Lucid dreaming as a treatment for recurrent nightmares

Psychother Psychosom. 1997;66(1):50-5. doi: 10.1159/000289106.


Background: Lucid dreams occur when a person becomes aware that he or she is dreaming while still in the dream state. Previous reports on the use of lucid dreaming in the treatment of nightmares do not contain adequate baseline data, follow-up data, or both.

Methods: A treatment of recurrent nightmares incorporating progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and lucid dream induction is presented for 2 case studies. Three other cases were treated with lucid dream induction alone. The duration of the nightmares ranged from once every few days to once every few months.

Results: The procedures were effective in all 5 cases. A 1-year follow-up showed that 4 of the subjects no longer had nightmares and that 1 subject experienced a decrease in the intensity and frequency of her nightmares.

Conclusions: The alleviation of recurrent nightmares in these 5 cases parallels the results reported by other authors who have used training in lucid dreaming to treat nightmares. Our results support the idea that treatments based on lucid dream induction can be of therapeutic value. Based on these and other case studies, it remains unclear whether the principal factor responsible for the alleviation of nightmares is lucidity itself, or the ability to alter some aspect of the dream.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Awareness*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Dreams*
  • Fantasy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Relaxation
  • Recurrence