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New study reveals how to control your own dreams

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Tom Victor
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Dreams can be a right bastard, can’t they. One minute you’re coming up with the Theory of Relativity and the next you’re in the middle of a Spanish exam you haven’t studied for. Naked.

If only there was a way to know you were in a dream, and to somehow act on that. Surely that’s easier than teaching your subconscious a new language and spending weeks giving it exam prep.

You might have heard of the phenomenon of lucid dreaming, where you’re aware of the differences between reality and a dream and can – to some degree – control your environment.

But it’s pure pot luck, right? Surely you can’t control an ability to control? Well, not so fast.

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According to new research from the University of Adelaide, published in the Dreaming journal, one of three methods for inducing a lucid dream is more successful than the rest.

There’s no guarantee it will work every time, but this is as close to a properly scientifically approach we’ve seen.

The study saw sample groups use three different techniques:

• Reality Testing – i.e. checking at various points during the day whether or not you are dreaming, even when you know you’re awake, in an effort to ingrain the habit of making these checks into your subconscious

• Wake Back to Bed (WBTB) – setting an alarm to wake you up after five hours and then returning to sleep

• Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) technique – waking up after five hours, then focusing on the act of dreaming by acknowledging the intent to have a lucid dream, by repeatedly telling yourself “Next time I’m dreaming, I will remember I’m dreaming”.

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As Mashable reports, the most successful among the 169 participants were those who used the MILD technique, with 46% of those returning to sleep within five minutes of using the technique going on to successfully lucid dream.

That’s more than double the success rate of those using a combination of all three techniques (17%), and the University of Adelaide’s Dr Denholm Aspy offered a theory as to why this is the case.

“Lucid dreaming tends to happen in the last couple of hours of sleep,” Aspy said.

“Hence waking up after five hours to do the MILD technique, you’ll have a very strong intention directly before your most intense dreaming period.”

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“Many studies have shown that lucid dreaming can be learned, and lucid dreaming has the potential to improve people’s lives in a wide variety of ways,” Dr Aspy writes on a GoFundMe page set up to fund further research into the subject.

“For example, lucid dreaming shows great promise for treating recurring nightmares, which are especially common and distressing in Post-Traumatic Stress disorder, and very difficult to treat.

“Lucid dreaming allows the sufferer to take control of nightmares in real time, allowing them to change the nightmare, confront the attacker, or even deliberately wake up.”

(Images: Fox/Rex Features)