Unveiling the Healing Power of Lucid Dream Workshops

August 9, 2023
IONS Science Team

Imagine a world where dreams become more than just fleeting illusions of the night. A realm where you hold the power to shape your dreams, explore your innermost desires, and perhaps even find solace and healing amidst the chaos of life. Recent investigations into the enigmatic world of lucid dreams are shedding light on their potential as a transformative tool for promoting healing and well-being.

Lucid dreaming, a state in which dreamers possess conscious awareness of their dreaming state, has captured the imagination of researchers and dreamers alike. What makes these dreams truly remarkable is the dreamer’s capacity for goal-directed action within the dream itself, sparking interest in using lucid dreams as a powerful means of facilitating self-discovery, as well as physical and mental healing for conditions such as chronic pain, clinical depression, and insomnia.

Recently, research has begun to look at whether lucid dreaming can alleviate symptoms, including nightmares, for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a debilitating condition and it is notoriously difficult to treat. People experiencing PTSD can live in a heightened stress response state and have a difficult time feeling safe because their minds/bodies don’t realize the traumatic event is over. The person can experience flashbacks and nightmares of the traumatic event, intrusive thoughts, dissociation, and intense negative emotional and physiological reactions, as well as a constellation of other symptoms.

Since the brain and body’s stress responses are dampened during sleep, lucid dreams have been proposed as a way to confront traumatic memories and resolve them.

In our new study, we investigated whether a lucid dream workshop – where participants learned how to induce lucid dreams – could reduce PTSD symptoms.

A Groundbreaking Lucid Dreaming Healing Study 

Forty-nine adults experiencing PTSD symptoms (evaluated through self-report on a questionnaire that assesses symptoms of PTSD listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.)), were invited to participate in a 6-day intensive online lucid dream healing workshop. In the workshop, they were taught the neuroscience of lucid dreaming, mindfulness practices for deep relaxation, sleep hygiene principles, practices to increase dream recall, and multiple lucid dreaming induction techniques. 

We measured the participants’ self-reported PTSD symptom severity, as well as the degree of distress caused by nightmares, overall well-being, and positive and negative affect before the workshop, after the workshop, and one month following the workshop.

In four participants, we also collected salivary alpha-amylase (sAA), a hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA) biomarker associated with stress, as an exploratory measure that has been suggested to have a potential role in evaluating treatment outcomes for PTSD. 

Results: The Power of Lucid Dreaming Healing Workshops

A remarkable 76% of participants (n=37) achieved at least one lucid dream during the workshop, indicating the effectiveness of the online workshop. Of those who experienced lucid dreams, 68% (n=25) were able to recall their healing lucid dream plan and direct their dream experiences toward specific healing goals, such as requesting physical or emotional healing. Of those 25 participants achieving healing lucid dreams, 72% experienced more than one healing lucid dream during the workshop. 

Compared to pre-workshop values, the participants reported significant reductions in self-reported PTSD symptom severity, nightmare distress, and negative emotions, along with an increased overall well-being at the end of the workshop, and in the one-month follow-up. We did not, however, find differences in these measures between those who experienced healing lucid dreams, normal lucid dreams, or non-lucid dreams on any of the measures.

In the exploratory analysis, the sAA awakening response profiles for two participants who enacted healing lucid dreams exhibited a pattern indicative of stress reduction. 

Dreaming a Brighter Future

In this study, we found that a 6-day lucid dream healing workshop reduced self-reported PTSD symptom severity, nightmare distress, and negative emotions, and increased overall well-being. While lucid dreaming itself may not be the sole factor contributing to these positive outcomes; we do know that it is associated with increased well-being and positive mood, as well as increased self-confidence and resourcefulness in individuals battling PTSD.

The degree of symptom relief observed in this study from the lucid dream workshop is similar to that seen in group-based psychotherapies for PTSD treatment, highlighting that social connection may be one of the contributing factors that help facilitate healing in this complicated disorder. More generally, findings from workshops like the one used in the study nudge us toward recognizing that altered states of consciousness – such as lucid dreaming – can potentially facilitate healing complex health conditions, and can ultimately help move us away from relying solely on pharmacological treatments.

Also, while exploratory, we did find healing lucid dreams were associated with a sharp decrease in waking salivary alpha-amylase, a biomarker associated with stress relief, suggesting potential benefits for PTSD sufferers. These early results offer tantalizing hints of the potential physiological effects that healing lucid dreams may have on stress regulation, although more research is needed with larger sample sizes to confirm these preliminary findings.

The realm of lucid dreaming is a wondrous world of self-discovery and healing potential. It allows dreamers to explore the depths of their minds, find relief from traumatic experiences, and gain insights into their own healing journey. While more research is needed to fully understand the scientific and therapeutic implications of lucid dreaming, emerging studies provide a glimpse of its transformative power.

So, the next time you find yourself drifting off to sleep, remember that your dreams might hold the key to unlocking a world of self-awareness, healing, and wonder. Happy dreaming!

Read the Paper

Thank you to Konstantin Koos & Claudia Welss for funding this study.

Check out this past ConnectIONS Live webinar with Garret Yount, and Konstantin Koos, who shares his motivations for funding this study.

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