[From NIGHTLIGHT 4(2), Spring 1992, Copyright, The Lucidity Institute.]
Note: References below are to the issues of NightLight (NL) in which 
the experiment (X) and the update (U) appeared.

By Lynne Levitan

The NightLight experiments have brought forth important knowledge about 
lucid dreaming. An overview of the research to date may help provide a 
gestalt of current understanding of the lucid dream state and stimulate 
further inquiry.


The first experiment, published in the first issue of NightLight, cut 
straight to the core of our questions. It was an examination of the 
effectiveness of a few lucid dream induction techniques that we had 
reason to believe were helpful. Subjects collected information on their 
lucid dream frequencies during four conditions. In the first, they 
practiced no induction techniques. In the second, they used a form of 
auto-suggestion. Before bed, they wrote on a piece of paper, "Tonight I 
will have a lucid dream," and signed the paper. This condition was 
intended as sort of control, in which people were attempting to have 
lucid dreams but with a technique that we did not believe to be 
effective. The third condition involved Reality Testing, asking several 
times a day, "Am I dreaming," testing the answer and then visualizing 
what is like to be dreaming and become lucid. The technique for the 
fourth condition was MILD, the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams, 
developed by Stephen LaBerge and used by him to learn to have lucid 
dreams at will.

Our expectation was that Reality Testing and MILD would be more 
effective than no technique or auto-suggestion. The results upheld this 
hypothesis. The finding was clear-cut for MILD, but less so for Reality 
Testing, probably only because we did not have an adequate number of 
participants for solid determinations. Each participant tried one 
technique per week. While practicing Reality Testing, 29 percent of 
people had at least one lucid dream. In the MILD condition, 26 percent 
had lucid dreams. These numbers compare favorably to the 20 percent of 
participants reporting lucid dreams during the "control" conditions.

Additionally, Reality Testing proved to be more effective when practiced 
more often during a day. The half of the group that did the most Reality 
Tests per day (five times or more) had twice as many lucid dreams per 
dream recalled (0.64) than the half of the group that did the least (two 
times per day or fewer).


The concept of dreamsigns developed during the writing of Exploring the 
World of Lucid Dreaming (LaBerge & Rheingold, Ballantine, 1990), as a 
term to capture the character of the anomalous events common in dreams 
that often stimulate people to realize that they are dreaming. A 
definition of dreamsign is, "a peculiar event or object in a dream that 
can be used as an indicator that you are dreaming."

The first investigation with dreamsigns was designed to classify and 
catalog which peculiarities were most common, and most likely to lead to 
the increased reflectiveness necessary for lucidity. The preparation 
involved reading hundreds of lucid dreams and selecting the events that 
preceded or precipitated lucidity. This myriad of oddities formed twenty 
preliminary groupings. The experiment asked participants to collect 
their own dreamsigns, categorize them according to the preliminary 
groupings, and rate them on a scale indicating how much the dreamer had 
wondered about the dreamsign. They also noted any occasions of lucidity.

From 44 people, we collected 227 dreams, containing 964 dreamsigns. Many 
types of analysis led to a refinement of the catalog of dreamsigns, 
employed in a later NightLight experiment (see "Watching for 
Dreamsigns," below). One analysis of particular relevance sorted out the 
dreamsigns that were both very common in dreams, and very likely to 
precede lucidity. These are presented in Table 1.

Form         1.5%*  10**    Dreamer is in a different body than
                              usual, or the body is distorted.
Role         2.6%    8      Dreamer is playing a role of other than
                              his or her normal waking self.
Action      11.6%    1      Dreamer does something unlikely or
                              impossible in waking life.
Perception   1.7%    6      Dreamer is able to see, hear, feel
                              things in a different way than usual.
Thought      5.3%    1      Dreamer has a dreamlike thought or
                              alters the dream events with thought.
Emotion     10.8%    3      Dreamer experiences unusually
                              intense emotions.
Sexual       1.2%    8      Dreamer feels sexually aroused or feels
                              sensations in the erogenous area.
Out of Body  0.2%    9      Dreamer feels sensations as if
                              "out of body".
Body Sense   2.0%    5      Dreamer feels an unusual sensation on
                              or in his or her body.
Paralysis    1.0%    7      Dreamer feels unable to move.

