This started with my listening to a podcast episode about lucid dreaming on Inner Cosmos, hosted by Stanford University neuroscientist David Eagleman, with guest Jonathan Berent. I can’t find out much about Berent’s background; according to this website, he’s an “entrepreneur” and “lucid dream expert,” and he’s selling an app. Which, tbh, all sounds kind of sketchy. But he seemed reasonable in the interview, and I respect Eagleman so onward.

The podcast advises three techniques to induce lucid dreaming:

Keep a dream journal. Look for common factors in your dreams that can indicate you are dreaming. Berent says he grew up in Indiana, and though he now lives elsewhere, most of his dreams occur in Indiana. So when he finds himself doing something in Indiana, he assumes he’s dreaming. (Must be awkward on family visits.)

I forgot the second thing. Maybe review the dream journal?

Test yourself throughout the day to determine whether you are dreaming. Tap your teeth. Flick a lightswitch on and off. Push one finger against the palm of your other hand. Look at a clock or some text, then look away, and instantly look back.

We know what happens with those things in wakefulness; the behavior will be unexpected and weird in a dream. For example, your finger might push through your palm. The clock or text might change drastically when you look back at it. Your teeth might float away. If any of these things happen, you’ll know you’re dreaming.

I’ve been doing the reality testing several times a day; I set an alarm on my phone to remind me.

I haven’t done well at dream journaling. Ideally, you should wake yourself up after 5-6 hours and journal at that moment. But I have chronic insomnia—difficulty returning to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night, sometimes three or four nights a week—and so I do not want to mess around if I’m getting a good night’s sleep. I did wake up once last night and got out of bed (for the normal reason one awakens and leaves bed—more common in middle-aged prostate-havers and pregnant people) and brought my phone with me and dictated a recap of my most recent dream. I haven’t listened to that recording; it may just be a minute of mumbling, a stream of water hitting water, followed by a toilet flushing.

I woke up many times in the night and was aware of having many dreams, but I could not tell you details of any of them—other than the one I journaled. I remember that one with a fair amount of detail.

From my listening to Eagleman’s podcasts and other reading about sleep, my failure to remember dreams is unsurprising. When we sleep, the part of our brains that records working memories—short-term memory—is switched off. Without recording short-term memory, nothing can get saved to long-term memory. Dreams are forgotten within seconds of awakening.

I said earlier that Berent sounded reasonable on the podcast, and that’s only 99% true. When Eagleman talked about “reality” and “dreaming,” Berent talked about “consensus reality” and “dream reality”—that they’re both equal somehow. This is bullshit. There is only one reality. Anybody who’s ever kicked a coffee table while barefoot knows that.