Lucid Dreaming The Risks and Benefits of Producing These

Lucid Dreaming: The Risks and Benefits of Producing These Experiences

Credit, Emmanuel Lafont

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Interest in lucid dreaming—the awareness that you’re dreaming while you’re asleep—has increased over the past decade. And during the Covid19 pandemic, there has been a particularly sharp increase in internet research on the subject.

It is difficult to reliably induce lucid dreams. So scientists have been trying to figure out the best way to induce this type of dreaming.

Lucid dreaming enthusiasts often cite a long list of potential benefits to justify the practice. This includes being able to have fun and fulfill personal desires, from controlling some aspects of dreams to developing creative thinking and helping with sporting activities.

But can lucid dreams also cause harm? And can there be situations where you probably need to stop provoking them?

According to research, the answer is: probably yes.

“Everyone in the mainstream media is talking about how lucid dreaming will change your life [como] That’s great… [Mas] Hardly anyone talks about possible risks or precautions,” warns clinical psychologist Nirit SofferDudek, a researcher at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.

“I think you have to be more careful when analyzing who’s good and who’s not,” he says.

Lucid dream bait

A 2020 study and a 2022 research analysis came to the same conclusion: The “mnemonic induction” technique is the most effective method for inducing lucid dreaming.

The technique consists of waking up after about five hours of sleep and setting the intention to have a lucid dream, repeating the following phrase before going back to sleep: “The next time I dream, I’ll remember that I’m dreaming.” .”

The potential benefits of lucid dreaming are often emphasized, and with good reason: research has unearthed fascinating results.

In one study, researchers asked people to do squats while lucid dreaming. They observed an increase in heart rate and, in some cases, breathing in the participants, almost as if they were actually exercising.

Another study concluded that practicing finger tapping during lucid dreams can significantly improve technique while awake. And it has also been suggested that lucid dreaming could be a way to help people who have frequent nightmares or suffer from nightmare disorder.

“If you can stay lucid during a nightmare, you can change your reaction or do something in real time that strengthens you and thus improves your ability to deal with the nightmare,” says psychology researcher Denholm Aspy of the University of Adelaide in Australia.

“Some people reported that they never had nightmares again.”

A 2019 study also indicated that lucid dreaming can be used to treat nightmares, but concluded that research in this area is currently too limited to estimate actual therapeutic outcomes.

Researchers have also suggested that lucid dreaming could potentially be used to treat serious mental disorders, such as clinical depression or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Risks

Credit, Emmanuel Lafont


One study found that people who practiced finger tapping during lucid dreams continued to improve the skill after waking up.

With all this evidence, it’s easy to see why inducing lucid dreams is so appealing. But there are clearly situations where they are best avoided.

According to Aspy, people with certain mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder or the manic phase should particularly avoid inducing lucid dreams, as they can make these illnesses worse.

Karen Konkoly, a graduate student in psychology at Northwest University in Illinois, agrees that lucid dreaming techniques can be destabilizing for people with these disorders.

“[Elas] kind of makes you think about reality and question reality,” he says.

“It can be detrimental to people who already have a hard time contemplating reality.”

In Brazil, a 2016 study observed the association between lucid dreaming and psychiatric symptoms in people with and without schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. The study concluded that in a psychotic population, this type of dreaming “can further intensify delusions and hallucinations, making inner reality look like an outer reality.”

But while most researchers agree that psychotic people should not practice these techniques, SofferDudek suggests that “perhaps people who are in a risk group for psychoticism.” [um traço de personalidade que exibe características como impulsividade, agressividade e comportamento antissocial] shouldn’t practice either.

In a 2018 article, SofferDudek and her student Liat Aviram examined possible changes in various psychopathological symptoms—such as depression, anxiety, obsessivecompulsive symptoms, schizotypy (a milder analogue of schizophrenia symptoms), or experiences of dissociation—after using lucid dreaming techniques.

SofferDudek has a background in sleep research, which prompted his concern that frequently inducing lucid dreams could mean a more alert sleep state, which could lead to potential sleep disorders.

She was also concerned that some of the techniques used to induce lucid dreaming might have an impact on sleep quality. She feared that this sleep disorder could lead to an increase in psychopathologies.

“I was well aware of the thousands of studies on the importance of sleep and sleep hygiene,” says SofferDudek.

“Intuitively, it seemed to me that many of the lucid dream induction techniques inherently undermined sleep hygiene.”

And the researcher suggested that this could be harmful to some people.

In the SofferDudek and Aviram study, 187 psychology students completed an online questionnaire about their experiences with lucid dreaming and the use of lucid dream induction techniques, in addition to answering any psychopathological symptoms.

Almost half of the students took part in a second phase of the study two months later. They filled out the same questionnaire again and kept a dream journal for 14 days.

The researchers were then able to observe whether reported lucid dreams indicated an increase or decrease in psychopathological symptoms.

They found that about a third of the participants used lucid dream induction techniques SofferDudek points out that this rate is likely much lower in the general population, since psychology students tend to have a particular interest in topics like this.

And the study actually found negative effects in participants who used lucid dream induction techniques.

In people who consciously attempted to induce lucid dreaming in the first phase, two of the symptoms dissociative experiences and schizotypy increased over time between the two studies, the researchers said.

“These two types of symptoms relate precisely to the boundaries between sleep and wakefulness or between dream and reality,” emphasizes SofferDudek.

“[São] Things that are somehow related to the confusion between what is real and what is not.

