Lucid Dream Triggers / Triggering REM?

Previously I've experienced lucid dreams, one of which I've been able to pinpoint the trigger.

Since using CPAP I've found that the frequency of me having lucid dreams has decreased. This lends weight to my theory that some of them were caused by small-awakenings (micro arousals) due to aponeas.

As I'm left with a small residual AHI with CPAP it is still feasible that the odd lucid dream is triggered by the an aponea or hypopnea, although until now I haven't been able to accurately mark when the lucid dreams occur as they usually fade into conventional dreams when I lose lucidity.

However, over the past month I've had a couple of lucid dreams where I've been able to mark the ending via the CPAP machine.

Essentially what I did was wake from the lucid dreams and turn the CPAP off briefly for a couple of seconds. In the morning this 2 or 3 second gap in CPAP data was enough for me to locate the period that encompassed the lucid dream.

One such dream occured on a night where I consciously intended to lucid dream (although "consciously hoped" is more of an accurate description because all I did was get into bed and thought of lucid dreaming and hoped that this intent would somehow carry over into a dream later in the night and allow me to carry out a "reality check").

Because dreams tend to lack continuity, "Reality Checks" can help you to become lucid whilst dreaming. Occasionally I'll use a "reality checking" technique for a week or so. This involves doing somethng with a predictable result during the day such as:

Finger counting

If you count the fingers on one of your hands you know what the answer will be. For most of us it's five. However, if you do actually take the time to do this many times a day then you should find that when you next see your hands in a dream you'll have the instinct to count your dream fingers.

I tried this once in a dream: five. I was sure that I was dreaming, so I counted again: still five. I then did it again: six! Six fingers on one hand was definite proof that I was dreaming.

From that moment on I was fully lucid.

Light switches

Most of the time you go to switch a light on and it comes on. So next time you approach a light switch don't just stick your hand out and flip the switch, consciously do it. Feel the switch, feel it moving, hear and feel the click, then see the lamp illuminate.

I do this every now and then, and it filtered through into a dream. I stuck my hand out and reached for the light switch but there was just a flat square of plastic - no actual switch. Again this prompted me to question the reality of the situation and slip into a lucid dream.

On this night, it worked.

In this post I mentioned that I'd been on a trip to Manchester, well whilst at the station waiting for a train home I read a great book about Sleep Paralysis by Ryan Hurd. When I arrived home I was exhausted from an early start and ended up by having a lucid dream.

HOWEVER... the intent was not the only factor (and I suspect that it is only a small part) because on that night my sleep was interupted by a noise outside my house which caused me to wake up and remain alert for a while before sleeping again. The lucid dream then followed.

Something similar happened on the night that I consciously wanted a lucid dream...

Now that I sleep well with CPAP I generally don't wear a host of monitors such as the Black Shadow Monitor when I sleep, so I wondered if I'd be able to pinpoint the lucid dream using CPAP data alone.

I could.

Take a look a screen capture from Resmed's ResScan software from the night that I mentioned above (click for a larger version)

Looking at the top line (a whole night overview of my breathing flow rate in Litres per minute), you can see that I got into bed slept for a few hours, and was woken twice by my son for around 30 minutes, then I slept 15 minutes before being woken again, then I slept.

Now take a look at the detailed graph of flow rate. This graph covers the period outlined by two light blue vertical marks on the top graph (3:25am to 3:54am) you can see that something caused a large spike in my breathing. This was a noise in the house that woke me and made me lay awake to see if it was something to be concerned about. In the end it turned out to be something falling inside a wardobe (I'd "tidied" them that evening).

At 3:46am I entered REM and the lucid dream occured.

I suspect that intent is a reflection of awareness. After all, those who are are aware that it is possible to be aware in their dreams are more likely to become aware that they are dreaming, and this is a big factor is whether a lucid dream will occur however it is not the only one - for a lucid dream to occur (for me) sleep must be disturbed (creating a REM rebound effect) and the sleeper must also be alert and awake for a portion of the night (heightening awareness and self consciousness prior to entering REM).

Looking at the ResScan output you can see that my breathing was consistent with the regular breathing that occurs occurs during non-REM sleep. Then a large spike occurs (a large breath caused by me waking briefly to assess the noise), then sleep continues until I enter REM (where the lucid dream occured) before I woke (note the change in breathing pattern) before turning the CPAP off briefly to act as a marker for me.

It's curious that REM seems to occur so soon after being disturbed. I've seen this happen before with my son, and it makes me wonder if REM could acutally be triggered by a disturbance. 

In the following Zeo hypnogram from a night where I was monitoring my son's transcutaneous CO2 during a BiPAP titration you can see that REM occurs immediately after both times that I had to move the adhesive sensor (which disturbed him enough to briefly speak to me before falling asleep again and immediately entering REM).

So my experience, coupled with that of my son got me wondering about whether it was possible to actually induce REM sleep after a brief arousal and hence lay the foundations of a lucid dream).

Then this happened...

I'd had a disturbed night as I had been woken 5 or 6 times to attend to my son and we'd also all been woken by something hitting the roof of our house (probably a clump of moss). Then it began to rain heavily, so heavily that the sound of it made its way into my dream.

In my dream I could hear rain, but not see it. Then I realised that it must have been raining in the real world and that's what I was hearing. From then on I was lucid, and probably for the longest time so far.

