How to Dream Better: Three Techniques to Control Your Mind

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A mother gorilla and her baby sleep at the Beauval Zoo in Saint-Aignan, near Tours, on June 23, 2016. Guillaume Souvant/AFP/Getty Images

Scientists want to teach us how to control our dreams.

Lucid dreaming, as it's known, started gaining popularity among researchers in the 1970s. Most people can't achieve that kind of intentional state during sleep. But new findings add to the notion that we might be able to increase our chances of lucid dreaming with a few simple methods.

To develop the skill of lucid dreaming, a person should practice a specific set of techniques, Dr. Denholm Aspy, a psychologist currently researching at the University of Adelaide, writes in his paper published in the journal Dreaming. Although these techniques have already been recognized, Aspy and his colleagues note that previous findings are limited.

Their ongoing, small study involved 47 Australians who were divided into three separate groups. The volunteers tried three types of lucid dreaming approaches: reality checks, 'wake back to bed,' and MILD (mnemonic induction of lucid dreams).

In reality testing, a person tries to find whether they're dreaming or not. For example, a person may look at the clock, look away, then look back. The time should stay the same, but if you're dreaming the time often drastically changes. The 'wake back to bed' method involves intermittent sleeping. MILD also involves intermittent sleeping, but when a person wakes up, she or he repeats the following phrase: "The next time I'm dreaming, I will remember that I'm dreaming."

"The MILD technique works on what we call 'prospective memory'—that is, your ability to remember to do things in the future. By repeating a phrase that you will remember you're dreaming, it forms an intention in your mind that you will, in fact, remember that you are dreaming, leading to a lucid dream," Aspy said in a statement.

In the study, those who practiced all of the techniques had a 17-percent success rate with experiencing lucid dreaming, which was far higher than when they didn't engage in any of the strategies, the study authors note.

"These results take us one step closer to developing highly effective lucid dream induction techniques that will allow us to study the many potential benefits of lucid dreaming, such as treatment for nightmare and improvement of physical skills and abilities through rehearsal in the lucid dream environment," Aspy said.

The pursuit of lucid dreaming isn't just about the wow factor; the ability could be beneficial. In 1997, researchers speculated that lucid dreaming might help treat nightmares. A pilot study from 2006 confirmed that lucid dreaming might reduce the frequency of nightmares, though the authors remained unclear about why. Although much more research is needed, these findings could lead to treatments for the common nightmares experienced by those with post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects more than 3 percent of U.S. adults, according to the National Institutes of Health.

And if you can't stick with Aspy's methods—they do require disrupting glorious sleep, after all—you could always try the Remee, a sleep mask with LED lights designed to "maximize sleep penetration."