Form         5.7%    2      A dream person is different than normal,
                              oddly formed, or strangely dressed.
Role         2.2%    8      A dream person is playing a role different
                              than in waking life.
Action      13.7%    4      A dream person does something unlikely or
                              impossible in waking life.
Place        6.7%    7      A dream person is in a place where he or
                              she is unlikely to be in waking life.
Form         9.1%    7      A dream thing is strangely built, or
                              doesn't exist in waking life.
Action       4.6%    2      A dream thing does something unlikely or
                              impossible in waking life.
Place        4.4%    7      A dream thing is in a place where it is
                              unlikely to be in waking life.
Form         7.8%    3      The place where the dream occurs is oddly
                              constructed or impossible.
Place        5.4%   10      Dream occurs in a place the dreamer is
                              unlikely to be in waking life.
Time         2.6%   10      Dream occurs either in the past or in
                              some projected future.
*  Percent of the total number of dreamsigns for this category.
** A ranking from 1-10 with lower numbers more frequently
   occurring as lucidity triggers.


Because one of the most common constraints of the achievement of goals 
in lucid dreams is their brevity, the development of a reliable 
technique for prolonging lucid dreams would greatly increase the 
benefits available from the state. This study compared the effectiveness 
of three types of behavior on dream length.

The experiment was based on the notion that the dreamer can predict when 
a dream is about to end and be followed by an awakening by noticing that 
the dream is "fading." This process seems to be typically characterized 
by loss of visual image clarity, brightness and dimensionality. However, 
no systematic investigations of dream fading yet exist, so the 
reliability and universality of this phenomenon is unknown.

The first lucid dream prolonging method was "spinning," which means 
twirling around in a dream, like a dancer or a dervish. LaBerge 
discovered and refined this technique during his doctoral dissertation 
work on training himself to be a frequent lucid dreamer. His experiences 
and those of many lucid dreams who have also tried spinning indicated 
that this technique could be highly effective for postponing awakening. 
For the experiment, participants were to wait until their lucid dream 
began to fade and then begin to spin around (while still feeling their 
dream body) until they were in a dream again or awake.

The other two methods were not suspected dream prolonging techniques. 
Their purpose was to provide a contrast to spinning, to demonstrate 
whether or not spinning was actually having an effect on dream length. 
One method was "going with the flow," meaning continuing, or attempting 
to continue, whatever action the dreamer had been engaged in when the 
dream began to fade. This constituted doing nothing different in the 
dream, and so acted as a neutral control.

The third method had actually been proposed by Dr. Paul Tholey of 
Germany as a technique for causing awakening from lucid dreams. This was 
to focus visual attention on a single point in the dream and hold it 
their until the dream ended. The experiment presented this behavior as 
another dream prolonging technique, as a way of testing the power of 
suggestion in the effectiveness of actions meant to prolong dreams, and 
as a test of the verity of Tholey's idea.

The results derived from this study were provocative, but unfortunately, 
inconclusive. Not enough people submitted usable data to permit a clear 
understanding of the information collected, especially regarding 
differences in frequency of awakening following each of the three 
conditions. It will be very interesting to repeat this experiment with a 
larger group of participants.

The data from the 14 who completed the tasks hinted that dreams 
following spinning and going with the flow were more likely to be lucid 
than those following focusing on a point (70% vs. 29%). One indication 
that spinning may be better than the other methods for prolonging dreams 
appears in the finding that the average word count of dream reports from 
post-spinning dreams was highest (225 words), followed by going with the 
flow (176), and focusing on a point (151).


This experiment used the information collected in the previous 
"Discovering Dreamsigns" study to examine the relationship between 
dreamsign occurrence and lucidity. That study had permitted condensation 
of the larger 20 class catalog into a more concise list focusing on the 
characteristics of dreamsigns most relevant for stimulating lucidity. 
This list is composed of four categories:

* Inner Awareness:  Peculiar thoughts, strange emotions, unusual 
  sensations or altered perceptions.

* Action:  The dreamer, a dream character, or an object does something 
  unusual or impossible.

* Form:  The dreamer's body or another body or object is oddly formed or 
  changes form.

* Context:  The setting or situation in a dream is anomalous.

The structure of the experiment asked people to alternate between an 
induction technique of visualizing becoming lucid in a remembered dream 
because of noticing a dreamsign and a technique of visualizing becoming 
lucid without focusing on a dreamsign. No indication arose that either 
of these techniques was more effective at causing lucid dreams. More 
data from more people, however, may show a difference.

The interesting result was that people were more likely to become lucid 
in dreams that contained many dreamsigns. The frequency of Inner 
Awareness and Action dreamsigns in particular correlated significantly 
with lucid dreaming frequency.

