Garret Yount1, Tadas Stumbrys2, Konstantin Koos3, David Hamilton1, & Helané Wahbeh1
1Institute of Noetic Sciences, Petaluma, CA USA 94116
2Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Philosophy, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania
3Rua de Volta do Ocaso n. 7 ,Vilamoura, Quarteira 8125-536, Portugal
Introduction: People have believed in the capacity for self-healing through dreams throughout human history. Recent investigations of lucid dreaming suggest that this unique form of dreaming may be especially useful for promoting healing due to the lucid dreamer’s capacity for goal-directed action in the dream. The objectives of this pilot study were to determine the feasibility of studying healing lucid dreams for people with PTSD and to gather relevant preliminary data.
Methods: Following a one-group, pretest-posttest research design, participants were recruited to experience an online healing lucid dreaming workshop. Of 144 adults experiencing chronic symptoms of PTSD who were screened, 49 completed the workshop from their homes in six different countries. The workshop consisted of 22 hours of live teaching via video conferencing spread, over six days, with curriculum including sleep hygiene principles, guided meditations, yoga Nidra, dream sharing circles, lucid dream exercises, dream planning lessons, and multiple lucid dreaming induction techniques. Outcome measures were collected before, during, and immediately after the workshop, as well as one month later. The primary outcome measure was self-reported PTSD symptom severity, as measured using the standardized PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5). Secondary outcomes included the degree of distress caused by nightmares measured using the Nightmare Experience Scale (NexS; Kelly et al., 2019), overall well-being using the Arizona Integrative Outcomes Scale, and positive and negative emotions using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule. Salivary alpha-amylase levels were assessed as an exploratory measure with four of the participants who collected saliva samples each morning.
Results: Most participants (N=37) achieved at least one lucid dream during the workshop, and over half of those participants (N=25) enacted a healing lucid dream plan as intended. Compared to baseline values, significant improvements were observed in PTSD symptom scores, nightmare distress, and well-being. The average PCL-5 score for all participants at the beginning of the workshop was 43.4 (SD=12.2), and this average fell to 23.9 (SD=13.7) at the end of the workshop, and to 23.0 (SD=14.0) at the one-month follow-up. Repeated measures ANOVA for all participants over the three time-points (pre, post, follow-up) revealed significant improvements in the PCL score (F(2, 140)=35.40; p<.001). Pairwise post-hoc comparisons of time-points using Tukey’s method revealed significant differences between pre-workshop and post-workshop (t =-7.11; p<.001) and between pre-workshop and follow-up (t =-7.46; p <.001), and no difference in scores between post-workshop and follow-up (t =-0.31; p =.95). The average NEXS score for all participants at the beginning of the workshop was 9.3 (SD=4.2), 6.7 (SD=4.1) at the end of the workshop, and 7.1 (SD = 4.4) at the follow-up. Repeated measures ANOVA for all participants over the three time-points (pre, post, follow-up) revealed significant improvements in the NExS score (F(2, 138)=5.20; p=.007). Pairwise post-hoc comparisons of time-points using Tukey’s highly significant difference method revealed significant differences between pre-workshop and post-workshop (t =-2.96; p=.01) and between pre-workshop and follow-up (t = -2.57; p =.03), but no difference in scores between post-workshop and follow-up (t =.42; p=.91). For the well-being measures, a paired t-test was conducted to evaluate change from before to after the workshop. There were significant improvements in overall well-being (<.001) and lessening of negative emotion (<.001). Salivary alpha-amylase awakening response profiles for two participants enacting healing lucid dreams were consistent with a pattern of stress reduction, compared to control participants that did not achieve dream lucidity.
Discussion: The finding that participants experienced clinically significant and persistent relief from symptoms of PTSD, including reduced experiences of distressing nightmares, confirms the feasibility of studying the healing power of lucid dreaming. Further confirmation of feasibility is provided by the finding that a majority of the participants in the study who achieved lucidity were also able to remember their dream plans for healing in the lucid dreamscape. Future studies are warranted that incorporate experimental conditions designed to distinguish effects unique to dream lucidity and to explore the mechanisms of action underlying the health benefits experienced following healing lucid dreams.
Kelly, W., & Mathe, J. (2019). A brief self-report measure of frequent distressing nightmares: The Nightmare Experience Scale (NExS). Dreaming, 29(2), 180–195.
Garret Yount’s primary interest is bridging molecular neurobiology with aspects of consciousness. He began building this bridge by working with biofield practitioners in the laboratory. Dr. Yount was among the first scientists to be awarded a Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institutes of Health to study energy healing. He has spoken nationally and co-authored peer-reviewed papers on the topic of establishing rigorous guidelines for research into biofields and micro-psychokinesis.
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