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What is a reality check, how to do it, and why is it essential for lucid dreaming?
Reality checks are vital when it comes to differentiating a dream and the conscious reality. They will help you to gain awareness within the dream state.
There are various essential aspects when it comes to reality checks. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about it, including:
1. What is a reality check?
2. A list of reality checks
3. How to do a reality check: Step-by-step guide
- Why is it essential to do reality checks?
- How many reality checks should I perform?
- When is the best time to perform reality checks?
- How to remember to do reality checks?
- How can you do reality checks in dreams?
- Do reality checks always work?
- What if reality checks are not working at all?
5. Summary & Infographic
What is a reality check?
A reality check (reality testing) is a simple action that will help you differentiate whether you are in the real world or the dream world.
It can be a psychical or mental action, and to be successful, you need to perform it multiple times a day.
A reality check demands you to observe your environment, and it requires your full attention.
If you are awake, your surrounding, your abilities, and yourself are going to be normal. However, in a dream, things are a bit different.
You may suddenly witness something very odd; you may be able to push a finger through your finger palm, it could be impossible to tell the time/or to read something, etc.
Any sort of strange and odd visuals may symbolize that you are dreaming, which automatically will make you lucid.
Interestingly, according to a study, your awareness level is similar in your waking and dreaming states. Higher awareness in the awake state could lead to enhanced awareness when you’re dreaming.
A list of 12 effective reality checks
The following reality checks are practical and easy and will help you to test your reality with a physical or mental action:
- Ask yourself – the most simple one is to ask yourself, “Am I dreaming?”. It is a great mental technique that doesn’t require anything except your focus.
- Reading – try to read a sentence in a book, article, paper, notebook, billboard, etc. Try to read it a second time. If it changes somehow, or if you cannot read it at all, it is a sign that you are dreaming.
- Breathing – Plug your nose and try to breathe through it – if you can still breathe, it means you are dreaming.
- Hands – Look at your hands – usually, they look distorted in a dream, so by looking at your hands, you can figure out if you’re dreaming or not.
- Finger palm push – Push a finger from one of your hands to the palm of your other hand. If you are dreaming, your finger will go through your palm, it might feel weird, or you won’t feel anything.
- Tattoo – If you have tattoos, look at them to see if they are there and if they are different.
- Tongue – Bite your tongue and see if it hurts. If you can not feel the pain or an odd sensation, you are in a dream.
- Mirror – Looking at the mirror, you might notice weird things about yourself or in your surroundings.
- Wall – Put your hand on the wall and see if it goes through it.
- Light switch – When you press a light button, you should be dreaming if the light does not turn off (or on).
- Time/clock – In a dream, it is often difficult to read characters and numbers because the brain’s area responsible for those tasks is shut down.
- Jump – See if you go back down or you float.
How to do a reality check: Step-by-step guide
A reality check requires a few essential elements to be successful:
Step 1: Choose a reality check
Pick one and stick with it for at least a week.
Step 2: Build a habit
It is best to practice reality checking many times throughout the day – preferably every 1-2 hours, at least in the beginning. If you tend to forget, put an alarm on your phone, which will remind you to do a reality check.
Step 3: Full awareness
When you perform your reality checks, you must shift your attention entirely and only on them. For a few seconds, do not think about anything and focus your awareness solely on your surroundings.
Step 4: A state of doubt
Always have a state of doubt. We perceive reality and our daily life as something that we are in control of and recognize. But this is exactly what we do while we are in a dream. By doubting your reality daily, you will increase your awareness both in the waking and the dream world.
How to do a reality check: FAQ
Usually, we don’t realize that we dream until we wake up. By implementing reality checks in your waking life, you will start doing them in your dreams sooner or later. Persistent daily performance of reality checks will expectedly lead to practice them in dreams too.
Additionally, we are not aware that we are dreaming because we think that we are awake. By deciding to doubt your reality daily, you increase your self-awareness in the real world and dream world.
Perform between 8 – 15 reality checks a day.
