8 Simple Steps Towards Lucid Dreaming with the SSILD Method

If you are new to lucid dreaming, or if you’re looking for a new method to help you achieve a lucid state, then the Senses Initiated Lucid Dreaming (SSILD) method may be a great match for you.

This method was originally developed and posted in a Chinese lucid dreaming forum, with its roots based firmly in meditation. As a result of its recognised effectiveness, it was translated to English and posted in lucid dreaming spaces worldwide. Since then, the SSILD method has become extremely popular among the lucid dreaming community thanks to its simplicity, approachability and above all, its effectiveness.

The SSILD technique is highly structured and involves a few simple steps, making it a great stepping stone into lucid dreaming for people who are new to the practice and experts alike. It does require you to wake up during the night, which, if you’re like me and find it hard to force yourself to wake up, is a downside. Despite this, it is still a great method for inducing lucid dreaming, and you shouldn’t let some discomfort hold you back.

Ready? Let’s get started then!

1. Set Your Alarm

If you’re familiar with the Wake Back To Bed technique, you’ll already be familiar with this process. Before you get ready for your slumber, set your alarm for 4-5 hours after you expect that you will fall asleep. This should wake you up during a REM stage of sleep, which is where the magic happens.

The REM stage of sleep is when we do most of our dreaming, and occurs at the end of each sleep cycle. The human sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes, but the REM stage lasts longer with each cycle. You want to wake yourself up in this stage of sleep, as when you go back to sleep, you are likely to slip straight back into this stage, rather than starting the cycle again. You will know if you have woken yourself up during REM sleep if you find that you’ve just woken up from a dream.  

If you have a regular sleep cycle, you can predict when you will be in REM sleep. You can do this by using your dream journal to record when you fell asleep and woke up, and note if you woke up from a dream when your alarm went off in the morning. You can then track your sleep cycle and get a more accurate idea of when you will be in REM sleep.

2. Wake Up!

When your alarm goes off in the middle of the night, you are going to feel tired, groggy and maybe a little cranky. This is the only unpleasant part of this technique, but don’t worry, you won’t be awake for long.

It’s a good idea to complete your dream journal when you wake up to get yourself thinking about your dreams and the possibility of lucid dreaming. If you like, you can get out of bed for a few minutes, if you’re worried that you will fall back asleep straight away (or if you need to use the bathroom). However, if you know that you cannot fall back asleep if you’ve gotten up during the night, there is no obligation to get out of bed. Find an approach that works for you – this is your dream process after all.

You should not stay up for too long as you want to be able to slip back into REM sleep, and the more alert and awake you become, the more likely you are to start the cycle again when you fall asleep.

You generally don’t want to use your phone, laptop, or any other screens during this time. If you simply can’t avoid checking your phone when you wake up, see if your device has a blue light filter and turn this on before you go to sleep. This will make it less likely that the screen will keep you awake when the time comes for you to slip back into your dream state.  

3. What can you see?

Get yourself comfortable in bed. Close your eyes softly, clear your mind, and take a deep breath. Now, what can you see? Yes, the obvious answer is nothing because your eyes are closed, but try to focus here.

When you close your eyes, your brain continues to look for shapes and patterns in your surroundings. The pressure of your eyelids resting on your eyeballs is actually perceived by your sensory nerves and is translated by your brain into patterns and shapes. You can demonstrate this now by closing your eyes and pressing on your eyelids (gently). You’ll notice that when you apply pressure, you can see colors instead of darkness.

Let your body relax and try to focus on the darkness just behind your eyelids. Try and relax the muscles around your eyes in particular and keep your eyes shut gently.

The point of this step is not to focus really hard on seeing something. This method still works even if you can’t see any colors or shapes, and all you see is darkness. The goal here is to be passively aware of your sense of sight.  

4. What Can You Hear?

The next stage revolves around focusing on your sense of hearing. Maybe you have a clock in your bedroom that you can hear ticking in the background, water moving through your pipes, a snoring partner… or maybe you sleep in a completely silent room and can hear nothing.

As well as sounds from your surroundings, focus on the sounds of your body. Can you hear your heartbeat? Your breath as you inhale and exhale? You want to become aware of these sounds, but you don’t want to become preoccupied with them. If you feel your thoughts drifting to the possible origins of the sounds, try to bring them back to focusing on the sounds themselves and let the thoughts simply wash over you.  

If you can’t hear anything, it’s totally fine. You want to become aware of your body and your surroundings, so simply note the absence of noise and enjoy the silence.

5. What Can You Touch?

If you are familiar with yoga or meditation, you may have tried this before. For this step, you want to become in tune with the sensations affecting your body.

A great way to do this is by conducting a body scan, where you check on each of your muscles, starting from your face and moving down your body. Notice where your body meets the mattress, the feeling of your covers on top of you, what your hands are touching and any other pressure exerted on your body.

You should also pay attention to any other sensations that you may be experiencing, such as the heat being retained by the blanket, the temperature of the air in your room, the feeling of your blood pumping through your veins, and your heartbeat. Anything that you can feel through your skin should be passively considered and allowed to wash over you.

Try to avoid adjusting or squirming around too much during this stage. If you notice that you are feeling tightness or discomfort, then obviously try to get comfortable. But in general, you are trying to become aware of the sensations in your body without becoming distracted by positioning and repositioning yourself.

6. Perform Some Cycles as a Warm-Up

Once you’re settled into bed after waking up from your alarm, do a few practice cycles of each stage. Each step should only last 5-10 seconds each and should be used as a chance to become familiar with the process and to prepare yourself mentally for lucid dreaming.

Use this time to adjust yourself if you’re not comfortable, remove any distractors, and generally get settled and relaxed.

While each step should last between 5 and 10 seconds, you should not spend this time actually counting the seconds. This will reduce your ability to focus on your senses and will have a negative effect on the overall success of the approach. Just try to gauge the time roughly, and if a step lasts more or less than the recommended amount of time, that is not a problem at all.

As you’re going through the cycles, you might experience a cool phenomenon known as sleep hypnagogia. This is when images or visions, such as sparkles, lines, or patterns, flash before your eyes. These can present in a number of different ways – they may be colorful, moving and three dimensional, or they may be black and white, still and flat, or any combination in between.

Sleep hypnagogia occurs when you’re in the stage between being awake and asleep, though not everyone experiences it. Even if you have experienced this in the past, it does not mean that you will experience it every time. So if you don’t experience anything like this, don’t worry about it, it won’t have any effect on the success of the SSILD method.

7. Time for the main event!

Once you’ve cycled through the steps 4-5 times (so for example, paid attention to your sight 4-5 times), then you are going to start another cycle. This time, however, you’re going to do it much slower.

Where before each step was lasting for about 5-10 seconds, each stage should now last 30 seconds. The point of this stage is to really focus your mind on your surroundings and senses and to get you into the right frame of mind for lucid dreaming.

If you notice your thoughts wandering as you go through this process, acknowledge them and just let them pass by you. Don’t punish yourself over your mind drifting, that’s completely normal and to be expected if you’re not experienced with this process.

Don’t forget that the only thing that is important to you right now is relaxing, and any worries or anxieties that you may have can wait until the morning. You’re not going to be getting up to sort them out now, are you?

8. Go Back To Sleep

There you go, the hard part is done! The process of cycling through these stages should leave you nice and relaxed and in an almost dream-like state. As you are in tune with your senses and aware of your body and your mind, you should slip right into a lucid dream.

You want to fall asleep as quickly as you can once you’ve finished going through the cycles. The longer that you stay awake, the more likely you will lose the trance-like state that you have achieved, and the less effective this method will be.

If you enter a lucid dream, you may find that you’re in your bedroom. This may occur because your mind has been focused on the sights and sounds around you, and it’s the last thing that you can recall before falling asleep.

Your lucid dream may also feel like you’ve actually woken up. Has your alarm ever gone off, and you’ve gotten yourself up and ready for work or school, and then your alarm actually goes off, and you realize you have to do it all over again?

Yeah. That can happen here. That is why it’s so important that you do your reality check. For more information on reality checks, please see our guide.

Conclusion

There you go then! You are now ready to attempt the SSILD method for yourself! If you found that you’ve gone through all the steps and did not achieve a lucid dream, then please don’t be discouraged. Lucid dreaming is a skill, and like any skill, it takes time and patience to get right. You are going to sleep almost every night for the rest of your life; you have plenty of time to become a master of this technique.

However, if you are one of the lucky people who achieve a lucid dream on their first attempt, then congratulations! Don’t forget to record your success in your dream journal when you wake up, and most of all, have fun being in control of your dreams!

If you’re not finding any success with the SSILD method, we have a ton of other lucid dreaming guides that can help you start lucid dreaming as soon as tonight.

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