Most lucid dreams occur between 5AM and 8 AM, times that are most likely to be longer REM periods. LaBerge's work at Stanford confirmed this occurrence. The first step is to develop good dream recall. If one cannot remember dreams at all or has difficulty remembering dreams, then lucid dreaming is nearly impossible. Awareness must be developed in the area of dreaming. First of all plenty of sleep is necessary, and the longer one sleeps, the more dreams are possible. As the night progresses, dream periods get longer and closer together until near wake up time, the dreams are forty-five to sixty minutes long and only a half hour apart. The first dream of the night is the shortest, perhaps only five to ten minutes in length.
Dream recall happens when the dreamer awakens directly from the dream, which happens after almost every dream a person has. We fall back to sleep and forget the dream because we are in the habit of it. One way around this would be to set an alarm clock to wake you up at a time when you are likely to be dreaming. You could set your alarm for ninety minutes after bedtime, or other various intervals of ninety minutes from bedtime. If you are aiming for a period of time that would be richer with dream time, try setting the alarm(s) for six or seven hours after you go to sleep. Dreams are thickest and most likely during the late morning hours of sleep, right after or before dawn, depending on when you like to wake up. The probability of a lucid dream during this time is also double than in the earlier part of the sleep period.
Remind yourself of your intention to remember your dreams before you go to bed. Motivation is a big factor in the success or failure of dream recall. It will help to keep records of the dreams you recall, for this will inspire more dreams to be remembered.
As soon as you awaken in the morning ask yourself immediately what you were dreaming, for you were just dreaming before you woke up, if you woke up naturally. If you cannot remember to ask yourself this, try putting a note next to your bed reminding yourself to ask this question. Don't move when you wake up. Stay still. Don't think about anything either. If you can't remember what you were dreaming, ask yourself what feelings or thoughts are present. This will give you clues to what you were just experiencing and might jog your memory. This may bring back the entire dream. At first, only fragments of the dream will be remembered by the person who does not have good dream recall, but with practice, more will be revealed without as much effort.
Many techniques are available to train oneself to dream lucidly. One common technique taught by many, including the Don Juan character in Carlos Castenada's books, is to look for the hands in the dream. Once the hands are seen, one can realize one is dreaming because the signal was recognized, and then one is lucid in the dream. If the hands begin to change, one must look away or lucidity might be lost.
A very potent technique for inducing lucid dreams is to train the waking life consciousness to always be asking itself if it is dreaming. Every 90 minutes, one could ask oneself if he or she is awake or dreaming, and always answer, "Yes, I am dreaming. This is a "conditioned response" that will show up in the dream world.
Bizarre occurrences are dreamsigns, triggers which become doors to lucidity. A single out of place object, character or circumstance can be a dreamsign. These are clues to show you that you are dreaming. For instance, a streetlight is flashing blue, rather than the familiar red, green or yellow. This would be a dreamsign for the dreamer, and the dreamer could then realize that this is a dream, rather than physical reality. Then lucidity is achieved. If a tree in a familiar courtyard were pink instead of green, this could be a dreamsign. If your boss comes into work wearing a tutu, when this is completely out of character for that person, this can also be a sign that the dreamer is dreaming. Almost every dream has dreamsigns, some defiance of physical laws, social laws, or out-of-the-ordinary interactions of objects, people and things. By training yourself to recognize dreamsigns, you can wake up in any dream you like. Train the waking consciousness to look for out-of-place objects, situations or people in waking life. Noticing that one's boss is wearing an orange hat with a feather in it when it is completely out of character for him or her, this could be considered a dreamsign. A dreamsign is something that is unordinary, like purple kittens, and this would be a signal to the dreamer that he or she is dreaming. Impossible situations and objects are possible only in a dream.
Another discipline is looking for dreamsigns during waking hours and then this mental attention will be carried into the dream world. Simply recognize the out of the ordinary experiences all around every day, confirm that it is a dream, and as the dreamworld presents unusual events, the mind will respond similarly in the dream state as it did in the waking state by confirming that it is a dream.
An ancient Tibetan Buddhist technique is to maintain wakeful consciousness as one drifts off to sleep. Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold say in their book Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), that Rinpoche, a Tibetan teacher who was visiting America, taught people to "think of all our experiences as dreams and to try to maintain unbroken continuity of consciousness between the two states of sleep and waking." One could most easily do this when going back to sleep after just having awakened from a dream. It is more difficult if the first REM state hasn't been reached yet.
Another is called "Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams," or MILD, the phrase coined by Stephen LaBerge. Mnemonic means "something that aids the memory." It is difficult for most of us to even remember that we are trying to awaken in a dream, let alone do so. Stephen LaBerge's MILD technique can assist with this. This is a close cousin to the technique of looking for dreamsigns, but differs because you are the one who picks something to look for, rather than just waiting for something out of the ordinary to happen. For instance, one could program oneself to wake up in a dream every time he or she opens a door. This is done by remembering in waking life to check whether or not one is dreaming every time a door is opened in waking life. Then, in the dreaming life, this will automatically happen again, the question will be posed and the dreamer will then awaken in the dream.
A second version of this method, MILD, is to recall the dream just awakened from. While returning to sleep, imagine returning to that dream and waking up inside it. Before falling back to sleep, pick something you want to do as soon as you see yourself awakening in the dream, like flying or something like that. Often, the dream one was having is returned to and one and might remember that one had seen oneself waking up in this particular dream.
Another method for inducing lucid dreams is called "sleep redistribution." A normal eight hour period of sleep might be between midnight and 8 AM. With this method, the eight hour sleep period is cut short by sleeping only until 6 AM. One goes about his or her business for two hours and then goes back to bed from 8 AM to 10 AM. During these two hours, one will have more dreams than was possible from 6 AM to 8 AM in normal sleep. It is a fact that within only a few moments of falling back to sleep, especially during the morning period, REM can be re-entered quite quickly.
Stephen LaBerge's invention, the Nova Dreamer, also called Dream Light, is a wonderful device that delivers a trigger while the dreamer is dreaming. Other methods mentioned above deal with bringing a trained waking awareness into the world of dreams, but this method sends a direct cue into the dream as it is actually happening. This device, as mentioned before, flashes light into the dreamer's closed eyes whenever it detects REM. The dreamer will then see flashing lights in the dream and may use the trigger to wake up in the dream. It is most effective if the waking mind is trained to look for light sources in the dream. I have personally found this device quite effective.
Wake Initiated Lucid Dreams, or WILDs, are lucid dreams based on the idea that one can fall asleep consciously. This means that the body falls asleep while retaining full wakefulness and enters the dream state with consciousness intact. Full lucidity would be present immediately with the beginning of the dream. This is probably the most difficult technique of all, but it has been reported that it works, especially from the Tibetan Monks. A WILD is most likely when one awakens during the night and then goes back to sleep. It is not as effective in the beginning of the night for the deep delta sleep must be attained first before much else can happen. The ability to stay awake is quite a skill indeed, and might only be possible for meditators who have gained much mastery in not slipping over the sleep/awake border so easily into sleep. It takes great training to straddle this border without losing the wakefulness of waking life consciousness.