Swansea lucid dreaming study - Further information


The Lucid Dreaming Study looked at combining pre-sleep cognitive training with REM-sleep stimulation, to induce participants into a lucid dream.

Conducted at Swansea University Sleep Lab, participants underwent a brief 20 minute training period whilst lying in bed. Each participant then took a nap and, when they entered into REM sleep, the experimenters played audio and visual cues - flashing lights and beeping sounds - in the bedroom where the participant slept. The hope was that these cues would enter the participant's dreams and signal to the dreamer that they were dreaming – like a signal from the the external world shouting "hey - this is a dream!" 

Further information

Pre-sleep training – During the training period, the experimenters played audio and visual cues (flashing LED lights or beeping sounds) at 1-minute intervals while participants were lying awake in the bedroom. Each time a participant noticed a cue, they would practice 'becoming lucid' - observing their experience and scrutinising whether anything felt different to their normal waking life. This served two goals; firstly, it trained participants to associate the audio and visual cues with a state of critical awareness, so that if they noticed the cues in a dream they could become lucid. Secondly, the training meant that participants spent 20 minutes immediately before sleep setting the intention to become lucid. Intention setting itself is a common technique to induce lucid dreams. For example, you could try repeating a phrase in your mind, immediately prior to falling asleep, such as “the next time I am dreaming I will remember that I am dreaming.”

REM-sleep stimulation - Through the use of a face mask with built in LED lights (worn by the participants) and speakers in the sleep lab’s bedrooms, the experimenters were able to remotely trigger audio and visual cues when the participants entered in REM sleep. The aim was to affect the participants’ dreams in a way that would hopefully trigger them to become aware that they were dreaming. The success rate of using external cues to trigger lucid dreams is greatly increased through the use of pre-sleep training.

Electrodes that communicate to computers in the sleep lab were attached to the participants’ faces. The experimenters were then able to determine when the participants were in the right stage of the sleep process to begin triggering the visual and audio cues. The sleep stage that the experimenters look for is called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.

REM sleep is the stage of sleep where the most vivid dreams are likely to occur, so it makes for the most optimal part of the sleep process in which to try to become aware that you are dreaming.  

However, the dreaming brain wants you to stay within a REM dream, it does not want you to be woken so easily from this state, so the noises and lights triggered by the experimenters would usually go unnoticed by a sleeping person. As such, when you are in the REM stage of the sleep process, the dreaming brain converts such disturbances into believable occurrences happening within the dream, thus keeping you sound asleep and clueless to the fact that your experience is not waking reality. Following the process of pre-sleep training, a dreaming person is more likely to pick up on these disturbances and become aware that these are cues from the external world.

In a lucid dream, your eyes in your real body follow the movement of your eyes in the dream. During the briefing the participants were also instructed to move their eyes left and right as soon as they became lucid in a dream. This eye movement would then be picked up by the electrodes on the participant’s face, appearing as a clear signal on the experimenters’ computers that the participant had successfully achieved lucidity in a dream, whilst remaining asleep.

You could say it’s like the inverse of a astronaut on the moon communicating to ground control. 

You have someone in the dreaming world, communicating to someone out in the waking world, that they are in a dream. 

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