Lucid dreams are some of the most amazing tricks our minds can play on us. Many people experience a dream where we can control anything, as we become aware that we are dreaming, but everything seems so realistic, almost like it was actually happening right in front of their eyes.
The phenomenon is quite common, as approximately half of the population is experiencing them. Scientists have tried to figure out how to trigger lucid dreams for quite a while now. However, a study published three years ago made public one of the most efficient ways of provoking a lucid dream.
A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Lucidity Institute in Hawaii began working on the subject based on their previous research.
The team tried to figure out how chemicals known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (also known as AChEls) could promote lucid dreaming.
Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, is believed to help mitigate REM sleep, while AChEls help the compound impact the brain by inhibiting an enzyme known as acetylcholinesterase, which inactivates acetylcholine.
Galantamine is a drug commonly used to treat memory decline in Alzheimer’s patients. It turns out that it is also a fast-acting AChEl with mild side effects.
The researchers recruited 121 participants to figure out the effect of the drug on their ability to trigger and recall lucid dreams.
The study selected volunteers with an established interest in lucid dreams, who also took some lucid dream induction protocols, including the so-called MILD technique.
Surely enough, when the cognitive training met galantamine, lucid dreaming occurred.
Over three consecutive nights, participants were administered increasing doses of the drug.
First, there was a placebo, then 4mg, and ultimately 8mg on the final night.
Each night, participants woke 4.5 hours after curfew, began their lucid dream induction methods, ingested the capsule, and went back to sleep.
The combination of the technique and medication appeared to be efficient at triggering lucid dreams.
It turned out that the higher dosage led to a more intense result.
The results were interesting:
- placebo – 14% of the participants reported a lucid dream
- 4mg dose – 27% of the participants had a lucid dream
- 8mg dose – 42% of the participants experienced a lucid dream.
“This combined protocol resulted in a total of 69 out of 121 participants (57 percent) successfully having a lucid dream on at least one out of two nights on an active dose of galantamine. This protocol is one of the most effective methods for inducing lucid dreams known to-date, and holds promise for making lucid dreaming available to a wider population,” stated the scientists in the 2018 paper.
The results are fascinating because the technique can help people experience fantastic situations in which they can control what’s going on.
Also, the research could be a stepping stone in figuring out the links between lucid dreams and consciousness and help people deal with their fears or even process trauma while enjoying sleep.
“As I ran my hand along a brick wall… I could feel the coarse texture and the outline of individual bricks. […] It’s like going into the holodeck in Star Trek where you can have any imaginable experience you choose,” stated one of the team members, cognitive neuroscientist Benjamin Baird of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who spoke about his experience with galantamine.
The discoveries of the study were reported in PLOS One.