Lucid dreams: the effects on mood
Lucid dreams are defined as dreams in which the individual becomes aware of dreaming: lucid dreamers are immersed in a hybrid state of consciousness, which presents elements of waking and dreaming (Voss et al., 2009).
As a result, dreamers can sometimes change the dream scene or situation and manipulate the dream events as they wish. Since the world of dreams is not bound by the laws or parameters of physics, individuals are able to perform acts – impossible in the real world – such as flying, magic or breathing underwater (Stumbrys & Erlacher, 2016).
One of the methods of knowing if you are dreaming is known as a reality test (for example in dreams you cannot turn off the light or continue to breathe if you plug your nose) (LaBerge & Rheingold, 1991). The more the individual gets used to testing reality during the day, the more likely it is that the dreamer will test his environment when he dreams, being able to discriminate the state of wakefulness from that of sleep.
Two other methods, the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD; LaBerge, 1980) and the Wake-Back-To-Bed (WBTB; LaBerge et al., 1994), are used in conjunction with each other, as an individual is woken from sleep after a specific time to increase mental alertness (WBTB) and instructed to cognitively rehearse a phrase, such as ‘I will remember that I am dreaming’ (MILD), when he recalls to sleep.
While there is a line of research that indicates that lucid dreaming training can be used to reduce nightmares in both intensity and frequency (Spoormaker & Van Den Bout, 2006; Zadra & Pihl, 1997; Macedo et al., 2019) , little is known about the effects that lucid dreaming has on an individual’s mood while awake.
A recent study (Stocks et al., 2020) wanted to investigate whether the experience of lucidity in dreams improves mood in wakefulness and whether lucidity is associated with the emotional content of the dream and the subjective quality of sleep.
20 participants were asked to complete lucid dreaming induction techniques for one week, during which they were asked to complete approximately 10 reality tests per day along with the MILD / WBTB technique at night and to report the effects in an online dream journal. , for a lucid dream assessment and subjective assessments of sleep quality, dream emotional content and mood during wakefulness.
A 19-item questionnaire – consisting of items from the Dream Lucidity Questionnaire (DLQ; (Stumbrys et al., 2013) and the Lucid Skills Questionnaire (LUSK; (Schredl et al., 2018)) – was used for the assessment of lucid dreams The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS; Watson et al., 1988) was used for the assessment of the participants’ mood during wakefulness.
The results found that those who had more lucid dreams had a better mood and more positive dream content in the morning than those who had less lucid dreams. A positive correlation was also found between lucid dreams and sensory vividness, without also affecting the quality of sleep. Surprisingly, no relationship was found between the number of reality tests and MILD / WBTB techniques and the frequency of lucid dreaming, which is in contrast to that of other research (Aspy et al., 2017).
In light of these findings, lucid dreams confirm their potential to support individual well-being and the treatment of nightmares, although future research on larger numbers and long-term effects is encouraged.