Induction of lucid dreams: a systematic review of evidence

A meta study, combining and reviewing the results of 35 research projects to compare the effectiveness of the most common tools and techniques used to induce lucid dreams

Study Title: Induction of lucid dreams: a systematic review of evidence

Researchers: Tadas Stumbrys, Daniel Erlacher, Melanie Schädlich, and Michael Schredl

Institution: Institute of Sports and Sports Sciences, Heidelberg University, Germany

Published: Consciousness and Cognition. 2012 September; 21 (3):1456-75

This review combined and reviewed the results from 35 separate research studies to compare the effectiveness of a range of the most common tools and techniques used to induce lucid dreams.

27 of the 35 studies were investigating cognitive techniques such a; Stephen La Berge’s Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams, Setting your intention to become lucid, and Reality Testing. 11 looked at the effectiveness of external tools, like using a dream mask or EEG biofeedback training, and one project was for a lucid dream inducing drug (Donepezil). In case you’re wondering why these add up to more than 35, some of the studies included more than one method.

The main, and slightly disappointing conclusion, is that although some of the techniques were demonstrated to on occasion be effective, none were able to reliably and consistently induce lucidity.

“None of induction techniques were verified to induce lucid dreams reliably, consistently and with a high success rate. Most lucid dream induction methods produced only slight effects, although some of the techniques look promising”

The most effective individual methods were: MILD, Reality Testing, Building Intentionality, Electro-tactile stimulation applied to the wrist, Light Stimulation Dream Masks and the use of an acetylcholine esterase inhibitor class drug; Donepezil.

The best performing individual method was in using the drug Donepezil, which appeared to significantly enhance lucidity rate and frequency of sleep paralysis, although it’s worth mentioning, did also come with some adverse side effects (mild insomnia, nausea and vomiting)

However the most effective general approach was found to be by combining elements of the different individual techniques together. Methods that combined the MILD technique with both a Wake-Back-to-Bed period of 30-120 minutes and Light Stimulation, for example, outperformed the individual use of these techniques.

Tholey’s combined technique, which incorporates elements of reflection, intention and autosuggestion was shown to be particularly effective in two studies, both of which had a relatively high methodological quality

“The evidence suggests Tholeys Combed Technique can significantly increase the frequency of lucid dreaming, especially for those with previous lucid dream experience, but even those participants who had not had any prior lucid dreaming experience had significantly more lucid dreams.”

The discussion section of the paper closes with a recommendation that these eclectic approaches of combining different elements together, be an area that future research focuses on. It is these combined methods that seem to show the most promise for becoming a consistent, reliable technique for inducing frequent lucid dreams.

To find out more, you can download and read the full research paper here