Background: The goal of this pilot study was to evaluate the effects of the cognitive-restructuring technique 'lucid dreaming treatment' (LDT) on chronic nightmares. Becoming lucid (realizing that one is dreaming) during a nightmare allows one to alter the nightmare storyline during the nightmare itself.
Methods: After having filled out a sleep and a posttraumatic stress disorder questionnaire, 23 nightmare sufferers were randomly divided into 3 groups; 8 participants received one 2-hour individual LDT session, 8 participants received one 2-hour group LDT session, and 7 participants were placed on the waiting list. LDT consisted of exposure, mastery, and lucidity exercises. Participants filled out the same questionnaires 12 weeks after the intervention (follow-up).
Results: At follow-up the nightmare frequency of both treatment groups had decreased. There were no significant changes in sleep quality and posttraumatic stress disorder symptom severity. Lucidity was not necessary for a reduction in nightmare frequency.
Conclusions: LDT seems effective in reducing nightmare frequency, although the primary therapeutic component (i.e. exposure, mastery, or lucidity) remains unclear.