Lucid Dreaming Study reveals a huge decrease in PTSD symptoms
Today is National PTSD Awareness Day, which recognises the effects Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has on the lives of those impacted by it. The occasion coincides with the recent publication of a ground-breaking peer reviewed scientific study in which 85% of participants experienced “a remarkable decrease in PTSD Symptoms” by using lucid dreaming practices to become conscious within their dreams and transform their nightmares.
Lucid dreaming is the practice of becoming fully conscious within a dream and then directing the dream at will, all while you are still sound asleep. Lucid dreaming has been a scientifically proven method for treating chronic nightmares for over three decades now but this new study conducted by the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) in California is the first study to use lucid dreaming to treat not just nightmares, but full blown PTSD.
The results of the study were highly significant with the average PTSD score actually dropping below the PTSD threshold by the end of the week-long study. In fact, by the end of the sixth day of the study over 85% of the participants were no longer classified as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (using the self-report PTSD Checklist for DSM-5).
PTSD UK is the only charity in the UK dedicated to raising awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (both PTSD and Complex PTSD). Commenting on the study, Jacqui Suttie, PTSD UK’s Founder and CEO said, “PTSD can inflict overwhelming distress through haunting flashbacks and nightmares that pervade even the realm of sleep. However, this ground-breaking study demonstrates the incredible potential of lucid dreaming for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, not only for symptom relief but also to empower individuals with a profound sense of control over their distressing nightmares.
Providing this sense of control, respite, and even moments of peace within sleep is crucial in supporting the journey towards healing and recovery for people with PTSD. We are thrilled to witness the substantial success demonstrated by this innovative treatment, offering renewed hope for those affected by PTSD.“
Charlie Morley, the British lucid dreaming teacher, author of ‘Wake Up to Sleep’ and 2018 Churchill Fellow who was facilitating the study said, “In 15 years of working with military veterans and people with PTSD I have never seen such outstanding results. This truly is a breakthrough in trauma treatment. Although it was a pilot study, it seems like lucid dreaming has the potential to be one the most powerful treatments for PTSD currently available. The results were so impressive that the same team have since completed a 100 person randomised control study. The data from this larger study is still being analysed but the initial reports are very encouraging.”
He added, “PTSD and trauma nightmares are disempowering experiences but to become fully aware within a nightmare and know that is just a dream is a deeply empowering experience which leads to intense feelings of relief and allows the underlying psychological trauma to be released and integrated.”
The Results at a Glance:
- 76% of participants had at least one lucid dream during their training week (many had more than one).
- 68% of these lucid dreams were classed as healing dreams (dreams in which an intention to integrate their trauma was engaged)
- After the study participants reported a significant decrease in negative emotions, an increased sense of wellbeing, and a significant reduction in nightmares across the board
- By the end of the study over 85% of the participants showed such a significant decrease in PTSD symptoms that they were no longer classified as having PTSD (using the self-report PTSD Checklist for DSM-5)
- A three week follow up showed that this huge decrease in PTSD symptoms had persisted
- Nightmare frequency and distress significantly decreased after the workshop (with some experiencing a complete cessation of nightmares). These effects were retained at the one-month follow up.
Organic chemist Dr David Hamilton who was a scientific consultant on the study said, “The results of the study are so compelling that I had to look twice to check I wasn’t misreading the numbers. The research shows that lucid dreaming can be a very potent therapy for people who suffer from PTSD.”
One participant commented, “My nightmares have gone away! I feel like a new person – thank you!” Another said: “I have been in therapy for over two years now and this is perhaps to most healing experience in those two years to date. I am making healing connections like I have never been able to do in the past 20 years. This is the healing work.”
The most impressive aspect from the study was that there was such a reduction in PTSD symptom severity that the average score dropped from well over a standard lower limit considered a criterion for PTSD, to well below that threshold. The scores dropped so low that 85% participants were considered to no longer have PTSD (using the self-report PTSD Checklist for DSM-5) and crucially these effects lasted for at least 4 weeks.
