An ongoing pandemic, mounting uncertainty and healthy sleep habits don’t mix. The fact is even dreaming can be stressful right now. With the turbulent news cycle and prevalence of doom-scrolling, the worry of the pandemic is bleeding into our dreams. It’s not just the virus itself that is a source of stress for people; it’s all the changes the pandemic has brought on.
People have reported that during this time, they are remembering their dreams more vividly and more often. And unfortunately, many of these dreams are bizarre or unsettling. Regular nightmares will impact your quality of life or ability to carry out everyday functions. So many people are looking for any way to break their cycle of stress dreams.
Luckily for us, recent research suggests that lucid dreaming may be a tool people can use to combat nightmares during the pandemic.
How Can Lucid Dreaming Help With Nightmares?
When someone is lucid dreaming, they are aware they are in a dream and can even begin to control the outcomes. Typically lucid dreaming occurs during REM sleep, which also happens to me when most nightmares occur.
Given that a lucid dream gives the dreamer the unique ability to recognize what they are experiencing isn’t real, it presents the opportunity for the person to stop a nightmare in its tracks. Practiced lucid dreaming may also minimize how often a person’s nightmares happen and their intensity.
“Many studies have shown that it is a viable technique for nightmare reduction, while also producing associated benefits to mood and emotion, thus facilitating better sleep,” says Sarah Johnson, RN and the Health Ambassador for Family Assets.
Everyone dreams differently, so you may find that lucid dreaming does help with nightmares. However, lucid dreaming should not be seen as a substitute for medical assistance if further help is needed. Regular nightmares may be a symptom of an underlying condition that lucid dreaming will not solve.
There have been positive insights gained from the collection of research done. However, there still needs to be more research on lucid dreaming and nightmares to prove the theory’s validity and consistency.
Is Lucid Dreaming Dangerous?
While caution is needed for those with mental health disorders, lucid dreaming doesn’t have significant risks associated with it. Those with mental health disorders may find that lucid dreaming leads to confusion or hallucinations, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before you begin lucid dreaming.
“The risks of lucid dreaming are quite minimal, as long as people stay engaged and keep a balance in their waking life and do not overly immerse themselves in their dreams at the expense of normal waking life needs and responsibilities,” says Craig Webb, Dream analyst, author and researcher.
It’s worth mentioning that regular lucid dreaming could have a real impact on your sleep quality as many techniques involve interruptions in sleep. So while there may not be immediate negative impacts on your health, a lack of sleep can be a big source of strain over time.
Techniques to induce lucid dreaming
“Lucid dreaming and related practices can certainly improve the amount of energy that we derive from sleep. A few specific techniques for inducing lucid dreams can affect our sleep pattern or amount of sleep though it can also increase the quality of rest and amount we feel refreshed after awakening,” Webb adds.
If you’re interested in lucid dreaming to address nightmares, there are a few standard techniques that can help you start.
- Reality testing –– If you regularly lucid dream, reality testing throughout the day and night will help you differentiate reality from a dream –– sort of like the spinning top in Inception. With reality testing, you should try to do an impossible task, like push your hand through a wall. Or try an everyday task that’s difficult while dreaming, like reading a book.
- Dream journaling –– Keeping a log of your dreams is an excellent way to remember and focus on your dreams. You’ll be able to identify patterns and more often realize you’re dreaming.
- Lucid dreaming devices –– There are specifically-designed devices –– like headbands or masks –– on the market that use sounds or lights to help bring on a lucid state.
- Wake-back-to-bed (WBTB) –– The WBTB technique aims to initiate a REM sleep state immediately. You’ll set an alarm around five hours into your night, stay up for a while and then go back to sleep, hopefully in a REM cycle.
- Meditation –– People who regularly meditate are more aware of their surroundings. This means they are more likely to recognize they are in a dream.
Too Long, Didn’t Read?
Many people are experiencing more nightmares than ever due to the stress brought on by the pandemic. Current research is investigating how lucid dreaming could give people more control over nightmares. Remember: the end goal is always to have a restful night’s sleep, and while lucid dreaming may be an option for some, it’s not the only one out there.