Research Suggests Lucid Dreaming Could Benefit Trauma Survivors — Here's Why
For people who frequently lucid dream or are aware they're dreaming while they're dreaming, they'll tell you it's fun, you can practice certain skills, or even access your creativity. But could lucid dreaming offer healing benefits beyond simply controlling your dreams for fun?
Investigating lucid dream for healing PTSD
For this study, researchers wanted to investigate the potential for lucid dreaming to be used as a healing modality for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
To do so, they had 49 adults with chronic PTSD symptoms complete a six-day online lucid dreaming healing workshop. The participants reported their symptom severity and any nightmares, as well as their mood and how well they felt overall. Saliva samples were also taken from four of the participants to look for patterns of stress reduction.
Following the six days, 37 of the 49 participants were able to achieve at least one lucid dream (76%), and over half of them achieved a healing lucid dream. "Compared to baseline values," the study authors write, "significant improvements were observed in self-reported PTSD symptom scores, nightmare distress, and well-being. A decrease in negative affect was also noted."
As for the saliva samples, the saliva of two participants who'd had healing lucid dreams showed a pattern of stress reduction upon waking up, while the two who hadn't did not show that same pattern.
How to try it yourself
It's fascinating, indeed, to think that we have the potential to heal ourselves while sleeping through the act of lucid dreaming—but it can take practice to get the hang of it.
- Repetition and suggestion: Before falling asleep, clear your mind, relax, and repeat something along the lines of, "Tonight in my dreams, when I see something strange, I will realize I am dreaming and become consciously aware." Keep repeating that until you believe it.
- A hand-gazing exercise: Waggoner came up with the "Modified Castaneda" technique after reading Carlos Castaneda's book Journey to Ixtlan. Before going to sleep, look at your hands and repeat, "Tonight while I am dreaming, I will see my hands and realize that I am dreaming." Soften your eyes and keep repeating until you start to get sleepy. At some point, you may notice your hands as you dream and realize you are, in fact, in a dream.
- The right mindset: According to Waggoner, one surefire way to wake yourself up when you become lucid is by getting too excited. When and if you do realize you're dreaming, try not to react, and just keep calmly going about your dream business.
Be sure to check out our full guide on how to lucid dream for more information.
Lucid dreaming is one of life's more mysterious phenomena, and now, research suggests it could even offer a pathway to healing from complex trauma—and in six days no less.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.