James Scurry, the UK based UKCP accredited psychotherapist who worked on the study said, “As a psychotherapist who works predominantly with clients with complex trauma, I could hardly believe what I was witnessing during the study. Participants were beginning to integrate trauma in a matter of days – some from the experience of having a lucid dream but others simply from being empowered by the process of learning how to lucid dream.”
The results of this 2022 pilot study were so significant that a much larger 100-person randomised controlled study was completed by the same research team in April 2023.
The results of this larger follow-up study are still being analysed but researchers have reported that the initial reports are very encouraging.
How Did the Study Actually Work?
The study is titled Decreased Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Following Lucid Dream Healing Workshop and is being published in the peer reviewed journal Traumatology on 1 June 2023. Authors: Garret Yount, Tadas Stumbrys, Konstantin Koos, David Hamilton, and Helané Wahbeh.
The pilot study consisted of 49 participants, all of whom by had chronic PTSD and met the clinical criterion for PTSD diagnosis using the self-report PTSD Checklist for DSM-5.
Some participants were survivors of childhood sexual abuse whereas others were armed forces veterans, two thirds of participants were female and most were from either the US or UK.
The study consisted of a six-day lucid dreaming workshop taught by British lucid dreaming teacher Charlie Morley. The workshop consisted of 22 hours of live instruction via video conferencing, in which the participants were taught lucid dream induction techniques and how to use lucid dreaming to heal nightmares and to integrate trauma.
At the start of the week all participants took PTSD Check List Scale (PCL-5) which is a 20-item questionnaire, corresponding to the DSM-5 symptom criteria for PTSD and the Nightmare Experience Scale.
At the end of the week they took the same questionaries and then 4 weeks later they took them again. This, along with daily data collection about their dreams formed the core of the collected data.
Due to the entire group having chronic PTSD, James Scurry, a UK based UKCP accredited psychotherapist was present at all times during the workshop and was available for 1-to-1 check-ins at any time throughout the study.
The aim of the study was for the participants to become lucid in their dreams and to intentionally use the lucid dream to transform their nightmares and to integrate their trauma.
Each participant had a personally predesigned “dream plan” which they would then enact within the lucid dream. These ranged from calling out affirmations of healing intent once they were in the lucid dream to changing the outcome of a recurring nightmare, to simply becoming lucid in a traumatic dream and intentionally staying in the nightmare to allow it to be finally witnessed an integrated.
About Charlie Morley
- Charlie Morley is a bestselling Hay House author of four ground-breaking books on lucid dreaming, sleep & mindfulness – if you purchase any of the books through the links here, PTSD UK will get a donation from Amazon through their affiliate programme, at no extra cost to you:
- For the past 15 years he’s been running immersive sleep & dream retreats across the globe and he’s presented his work at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities as well as the Ministry of Defence charliemorley.com
- He began teaching at just 25 years old under the guidance of the well-known Buddhist master Lama Yeshe Rinpoche.
- By the age of 35 Charlie had written bestselling 3 books and presented his work at The Ministry of Defence and The Houses of Parliament as well as producing 3 online courses and doing a TED talk.
- Charlie has a large, loyal following: He has over 1 million YouTube views and an engaged platform of 20K+ email subscribers, 17K Facebook followers and 21K Instagram followers.
- A youthful, expert voice on sleep and dreams: Charlie is a pioneer in the field of sleep, dreams and lucid dreaming with 15 years’ teaching experience.
- He has been leading free workshops & retreats for military veterans and serving military personnel since 2016.
- He has written four books which have been translated into almost 20 languages and has run workshops & retreats in more than 20 countries. His latest best-selling book “Wake Up to Sleep” from Hay House, features the core approaches used within the study.
Please remember, these aren’t meant to be medical recommendations, but they’re tactics that have worked for others and might work for you, too. Be sure to work with a professional to find the best methods for you.
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Treatments for PTSD
It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.