So you want to have a lucid dream? To fly, jump over mountains or do, well, anything you want because you're the aware dreamer? Well, you could spend months or years attempting to achieve this feat the old fashioned way — fantasizing as you fall asleep, for instance, or by priming yourself throughout the day with reality checks. But most of us don’t have the patience. That’s why a growing number of tricks and tools, from headsets that offer 40Hz of electricity to guided hypnotherapy apps, to get you to dreamtime Shangri-La in a matter of weeks. I tested five of the most popular methods to see which served as the best springboard into the world of lucid dreaming.
The Foc.us Transcranial Stimulator
What it does: The Foc.us, per its makers, uses transcranial alternating current stimulation — specifically, 40Hz of electricity, reportedly the frequency of the brain’s gamma waves. (Comprised of various electrode stickers, magnetic cables and a USB-shaped controller, the system, which is marketed to gamers, is intended to improve alertness and involves attaching the various components and flipping on “esleep” mode. A timer starts; half an hour in, the zapping begins.) It delivers it straight to the forehead during REM to gently nudge you into lucid dreaming. Depending on your sensitivity, this nudge can feel like a slight buzzing or like a prickling sensation. Nevertheless, research (also from the website), shows that low current stimulation could induce self-awareness in dreams.
How it worked: Despite the promises of the technology being safe, falling asleep with electric wires pulsing with charges attached to your head is a bit of a challenge. The setup’s sleep mask helps keep everything in place, but remaining still is key. There must be something to the gamma waves, though: within a few nights of wearing this to bed, my dreams were clear and memorable, although lucidity was elusive using the device in isolation. The shocks were subtle enough that they didn’t once wake me, although the sensors did fall off at the end of the night. Still, wearing the device was too distracting and dangerous: use is restricted to once every 48 hours. From $307; foc.us.com
Lucid Dreaming Fast Track Online Course
What it does: Fast Track is a series of 30 tutorials, quizzes and supporting audio tools. Devised by lucid dreaming expert Rebecca Turner, the course includes everything from textbook readings to soundscapes to subliminal videos that guarantee to stimulate lucid dreaming within 30 days or your money back. Each lesson is intended to be read in less than 10 minutes and then be put into practice at night.
How it worked: Certainly, reading about lucid dreaming ad nauseam can prime you well enough, particularly if you’re practicing the wake-back-to-bed method. And sure enough, within a few weeks of training, dreams were lucid on an increasingly frequent basis, promising the possibility of lucidity on demand with additional training. $47; world-of-lucid-dreaming.com
Dream Leaf Herbal Supplement
What is it? An oneirogen. The red and blue pills contain Mugwort, 5-HTP (an amino acid the body makes with tryptophan), Huperzine-A (used for memory enhancement), Choline (a nootropic), and Alpha GPC (Alpha-glycerophosphocholine, used for its cognitive-enhancing effects). The company’s website purports that it activates the neurotransmitters involved in conscious, controlled dreaming.
How it worked: Dosing involves taking one (blue) pill at bedtime, then waking up four hours later to take one (red) pill — not the most thoughtful practice if your partner is a light sleeper. Still, after just a few nights of taking the combination of pills, my dreams became more frequent and vivid; waking up in the middle of the night to take the second pill dovetails with the lucid dreaming wake-back-to-bed method and, when combined with other tools, provided a handful of lucid dreams. I remember having a falling dream; realizing I was dreaming, I didn't hit the ground but instead sort of bounced and headed back up. Then I woke up. $30; luciddreamleaf.com
Lucid Dreaming Sleep Music
What is it? An eight-hour recording of a mostly relaxing blend of ambient music, electric birds and such other noises. The lucidity comes as the music crescendos to prompt you back into semi-wakefulness at times when you are likely to be dreaming.
How it worked: Initially, finding the right volume level was a bit tricky, but once we adjusted to the sound the wake triggers proved helpful in lucidity. Best if used in combination with any of the methods described above — or in addition to the hypnosis app (below) — to increase your chances of catching yourself in a dream. Free; youtube.com
Lucid Dream Sleep (Alarm Clock) Hypnosis and Guided Meditation App
What is it? A low-cost alternative to hypnotherapy, this app features certified hypnotherapist Erick Brown guiding you into a trance-like state, suggesting, “a change to be received by your subconscious mind, releasing the block that is stopping you from having lucid dreams.”
How it worked: As with IRL hypnosis, this requires repeated tried to achieve the hypnosis’s goal of lucid dreaming. Essentially a form of WILD (wake-induced lucid dreaming), falling into a deeply relaxed state with ambitions of lucid dreaming was easy. But the dreams themselves did not come from hypnosis until I combined it with other means such as the eight hour track. $4; iTunes.com