Dreaming has been a hot topic in research for years now. Despite the numerous studies and years of research, the world of dreams remains largely unexplored. Though through no fault of researchers, studying dreams is frankly just very hard to consistently do.

Dream reports –– a common element in research –– are often fragmented or distorted because the person is trying to recall while awake. The latest February study has successfully crossed the previously-unknown bridge of communicating while someone is dreaming. 

Conducted by Northwestern’s team and three independent teams from France, Germany and the Netherlands, they said, “Our experimental goal is akin to finding a way to talk with an astronaut who is on another world, but in this case, the world is entirely fabricated on the basis of memories stored in the brain.”

Key findings: 

  • Clear and accurate communication resulted in 18% of the total sessions.
  • Participants were able to signal they were in a lucid dream 26% of the time.
  • Of the people who were able to signal they were lucid dreaming, 47% got at least one answer correct. 
  • 3.2% of responses were incorrect. 
  • 60% of sessions resulted in no response. 

A New Take on Lucid Dreaming and Communication

The fundamental roadblock when studying dreams is that people aren’t able to always accurately recall their dreams and often unintentionally change what they experience when they attempt to recall them. This study managed two-way communication with participants who were in the midst of a lucid dream

When a person lucid dreams, they know they are dreaming. This isn’t as uncommon as it sounds –– around 55% of people have reported having at least one lucid dream in their lifetime. 23% of people regularly have them. That’s not to say it’s easy, though techniques like dream journaling or medication can help increase the chances of lucid dreaming.

The study included 36 participants across four independent laboratory groups. The participants fell into one of three groups: lucid dreaming experiences, inexperienced or living with narcolepsy (only one participant had narcolepsy.) To monitor whether participants entered the REM stage, researchers used electrodes placed near the eyes, scalp, and chin to track both brain activity and eye movement. 

Communication is Possible

Once participants were experiencing a lucid dream, they were asked simple math problems and yes or no questions that they knew the answer to. Here’s where it gets cool –– some people actually responded. 

Now, to be fair, they didn’t verbally answer the questions. Facial contortions and eye signals were the communication methods used. After their experience, participants were able to recall the interaction with researchers. Some reported that it sounded like a narrator voice-over or radio. People were asked what questions they were asked during their dream, and there were instances of distortion and inaccurate recall.

It’s worth noting that these findings are only relevant for lucid dreaming. According to the study, “The present studies did not allow us to formally compare the likelihood of two-way communication during lucid dreams versus non-lucid dreams, because our goal was to communicate during lucid dreams. Addressing this issue is an exciting challenge for future research.”

Are There Any Risks With Lucid Dreaming?

There are a lot of upsides when it comes to lucid dreaming –– besides the scientific ones. Lucid dreams have been reported to help reduce anxiety, decrease nightmares, increase creativity and even improve your problem-solving skills. However, the downsides shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Lucid dreaming in and of itself isn’t harmful, though there are risks for those people with mental health disorders. It’s worth noting that regular lucid dreaming will also likely have an impact on your sleep quality. 

Many techniques aimed at increasing lucid dreams involve interrupting your sleep cycle, which could ultimately make getting a good night’s sleep difficult. That’s not to say that one lucid dream is going to destroy the months of routine you worked up. It just might be hard to fall back asleep after lucid dreaming sessions. However, repeated lucid dreaming sessions weekly could very well interrupt your quality of sleep. 

Too Long, Didn’t Read?

The latest research shows that communicating with someone who is dreaming is no longer fiction; it’s possible –– at least in this state. Recall after the fact was spotty once they were awake, though that’s a common occurrence that has plagued dream scientists from the start. This research has open the door for further studies into the complexity of dreams and the actual dream state.