Howard is a regular lucid dreamer. He likes finding ways to increase his lucid episodes and enjoy the dream world.
Our dream episodes can be a lot like our waking ones—the good times fly by and the bad times drag. We can't always trust our perception of time. So, how long do lucid dreams really last?
Like regular dreams, most lucid dreams last between 5–10 minutes. This applies to people with lucid dreaming experience. It's common for beginners to get lucid, only to have the dream end seconds later. The dream might be 20 minutes, but the lucid part isn't.
Knowing how enjoyable lucid dreams can be, this makes us wonder if we can stretch our lucid episodes. Fortunately, there are ways to do this. First, there's something I have to get out of the way.
Do Dreams Only Last for Three Seconds?
No. Apparently, this belief that dreams are only seconds long spread because Snapple, the beverage brand, stated this in one of their under-the-cap "facts". This isn't true, and I'm not sure where they got it from.
Now, let's look at some dream extension techniques.
How Can We Make Lucid Dreams Last Longer?
Most dream lengthening methods involve one of two things—keeping composed and engaging the senses in the dream world. These are tried and true ways to remain in dreamland a little longer. We'll start with the most basic prerequisite.
1. Stay Calm
Everything else hinges on this. Getting too excited is the reason most beginners lose their lucid dreams so quickly. Early on, I was frustrated many times with this problem. I wanted a lucid dream so badly; when it happened, I couldn't believe my good fortune, which sent my mind racing through the possibilities. After a few seconds, the scene would fade out.
I'm not exactly sure why staying calm is so important. We have many dreams where we aren't exactly feeling peaceful, and it doesn't cause them to end. In fact, strong emotion is one of the hallmarks of dreams. Staying relaxed seems to be more important as soon as lucidity dawns.
Regardless of the reason, lucid dreamers know from experience that staying even-tempered helps the dream to take hold. How do you get to this point?
Mental rehearsal is needed. Throughout the day, and especially before bed, imagine getting lucid in a dream scene. Recognize the situation, but stay relaxed. Add one of the following techniques to firmly entrench your mind in the dream.
2. Verbally Affirm the Dream
Say something out loud in your dream, or in your mind if you're rehearsing. I suggest picking two different statements—one for immediately after lucidity begins, and one for later if the dream starts to fade.
For the first case, you could say something like:
- “I'm dreaming now.”
- “I'm lucid now.”
- “Time to start the dream.”
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For the second case, maybe something like:
- “Stay here.”
- “Make it stronger.”
- “Make it brighter.”
You can make up your own affirmations for these situations. Just keep it short and simple and positive. Don't leave any room for a misunderstanding.
3. Rub or Look at Your Hands
This is a staple in the lucid dreaming world. Rubbing your hands together engages your sense of touch, getting your mind to focus on the dream.
I like this one. I rub my hands together and also rub my arms while I'm at it. I find it really effective for stabilizing or extending a dream.
Alternatively, some lucid dreamers will just look at their hands. I like looking at my hands as a reality check, but I don't use it for dream extension.
4. Do a Simple Equation
Some lucid dreamers find that doing a little math keeps their mind active enough to strengthen a dream. You don't have to will a pen and paper into existence. Simply make a few easy calculations and say them out loud, such as:
- “three times four is twelve.”
- “two plus three is five.”
- “ten minus five is five.”
I wouldn't go any harder than that. If it was complicated, I'd probably get stressed over figuring out the problem and lose my lucidity. If your math skills are advanced, you could get away with stepping it up a bit.
5. Spin Around
This is another reliable one that I like. When the dream starts slipping away, spin around fairly quickly. While spinning, you can also say your affirmation. I like doing it for about 5 seconds.
6. Look at the Ground or Stomp On It
Sweeping your eyes over the ground keeps your focus on where you are at that moment. Don't stare fixedly at a single spot. I like adding a stomp to get some sensation into my dream body. It also serves to make the environment seem real.
Feeling like you're standing in a real place with your senses of vision and touch-activated is a strong stabilizing combination.
