Wellness

6 Surprising Benefits Of Lucid Dreaming, According To Sleep Experts

They boost creativity, for one.

6 surprising benefits of lucid dreaming, according to sleep experts.
Getty Images/ Geber86

Sometimes dreamland doesn’t veer too far from reality. Ever have one of those dreams where you feel super in touch and in control? Odds are you were experiencing a lucid dream. And, believe it or not, there are several benefits of lucid dreaming.

“Lucid dreaming is a special type of dream where you're aware that you're actually dreaming,” Dr. Alex Anastasiou, MD, a board certified-psychiatrist, tells Bustle. The main perk of them? “These dreams allow us to better understand this hidden and complex aspect of our brain.”

These kinds of dreams occur in the REM stage of sleep, says Dr. Naina Limbekar, MD, a sleep neurologist at Boston Medical Center. And you could experience one of two typical events within a lucid dream: one where you’re aware that you’re dreaming and conscious during it yet unable to control the events within it, and the other where you can actually control the events within your dream, she explains.

It’s the lucid dreams that involve your control that lends itself to several benefits, says Anastasiou. “Instead of reacting to our thoughts and emotions, we learn to recognize, accept, and ultimately control them,” he says. From reducing nightmares to improving your problem-solving skills, here are all the benefits of lucid dreaming.

1

They Can Reduce Nightmares

Among the most studied benefits of lucid dreaming is their ability to reduce nightmares. “If [chronic nightmare sufferers] are able to obtain control over that lucid dream, they could change the outcome of the nightmare or the dream themselves,” Limbekar says. “So thereby, they’re taking a negative nightmare and turning it into something that's not a negative or an outcome that they'd be more happy with.”

2

They Can Relieve Some Anxiety Symptoms

If you experience nightmare anxiety in particular, lucid dreaming can help alleviate those symptoms. “A lot of anxiety that manifests itself in nightmares comes from a feeling of losing control,” Anastasiou says. “In some ways, having a lucid dream is a way to face and control your fears.” Preliminary studies have shown some evidence, but the link to anxiety reduction and lucid dreaming is still not fully known.

3

They Can Boost Creativity

Tongchai Sangruksawong / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

In some instances, lucid dreams can boost creativity in your waking life, too. Anastasiou says there “are a lot of famous examples in history of people who have made discoveries during dreams.” For example, he says August Kekulé, who discovered the structure of a chemical compound called the benzene ring, actually had a dream that sparked his finding. Maybe your dreams will one day make you achieve innovator status.

4

They Can Improve Motor Skills

There’s a very small study that measured how lucid dreams can improve motor skills, says Limbekar. “The thinking behind [the study was] for instance, if you're dreaming of playing basketball — you're not actually playing basketball — but the same part of the brain is activated, as if you actually were.” Basically, the study shows that if you can practice those skills while you’re lucid dreaming, then that could potentially help improve motor outcomes IRL, she says.

5

They Can Refine Problem-Solving Skills

According to Anastasiou, lucid dreaming is a great mental exercise that lets you first visualize and then execute your plan. “Acting things out in a lucid dream is like rehearsing how you would react and adapt to situations in real life,” he says. “Some people have even claimed to solve complex, real-life problems in creative ways through lucid dreams.” Studies show that you’re able to problem solve in your waking hours as a result of practicing these skills in lucid dreamland, too — which is all the more reason to get good sleep when you’re facing a conundrum.

6

They Can Potentially Help With Phobias

Though there isn’t much research in this area, Limbekar says anecdotal evidence and preliminary studies look at the potential benefits of lucid dreams in treating phobias. “It might be helpful for people who have specific phobias — snakes, for example,” she tells Bustle. “They could change the outcomes of how they feel about snakes [in the dream].”

Studies referenced:

Albert J., et al. (2014). Exploring the relationship between creativity and lucid dreaming, The Premier Undergraduate Neuroscience Journal, https://impulse.appstate.edu/sites/impulse.appstate.edu/files/Albert%20et%20al..pdf

O’Brien R., et al. (1981), Augmentation of Systematic Desensitization of Snake Phobia Through Posthypnotic Dream Suggestion, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00029157.1981.10404027

Rotenberg V. S. (2015). Lucid dreams: their advantage and disadvantage in the frame of search activity concept. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 1472. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01472

Spoormaker VI, van den Bout J. Lucid dreaming treatment for nightmares: a pilot study. Psychother Psychosom. 2006;75(6):389-94. doi: 10.1159/000095446. PMID: 17053341.

Spoormaker VI, van den Bout J., Meijer E., (2003). Lucid Dreaming Treatment for Nightmares: A Series of Cases. Dreaming. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1025325529560

Stumbrys T, Erlacher D, Schredl M. Effectiveness of motor practice in lucid dreams: a comparison with physical and mental practice. J Sports Sci. 2016;34(1):27-34. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2015.1030342. Epub 2015 Apr 7. PMID: 25846062.

Experts:

Dr. Alex Anastasiou, M.D., board certified-psychiatrist

Dr. Naina Limbekar, M.D., a sleep neurologist at Boston Medical Center