m dreaming," before going back to sleep.
The study involved 170 participants that recorded the frequency of their lucid dreaming over the course of the first week. For the second week, they were each randomly assigned to one of the three technique groups: reality check, reality check plus wake-back-to-bed, or reality check plus wake-back-to-bed plus MILD.
The researchers found that the third group, utilizing all three methods, was more effective than just using either one or a combination of two, after just two weeks of practicing the techniques, yielding a 17 percent success rate. And those that were able to fall asleep within five minutes after using the MILD technique reported a 46 percent increase in success over those that took longer to nod off.
Interestingly, the reality check method on its own didn’t produce an increase in lucid dreaming, but the researchers caution that other, longer-term studies into lucid dreaming did have more success with such checks, and speculate that the participants in the current study didn’t have enough time to develop the habit of using the technique.
But what practical benefits could such a study into lucid dream induction provide? "Ultimately, I want to develop techniques that are effective enough to permit serious exploration of the many potential benefits and applications of lucid dreaming," explains lead study author Denholm Aspy, a visiting research fellow in psychology at Australia’s University of Adelaide.
Aspy says that the potential benefits could include the honing of skills from waking-reality while one is still asleep, or possibly allowing PTSD sufferers to take control of their nightmares when (and possibly before) they occur. But before research into such applications can proceed, Aspy says that "the first step is teaching people to reliably do lucid dreaming, and that’s what this paper offered."