Saturday, 27 July 2019

The Dreamhacker Series | Hacking the Sleep Cycle (2)

Hi, welcome to the Dreamhacker Series! This tutorial provides 2 easy techniques for hacking the sleep cycle, to optimise your chances of (1) remembering a vivid dream; and (2) experiencing a lucid dream. 

Remember, every time you go to sleep, perform steps 2, 3 & 4 from the first tutorial - The Dreamhacker Series | Remembering Your Dreams (1)

'Hacking the Sleep Cycle' basically means re-programming or adjusting your sleep cycle in order to optimise your best chance of experiencing a lucid dream. Dreams typically occur during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of the sleep cycle. This is the stage of the sleep cycle closest to a waking state, so it is characterised by significant brain activity as well as muscle atonia (sometimes referred to as 'sleep paralysis', which prevents us from acting out our dreams). The longest stage of REM sleep is just before we wake up. This is beneficial, as it means not only is this the most fruitful period of REM sleep in terms of the length of time spent in that stage, but also due to it being just prior to waking, we tend to awake directly from our last dream, making it easier to recall as it is fresh in our minds. 

The 2 techniques I will describe in this tutorial work on the basis that you will be aiming for remembering a dream from the final stage of REM sleep, and eventually, inducing a lucid dream during this stage of REM sleep. 

The tutorial will use the typical 8 hour sleep cycle as a reference point. This is because this is the 'average' number of hours recommended for an adult to sleep each night/day and therefore a healthy, balanced sleep cycle can be illustrated by diagram using 8 hours of sleep as a template. I will be using the hours of 0:00 - 08:00 am as reference points to explain these techniques. If you sleep for fewer or greater number of hours, then you may need to adjust the times employed in these techniques to suit your own individual sleep cycle, which may take some trial and error. 

Here is a diagram of the 8 hour sleep cycle:


You will see that I have marked the relevant stage in the sleep cycle - which here is shown taking place approximately between 07:00 - 08:00 hours. Some people experience a slightly longer stage of REM sleep in the early morning - perhaps up to 90 minutes (so from approximately 06:30 - 08:00 hours based on the above diagram).


The Wake-Back-to-Bed Method (WBTB)
The Wake-Back-to-Bed Method is a very popular way of hacking the sleep cycle. It works by encouraging you to stimulate your conscious brain at just the time you would normally be experiencing REM sleep. You temporarily delay the final period of REM sleep and then, when you return to sleep (the 'back to bed' aspect), you go straight from your conscious state into the longest, optimal stage of REM sleep in your sleep cycle, which can lead to the occurrence of multiple vivid - or even lucid - dreams

You can try this in 3 simple steps:

1. Go to bed (here, at 00:00 hours) with an alarm set for just prior to when you would experience the final stage of REM sleep. This should be approximately 6 hours into the 8 hour sleep cycle. The aim is to wake up after you have experienced all your stages of deep sleep. Based on the diagram above, your alarm should be set for 06:00 hours. 

2. Wake up after 6 hours of sleep at 06:00 am and stay awake for a short period of time. You must be fully awake, but able to go back to sleep for another short period, so the key here is finding balance. Use the bathroom, have a drink of water, check your phone - whatever will wake you up fully. Stay awake for any amount of time between 10 minutes and 1 hour (preferences vary here). Now set your alarm clock for 08:00 hours.

3. Go back to sleep until your alarm clock wakes you up from your brief sleep (which will be 1 - 2 hours long, depending on how long you stayed awake). Make sure you focus your mind on your intention to remember a dream while falling asleep. Later, when using lucid dream induction techniques, you can do these in conjunction with the Wake-Back-to-Bed Method. When your second alarm clock wakes you up (at 08:00 hours) you will wake up from either a vivid or lucid dream!

Advantages of the Wake-Back-to-Bed Method include:
Perfect for beginners
It has immediate and dramatic effects on improving recall of vivid dreams
You can pause and resume your use of this method, for example, reserving it for convenient times in the week when you have the ability to disrupt (or hack) your sleep cycle without interrupting your daily routine
It can be effective, even without use of other lucid dream induction techniques
You don't need a rigid time for going to sleep - as long as you can get a full cycle of sleep, this can be done at any time
You get your full 8 hours of sleep

Disadvantages of the Wake-Back-to-Bed Method include:
You are disrupting your sleep cycle which may interfere with your daily routine
It can be disruptive to anyone sharing a sleeping space


The Cycle Adjustment Technique (CAT)
The Cycle Adjustment Technique was developed by Oneironaut, Daniel Love, author of Are You Dreaming? Exploring Lucid Dreams: A Comprehensive Guide (2013). This method works by adjusting the sleep cycle and subtly influencing the body's chemistry in order to increase conscious awareness at the end of the sleep cycle - during the final stage of REM sleep. Again, this method can - and indeed should - be combined with your dream recall steps and also your lucid dream induction techniques when you begin to incorporate them into your dreamwork.

