Lucid dreaming Research

Lucid dreaming research has been conducted that can help you better understand the science behind lucid dreams, and may guide you to refine your techniques and methods.  There has not been an abundance of lucid dream research at this point, but there have been some fairly solid studies.  We start this post with some general research into dreaming, lucid or not, and then delve into some of the specific lucid dreaming research that has been done.

Examples of Lucid Dream Research

Here are some examples of lucid dreaming research that has been done:

  • The Neurological Laboratory in Frankfurt was able to detect high-frequency GAMMA brainwaves as people were entering REM sleep. This showed that people who were dreaming were showing evidence of being awake and aware.
  • The Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry used fMRI machines and was able to to detect the movements and actions of people in their dreams.  For example, when lucid dreamers clenched their fists in their dreams they found many similarities with people clenching their fists while awake.

Other websites that cover lucid dream research include: DreamStudies (a great website all around, and one that has occasional posts about outside studies), and of course the wonderful industry leader Lucidity which has many lucid dreaming research articles.

Lucid Dreaming Research Topics

Despite the interesting studies like those above, there has not been enough lucid dreaming research that helps prove the effectiveness of certain dream control techniques.  Most of what has been done has more to do with proving that lucidity is possible and to show when it is taking place.  This has been quite helpful in ensuring that more people understand that this skill is possible.  But what would be helpful as a next step is lucid dream research that actually compares techniques and also different variables such as diet, exercise, and mood on the possibility of dream control.  This next step would help give all lucid dreamers a head start.

It would also be helpful to see more specific lucid dreaming research about the various technologies available.  How well do lucid dream masks really work?  Can a certain type of pillow enhance your chances?  What about binaural beats and isochronic tones – do they really enhance your chances?  And finally, do certain external induction tapes actually work?  There are an increasing number of lucid dreaming aids available, and many that have been around for a while are constantly being improved.  Anecdotal reports suggest that they work quite well for some people but it would helpful to know who they work best for and what specific methods of use work best.

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Indirect Lucid Dreaming Research

This category describes research that has been done about dreaming in general that can inform lucid dream techniques.  For example, it has been found that there are certain dreams that tend to repeat themselves, and certain dream themes that many people share.  Many people share some of the same recurring dreams, including a dream involving falling, being somehow out of control such as when driving a car, being ill-prepared in some way (including not being sufficiently dressed), or being chased.  Of course there are positive repeating dreams as well, such as being back in a particularly meaningful place or time in your life, seeing a particular person you have not seen, or reliving a certain pleasant event.

How does this fact from become indirect lucid dream research?  It leads to a lesser known method of inducing lucid dreams is by focusing on these dreams and themes that tend to repeat themselves. Giving yourself the suggestion that when that particular dream recurs can lead to you noticing the next time that you are dreaming. Repeat dreams can thus become a trigger for lucidity.  No matter whether the recurring dream is positive or negative, or even somewhere in between, you can turn it into a lucid dream trigger by thinking about it while you are awake, considering how you would translate it into a lucid dream experience, and most importantly planning to ask yourself “am I dreaming” should it recur. Since you know the dream is likely to come back, this preparation may truly payoff and lead to a lucid dreaming state.

Indirect Lucid Dream Research Drawback

Of course the drawback to this particular lucid dreaming technique is that it is not one thy can be used too frequently, and it may take a while for the recurring dream to become a lucid dream sign and trigger. However, when used as part of a larger approach to lucidity it can be helpful in augmenting your chances. And the really nice thing that this lucid dreaming technique can do for you is make a previously uncomfortable dream experience a positive – if the negative dream becomes a lucid dream trigger that is great, and if you are then able to use dream control to turn around the content into something positive, that’s even better!  That is where general dreaming research and specific lucid dreaming research could collide – where someone could study these repeat dreams and also how lucidity could be gained from and then even perhaps influence them.

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Direct Lucid Dreaming Research

So what direct lucid dream research has taken place? It depends on how you define “research”. For example, there have certainly been studies that have asked questions about lucid dreams, such as surveys that ask how often people experience lucidity (usually the answer is that between 10-25% of people do. Or how many people have experienced a spontaneous lucid dreaming experience (usually a majority of those who answer). But have there been studies that actually prove that lucid dreaming is “real” and disprove that they are not actually part of the real dreaming process? For that to happen we’d need to be able to isolate a certain time when it is clear that dreaming is occurring and also that the person is fully aware. This has proven challenging given current technologies.

How could this type of lucid dreaming research take place? One possibility that has been tried by the foremost researcher in this area, Stephen LeBerge, is having the dreamer somehow signal to the outside world when she or he is having a lucid dream. This may be possible with certain eye movements that the dreamer is able to produce while dreaming – using certain patterns to indicate that they are lucid. This type of lucid dreaming research shows promise.

Lucid Dream Research Future Directions

The other way to perform lucid dream research is to somehow measure any differences in the way certain instruments, whether EEG, MRI, or PET scans read during periods of lucidity vs. normal dreaming. In other words, if we can somehow show a reading that suggests “consciousness” while a person is clearly asleep and in REM, this would go a long way. But all of this potential lucid dreaming research is challenging to do and likely expensive.

We will certainly write about any promising results from lucid dreaming research.

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