It’s happened to me twice now. I know I’m dreaming and I go about my lucid dream business when a wave of lethargy hits. A few mornings ago I had just finished jumping, flying, and appreciating the feel of dream wood grain, when I encountered one of those tiny ramps that let you run up walls in Super Mario World. I wanted to use it, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even manage to try. In fact, I felt like I needed to sit down and take it easy for a minute.
On a physical level, this makes no sense. I was fast asleep and I knew I was fast asleep. If my physical body was taking it any easier, I’d be dead. Yet, a quick informal survey of my fellow lucid dreamers suggests tiredness in a lucid dream happens from time to time. In most cases, it’s not that hard to deal with. Wil suggests shouting “Clarity now!”, shaking, jumping in place, or even singing to get ourselves back on track. In my case, I recognized the absurdity of being tired while asleep immediately and felt fine after a few moments, though I lost lucidity shortly after and continued to dream unaware of the fact that I was still dreaming.
It’s All In My Head
If your primary concern is controlling your dreams, or if you have a very specific goal you are trying to accomplish in your lucid dream, then getting tired in the dream state is an irritation and an obstacle to be overcome. It’s good to have techniques in mind to overcome it quickly when there is something pressing you would like to attend to while you are in a lucid dream.
In my case the other morning, I had already done what I wanted to do earlier in the dream and found the experience of tiredness fascinating. To feel lethargic in the mental realm of the lucid dream while the body is resting and recharging made rethink the experience of feeling tired in general. It reminds me a bit of our relationship to food: sometimes we crave food because our body needs the nutrients, while the craving just as often comes from habit, boredom, or an emotional drive.
Some advanced meditators believe that fatigue often has its causes in the mind, and have specific advice for dealing with drowsiness on the meditation cushion. The Venerable Bhante Henepola Gunaratana suggests the following in Mindfulness in Plain English:
When you find [yourself becoming drowsy], apply your mindfulness to the state of drowsiness itself. Drowsiness has certain definite characteristics. It does certain things to your thought process. Find out what. It has certain bodily feelings associated with it. Locate those.
This inquisitive awareness is the direct opposite of drowsiness , and will evaporate it. If it does not, then you should suspect a physical cause of your sleepiness.
While “a physical cause of your sleepiness” needs to be considered during meditation, I think it’s fair to rule out physical causes in a lucid dream.
So What? Who Cares?
The idea of tiredness as a mental phenomenon is really nothing new or revolutionary. A friend at work pointed out that most of us have experienced slogging through a Friday in the office feeling half dead before driving home full of energy because of our exciting plans for that evening. The change that leads to re-energization in this example is one of mindset and expectation.
It’s not hard to grasp this concept intellectually, but experiencing it in a lucid dream with a bit of awareness is something else entirely. With no experience of my physical body in the lucid dream, I could be positive that the tiredness I was experiencing was a mental phenomenon and, perhaps more importantly, I knew it was no big deal. Having had that experience, I suspect I’ll never experience lethargy in the waking state in quite the same way as before. My hope is having seen through tiredness at it’s most illusory in the dream state, I will be better equipped in my waking life to judge when I am physically tired and legitimately need rest, versus when I am laying prone on the couch because I don’t want to do the dishes.
I’d appreciate hearing from you in the comments if you’ve had any experiences of fatigue or lethargy in a lucid dream. Did it totally derail your dream goals or were you able to overcome it? Are there specific techniques you find particularly effective for working through it?
I’d especially love to hear from anyone who noticed differences in their waking life they feel comfortable attributing working through tiredness in a lucid dream.