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Lucid Dreams: Its Causes and Effects on Sleep

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Fred Layno · Updated May 06, 2022

Lucid Dreams: Its Causes and Effects on Sleep

Lucid dreaming is the state of becoming aware that you are dreaming as you dream. About half of the world’s population experience lucid dreaming. Not much is known about lucid dreaming. But there are those who claim to have the ability to control their dreams. Much of the research done on this phenomenon relies only on the self-reports of these people. Only a few objective ways to measure lucid dreams have been explored. 

“Whether it’s lucid dreams, regular dreams or nightmares, it’s a very difficult thing to measure objectively,” according to sleep disorder specialist Alicia Roth, PhD. “There are ways that we can tell when people are in REM sleep. If they’re observed with a polysomnogram or an MRI scanner, we can see brain changes. But we can’t even precisely tell when people are actually dreaming.”

The Causes of Lucid Dreaming

There is evidence of frequent lucid dreaming being associated with increased functional connectivity between the anterior prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal association areas. These regions of the brain are normally deactivated during sleep.

A 2015 study published in the journal Sleep claims that patients with narcolepsy have a higher frequency of lucid dreams than the same study’s regular participants.  

Nightmares are a common symptom of narcolepsy. According to the study, narcolepsy patients showed a higher frequency of experiencing lucid dreaming compared to those who do not suffer from the condition. Interestingly, many of the patients have reported that lucid dreaming had a positive impact on them, providing them with some level of control and/or relief after the distress experienced from nightmares.

According to another study,  lucid dreaming is triggered “a shift in brain activity in the direction of waking” during REM sleep dreaming. This shift creates a  “hybrid” situation with the “features of both REM sleep and waking.”

There are also methods that can be used to induce lucid dreaming. One of them is reality testing, where you test the “reality” of your surroundings every day while you are awake. These can involve looking at your reflection in the mirror or breathing while pinching your nose. The more you do this while awake, the more likely you’ll be able to do them while dreaming. And when the results are not the same as when you are awake, you will become aware that you are dreaming. 

Another technique is having a device that delivers external stimuli to you while you are sleeping. These stimuli could be flashing lights, smells, or sounds. Once these stimuli are activated, it is possible that they could be incorporated into your dreams, and trigger lucid dreaming. 

lucid dreaming

What Are the Benefits of Lucid Dreams?

Since lucid dreams are difficult to study, there is a little amount of information available that can tell us whether or not lucid dreams have benefits. 

There are some studies that suggest that lucid dreams can improve motor skills. There are also two more studies that suggest that people who have lucid dreams tend to be more creative. 

These studies are still in their preliminary stages and more research is needed to be able to create a more solid assertion. 

Are Lucid Dreams Harmful? 

Just like its benefits, there is little information available that will tell us whether lucid dreams are harmful. However, if you interrupt your sleep pattern to induce lucid dreaming, this can lead to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can affect memory and focus, and it can contribute to stress, high blood pressure and diabetes.

If you are constantly experiencing lucid dreams, you may need to take some measures to improve your sleep quality. Here are some ways to improve your sleep quality: 

  • Think of sleep as medicine that you have to take every day. Do not put sleep at the bottom of your priority list. 
  • Wake up at the same time every day. This will help you sleep better at night. Similarly, sleeping at the same time helps too. Create bedtime rituals such as reading a book or taking a warm bath. These rituals associated with sleep will help you transition to your actual bedtime more easily. 
  • Put away your gadgets at least one hour before sleeping time. Electronic devices keep your mind busy, which is the last thing you need when you want to rest and sleep. 
  •  If you wake up at night, avoid looking at the clock. When you look at the clock, your brain will start doing mental calculations and also begin to plan the rest of the day, making it hard for you to go back to sleep. 
  • Be mindful of your food intake before bedtime. Large meals make digestion difficult and may disturb one’s sleep. Avoid items that tend to energize you such as sweets, carbohydrates and caffeine.

    Learn more about Healthy Sleep here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Fred Layno · Updated May 06, 2022

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