RESEARCH UPDATE: Meditation and lucid dreaming have long been empirically and historically linked, leading to theories that meditation may have an influence in the ability to lucid dream. The exact nature of the relationship between these two constructs is not clear, however. In recent years, the cognitive neuroscience and psychotherapeutic literature on mindfulness meditation has been maturing, but how it relates with the construct of lucidity has been examined more rarely.
The Center for Sleep and Consciousness at the University of Wisconsin-Madison—a lab known for their high density brain imaging studies on Tibetan monks—has touched on these topics in a recent publication, spearheaded by Dr. Benjamin Baird.
After confirming that lucid dreaming is indeed more prevalent in advanced, long-term meditators, they also determined which mindfulness traits were more common in higher frequency lucid dreamers (at least 1 LD per month) with and without meditation experience. These traits included observing the present moment, decentering, and acting with awareness in long-term meditators, and describing in those without meditation experience—all components which overlap with lucid dreaming cognition.
Despite these findings, they determined that just teaching mindfulness alone through a short-term intervention doesn't result in more lucid dreaming. This is no surprise given that developing a properly focused mental set for induction is a prerequisite for increasing lucid dreaming rates, which is less likely to develop in a short time without direct intervention. The authors reason that more intensive immersion in meditation training may be required to see changes in lucid dreaming as a byproduct. They also highlight that a combined mindfulness-lucid dreaming protocol would be promising for improving lucid dreaming skills.
Dr. Baird and team also acknowledge sampling and other methodological limitations in their study. For example, the ceiling of scales used to measure lucid dreaming frequency is relatively low (once per month), and it is likely that individuals who lucid dream more regularly—from several times per week or per night--can shed more light on the associations between mindfulness and lucidity.
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CITATION: Baird, B., Riedner, B. A., Boly, M., Davidson, R. J., & Tononi, G. (2018, November 29). Increased Lucid Dream Frequency in Long-Term Meditators but not Following Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Training. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cns0000176