The summer hit movie Inception explored the idea of controlling one’s dreams. Although that featured collapsing cities and struggles in zero gravity, the concept of guiding your own dreams isn’t so outlandish. “Lucid dreaming” can allow you to fly, conquer nightmares, and solve real-life problems.
Here’s how to take control of your nighttime visions:
✦ Keep a dream journal. The first step to controlling dreams is remembering them. Keep a journal close to your bed, and write down any dream you have as soon as you wake up (or keep a digital voice recorder handy). Look for recurring themes—people, situations, etc. This trains your brain to become more aware of dream activity.
✦ Do a “dream check.” Throughout the day, pause and ask yourself, “Am I dreaming?” This trains your mind to start asking the same question while you’re asleep.
✦ Nap. Some studies suggest the best time to attempt a lucid dream is during a nap taken a few hours after getting up in the morning. If you wake up during a dream, stay quiet and try to return to the dream as you drift off again.
✦ Perform a reality check. After some practice, you’ll start being aware of the fact that you’re in a dream. To confirm this, try some experiments: Look at a clock, turn away, then look again. In dreams, the time will change. Or look at yourself in a mirror; in a dream, the image you see will be distorted or blurry.
✦ Take off! Once you’re aware that you’re dreaming, try taking charge of the environment. Jump up and down to see if you can fly, for example. If you’re having a nightmare, confront the danger instead of running away; this can reduce the fear you feel when you wake up.