This finding suggests the possibility that increasing our awareness of 
dreamsigns might enhance our ability to notice them in our dreams, and 
hence our chances of becoming lucid. Lucidity Institute courses include 
exercises for training people to become aware of dreamsign-like events 
in waking, with the hopes of increasing this awareness in dreams as 
well. An important target of future research should be the development 
of effective means of teaching dreamsign awareness.


This experiment marked the beginning of a series of investigations into 
the timing of efforts for inducing lucid dreams. Both laboratory and 
home based studies of when lucid dreams happen have shown that they are 
not evenly distributed throughout sleep time. In full nights of sleep, 
lucid dreams tend to cluster towards the end of the night, becoming more 
likely with each REM period of the night. Furthermore, in LaBerge's data 
on his own lucid dream times, he noted that he was much more likely to 
achieve lucidity during afternoon naps than during nightly sleep.

The goal of the nap studies is to find out whether naps are generally 
better than nights for lucid dreaming. If so, then what factors make 
this true? For example, it could be that a period of wakefulness 
preceding the attempt to become lucid may stimulate attention on the 
goal and subsequent success. On the other hand, or perhaps in addition, 
the condition of the brain and body at the time of day when naps are 
taken may be optimal for fostering lucidity.

In this study, participants maintained the same total number of hours of 
sleep, while shifting the last two hours of their nights' sleep to 
either two or four hours after rising. Thus, in the two hour condition, 
they were returning to bed at their usual waking time, and in the four 
hour condition they napped two hours after their usual waking time.

The findings were astonishing. Lucid dreams happened ten times more 
often in the nap periods than in the nights. Part of this result could 
arise from the fact that dreams are much more common in the latter hours 
of sleep. For example, in this study the number of dreams per hour of 
sleep was four times higher in the naps than the nights. However, the 
ratio of number of lucid dreams to number of dreams recalled was still 
three times higher in the nap periods than in the nights. This meant 
that three out of ten dreams from naps were lucid while one out of ten 
dreams from nights was. There was some sign that the two hour delayed 
nap was better for lucid dreaming than the four hour delayed nap, but 
the data set was too small for this finding to be conclusive.

Such strong results showed that nap-taking was worth a lot of attention 
as a potentially very powerful lucid dream induction technique. 
Therefore, napping and other investigations of time of day relationships 
to lucid dreaming have become a primary focus of NightLight experiments.


The concept tested here was whether lucid dreaming could be stimulated 
by brief periods of intense focusing. One of the great challenges of 
lucid dream induction techniques is remembering to attend to the task. 
The idea was that perhaps concentrating complete attention in a 
circumscribed period of time could provide the benefit of periods of 
lesser attention scattered throughout a day.

The study aimed at finding out whether the fifteen minute focusing 
notion had any validity. Alas, we still do not know, because 
participation achieved a nadir with this experiment. Although the 
procedure did not require that people have lucid dreams to complete it, 
which always limits participation to those able to induce lucid dreams, 
only 20 people submitted results. Perhaps it is too much to ask for 
someone's complete attention for fifteen entire minutes, but that would 
be a dire analysis of the human condition.

A glimmering of a result appeared in that focusing periods in the 
evening seemed to have more of an effect on chances of becoming lucid 
the following night than focusing periods in the morning. However to 
ascertain that this finding was not due to random statistical 
fluctuations, similar data from at least 65 more subjects would be 

Because there is little point in conducting experiments if not enough 
people contribute, we made a strong plea after this for more 
participants. We encouraged people by offering a very simple experiment, 
requiring almost no effort. This was "The Dream Clock" (see below).

7. BACK TO THE NAP [X: NL 2(3); U: NL 3(1)]

Continuing where the previous nap study left off, this experiment 
manipulated the time at which people took the last 90 minutes of their 
night of sleep and compared those results with what happened when people 
simply stayed in bed for an extra 90 minutes. One questions was: does it 
matter when the last 90 minutes of sleep are taken, that is are they as 
effective if taken at their usual time as when delayed? The other was, 
could it be that the high number of lucid dreams seen in a delayed nap 
are the result of sleeping at that time of day, instead of being related 
to inserting a period of wakefulness into the block of sleep time?

