Lucid Dreaming Is Linked to Better Morning Mood

Recent paper describes link between lucidity levels and positive morning mood.

Posted Sep 30, 2020

Note: The author of this blog is a co-author on the paper reviewed here.

Lucid dreams occur when an individual becomes aware of the fact that they are dreaming while still asleep. One of the primary reasons for studying lucid dreams is their potential use as a treatment for nightmares (see previous post). Nightmares are intense negative dreams that lead to awakenings, and are known to lead to distress upon awakening. The experience of nightmare distress can significantly interfere with waking life and negatively impact well-being. Thus, studying treatments for nightmares, such as lucid dreaming, is important.

Besides being a treatment for nightmares, the experience of lucid and positive dreams in general may be associated with better mood in the morning. Thus, it’s worth exploring whether dream lucidity is associated with more positive mood, as this could be applied to improving well-being in general populations.

The current paper thus set out to assess whether lucid dreaming is associated with positive morning mood.

In order to study lucid dreams, participants were asked to practice a few techniques over the course of a week to increase the likelihood they would have a lucid dream. This included ‘reality testing,' in which you ask yourself throughout the day whether you are awake or dreaming, which can then spill over into dreaming and lead to the realization that you are in a dream. Another method involved waking up in the early morning, staying awake for about 10 minutes, and during that time rehearsing a phrase in mind such as, “The next time I am dreaming I will remember that I’m dreaming.” These techniques are reviewed in another post here.

Twenty participants took part in the study (8 male, 12 female, average age ~25 yrs old). All the participants practiced the above techniques every day for 7 days, and kept a morning dream diary during that time. In the morning, participants rated their sleep quality on a scale of 0 (poor) to 7 (excellent). They also reported their dream and rated the emotional content of their dream, including how negative or positive the dream was in three dimensions (intensity, sensations, impact).

Participants responded to a 19-item lucidity questionnaire to rate the lucid qualities of their dream. Each item was rated on a 0-4 point scale. The items ranged from rating the amount of insight or thought in the dream, e.g. “I was aware of differences to the waking state” or “I thought about different possibilities of what I could do," to more advanced lucidity involving dream control such as “I had full control of my dream body” or “I changed the dream scene in the way I wanted."

Following the lucidity questionnaire, participants responded to a 20-item scale to rate their positive and negative mood. The scale lists 20 words for positive and negative mood states (e.g. interested, irritable, excited, distressed) and participants rated the extent to which they felt each state.

The researchers first calculated each participant’s average level of lucidity, dream emotional content, and morning mood across the whole week of dream diaries. They found there were significant positive correlations between average level of lucidity (score on the lucidity questionnaire) and both positive dream content and positive morning mood. This means participants who were more lucid on average had more positive dreams and elevated positive morning mood.

The researchers then selected the night with the highest and the lowest lucidity for each participant, in order to assess whether levels of lucidity were associated with dream emotion and morning mood within participants.

Again, the highest lucidity night was associated with significantly better positive morning mood than the lowest lucidity night. This additional analysis suggests that the relationship between lucidity and positive mood is not simply due to differences between participants, e.g. that some people just happen to be more lucid and more positive, but rather that within participants nights with higher lucidity are associated with more positive mood the next morning.

Of note, the authors did not find any association between lucid dreaming and subjective sleep quality, suggesting lucid dreaming does not negatively impact sleep, which has been raised as a potential risk of lucid dream training in the past.

While these results are promising, the next steps are to assess over longer periods of time whether lucid dreaming can have cumulative positive impacts on mood, and furthermore whether lucid dreaming may be associated with other outcomes such as improved overall well-being.

References

Stocks, A., Carr, M., Mallett, R., Konkoly, K., Hicks, A., Crawford, M., ... & Bradshaw, C. (2020). Dream lucidity is associated with positive waking mood. Consciousness and Cognition, 83, 102971.