Imagine having a good night’s sleep while at the same time becoming more creative. Sounds like a dream, right? Not really – it seems that researchers are onto something. French neurologist Professor Isabelle Arnulf recently discovered that her narcolepsy patients tend to become more creative than other people while sleeping. Why? They lucid dream.
Lucid dreaming, or conscious dreaming, is a kind of aware way of dreaming. In this state you can sometimes wholly or partly determine the narrative. During a lucid dream, the frontal lobe is activated, allowing you to control the dream. This ability is common among young children, but some retain it even in adulthood. And some can even learn to practice it.
Even the ancient Greeks knew about conscious dreams
Knowledge about this phenomenon is not new. Even back in ancient times, the philosopher Aristotle wrote about it: “During my dream, I suddenly became aware that what I was now experiencing was just a dream.” However, the concept of lucid dreamingwas not introduced until 1913. Another 70 years later, in the early 1980s, an American scientist finally succeeded in presenting scientific proof that this dream phenomenon really exists.
Recent findings: sleep and become more creative
What Professor Isabelle Arnulf found during her recent studies was first of all that her narcolepsy patients tend to lucid dream more often than other people do. In addition, she could see that these kinds of dreams tend to increase the individual’s creativity level. The research team compared the creativity level of more than 150 narcolepsy patients with the same number of people without narcolepsy. The study revealed that people with narcolepsy scored far higher in creativity.
“You don’t intentionally want to mess with your sleep too much”
Okay, so there seems to be reliable research which suggests that people can actually become more creative when lucid dreaming. The million-dollar question is, can we all learn to lucid dream? Is it dangerous? Should we even try? Dr. Frida Rångtell of the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University reveals that this ability to dream turns out to be both more complex and more versatile than expected.
“Lucid dreaming can be a very helpful tool to deal with nightmares. Being lucid during a nightmare can help you realize that it’s just a dream and could maybe even help you change the ending. Some studies suggest that if you dream about something that you just learned while you were awake, that can make you remember more of it the day after. As far as I know, we still do not know if lucid dreams could have similar effects – if you are lucid dreaming and decide to dream about that tricky math problem you had while studying, could that help you to find the solution on next day’s exam? If that would be the case, practicing lucid dreaming could potentially be very valuable when learning new things and solving social dilemmas. The same goes for creativity; we still need more research to figure out the link between lucid dreaming and creativity. There seems to be a connection between REM sleep, the sleep stage where it’s common to experience vivid dreams, and creativity. If you could learn to take control of your dreams during REM sleep, perhaps that could affect you in different ways even when you are awake”, Frida Rångtell says and adds:
“However, keep in mind that lucid dreaming could possibly be disruptive of your sleep. And you don’t intentionally want to mess with your sleep too much. We still need more research on potential benefits and risks of lucid dreaming”.
One last recommendation
What Frida Rångtell claims is that there are several benefits of learning to lucid dream. At the same time, she advises us to be careful and patient, all for a good reason. Since lucid dreaming is a rather unexplored scientific area, you will find a lot of inaccurate information and websites of dubious scientific quality. Frida Rångtell suggests reading them all with a critical eye.