Previous studies into the psychology of lucid dreaming have reported low success rates, prompting visiting research fellow, Dr Denholm Aspy, to develop a more effective lucid dreaming induction technique.
“The study is one of the biggest and probably most successful lucid dreaming studies conducted to date. People have been studying this for the past 40 years but unfortunately most studies have had quite low success rates ranging from about 3 per cent to 13 per cent,” said Dr Aspy.
Aspy said previous studies had fairly limited methodological quality, lacking high sample sizes and publication.
“Most haven’t measured variables related to how the techniques are practiced, they just look at overall success rates,” he said.
The new research could be used for a number of potential benefits, for example as a therapeutic aid to prevent nightmares.
“One of the most commonly discussed techniques is treatment for nightmares. Some people have quite regularly occurring nightmares that can actually be quite distressing and traumatizing and really impacts on quality of life,” said Dr Aspy.
“This is especially common in post traumatic stress disorder for example. When you have a nightmare, even though it’s a dreaming experience, it’s basically real to the body. So you’re having release of stress hormones, heightened arousal and heightened blood pressure.”
Dr Aspy’s research included 167 people from all over Australia placed into three experimental groups: “reality testing”, “wake back to bed”, and “mnemonic induction into lucid dreams” or “MILD”.
Reality testing involved checking your environment several times a day to see whether or not you were dreaming. Wake back to bed and MILD involved waking up after five hours then sleeping again to enter a REM sleep period.
The MILD technique also involved asking the participant to develop the intention to remember they were dreaming by repeating the phrase: “The next time I’m dreaming, I will remember that I’m dreaming”.
“In the MILD group we had a large and significant increase in lucid dreaming with a success rate of about 17.4 per cent,” said Dr Aspy.
He said the technique is focused on working through prospective memory – the ability to remember something in the future. This was about forming an intention that will trigger a memory later. Forming the intention to remember that you’re in the dream when you’re dreaming.
“Importantly, those who reported success using the MILD technique were significantly less sleep deprived the next day, indicating that lucid dreaming did not have any negative effect on sleep quality,” he said.
The study, Reality testing and the mnemonic induction of lucid dreams: Findings from the national Australian lucid dream induction study can be found in the Journal, Dreaming.Jump to next article