“Om. Om. Om. Oh my God, I’m having a lucid dream!”
OK, it’s not quite that easy, but new research has found that the best technique for inducing a lucid dream is by chanting. And you thought those monks were happy just because they were selling so many chant records (and the brandy).
Most people would love to be able to control what they dream about, participate actively in dreams and choose their own endings … like something other than failing an exam while sitting in class in your underwear. There are a number of techniques said to allow one to enter into a lucid dreaming state, so Dr. Denholm Aspy, a visiting research fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Adelaide, decided to test the top three.
The 47 volunteers attempted one, two or all three of the techniques. The easiest was “reality testing,” which sounds a lot like pinching yourself to see if you’re dreaming. Participants were instructed to check periodically to determine if they were awake or asleep (what did I tell you?). It’s a simple way to recognize the dream state.
The “wake back to bed” technique is recognizable to anyone who uses a snooze alarm. The volunteers fell asleep and then were awakened after five hours. They spent a short period of time awake and then went back to bed and hopefully to sleep (good luck with that). Those who fell back asleep were more likely to quickly enter the REM state where most lucid dreaming occurs … which explains those great dreams you have in that 10 minutes between snooze alarms.
The last technique Aspy’s volunteers tested is the one with the chanting. Called MILD, for Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams, it starts out the same as “wake back to bed” – participants were awakened after five hours of dreaming. However, this time they were given a chant to recite before falling back asleep:
"The next time I'm dreaming, I will remember that I'm dreaming."
They were instructed to repeat the chant while envisioning themselves already in a lucid dream. That sounds like a lot of work (and not a chant you want to get caught saying in church) but the volunteers found that it worked surprisingly well. Of those who fell asleep within five minutes of chanting, 46 percent reported entering a lucid dream state. Dr. Aspy himself was not surprised.
"The MILD technique works on what we call 'prospective memory' – that is, your ability to remember to do things in the future. By repeating a phrase that you will remember you’re dreaming, it forms an intention in your mind that you will, in fact, remember that you are dreaming, leading to a lucid dream."
For those who don’t think they can master the MILD, the volunteers who tried all three techniques still had lucid dreams 17 percent of the time compared to the poor control group who had to count sheep.
Even if one doesn’t always go lucid, the study – published this month in the journal Dreaming – found that, rather than disturbing the sleep pattern, the technique left the participants feeling well rested rather than sleep-deprived or stressed. Dr. Aspy sees this as a tool for treating chronic nightmares and for changing behavior in life by practicing new actions in the lucid dream state.
Kids, if you try MILD at home, don’t mess with the chant!