The three conditions were: a. get up 90 minutes early, stay awake 90 
minutes, then nap for 90 minutes; b. sleep the usual amount of time, but 
wake up 90 minutes early and do MILD for five minutes before completing 
the last 90 minutes of sleep; and, c. sleep the usual amount of time, 
then wake up to do MILD for five minutes before sleeping an extra 90 
minutes. Again, it would have been preferable to have many more 
participants. Nonetheless, some salient results emerged. Almost 90 
percent of the lucid dreams collected occurred in the naps or the last 
90 minutes of sleep, and most of these occurred in the delayed nap 
condition. Twice as many people had lucid dreams in the delayed nap time 
than in the last ninety minutes of the "normal" night of sleep (no 
delayed nap or prolonged sleep). These people had three times as many 
lucid dreams in the delayed nap than in the last 90 minutes of the 
normal night. Furthermore, an analysis of the number of lucid dreams 
happening per dream recalled showed that the delayed nap lucid dream 
frequency was six times higher. So, it seems clear that the delay 
contributes significantly to success with lucid dreaming.

The data from the prolonged sleep periods ruled out the possibility that 
simply being in bed 90 minutes after usual rising time is enough to 
cause lucidity. The last 90 minutes of the long sleep period turned out 
to be the worst time for lucid dreaming, also characterized by low dream 
recall. The next goal in the study of napping and lucid dreaming is to 
extend this study with many more participants, and to discover when is 
the best time to take the nap.

8. THE DREAM CLOCK [X: NL 2(4); U: NL 3(2)]

For this study, people were simply to note the times when they awakened 
in the night, and whether they had just awakened from a dream or a lucid 
dream. This was part of the effort to discover the relationship between 
lucid dreaming and biological clock cycles.

Sixty-four people contributed, making a data set of thousands of 
awakenings. In 79 percent, people had just had a dream. Ninety awakening 
were from lucid dreams (7.6 percent), meaning that about ten percent of 
dreams remembered were lucid. That is a very high number! It seems that 
simply sleeping with the intention to be aware of what is going on 
during the night, whether one is awake or asleep, is enough to stimulate 
lucid dreams for many people. Almost 60 percent of the participants had 
at least one lucid dream during the week in which they were collecting 
times of awakening.

As for the times, lucid dreams happened on average later in the night 
than non-lucid dreams, and non-lucid dreams happened later on average 
than awakenings with no dreams recalled. This corresponds to previous 
work demonstrating that lucid dreaming probability increases with time 
of night. In fact, 90 percent all of the lucid dreams in this study 
occurred after 4 hours of sleep, and fully one half after 6.5 hours of 

This is a very important finding. It clearly implies that, if we assume 
that lucid dream induction techniques are most effective when applied 
closest in time to the time when we hope to have a lucid dream, it would 
be best to focus our efforts as close to the optimal time for lucid 
dreaming as possible. The "Back to the Nap" experiment also indicated 
that wakefulness and induction exercises work better when practiced at 
6.5 hours into a sleep period than at the beginning of the night. 


In studying the relationship of lucid dreaming to the daily cycle of 
waking and sleeping, it is essential to consider the biological rhythms 
involved. In addition to the well-known 24 hour circadian cycle there 
are shorter cycles, called ultradian. One of these appears in the form 
of shifting dilation of the nostrils. If you hold one nostril closed and 
breathe through the other, and then switch nostrils, generally you will 
find that one nostril is easier to breathe through than the other. The 
change from left to right seems to follow an approximately 90 minute 

Some research has suggested that the nasal cycle may be connected to 
cycles of activity in the brain and also to cognitive abilities. 
Furthermore, a shift in nostril dilation can be produced by pressure on 
a reflex point on the side along line beneath the armpit. Possibly, 
then, one could effect a change in cognitive activity by deliberately 
pressing on this point.

In the oldest available references on lucid dream induction, the 
thousand year old text on Dream Yoga in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, 
is the advice to the initiate attempting to achieve a lucid dream that 
he should sleep "on the right side, as the lion doth." It is possible 
that the purpose of this posture is to encourage the type of brain 
activity conducive to lucid dreaming. After all, most of our current 
knowledge about reflex points on the body is found in ancient yogic 

This experiment examined the effect of sleeping posture on chances of 
lucid dreaming and attempted to assess if nostril laterality bore any 
relation to posture and lucid dreaming. The results were complex and 
difficult to interpret, showing that this type of study is probably best 
done in a laboratory under well controlled conditions. The procedure 
asked people to note when they awakened in the night, whether they had 
been dreaming, or lucid dreaming, which nostril was most open and to 
rate their dreams on several scales. The finding to take home from this 
study is that indeed, people had three times as many lucid dreams when 
sleeping on their right sides (as the lion doth?) than when sleeping on 
their left sides. Back sleeping presents a more complicated picture, 
also seeming to be better than sleeping on the left, but here we must 
examine other factors, such as which nostril is open. Further conclusion 
is deferred until a laboratory study is accomplished.