The researcher points out that much of the question appears to be related to lucid dreaming techniques and not to the dreams themselves. And other research supports this point.

In a 2021 study, psychology professor Tadas Stumbrys of Vilnius University in Lithuania conducted an online survey of 500 participants to find out whether frequency of lucid dreaming had a negative impact on sleep quality, dissociation, or wellbeing. be mental.

The study found no negative effects on sleep quality or dissociation, and also found that participants who engaged in the practice reported better mental wellbeing.

sleep damage?

However, Stumbrys agrees that when people use lucid dreaming techniques too often, it can have a negative impact on sleep.

“My understanding of all the scientific evidence is that it’s not the experience itself that has detrimental health effects, be it mental or physical,” he says.

“It’s more like some people become obsessed with lucid dreaming and try too hard [para conseguilos]obviously this is affecting your sleep.

For SofferDudek, waking up and going back to sleep is the biggest threat to a good night’s sleep. Waking up after four to six hours of sleep and doing concentration exercises to induce dreams is one of the most effective ways to induce lucid dreaming.

“There are many studies that show how important it is to get a good night’s sleep,” she says.

“Waking up at four in the morning, staying awake and going back to sleep isn’t good for you. That is out of the question.”

Other techniques like reality monitoring (constantly wondering if you’re asleep or awake) are also “the polar opposite of good sleep hygiene practices,” she warns. And they can be especially problematic for people who already have trouble sleeping.

However, other research has linked lucid dreaming to dreams with more positive content and better mood upon waking up the next day. In a 2020 study, participants reported that they felt more refreshed after a night remembering a lucid dream than after nights remembering a vague dream.

“Of course that can be explained by the fact that the person was happy to have a lucid dream, so the positive effects [ter] a good lucid dream [fazem] you feel better throughout the day,” says researcher Michael Schredl from the sleep laboratory at the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim and lead author of the study.

However, he also concluded that this renewed feeling was diminished when participants used the wakeandgo technique unless they were able to sleep longer than usual the next morning.

There’s also the frustration that comes from trying repeatedly to lucid dream and failing.

According to another study, people who fail to have lucid dreams sleep worse. But people who successfully have lucid dreams enjoy the same quality of sleep as nights when they don’t have lucid dreams.

“If you can practice the technique and get back to sleep quickly, that doesn’t seem to be a problem,” says Aspy, who led the study.

What about the time you actually spend lucid dreaming? Can it harm your sleep? Probably not for Aspy.

“For the average person who doesn’t typically have a lot of lucid dreaming…most of it probably won’t be lucid dreaming,” he says.

“At worst, the time you spend lucid dreaming accounts for only a small percentage of your dreams, and you’re still going to have a lot of nonlucid dreams anyway.”

Lucid Nightmares

Credit, Emmanuel Lafont


According to psychologist Nirit SofferDudek, the technique of waking up and going back to sleep in the middle of the night to induce lucid dreams can pose a serious threat to a good night’s sleep

There are other possible negative aspects of lucid dreaming. Aspy points out that some induction techniques can increase the possibility of sleep paralysis.

“It can be very uncomfortable,” he says.

On the other hand, Aspy points out that sleep paralysis can also be used to achieve more lucid dreaming if you know how to do it.

“But some people just want to avoid it altogether.”

In a 2016 study, researchers concluded that their participants’ experiences of lucid dreaming and sleep paralysis were linked. However, this specific association has been observed in intense vestibulomotor hallucinations, which are the most positive form of sleep paralysis. These include outofbody experiences or the feeling of floating.

The study found that sleep paralysis, but not lucid dreaming, is associated with decreased sleep quality and increased stress and anxiety.

Other research has linked more negative consequences of lucid dreaming to induction techniques.

A 2022 study looked at whether posts about lucid dreaming on the online platform Reddit were positive or negative. The conclusion read: “Lucid dreaming can stop nightmares and prevent their recurrence, but it can also induce distressing dreams that cause discomfort.”

The authors concluded that these negative consequences “are mainly due to failed attempts at induction or lucid dreams with poor dream control.” Successful induction of lucid dreams with high control carries a low risk of negative consequences, according to the study.

But even people who have lucid dreams and generally have a high level of control can experience lucid nightmares—terrifying dreams over which they lack control.

In a 2018 study, Stumbrys concluded that people who have more lucid dreams and who show greater control over their dream script with better induction techniques are more likely to have lucid nightmares. However, he also found that these lucid nightmares are rare and appear to be related to spontaneous rather than intentionally induced lucid dreams.

Schredl has also looked at lucid nightmares and recommends the use of imagery exercise therapy — learning while awake to rewrite and alter the nightmare to make it less stressful — to reduce nightmares.

The researcher also advises against waking up because not doing so can increase your anxiety. And people who use lucid dreaming to treat nightmares should also practice imagery exercise therapy to prevent them from having lucid nightmares.

The picture of the pros and cons of lucid dreaming is complex. However, in many cases bringing about such a dream is a personal choice.

SofferDudek says he doesn’t oppose lucid dreaming or lucid dreaming techniques. However, she wants people to think about the potential risks involved.

“If you have risk factors like sleeping problems or serious mental health issues like depression or signs of schizophrenia, you definitely need to be aware of the risks,” she says.

“Some of these techniques really aim to blur the lines between sleep and dreaming. Using them regularly can make you even more confused, feeling disconnected and disconnected. And that’s the risk to consider,” the researcher concludes.