Think You’re Dreaming? Check Your Hands

In the context of lucid dreaming, a reality check is a technique used to determine if one is dreaming. Lucid dreamers (LDers) practice these checks during waking state. A few common reality checks include reading the same text twice (in a dream, the text will shift or warp), reading a digital clock or watch (like text, the digits will not be stable), and attempting to fly (gravity is a shoddy little theory in the REM world).

Practiced LDers often have a regiment of performing these reality checks throughout the day. Strong anecdotal evidence, mine included, suggests that this habit carries over into the dream state, that the dreamer performs such checks during REM. Flick the lights on and off and find that the lights are “stuck” on? Check. Well then, time to fly, explore Io, and consult the oracle at Delphi in a matter of minutes!

After following some of the advice in Stephen LaBerge’s Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, I have been able to attain lucidity four times over the past few weeks, but my reality checks have been nothing like what I’ve practiced during the day (text checks usually). With the exception of my last LD–in which I noticed that the words on my computer screen were gibberish even though I was typing correctly–my reality checks have been the simple act of looking at my hands.

When I looked down at my hands, I noticed something askew: in dream 1, there was a psychedelic glow to them; in dream 2, a dopamine-rush aura glowed around them; in dream 3, all but my left-hand thumb was invisible. Some people describe that their hands are disproportionate. One thing is certain: there’s usually something off about them (in my case, several digits off). The nice thing about this reality check is that you need only your traditional ‘body image’ to see if you’re dreaming.

Reality checks all share one similar theme: mindfulness. Just as a meditator stops to observe the frenetic goings-on of the mind, so too does the LDer take an inventory of his/her assumptions about reality. Sometimes we are fooled by a test, or something doesn’t quite work. Trying to fly is an excellent second test. If you can hold your jump for longer than Michael Jordan, it’s time to explore your dreams.



  1. Mayatara said,

    August 3, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Well, reality checks like those don’t work for me. My hands are perfectly normal in dreams and even text and time in the clocks have now started to become stable and making sense – I have been able to read documents on dreams. Also, sometimes there’s actually gravity and my body is heavy and feels pain, just like in “real world”. Many times it is very difficult to know if I’m dreaming or awake, but eventually I manage to cross some wall and then I know.

    • August 4, 2010 at 12:45 am

      Yes, my apologies for the misleading title “Think Your Dreaming? Check Your Hands”–which really refers to the luck I had in attaining lucidity by observing my strangely glowing hands in that month’s lucid dreams, and which is not a reliable dream reality check. I’ve heard of a few standard reality checks, such as trying to breath underwater and trying to push one’s finger through a hand, that some dreamers have said that they have not been successful with. Changing text is the most reliable reality check for me. I’ve been able to read in dreams, too, but I think it’s only when I question the text and re-read it that it will become unstable. I’ve had a few dreams recently in which I “misread” a menu or sign or CD cover, but I never questioned that things were a bit off–therefore, who knows if the text was stable or not if I am not cognizant I’m dreaming? I take a lot for granted in my waking state and even more in my dream state.

      Thanks for the comment,

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