Jumping is another way to feel like you're in a real place. The bodily sensations of moving through the air and then hitting the ground are working in your favor.
8. Rapid Eye Movement
Sound familiar? Most of our dreams happen in REM sleep. During this phase of sleep, our eyes are flickering back and forth. We can use this to our advantage in a dream.
Almost all of our body is paralyzed during REM, but our eyes aren't. On top of that, our dream eyes affect our real eyes. This means we can use our dream gaze to simulate the kind of eye movement that keeps us in a dream.
When the scene gets hazy, sweep your eyes back and forth until it stabilizes. I like to combine this with a verbal affirmation.
9. Go With the Transition
This one differs from the other methods. You accept that you're going to lose the current scene, but you won't lose your lucidity.
When the dream starts fading, you don't physically resist in any way. You can stand still or lie on your back. Tell yourself that when you wake up, you'll still be dreaming and you'll reality check to confirm it.
I would say, “I'll wake up dreaming and reality check.”
Ideally, this will send you into a false awakening or into a new dream scene. The hope is that you'll remember to reality check.
It's good to be in the habit of reality checking every time you wake up so you'll catch any false awakenings. This is an easy way to extend your lucid dreams.
There are various supplements that are supposed to be useful for increasing lucidity.
Honestly, I don't have experience with these so I can't comment on their effectiveness. The only thing I've ever taken that was supposed to affect dreams was a vitamin B-complex. It didn't do anything for my lucidity, but it did make my dreams more vivid.
Others have said that certain supplements do improve their lucid dreams. If you're curious about them, they're probably worth trying. Their legality varies in different places, so research what is allowed in your country before ordering anything.
When and How Should You Use These Methods?
Some of them seem better suited for initially stabilizing the dream, rather than extension. Staying calm, using one of your affirmations, and making some calculations are good for making sure you don't lose your lucidity in seconds.
Most of the others can be used at the beginning or during a fade out.
When a lucid dream starts to break down, vision is usually the first thing to go. The scene dims and then gets fuzzy. Use one of the above methods as soon as you notice the change.
Since your sight fades first, be sure to engage your other senses to stay grounded. Touch, including bodily sensation, and hearing are going to be keys. I recommend combining them.
Let's take the hand rubbing as an example. My vision gets fuzzy. I start rubbing my hands and arms. While doing this, I say loudly, “Stay in the dream!”.
Or, as the scene gets fuzzy, I start spinning around. I call out, “Stay here!”.
You can commit to one method, or you can switch if there's time. Let's say you do the hand rub for 5-10 seconds, and the dream doesn't get more vivid. You can start spinning or stomping your feet instead.
When you accumulate some experience, you'll know what works best for you. My general rule is to use two at a time.
How Long Can a Lucid Dream Last?
There doesn't seem to be a consensus on this. Some sources say that about 30 minutes is the maximum. Others say 45 minutes to an hour is possible.
I've had regular and lucid dreams that certainly felt longer than 30 minutes. However, my perception of time can't be completely trusted here.
I remember one in particular that lasted so long I started wondering what else I should do. My guess is that an hour-long lucid dream is possible, but unlikely to happen very often.
Regardless of the maximum possible length, we can keep working on extending our dreams. I'll take an extra few minutes of lucidity any night.
Keep working on your dream awareness. I wish you success on your lucid dreaming journey.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on May 22, 2019:
Yes, I've had lucid dreams and I have been able to enjoy them. I always wake up rested; but this doesn't have to be everyone's experience. I really liked your informative and well written article. Respectfully, Tim
Howard Allen (author) on May 09, 2019:
As far as I know, lucid dreaming doesn't take any energy. It's possible that it does, though, because our mind is a little more active than during a regular dream. If it does, I've never noticed.
Meleniel on May 09, 2019:
I have not noticed whether I was well rested after lucid dreaming, or if it had taken some toll on my sleep and thus my recovery. Anyone has any insight on the question? Either way, lucid dreaming happens more often when I sleep longer than usual or indulge in a nap, so maybe it is not so relevant...
More clearly: Does lucid dreaming costs energy?