I suspect that I was lucid for around 5 minutes. I explored the dream world and ignored the boundaries: I walked through glass windows into people's houses, I floated onto their roofs (maybe looking for the cause of the noise that had woken us earlier?), I floated down the road, going from house to house melting my face through windows looking for something. Then I floated all the way to the top of a tall building and decided to back-flip and somersault down to the ground.

It was as I was falling to the ground that I got the feeling that I was waking up. I kicked myself for doing something so stupid as triggering a falling feeling because the rush caused me to wake. I then marked the CPAP data as described and went back to sleep.

It's times like these when I wish that I'd been recording more data. Had I have been wearing the Black Shadow and the Zeo then I could really explore the data but it isn't practical to sleep that way every night just in case something odd happens.

If I can learn to reliably induce lucid dreams then I would wear all the monitors on a night where I tried to induce lucidity; the rain invading my dream has made me consider another way of triggering a lucid dream...

I've found an excellent website that sells mp3 of natural sounds without any music or talking over the top of them.

I plan to use ZeoScope to begin playing a thunderstorm when I hit REM sleep.

I'll post about how it goes soon.

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Reader Comments (7)

I find myself envious of anyone who can practise with lucid dreaming. I'm still trying to get the "normal dreaming" part together for more than a few minutes a night ;-)
Have you gotten to the point where the measurement of your night-time activity doesn't itself affect the activity? I find that just using a Zeo itself is enough to change my sleep.

November 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

Hi Doug,

I've generally weaned myself off the monitors because I now enjoy sleep (thanks to the CPAP). Occasionally I use monitors as a progress check or if I'm planning an experiment with something like Melatonin or 5-HTP, but for the most part now I look at the data that the CPAP (Resmed S9 APAP) gives me because it doesn't involve me wearing anything more than the CPAP pillows yet allows me to look at data such as: airflow, individual breaths, resp rate, etc.

I did wear a recording thermometer when I slept in the woods a couple of days ago, just to monitor my temperature through the night (I took CPAP with me) and oddly I didn't see any of those REM-related temperate drops that I used to have without CPAP.

I guess it's a balance between good sleep and exploring sleep: a Sleep Scientist once told me that it's exhausting to monitor your sleep every night - and he was right.

I also find it's a balance between wiring myself up for the night with something akin to a full PSG (and finding nothing remarkable in the morning) and not wearing the monitors but experiencing a lucid dream, sleep paralysis or some other sleep-related phenomenon and regretting that I wasn't wired up to the monitors.

November 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterHypnagogia Blog

Hi there,

I'm happy to find your blog. Particularly, I appreciate your "reality check" practice and I will begin to do the finger counting and light switch practices.

I have only just begun to read about your experiences and so I may ask you something that you have already answered somewhere. If so, I'm pleased to just be sent to check that out.

My lucid dreams frustrate me because my awareness is more of my real body while I can "see" my dream hands for instance or my dream location. I struggle with actually wanting to wake up when I have sleep paralysis. And so my dream fingers have no use trying to open my real eyelids. My dream body is not useful when I need to be in the bathroom. My dream mouth works when I try to vocalize, but my real voice remains silent. The last is frequently the most frustrating. I will try to vocalize if I want to wake from a disturbing dream.

keep writing and thanks!

December 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCeer

Hi Ceer,

Thanks for your kind comments, they're much appreciated.

During my lucid dreaming I too am aware of my real body that is asleep in the bed, and I think that is one of the things that grounds me (keeps me lucid), it's only when I lose sight of my real body that the dream begins to take over again and I forget that I am dreaming.

That seems fine to me when I lucid dream and the dream is a "pure" lucid dream (one that is not triggered by sleep paralysis) as I seem to remain calm, but if the dream is triggered by sleep paralysis that I also seem to slip between lucidity and paralysis (between the dream body and the sleeping body).

I think the trick is to not be scared by sleep paralysis, and to not try to wake from it or to try to force your eyes open, that way you can use it as a launchpad into a lucid dream.

…but I think that you are saying that you have sleep paralysis and then a lucid dream and seem to be "trapped" in either one when you actually want to wake up. If that's the case then I've found that trying to move only seems to strengthen the paralysis. So the opposite seems to weaken it. Try telling yourself that you are safe and that you are simply awake mentally but physically asleep.

This may sound odd, but I've found that I accidentally wake myself up from sleep paralysis by trying to force my head to move when paralysed. Try imagining another head inside yours trying to get out when you are experiencing sleep paralysis and then try to make it float out from your real head. Whenever I've tried to do this to convert my sleep paralysis to a lucid dream I've ended waking myself up, so that could be something that works for you.

I mentioned a bit about it here: but as I said I was trying to remain lucid and failed, so it could be the trick that you need to wake from sleep paralysis.

December 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterHypnagogia Blog
If you are interested in kids and sleep there is loads of useful information by leading sleep researcher Assoc Prof Sarah Blunden at:

Kind regards!
November 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersnooze for kids
I have tried lucid dreaming but have always been unsuccessful. I found that If I ever accomplished it it only marked the end as my accident would wake me up. This strategy could help me. Thanks!
January 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAaron
Anybody can learn lucid dreaming. You need a lot of patience and determination.
May 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

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