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‘A very potent therapy’

New study reveals lucid dreaming can lead to a huge decrease in PTSD symptoms
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
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The journal Traumatology has published the results of a ground-breaking peer-reviewed scientific study in which 85% of participants experienced ‘a remarkable decrease in PTSD symptoms’ by using lucid dreaming practices to become conscious within their dreams and transform their nightmares.

The results of the study were highly significant, with the average PTSD score actually dropping below the PTSD threshold by the end of the week-long study.

In fact, by the end of the sixth day of the study over 85% of the participants were no longer classified as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (using the self-report PTSD Checklist for DSM-5).

‘These results are truly remarkable and highly significant. Immediately following the study, the average PTSD score dropped well below the PTSD symptom threshold and stayed this way four weeks later.’

Molecular biologist and lead scientist of the study, from the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) in California

Study findings

76% of participants had at least one lucid dream during their training week (many had more than one).

68% of these lucid dreams were classed as ‘healing dreams’ – dreams in which an intention to integrate their trauma was engaged.

After the study participants reported a significant decrease in negative emotions, an increased sense of wellbeing and a significant reduction in nightmares across the board.

By the end of the study over 85% of the participants showed such a significant decrease in PTSD symptoms that they were no longer classified as having PTSD (using the self-report PTSD Checklist for DSM-5).

A three-week follow up showed that this huge decrease in PTSD symptoms had persisted.

Nightmare frequency and distress significantly decreased after the workshop (with some experiencing a complete cessation of nightmares). These effects were retained at the one-month follow up.

‘The results of the study are so compelling that I had to look twice to check I wasn’t misreading the numbers. The research shows that lucid dreaming can be a very potent therapy for people who suffer from PTSD.’

Organic chemist and scientific consultant on the study

One participant commented: ‘My nightmares have gone away! I feel like a new person – thank you!’ Another said: ‘I have been in therapy for over two years now and this is perhaps the most healing experience in those two years to date. I am making healing connections like I have never been able to do in the past 20 years. This is the healing work.’

Swift integration of trauma

The most impressive aspect from the study was that there was such a reduction in PTSD symptom severity that the average score dropped from well over a standard lower limit considered a criterion for PTSD to well below that threshold.

The scores dropped so low that 85% participants were considered to no longer have PTSD (using the self-report PTSD Checklist for DSM-5) and crucially these effects lasted for at least four weeks.

‘As a psychotherapist who works predominantly with clients with complex trauma, I could hardly believe what I was witnessing during the study. Participants were beginning to integrate trauma in a matter of days – some from the experience of having a lucid dream but others simply from being empowered by the process of learning how to lucid dream.’

UK-based UKCP accredited psychotherapist who worked on the study

What is lucid dreaming?

Lucid dreaming the practice of becoming fully conscious within a dream and then directing the dream at will, all while you are still sound asleep.

Lucid dreaming has been a scientifically proven method for treating chronic nightmares for over three decades now but this new study conducted by the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) in California is the first study to use lucid dreaming to treat not just nightmares, but full-blown PTSD.

‘In 15 years of working with military veterans and people with PTSD I have never seen such outstanding results. This truly is a breakthrough in trauma treatment. Although it was a pilot study, it seems like lucid dreaming has the potential to be one the most powerful treatments for PTSD currently available. The results were so impressive that the same team have since completed a 100 person randomised control study. The data from this larger study is still being analysed but the initial reports are very encouraging.

‘PTSD and trauma nightmares are disempowering experiences but to become fully aware within a nightmare and know that is just a dream is a deeply empowering experience which leads to intense feelings of relief and allows the underlying psychological trauma to be released and integrated.’

British lucid dreaming teacher and 2018 Churchill Fellow, who was facilitating the study

The results of this 2022 pilot study were so significant that a much larger 100-person randomised controlled study was completed by the same research team in April 2023.

The results of this larger follow-up study are still being analysed but researchers have reported that the initial reports are very encouraging. 

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