Does Lucid Dreaming Help With Mental Health?
Lucid Dreams​
October 30, 2022
April 24, 2024

Does Lucid Dreaming Help With Mental Health?

Lucid dreaming can have a positive impact on your mental health. It is important, however, to maintain a healthy balance with reality and not use dreams as a way to escape.

Imagine being in a world where absolutely anything is possible—ANYTHING. One where you're in control, steering the story. A world of your own, free from the bounds of physics and limitations of the material world. That is what lucid dreaming feels like.

But what if our secret dream world could help our minds feel and function better when awake?

What is Lucid Dreaming?

During lucid dreaming states, we see heightened consciousness in the brain. Lucid dreaming is a state where, while still asleep, you can control your dreams. It's a complicated neurological event where new parts of our brain become active compared to regular dreaming. If regular dreaming is like watching a movie, then lucid dreaming makes you the movie's director.

Lucid dreaming isn't just super fun —it can be good for you, too. Some studies have shown that more intense lucid dreams may mean fewer mental health problems, like feeling anxious or sad. While scientists are still learning more about how it works and how it can help us feel better in our waking lives, let's look at what they know.

What Happens During Lucid Dreaming?

Here are the parts of the brain that play in role in lucid dreaming:

  1. Bilateral Precuneus: This part of your brain helps you know yourself, see things around you, and remember stuff. A.K.A., it gives you self-awareness, visuospatial processing, and memory recall. It is the part of your mind that helps you realize you're dreaming during a lucid dream. When the precuneus is active, you have a heightened sense of self-awareness and the ability to control dream events.
  2. Cuneus: Your cuneus processes visual information. So, when it's active during a lucid dream, it might enhance one's ability to visualize the dream environment. This heightened visual processing can make dreams more vivid and realistic.
  3. Prefrontal Cortex: The prefrontal cortex is the boss. Generally speaking, it handles all decision-making, planning, and self-control. During a lucid dream, it allows you to control your dream actions and make conscious choices. This sense of control can be empowering and can carry over into feelings of confidence and self-efficacy while you’re awake.

Now, how does all of this impact our mental health while we're awake? Well, lucid dreaming may be linked to fewer mental health problems, such as anxiety and sadness, and it could be used a tool in therapy.

Lucid Dreaming as a Therapeutic Tool

The mental health benefits of lucid dreaming are still unclear mainly because many current studies are limited in sample size and consistency. Dream control is another variable that has been shown to be a huge factor in results. Most lucid dreamers tend to have low dream control, and many experimenters struggle to induce lucid dreams to be observed while in the lab. However, what we do know is that experienced lucid dreamers, with higher levels of control, are shown to experience more of the mental benefits.

Even veterans with PTSD whose nightmare distress decreased showed an increase in dream control. Also, students reporting high levels of dream control reported fewer psychopathological symptoms than those reporting low dream control. This means that the frequency of lucid dreams alone is not as beneficial as higher levels of control and confidence within the lucid dream itself. High-intensity lucid dreamers are not necessarily less distressed compared to non-lucid dreamers, however, they are less distressed compared with low-intensity lucid dreamers, according to a 2018 study.

In one 2009 study, lucid dreams were found to be associated with increased mental health and self-confidence. Another earlier study from the 90’s exploring lucid dreams and personality found that lucid dreamers were socially bold, dominant, experimenting, enthusiastic, and warm. Lucid dreaming can facilitate internal self-exploration, allowing the dreamer to better understand new and old emotional experiences through insightful inner dialogues with their conscious and subconscious minds.

The dreamer can learn to recognize unintegrated and fragmented parts of themselves by studying dream characters, environments, and other re-occurring dream themes and nightmares. These themes may highlight the origins of depression and trauma, providing the opportunity for the dreamer to rewrite depressive thoughts, patterns, and memories. This suggests that the benefits may not be due to the lucid dream directly, but more so the mental thought process lucidity can invoke.

Several participants in a 2021 study reported feeling an increased sense of awareness, happiness, and relaxation in their waking state after having mindful and spiritual experiences in the lucid dream state. Some even stated that these experiences would linger for months at a time. Although lucid dreaming has been shown to influence the management of mental conflicts in a positive way, it still should be paired with qualified therapeutic support in order to have a positive effect on waking life.

Many studies have assessed the use of lucid dreaming treatment for chronic nightmare sufferers so that they can gain control over their nightmares by altering the ending and narrative of the dream into a more pleasant scenario.  EEG data of lucid dreamers’ brains have shown that the prefrontal cortex of the brain is activated while lucid dreaming, which is normally deactivated during non-lucid REM sleep.

This pattern of activity can explain the increase in reflective cognitive capabilities that characterize lucid dreaming.

The Risks

As with most therapies and mental health practices, lucid dreaming also have some caveats. The major worry is that trying too hard to have lucid dreams can mess up your sleep. Techniques like WBTB (Wake Back to Bed) might interrupt your sleep pattern, leaving you tired and drained the next day.

Lucid dreaming can get intense, especially if you're stressed. But it's important to know that these experiences aren't necessarily bad. Your body can become more alert since you're aware of a dream. Your sympathetic nervous system might kick into gear, releasing stress hormones like adrenaline. This activation might make you feel anxious or stressed during the dream. But remember, lucid dreaming itself isn't bad—it just happens. With meditation, practice, and time, you learn to handle these feelings better.

Another concern is that lucid dreaming might blur the line between what's real and what's not. For people who struggle with psychotic tendencies - such as hallucinations or delusions- it can make it harder to tell the difference. It could make things even more confusing for them, possibly making their symptoms worse.

That said, you can be cautious when exploring lucid dreaming and still reap all its benefits.

Here are some guidelines to stay safe:

  1. Don't obsess over it: You have to relax into it slowly and easily. Try too hard to have lucid dreams, and you can mess up your sleep and stress yourself out.
  2. Keep a dream journal: Writing down your dreams can help. Once you understand them better, you can begin to control them without getting too caught up in them.
  3. Practice good sleep hygiene: Sleep schedules are the best! Make sure you're getting enough quality sleep and not ingesting stimulants at all if you can help it. If you simply must have your coffee, keep it to at least 6 hours before bedtime. This helps balance the sleep disruptions caused by trying to have lucid dreams with other sleep disruptions.
  4. Stay grounded in reality: Remember that what happens in your dreams isn't real life. It's essential to distinguish between dreams and reality to avoid confusion clearly. An easy way to do this is when thinking or recording your dream, begin your sentence with "In the dream...".
  5. Seek help: If you're struggling with mental health issues, do not suffer alone. Many practitioners can help you find your balance with lucid dreaming, so reach out and let them help.

By following these guidelines, you can explore lucid dreaming safely and make sure it stays helpful.


The complicated relationship between lucid dreaming and mental health is only starting to be explored. The quality of your sleep, depth, and frequency of lucid dreams, emotions and personality, all play a role in our dreams and overall mental health.

As we are only beginning to discover the true nature and power of lucid dreaming, we should approach it with ease, sensitivity, and awareness. While lucid dreaming holds exciting possibilities, it's not a silver bullet for fixing mental health. More research is essential to maximize its benefits and to unlock its full potential for mental health and well-being.

Amina Mara
Amina is a lucid dreaming expert and the host of The Dream World Podcast.

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