Dream Signs and How to Recognize them to Induce Lucidity

Dreams are a fascinating phenomenon. Everyone has them, but not everyone knows how to induce lucidity or that it is even possible. Lucid dreaming is becoming increasingly popular, with many people applying techniques to their sleep cycle in order to take control of their own dreams and manipulate the environment around them.

One technique, (known as MILD – Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams); is used to help people master becoming lucid. To be successful using the MILD technique, you need to learn how to recognize that you are dreaming when you are dreaming. You can do this by recognizing different “dream signs” that might be around you.

It sounds a little more complicated than it is, but with a bit of effort, it’s actually reasonably easy to learn and do.

What are Dream Signs?

Dream signs can be described as some kind of oddity relative to current knowledge or beliefs about the world around us. Dream signs can be anything, they can be symbols, events, objects, and even emotions. They are a signal that can be used to inform you that you are asleep and dreaming that has the ability to help you induce lucidity.

Western lucid dream pioneer Dr. Stephen La Berge[1] outlines that dream signs generally fall into one of four categories: Inner Awareness, Action, Form, Context.

Inner Awareness

You can’t help but feel that there is something unusual about your situation or surroundings. This can be due to altered perception, strange sensations, or strong emotions. There are often feelings of being detached from reality.

You may find that you are overcome with emotion that is disproportionate to what else is happening or your thoughts are able to influence the world around you. An Inner awareness dream sign is something you feel internally as opposed to something you see or touch.


Action dream signs are the happenings in dreams that would either not be physically possible in waking life because they would break the laws of physics, or they would be happenings that would be considered quite ridiculous or outrageous.

Flying, swimming in custard, and driving a go-kart on a busy highway can all be considered ‘action’ dream signs.


Form dream signs are visual in nature, which means that the physical appearance of an object, person, or animal is deformed in some way.

This can be happening in any number of ways, such as having two heads or having your best friends’ hands growing out of the side of their heads.


Contextual dream signs are events that just don’t seem to fit into what you know about your own reality. Your role in the dream, or the situation you find yourself in will be wrong and at times fantastical.

In the dream, you may be a sports star playing an important game, or you could be having lunch with your favorite movie star.

How to Recognize Dream Signs?

Now you know what dream signs are, it is time to learn how to recognize them; then, you can start looking out for them in your own dreams.

The best way of doing this is by keeping a dream journal and recording what you remember about your dreams every morning after you have woken up. With a dream journal, you will begin to learn and build a conscious awareness of your dream signs.

Remember to jot down not only the oddities in form, action, context, and inner awareness but also recurring events that may appear completely normal. Recording things that appear normal may provide you with additional dream signs as you may start to recognize recurring events or situations which would be unlikely in your waking life.

What to do When I See a Dream Sign?

Once you have built up a conscious awareness of dream signs, seeing one will often be enough to induce lucidity on its own. If not, you need to act upon seeing it by doing what is known as a reality check.

La Berge calls this ‘critical state testing’ and they are an important factor in developing the right mindset for lucid dreaming. Reality checks are the habit that we teach ourselves during our waking life with the intention of transferring that thought process to our dream state.

What are My Dream Signs?

Although there may be similarities and dream signs can be categorized, each person will develop their own unique idea and conscious awareness of their dream signs.

Dream signs for each individual are personal to them and generally depend on their interests, beliefs, and grasp of the world around them.

The more you learn about yourself, the better you will become at identifying dream signs. Your reality is unique to you and isn’t defined by anyone else and eventually, recognizing them will come as second nature – as if they are written on some secret code.

What Happens If I Don’t Recognize a Dream Sign?

Nothing happens but how you move forward depends on what action you take next. If there is nothing strange or odd around you, then you might want to carry on with doing a reality check.

If you have experienced a dream sign and remember not completing a reality check, maybe this has not yet become ingrained enough to induce lucidity.

If, however, you have woken, remembered a dream sign, and also remembered doing a reality check unsuccessfully, this is known as a false positive and could potentially mean that you need to revisit how you are approaching your reality check.


By paying particular attention to your thoughts and feelings throughout the day, as well as what is happening around you in a dream, it is possible to recognize that you are actually asleep and dreaming.

You can learn more about yourself and how to recognize dream signs by keeping a journal of your dreams every morning after you have woken up.

As you might have guessed, dream signs tend to bring the dreamer’s attention to the fact that they are dreaming, this may be enough on its own but if not, remember your reality checks!


Are dream signs the same for everyone?

Although there are some obvious commonalities in the dream signs that people use such as flying or breathing underwater; the majority of our dream signs are unique to us.

Are dream signs easy to find?

Some dream signs are more obvious than others. Generally, the way in which something is presented to you will be different to how it appears in your waking life.

If you see an object that is smaller than normal or larger, this could act as a dream sign. The same thing applies to objects placed differently or people wearing unusual clothes.

Are doors dream signs?

Doors can be a common dream sign for some people but that does not mean that they will manifest themselves as a dream sign for everyone.

A door of a particular color, shape, or size could be a form dream sign for some, and a door that leads to another realm entirely when passed through may be a dream sign for others.

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[1] Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming (LaBerge and Rheingold, 1990) – Buy Now on Amazon