How Lucid Dreaming Affects Mental Health

By Bryan Le 04/24/18

A new study examined the psychological benefits of lucid dreaming. 

a man wearing a sleep mask sleeping in a bed

While the origin and purpose of dreams remain elusive to researchers, it has been found that lucid dreams are linked to better mental health.

Experts have long debated the origin, purpose, and meaning of dreams. Speculation has varied wildly: dreams are just the result of randomly firing neurons, or are representations of our subconscious, or a way for the brain to exercise during sleep.

But research published in Frontiers of Psychology suggests that no matter where dreams come from, it seems that lucid dreaming is linked to good psychological health.

A lucid dream is a special type of dream in which the dreamer is aware they are dreaming and can at least partially control what happens in it.

According to some statistics, half of all people have experienced at least one lucid dream, and 20% of people are frequent lucid dreamers who have at least one lucid dream per month.

The study was done by psychologists at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University. They had 187 undergraduate students keep a dream diary for two weeks. The results were measured against various self-reported psychological factors, ranging from sleep quality to anxiety and stress levels.

The results showed that, on average, those who experienced lucid dreams more frequently experienced less psychological distress. Furthermore, it was found that those who had more frequent, more intense lucid dreams with a greater degree of control experienced even less psychological distress, including lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress.

The researchers clarified that intentionally inducing lucid dreams, with techniques such as lucid dreaming treatment (LDT), does not cause your mental health to suddenly improve. It’s merely an indicator, not a cause and effect.

In fact, doing so could make things worse—those who subject themselves to LDT might find themselves with sleep problems and symptoms of schizotypy.

There are active steps that people can take to improve their mental health, including treatment and medication, but Forbes cited a number of studies that reveal an easier, more interesting pathway to better mental health: complaining.

It works because complaining allows people to talk out their bad feelings and potentially accept and release them. However, experts warn that complaining can be a double-edged sword if done incorrectly.

“Your brain loves efficiency and doesn’t like to work any harder than it has to. When you repeat a behavior, such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information,” said Dr. Travis Bradberry.

“This makes it much easier to repeat that behavior in the future... Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you.”

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter