Building on an earlier pilot study, the researchers set out to investigate how the drug galantamine affects the chance of having a lucid dream
Study Title: Pre-sleep treatment with galantamine stimulates lucid dreaming: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study
Researchers: Stephen LaBerge, Kristen LaMarca, and Benjamin Baird
Institution: Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness, University of Wisconsin-Madison, & Lucidity Institute, United States
Published: PLOS ONE. 2018; 13(8): e0201246
Galantamine belongs a class of chemicals known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEI)
The neurotransmitter acetycholine is understood to support REM sleep. During normal sleep, this neurotransmitter is broken down by the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. AChEIs act by inhibiting this enzyme, allowing the acetycholine to build up to higher concentrations in the brain.
Galantamine was chosen because it is fast acting, and has only mild side effects. It is already in widespread use, as a drug to treat the memory decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers recruited 129 participants, with a pre-existing interest in Lucid Dreaming, and trained them in a method for inducing lucid dreams developed by Stephen LaBerge known as the MILD Technique.
For the next three nights, the participants were woken up after 4.5 hours of sleep (3 complete sleep cycles), were kept awake for 30 minutes, took a dose of galantamine, and then used the MILD Technique while falling back asleep.
The participants were randomised into three groups, and were given a placebo pill (0mg of galantamine), a pill with a 4mg dose, and a pill with an 8mg dose. With each group receiving all three strengths of dose during the experiment, but in different orders, to control for any results due to the order in which they received the dose.
If any participants recalled a dream on waking, they were also asked to rate the dream on; it’s sensory vividness, bizarreness, complexity, whether it contained negative or positive emotion, and how much; self-reflection, clarity of thinking, self-consciousness, and degree of dream control they had during the dream.
14% of participants had a lucid dream on the 0mg dose, using the sugar pill, disrupted sleep and MILD techniques only.
27% had a lucid dream with the 4mg dose. An increase of 93% compared with the night using lucidity techniques only.
When taking the 8mg of galantamine, 42% of the participants had a lucid dream. Three times as many as on the first night.
Between the two nights, the combined protocol of; taking an active dose of galantamine, having a disrupted sleep cycle and using the MILD technique, resulted in 69 of the 121* participants (57%) having at least one lucid dream.
* 8 participants were removed from the analysis of the results as they did not complete at least 2 nights of the experiment.
Compared to the expected probability for having a lucid dream of 4%, based on participants self-reported frequency of lucid dreaming during the 6 months prior to the experiment. The combined protocol, increased this by 6 times for the 4mg dose and 9 times for the 8mg dose.
10 of the participants identified they had never experienced a lucid dream before the experiment, and four of these achieved their first lucid experience while taking the 8mg dose.
Participants also reported significantly increased dream recall, sensory vividness and dream complexity when taking galantamine compared with the placebo night
Together these results show both; that galantamine significantly increases the chance of having a lucid dream, and that the probability of inducing lucidity is linked to the size of the dose
To find out more, you can download and read the full research paper here