To dream, you must sleep. As obvious as that sounds, I need to add this intermediary step for at least 50% of those reading this. Most of the studies I have read show that more than half of us get less than the sleep our bodies require. While there are the rare few who can get by on 4 hours of sleep (see an interesting article in the WSJ, “The Sleepless Elite“), most of us need between 7 to 9 hours according to the National Sleep Foundation.
How can you tell how much sleep you need? There are several ways.
1. For sleep studies, participants are placed in a dark room for various ranges of hours and told to stay in bed, even if they do not fall asleep. After several nights, participants will fall into a natural rhythm. For example, if someone is in a dark room from 9 PM to 9 AM for 3 nights in a row, they may find themselves falling asleep at 10 PM and waking up at 7 AM and feeling quite rested. If you have the flexibility to try this, go for it. It should prove interesting if your lifestyle allows it. Note if you are able to do this step: you are probably one step ahead of the rest of us!
2. A more practical approach for many of us will simply be to extend our sleep by 30 min and see how it feels. It is better to extend this on the front-end, when you go to sleep, then when you wake up. Track how rested you feel when you wake up. If you really want to go the extra mile, track how your overall energy was throughout the day.
3. If you are a sleep nut like me, you might invest in a device that does this tracking for you.The Zeo Personal Sleep Manager is something I purchased a year ago and now I can’t sleep without it. It not only tells me how many hours I slept, it rates the quality of my sleep by tracking the amount of deep sleep, REM sleep and light sleep I get each night. There is a coaching program that goes with it that helps you optimize your sleep schedule and find things that steal the quality of your sleep (e.g. Caffeine after 2 PM). For lucid dreamers, it is very helpful to see when your REM periods are and how long they are lasting. Once you start measuring your sleep, you’ll be motivated to hit a score that is appropriate for your age.
Any of these three methods should help you extend your sleeping hours. If you are having trouble finding the willpower to take 30 min (or more) from the waking life account to deposit in the sleeping bank account, go back to your list of motivations from Step 1. There is something that is drawing you to lucid dreaming. Here is the punch line of this step: the REM periods get longer the more you sleep. You are much more likely to remember your dreams and become lucid in a dream, during the REM cycles that occur between 7 and 9 hours of sleep.
Lets do this together. I’ve been sleeping on average about 6.5 throughout the week and I almost never have lucid dreams with this much sleep. I will bump up my average to 7.5 hours for the next four weeks and report back my progress in how rested I feel and how it affects my lucid dreaming. Who’s with me?