Smell the roses
If your room smells like a foot had a baby with a Taco Bell, your dreams might be suffering the consequences. A small study out of Germany exposed 15 sleeping volunteers to the smells of either roses or rotten eggs during REM sleep, the most active dream state. Upon waking, the volunteers were asked to describe the overall feeling of their dreams. Every single participant reported having positive dreams when exposed to the smell of roses, while most reported negative experiences with the rotten eggs. If rotten eggs sound appetizing compared to your bedroom's "musk," it might be time for some air freshener.
Suppress your thoughts
What happens when you're told something is off limits? You can't press that one button. You can't open that one door. You can't date that one co-worker. The more you try to resist the urge, the exponentially more you fixate on it.
A 2013 study discovered that this sort of suppressed fixation can cross over into your dreams. When study participants were asked to suppress thoughts about certain objects before sleeping, they reported higher frequency of said objects appearing in their dreams. Your subconscious clearly has no respect for your willpower. So come bedtime, try really hard to not think about that rooftop pool party with Beyoncé, and you might be really "disappointed" when you wake up in the morning (especially if you sleep on your stomach).
Herb it up
People are always telling you to eat more greens. Try starting with Calea zacatechichi, better known as the "dream herb." Used by the Chontal Indians of Mexico to induce mild hallucinogenic trips, the dream herb is one of the few (legal) herbs that might increase vivid-dream frequency. It's pretty easy to find in tea form, although you probably shouldn't have a tea party with it, unless you want that party to end up as a sleepover. Other herbs, like mugwort and Huperzine A, get a lot of hype in the lucid-dream world, but there's not much evidence to corroborate these claims.
If you're desperate, load up on meds
Your brain is a delicate balance of chemicals. So delicate, in fact, that even something as seemingly harmless as Nyquil can mess it up. While the exact cause is unclear, nightmares and wildly vivid dreams are a known side effect of Nyquil.
Nicotine patches, especially the 24-hour kind, have been shown to cause similar experiences. Nicotine has a unique relationship with brain activity and REM sleep, creating an environment ripe for not just having crazy dreams, but also for remembering those dreams in the morning. Most commonly prescribed drugs for mental and emotional disorders affect dreams in the same way. So if you're a flu-ridden recovering smoker on benzodiazepines, you're probably in for some wild rides.
With the study of dreams being largely subjective, there are hundreds more claims out there about how to influence your dreams. Hell, one study even says different cheeses might cause different types of dreams (never mind that it was funded by the British Cheese Board). Whatever you end up trying, avoid riding that unicorn too hard.
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Nicholas Knock is a freelance writer for Thrillist who spent last night dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight. You can follow him on Twitter: @nickaknock.