I have written much about my years of receiving guidance from dreams. So how does this work? How do we tell our subconscious that we would like to have a dream that provides a solution to a problem? What is the process?
Before I answer the above question, I think some background is in order. When we fall asleep at night, we enter into a process that occurs in several stages (often considered 5). As we enter sleep, the brain waves that are an indicator of the electrical activity of the brain slow in frequency. The physiological processes of the body also slow down. We enter a stage where the dominant frequencies of the brain waves are called alpha. The dominant, higher frequency when we are fully conscious and the reasoning mind is active solving problems, or making decisions, is referred to as beta. From alpha, the brain waves slow further and we enter a stage more fully characterized by theta.
Finally, we enter a stage of deep sleep characterized by very low frequency delta waves (sometimes considered as two stages). After the final delta stage, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep occurs. This stage is characterized by dreams and relative paralysis of the body and is normally considered stage 5 of sleep. The waves that characterize this stage are theta, although during dreaming a person can pass from theta to alpha, and even beta. The process of cycling through the stages repeats many times during the night.
My focus here is on pre-sleep and the first stage of sleep. As the brain waves slow before we actually fall asleep, the dominant frequencies will be characterized by alpha. It is a state of relaxation where the mind is very open to suggestion. Many self-help programs such as Silva Mind Control utilize the suggestibility of the mind during alpha to help people reprogram their lives. This is the period when you should make your request known to the subconscious. During this period, ask for a dream that answers your question. See it as being accomplished. See yourself having a dream that provides an answer. Believe that it will happen and it will be so. If you express doubt during this period, that doubt will be fed directly to your subconscious and undo your attempt to get help from your dreams.
Some may break the stages of sleep into four instead of five, and the descriptions of low alpha might be considered theta, but the overall thrust of what happens is the same. The subconscious is more amenable to suggestion during certain times, such as in pre-sleep, and this fact can be exploited for positive re-enforcement. Hypnotists have long taken advantage of this, and there are hypnotists who use the power of suggestion while a person is in a disassociated state to replace negative desires with positive ones. When instructions go directly into the subconscious, the results can be quite amazing.
To avoid any misunderstanding or concern, I should add that contrary to some popular depictions extensive research on hypnosis has shown the following. A person in the hypnotic state cannot be programmed to do something that overrides his or her values. The moral beliefs of an individual are stronger than the suggestion from another person to take some immoral action contrary to his or her beliefs. Nevertheless, do not place yourself in the hands of an unscrupulous person. One of the great benefits of dreams is the fact that you have complete control over your own life and are not dependent upon an outside agency.