Your dreams are about to get more interesting.
While you're racking up vacation days, saving money, and figuring out the logistics in making those dreams a reality, you might be able to make them happen in your actual dreams.
Lucid dreaming is a unique phenomenon in which the dreamer is aware they're in a dream. They can map out and explore their subconscious world and can even tweak their experience however they see fit. In addition to adding a whole world of adventure to nightly slumbering, lucid dreaming has the potential to treat nightmares and give dreamers a chance to transfer physical skills learned in the dream to the real world.
In a recent study at the University of Adelaide, psychologists recruited 169 research participants to test whether lucid dreaming is a learnable skill. Research participants were asked to employ either one, two, or three cognitive techniques over the course of one week to see which one, or which combination, proved the most effective.
The researchers found the highest rate of success — 17 percent — when participants used all three techniques. Here's what you need to do to improve your ability to lucid dream.
1. Test your reality.
Test your environment throughout the day to see if you are awake or dreaming. Psychology Today recommends rereading text or jumping because the "laws" of your dream world will cause the words to scramble or allow you to float back down to Earth. Once you're in the habit of checking your environment when you're awake, you're likely do this when you're asleep and be more aware when you are lucid dreaming.
2. Set an alarm for the middle of the night.
Set your alarm two hours before you typically wake up. Stay awake for about 30 minutes before (hopefully) falling back to sleep. Your increased alertness, combined with the natural sleep cycle, should allow you to quickly enter REM sleep.
Because you're most likely to lucid dream during REM sleep, you are upping your chances of lucid dreaming throughout the night.
3. Repeat these words.
Instead of counting sheep, repeat the phrase “The next time I’m dreaming, I will remember that I’m dreaming,” just before you go to sleep. This repetition improves your prospective memory by “form[ing] an intention in your mind that you will, in fact, remember that you are dreaming, leading to a lucid dream,” wrote the study's lead researcher, Dr. Denholm Aspry.
However, the time it takes you to go to sleep plays an important factor in the MILD technique's effectiveness. The study found an 86.2-percent increase in lucid dreaming when participants fell asleep within five minutes of using the technique.
So as you're awaiting your trip to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, in the meantime, try these techniques out for yourself to see if you can make it happen sooner in an otherworldly night trip.