Lucid dreaming is a phenomenon that has been known to exist for centuries, yet scientists still have not found a concrete explanation for why this occurs. This topic has become so popular that it was featured in 2010’s Inception, a summer blockbuster film in which a machine allowed people to easily take control of dreams. There are many methods to lucid dreaming, and scientists are looking into potential benefits for mental health in disorders like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Schizophrenia. With new technology that has made it possible to induce this phenomenon, researchers are looking to use it to help sufferers of these disorders.
According to researchers, lucid dreaming could be particularly beneficial to patients who suffer from nightmares caused by PTSD. Because those who experience this phenomenon are able to control the content of their dreams, it could enable dreamers to alter what is happening in these nightmares, and address the issues that are plaguing them. PTSD-related nightmares tend to recur, making it easier to identify when one is dreaming. Other problems that this can help to solve are writer’s block or phobias, as the dream space is a safe area to address these problems without risk of consequences.
The biggest challenge to lucid dreaming is consciously becoming aware of the fact that one is dreaming. Many methods for doing this have been created, such as checking to see if one is awake throughout the day and planting the idea of being aware of the dream state before going to sleep. A less complicated method is currently in development by a company called iWinks, which uses a timer and lighted eye mask to alert users that they are dreaming. This device for inducing a lucid dream allows users to reap the potential benefits at home, and at a price of $199, will save money over clinical methods.
Frontotemporal transcranial alternating current (tACS) is a recently tested method for experiencing a lucid dream state. This procedure uses a device that delivers a small current of gamma rays to the brain through electrodes, which in turn alerts the dreamer that they are in a dream. This method allows the conscious dream state to be induced predictably, with differing results based upon the frequency of the waves. According to a study done with this device, the 25 Hz frequency was the most effective, allowing more control over the dreams than the 40 Hz frequency, though 40 Hz was effective as well. This method of inducing a lucid dream has the potential to see clinical use in treating disorders like PTSD because it is easy to control, though scientists warn that close monitoring is important to any type of procedure that involves sending electricity through the brain.
Lucid dreaming offers a non-invasive form of therapy for many psychological disorders that affect people today. The ability to harness the brain in such a way has potential benefits that span from mastering tasks like writer’s block to overcoming crippling psychological disorders. Due to the benefits that this phenomenon presents for human growth and treatment, scientists are working to develop more effective methods of entering the state of the lucid dream.
By Joseph Chisarick