At the beginning of your lucid dream journey, it’s best to do them every 1-2 hours.
Time isn’t as important as perseverance. Choose a convenient time when you want to do a reality check.
For example, you can do it after regular everyday activities, as a reminder, such as drinking a glass of water. Find more ideas below.
You can choose something to be your reminder for doing reality checks. It can be anything that you do several times per day. For example, make yourself do reality checks every time you look at:
- Totem – or other possession you have, such as a bracelet, a ring, etc.
- Alarm – simply put an alarm to remind you
- Phone – after you check your phone
- Mirror – after you look at a mirror
- The time/clock – after you check the time
- Weird situation – when something odd or unusual happens
An interesting theory called the “continuity hypothesis” suggests that most dreams are a continuation of what happens in everyday life.
Furthermore, several studies examined the ‘dream-lag effect,’ which is how long it takes for a waking life event to show up in someone’s dream.
The tests found that people were expected to dream about an event the night after it happened.
After 5-7 days, the likelihood of incorporating the event into the dream increased.
If we apply this to reality checks, it means that with persistent daily practicing, you should expect to see reality checks in your dreams the first night or just after 5-7 days.
The truth is that sometimes they don’t work. And It is normal for reality checks to fail from time to time. That doesn’t mean that you are doing something wrong; it is just that sometimes our mind tricks us.
That’s why it’s recommendable to perform a reality check 2 or 3 times, just in case. Sometimes they fail the first time, but the second one, they work. Also, experiment and try different reality checks to find the one it works best for you.
Some reality checks work better than others, so again, try to find the one that works for you.
Another thing might be a poor dream recall. If you struggle to remember your dreams, you should work on improving that.
Otherwise, you will have a tough time doing reality checks in your dreams, as even if you do it, you will not remember. To improve your dream recall, check my guide.
Lastly, be patient. Like any other new habit, you will need some time to get used to it and to see the benefits.
By following the guide and sticking to a chosen reality check, you have the chance to induce a lucid dream in a matter of a few days.
To sum up the key aspects of this article:
- A reality check is a simple action that will help you differentiate whether you are in the real world or the dream world.
- A study proved that reality checks are an effective technique to induce lucid dreams.
- There are many powerful reality checks, including – trying to read, finger palm push, tongue bite, etc.
- To do reality checks correctly, you should follow 4 essential steps – picking a reality check that fits you, building a habit, full awareness, and a state of doubt.
- You should do between 8 – 15 reality checks a day.
- Studies suggest that events from your waking life will most likely show up in your dreams after 5-7 days. If we apply this to reality checks, it means that with persistent daily practicing, you should expect to see reality checks in your dreams within a week.
- Sometimes reality checks don’t work, and if that’s your case, you should find out why.
Let me know in the comments below which reality check you plan to try, or if you tried one already, was it successful?
Kenneth G. Drinkwater (2020). Lucid Dreaming, Nightmares, and Sleep Paralysis: Associations With Reality Testing Deficits and Paranormal Experience/Belief. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7093643/
Denholm Aspy (2017). Reality Testing and the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams: Findings From the National Australian Lucid Dream Induction Study. DOI: https://insights.ovid.com/dreaming/dream/2017/09/000/reality-testing-mnemonic-induction-lucid-dreams/3/00012188
P.R. Corlett (2014). Dreams, reality and memory: confabulations in lucid dreamers implicate reality-monitoring dysfunction in dream consciousness. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4160044/
Michael Schredl (2012). Continuity in studying the continuity hypothesis of dreaming is needed. DOI: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280664515_Continuity_in_studying_the_continuity_hypothesis_of_dreaming_is_needed
van Rijn, E. (2015). The dream-lag effect: Selective processing of personally significant events during Rapid Eye Movement sleep, but not during Slow Wave Sleep. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-43828-003
Jean‐Baptiste Eichenlaub (2018). The nature of delayed dream incorporation (‘dream‐lag effect’): Personally significant events persist, but not major daily activities or concerns. DOI: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jsr.12697