In The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley documents taking the psychedelic mescaline and describes the enlightenment gained from his experience. Ken Kesey and his gang of Merry Pranksters take LSD on a road trip through America in order to “expand their consciousness,” as documented in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Feeling a little stuck in my head, I decided to experience my own transcendental, mind-stretching visions during October break. My hallucinogen of choice? Apple juice.
A few years ago, while procrastinating on whatever schoolwork I had at the time, I did some research about lucid dreams and how to have one. Lucid dreams involve a dreamer aware that they are in a dream. With this cognizance, the dreamer can control what happens and can quite literally do whatever they dream. One of the techniques to achieve a lucid dream, which I vaguely remember, involved drinking apple juice right before bed—a random bit of knowledge that has stayed with me throughout all these years. A couple of weeks ago, I grabbed an early 5p.m. dinner and decided to drink some apple juice with it instead of my usual orange guava passion fruit mocktail. That next morning, I woke up from a particularly intense dream but without any specific recollection of it. If apple juice at 5 p.m. could (allegedly) have that effect, imagine drinking it right before bed. My dream might inspire a surrealist masterpiece!
According to an article by Amerisleep, apple juice may produce more vivid dreams by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Yet, the same article disputes the claim that apple juice can cause any lucid dreams (very on par with pre-existing doctoral bias against apples). Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try. On the first night, I drank a Christmas mug and a half of apple cider. Curling into bed, I hoped the scenes of senseless violence from my current read, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, wouldn’t seep into any of my dreams that night.
Results of Night 1: Disappointing. Remembered only a terse text-off with a friend.
If I wanted to “sleep the sleep of apples” (in the words of Federico García Lorca’s “Gacela of the Dark Death”), I had to apple up. For the second night, in addition to drinking apple cider before bed, I ate some apple pie and listened to Fiona Apple.
Results of Night 2: Definitely vivid and very weird-slash-unsettling. These dreams would deserve their own piece to unpack. Still not lucid, though.
My sister, whose room sits next to mine, hates apples. Despite the fact that she was off at college, I feared any anti-apple energy emanating from her room could be interfering with my experiment. To combat this, I needed to fully harness the power of the apple. Thus, the third and final night, I sprayed Glade apple cinnamon air freshener around my room and used Green Apple shampoo on my hair—in addition to repeating all the steps from the previous night. To clinch it, I scattered Gala apples around my room like candles in a séance and put an apple under my pillow (while writing this piece I found a video recommending that technique, but it turned out to be an April Fools’ Joke). That night, with all the five senses covered, I went to sleep confident that I would finally have a lucid dream.
Results from Night 3: Pretty much nothing.
Before researching any pagan gods with affinities to apples, I questioned why the hell I was doing all of this. Sure, it was something silly to do during break, and it could be a way to control my dreams so I don’t have to experience nightmares like running from an intruder in my house and escaping by shrinking to the size of an ant in the laundry room. Also, I like apples. But what deeper issues was this lucid dream aspiration tied to? I already spend so much free time dreaming: creating fake scenarios in my head while listening to music and pacing around my room. As Fiona Apple said in her song “Sleep to Dream,” I had my “head in the clouds.” I needed to get my “feet on the ground” and reestablish my reality. Maybe, instead of dreaming about it, I could get what I want: not being “down bad” and nervous like 90% of the time, or perfectly crushing karaoke to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (though I don’t have any time or motivation to pursue singing lessons; I would need too many).
Or, at least, I could get another cup of apple juice.