You can try this in 2 simple steps:

1. Reset/adjust your 'body clock' - set your alarm clock 90 minutes earlier than you usually would. Based on the 8 hour sleep cycle and times in the diagram above, if you go to bed at 00:00 hours and wake at 08:00 hours, set your alarm for 06:30 hours. Wake up at this earlier time every day for 7 days (week 1).

2. Alternate between normal/early wake up times - for week 2, you will alternate between waking up at the earlier time (06:30 hours) and your usual time (08:00 hours), so day 1 (06:30 hours); day 2 (08:00 hours); day 3 (06:30 hours); day 4 (08:00 hours); day 5 (06:30 hours); day 6 (08:00 hours) and day 7 (06:30 hours).

On normal days, when you wake up at 08:00 hours, your body will expect you to wake up earlier (at 06:30 hours), due to your 're-programming' during week 1. Your mind will be more stimulated than usual, and more likely to become conscious - i.e. lucid - while you are dreaming during that final stage of REM sleep between 06:30/07:00 - 08:00 hours. 

It is recommended that you 'refresh' your sleep cycle re-adjustment, by returning to step 1 (week of waking 90 minutes early) every few months.

Advantages of the Cycle Adjustment Technique include:
Perfect for beginners
This method works without needing to learn any other techniques (although, like the Wake-Back-to-Bed Method, it can - and should - be combined with lucid dream induction techniques to optimise your chances of success

Disadvantages of the Cycle Adjustment Technique:
You are disrupting your sleep cycle which may interfere with your daily routine
It can be disruptive to anyone sharing a sleeping space
This method requires 2 weeks of consistent practice, so can be onerous (certainly more so than the Wake-Back-to-Bed Method)
You spend 1 week waking up earlier than usual, then do the same on alternative days on week 2, which can be exhausting until you get used to your adjusted sleep cycle
You should go to bed at the same time each night, which can be rigid


Here are 2 additional techniques/methods you may wish to try:

The Afternoon Nap Method
You can also try afternoon naps - if you are 'caught up' (i.e. you've had a sufficient amount of) deep sleep on the previous nights (and therefore are well-rested and restored), an afternoon nap of about 1 - 2 hours is the perfect time for some REM sleep and dreaming! Remember to use your dream recall and/or preferred lucid dream induction techniques before your nap, while you are preparing to fall asleep! Almost everyone enjoys the luxury of a nap; the main disadvantage of this technique is the fact you need to be sleepy enough to fall asleep outside of your normal sleep routine, and the fact that incorporating a nap into your waking day might disrupt your nightly sleep cycle.

The Periodic Waking Method
Another technique you might try is one which I have referred to as the 'Periodic Waking Method'. This is where you experiment with periodic waking throughout the sleep cycle. As you can see from the diagram above, REM sleep occurs at regular intervals throughout the sleep cycle, typically in 90 minute intervals. Some oneironauts (dream explorers) utilise the sleep cycle for dreaming/lucid dreaming by calculating roughly when those REM stages will occur during their sleep cycle, then wake themselves up just before their predicted REM sleep stage will occur. Using the diagram above, you will see that the first period of REM sleep occurs approximately 90 minutes - 3 hours into the 8 hour sleep cycle. Using the Periodic Waking Method means setting an alarm to wake you up just before this first period of REM sleep (so sometime between 90 minutes and 3 hours after you have fallen asleep), performing your dream recall/preferred lucid dreaming induction techniques as you fall back asleep. Unlike with the Wake-Back-to-Bed Method, there is no need to fully wake up, or stay awake for any period of time - in fact, this is discouraged, as you are already significantly and dramatically disrupting your sleep cycle by using this technique. After your first periodic waking, you will set subsequent alarms at 90 minute intervals to coincide with when you will next experience REM sleep. This technique requires a lot of guesswork and trial and error in addition to the disruption of your sleep cycle, as sleep cycles are not nearly as rigid as the above diagram would suggest, and are dependent on many variables. This means that this technique will not be suitable for everyone and might be best practiced on occasions when it is convenient to disrupt the sleep cycle and lose some of your sleep time.

Here is the accompanying Dreamhacker Series | Hacking the Sleep Cycle (2) video which provides this tutorial in audio-visual form:

Here is the previous video in the Dreamhacker Series | Remembering Your Dreams (1):
Here is the accompanying Blog post - The Dreamhacker Series | Remembering Your Dreams (1)

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1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading your article. Please make more interesting topics like this on.
    I'll come back for more :)

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