I’m a Dream Specialist, and Here Are 3 Tips for Controlling Your Dreams

Photo: Getty Images/Milan Jovic
Ever tried to go back to an aborted-too-soon dream you were enjoying after opening your eyes? Who wouldn’t? Drinking blood orange margaritas in Tulum with Idris Elba is way tighter than Monday morning in your millionth day of a pandemic. But is it even possible to do? Can you, say, learn how to control your dreams tonight so that you can return to a specific REM-sanctioned escape?

According to Lauri Loewenberg, dream analyst and author of Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life, it's certainly possible to get back into a dream after leaving it. The likelihood increases if you wake up in the middle of the particular cycle of REM sleep when you dream versus after that particular cycle has completed. But there's a caveat: the timing of when you wake up.

Experts In This Article

"We enter REM/dream sleep every 90 minutes throughout the night and average about five dreams per night," says Loewenberg. "Each cycle of REM or dream sleep increases in duration. The first dream of the night may only be about seven minutes long and the last dream of the night, the one you have in the morning before waking for good, can be 45 minutes long."

With that in mind, the dreams you have earlier in the night are harder to get back into because that cycle is shorter. It doesn’t mean you can’t try to return to something sweet from a 1 a.m. wakeup, though—but successfully doing so might be more difficult and unlikely to be successful.

The closer to morning you wake up from a dream, the higher your odds are of getting back into it are, since your dreams are longer in later REM cycles.

"Odds are, once you've woken up from an earlier and shorter cycle of REM, it's simply done, and when you fall back asleep, you won't be able to go right back into dream sleep," Loewenberg says. "Instead you have to go through the first three stages of sleep again before hitting REM sleep, and by that time, your subconscious has most likely shifted its train of thought."

To that end, Loewenberg says the closer to morning you wake up from a dream, the higher your odds are of getting back into it are, since your dreams are longer in later REM cycles. So why not give it a shot?

How to control your dreams tonight, according to a dream specialist

1. Do not move from where you are

Step one for being able to control your dreams tonight? Don’t move. "Stay in the exact position your body was in when you woke up, because that is the position your body was in when you were dreaming seconds ago," says Loewenberg. "The mind-body connection is very strong, especially during sleep, so moving your body is like unplugging your dream TV."

2. Keep your eyes closed

You know that kind of fuzzy, quasi-conscious moment when you’re out of the dream, consciously awake, and trying to hold onto it by keeping your eyes closed? Keep at it!

"You don't want any external stimuli to distract your mind at this point," says Loewenberg. "So stay put, stay still, and replay the dream you were just in."

3. Keep your mind on the prize

You've got this! Think about the place where your dream was trailing off, because that’s where we’re going.

"As you drift off, go ahead and imagine the way you would like it to continue," says Loewenberg. "At this point in the night or early morning, your REM cycles are longer, so your odds are greater of picking up where you left off."

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