How to use 'reality checks' for lucid dreaming

Reality checks are when you ‘test’ your reality to ascertain whether you’re dreaming or you’re awake.

The result of a reality check will either prove you’re awake, in which cause you go about your day or prove that you’re dreaming which causes you to become ‘lucid’. Becoming Lucid means as I’m sure you know – To be aware of the fact you’re dreaming.

It means you can choose what to do and where to go in the world of your dreams. One of the best ways to do this and to become lucid is to do these ‘reality checks’ throughout the day and even in some of your dreams. You may be wondering, what’s a reality check and how do I do it?

What are reality checks?

Let’s go into more detail here. It’s something you do in real life throughout the day which you hope will show up in your dream. It’s a moment during the day where you ask yourself ‘Am I dreaming?’ while at the same time TESTING your reality and doing a ‘check’ or physical action which has DIFFERENT results in waking life compared to the dream.

It’s something you can do which has one outcome in real life, and a different outcome in the dream, meaning you can use the result to know whether you’re dreaming or not. Here are some common lucid dreaming reality checks, and how they work.

Examples of reality checks

Try and push your finger through the palm of your other hand.  In real life, you will always get the same response and the same feeling, the resistance, the tension and the feeling of your finger pressing your palm will be constant. In the dream however, the finger will go through your palm, and you likely won’t feel it either. It will certainly feel strange, and you’ll realise that something’s not right, therefore allowing you to become Lucid.
Finger palm push reality check for lucid dreaming
Check your watch Or look at the time somewhere in the environment you’re in, so glance at a computer clock or a clock on the wall. The time will be different every time you look at it in the dream, whereas in real life it will hardly move. Make sure you clearly see the time, and then when you turn to look again, check that it’s the same. If it’s not, you’re dreaming.
Checking your watch reality test
Try to read some text Writing and words in a dream are often very hard to make out. You will be able to tell instantly by looking at writing or a paper/book that you’re dreaming. In real life obviously the writing is clear, it doesn’t move and you can understand it, whereas in a dream, it will appear to shift around the page, and it will be blurry. Look at the picture below and compare it to the text that it’s actually a photo of, in the paragraph above this one. It looks so very different, but that’s exactly what can happen in a Lucid Dream, the writing you’re looking at often appears vastly different each time you look at it, and noticing and being aware of this can trigger your lucidity.
Reading text lucid reality check
Look at your hands Your hands will always look strange in the dream, and it’s hard to explain why, but by looking at your hands, you can generally tell if you’re dreaming or not. Ask yourself ‘Am I dreaming’ whilst looking at your hands, and you’ll know the answer. When it eventually happens in a dream, you’ll understand what is meant by this, but your hands will give it away, they won’t be any different, but the feeling and thoughts that go through your mind when you look at your hands and ask if you’re dreaming will let you know the answer.
Looking at your hands to see if you're dreaming
Mental reality checks It may be sometimes difficult to do a physical reality check, specially if you’re around friends or work mates. If you’re worried about this, read the difference between mental and physical reality checks. It will clear up a few things. There are many reality checks you can do, but the key is to do them regularly. Whichever one you choose to use, make sure to use it throughout the day.
Lucid dreaming reality check example

Do it at least 20 times a day, and when you’re first starting out, try to set your watch to beep every hour to remind you to do a reality check, or have a piece of paper in your room which says ‘do a reality check’ and then do it whenever you see it. Here’s our list of the best times to do reality checks!

A common way of starting out with reality checks is to write on your palm or your forearm ‘Lucid’ or ‘Am I dreaming’, because this means whenever yo see your hands, which is quite a few times in a day, you can perform the reality check.

The idea behind these checks is that by doing it enough times in the day, you will find yourself doing it in your dream as well, and the second this happens, you’re lucid. You snap into awareness and control and you instantly become the master of the dream. For a more detailed look at this, read our article, How Reality Checks Work – The Explanation.

List of all the lucid dreaming reality checks ever

Well, maybe not EVER, but this list will give you pretty much all the common and not so common ways to test your reality for lucid dreaming. This is a long list of examples of reality checks you can use to control your dreams. If we’ve missed any, please let us know by emailing us or commenting on a YouTube video.

Lucid dreaming app – Get yourself a lucid dreaming app and set it to remind you at certain time intervals to check your reality!

Ask yourself in your head Look around you and really question if things are unusual.  Where are you, and why are you here?

Ask someone if you’re dreaming – Turn to the person next to you (or go and find someone if you’re not in public) and ask them ‘Is this a dream?’. Sometimes they’ll reply and tell you!

Check your pulse – Does it feel strange? Sometimes in a dream you can’t actually even feel your pulse.

Look in the mirror – Try to really notice details that are strange about yourself. In a dream you’ll always look strange in a mirror.

Take your glasses off (If you wear them) – Can you still see clearly? If you can take off your glasses and still see the same then you might be dreaming.

Check an objects color – A great addition to the list of reality checks – Look at an object and try and remember which colour it is. Then look away and look back; has it changed?

Look at a digital clock – Just like in Anamnesis, the digits on a digital clock are always skewed and weird looking in a dream!

Flip a coin and make it float – Expect the coin to float in the air before landing on your palm. If it does, you’re dreaming!

Jump and expect to float – Same as the one above, but this time expect YOURSELF to float!

Play some music and really listen – Listen to the sounds. Does the song sound the same as always or is that guitar solo missing?

Flip a light switch – In a dream, flipping a light switch won’t change the lighting much.

Look at your phone – Can you clearly see the battery bar and signal at the top? Phone screens in a dream often miss out these details!

You’ve learned reality checks. Now Learn lucid dreaming

All of this is explained in more detailing our beginners lucid dreaming guide.

The guide explains at the best ways to start using these reality checks, and importantly how to get them to start showing up in your dreams. The hardest part about this is actually getting these reality checks to show up in your dreams.

It’s easy to do them in waking life but then you’ve got to get them to show up in your dreams so you can actually become lucid.

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