Have you ever had a dream where at some point you are able to consciously recognize that you’re dreaming…but not wake up? You may have even been able to control or manipulate your dream after realizing this. The Sleep Foundation has estimated that approximately 55% of adults have experienced a lucid dream at some point in their life, while 27% of adults experience them at least once monthly. Though it is possible to dream at any stage of the sleep cycle, lucid dreaming has generally been observed to take place during the REM stage.
If you are someone who falls into the 27%, you may notice that these frequent lucid dreams leave you feeling like you got a poor night's sleep. There is an increase in brain activity that happens during a lucid dream, ultimately resulting in less time spent in the restful sleep stage, which has been linked to an overall decrease in long-term sleep quality. Frequent lucid dreams may also lead to changes in the sleep-wake cycle, which is known to have negative effects. Disrupting this cycle decreases the ability to regulate emotions and also impacts memory consolidation. Memory consolidation involves taking the short-term memories you have made throughout the day and converts them into long-term memories. Disturbing this process can have lasting consequences of a decreased ability to form lasting memories.
Although some may find the idea of lucid dreaming exciting or interesting, those who experience it regularly should make efforts to improve their sleep hygiene in order to mitigate the long-term effects it has on the body and mind. Several small changes to your daily routine can be made to optimize sleep quality, such as ensuring you have a dark, quiet, and cool environment. Creating a routine of going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day (including weekends!) is also highly beneficial. Making sure to get some exercise during the day can help make falling asleep easier- just be sure to complete your workout at least 2 hours or more before bedtime in order to allow the endorphins to settle since they may keep you awake.
Mental Health Counselor Intern