There are two primary types of lucid dream. Dream induced lucid dreams 
(DILDs) occur when the dreamer becomes lucid while involved in an 
ongoing dream. Wake induced lucid dreams begin when a person enters 
directly into the dream (and REM sleep) from the waking state with 
continuity of awareness. The latter kind of lucid dream shares many 
features with the phenomenon often refereed to as "out of body 
experiences" (OBEs). Indeed, our theory is that OBEs, like WILDs, most 
commonly occur during conscious transitions from waking to dreaming, the 
difference being that in the former dreamers believe themselves awake, 
while in the latter dreamers know that they are dreaming.

One important reason for connecting WILDs and OBEs is that they share 
phenomenological features. The experience of vibrations, strange noises, 
electrical sensations, feelings of weight on the chest and difficulty 
breathing, and floating -- sometimes with the sensation of peeling out 
of the body are common to both. The primary intent of this NightLight 
experiment was to see whether these sensations could be deliberately 
evoked by attempting to initiate WILDs, and if so to find their 
frequency of occurrence. Another purpose was to compare methods of WILD 
induction. The procedure was carried out in the context of attempts to 
re-enter dreams, under the assumption that the best time to directly 
enter the REM state is immediately after having awakened from it.

The first method was counting to sleep. The instructions were to sleep 
with the intention of noticing awakening from a dream, and upon 
awakening to begin counting, "One, I'm dreaming; two, I'm dreaming; 
etc." until asleep. The other method was a body-oriented technique of 
passing attention around 61 points distributed all around the body in an 
orderly sequence. Both procedures were based on the principle of 
maintaining mental vigilance while the body's physiological systems pass 
into the REM sleep state.

The most striking, and unexpected, result of this experiment was that 
one out of five attempts to re-enter the dream state resulted in a lucid 
dream! There were 191 attempts to re-enter dreams (from 30 
participants). Sixty-one percent of these attempts were successful, and 
one third of the re-entered dreams were lucid. Furthermore, two-thirds 
of the participants reported having a lucid dream as the direct result 
of the dream re-entry procedure.

Addressing the original purpose of the study, the examination of 
sensations occurring on the border of waking and dreaming, 62 percent of 
participants experienced at least one of the phenomena on the 
questionnaire. These were: paralysis, weight on chest, vibrations, 
buzzing (or other noises), and floating or sinking. The significance of 
this is that these weird feelings are not rare or anomalous. Apparently, 
they can happen to anyone. People often describe their sleep paralysis 
or OBE experiences as terrifying, perhaps reflecting on their mental 
health. There is no need for such anxiety. The fascinating transition 
between the two states of consciousness, the two worlds of waking and 
dreaming, is nothing to dread, but should provide much interest for 
researchers of the mind.


Common knowledge tells us that dreams are weird. In technical language, 
dreams contain bizarre elements. One question is, are dreams more 
bizarre than other mental experiences? That is, is their something about 
the dream state that produces more nonsensical or unordinary 
associations than such purely mental activities as storytelling, 
fantasizing, and remembering. Where does lucid dreaming fit into the 
scheme of things?

There has been some debate among dream scientists about whether dreams 
are really more bizarre than fantasies. The question is important in 
that it bears on what is actually happening in the brain in the dream as 
compared to in waking. This experiment attempted to study these factors, 
under the guise of examining creative output in various waking mental 
activities and in lucid and non-lucid dreams. This is the first stage of 
an ongoing project to analyze the cognitive correlates of dreaming.

The five types of mental experience studied were lucid dreaming. non-
lucid dreaming, fantasizing (really daydreaming), storytelling, and 
remembering. The instructions asked people to write a report of each 
type of experience. There were some difficulties with the data 
collection. Much misunderstanding arose regarding the fantasy, with 
several participants not carefully reading the directions and generating 
deliberate fantasies rather than capturing spontaneous daydreams, as 
requested. Furthermore, the memory task was confounded in that it did 
not ask the people to first remember the event, then report on the 
memory which would have been parallel to the other tasks.

The clearest result came out of an analysis of the frequency of bizarre 
elements. The experimenters judged each report, without knowing whether 
what kind of mental experience it represented, for the occurrence of 
discontinuities (sudden scene or topic shifts) and inconsistencies 
(anomalous combinations of events, places, or things). Lucid dreams and 
dreams both contained more bizarreness than memories or fantasies, as 
one might expect. The stories collected were stories made up about 
dreams. They contained as many inconsistencies as dreams, perhaps 
because people expect inconsistencies in dreams and include them in 
made-up dreams. In any case, the indication is that more strange things 
happen in dreams than in waking life. More research will butter more