Is Lucid Dreaming Addictive?
5 min

Is Lucid Dreaming Addictive?

5 min

Lucid dreaming can enable you to experience your most exciting fantasies and navigate through your subconscious in a state of clarity. Sounds cool, if not incredible! In this article, we'll delineate the risks and benefits of lucid dreaming, and discuss whether the practice can become addictive.

Lucid dreaming refers to a “hybrid sleep-wake state”; a sleeping state of clarity in which the dreamer is aware they are asleep. Individual lucidity levels vary, but some lucid dreamers, also known as oneironauts, can take control over the experience of dreaming while sleeping. This control allows such individuals to use the lucidity for their own varied purposes.

In this article, we examine lucid dreaming in the realm of addiction. Is it possible to become addicted to the practice of controlling your unconscious state? Read on to find out.

Do people get addicted to lucid dreaming?

Do People Get Addicted To Lucid Dreaming?

Opinions about this are divided. Before we compare different views, let’s clarify the important difference between addiction and dependence.

Addiction vs dependence

In clinical terms, there is a difference between “addiction” and “dependence”. While definitions for each term are inconsistent, there are few rules that can help to distinguish them accurately.

The term “dependence” is usually used to refer to a physical dependence on a substance. Symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal are characteristic of this. A physical dependence doesn’t necessarily connote an addiction.

An “addiction”, on the other hand, involves a change in behaviour wherein people prioritise a substance over other things in life, even if it could harm themselves or others. Such behaviour is caused by biochemical changes in the brain resulting from continued substance abuse. Addiction always involves a mental and physical dependence on a certain substance.

Addictive potential of lucid dreaming: opposing views

Now, what are the different answers to this common question?

Some people argue that an addiction to lucid dreaming is not possible because there's no substance involved, and lucid dreamers don’t experience withdrawal symptoms when they discontinue doing it.

Another common argument is that we can’t get addicted to it because we spend so little time dreaming (about 100 minutes per night), and even less time lucid dreaming in the first place.

On the other hand, it is recognised that lucid dreaming can function as a form of escapism, and that it can be so enjoyable that you constantly want more of it. According to some, our dream world can function as an alternate reality in the same way as video games, the internet, or drug use. Some go as far as to directly compare obsessive lucid dreaming with substance abuse.

Clearly, the medical definition of “addiction” mentioned above is not applicable to lucid dreaming, as there’s no substance abuse involved.

But even if we don’t call it an addiction, when living in a dream state becomes our main strategy to cope with ourselves and the world around us, it is a serious concern.

What attracts people to lucid dreaming?

What Attracts People To Lucid Dreaming?

Lucid dreaming can have numerous benefits on an individual’s life, and is sometimes even recommended for therapeutic purposes. Potential benefits include:

  • Lucid dreaming helps people to get in touch with their unconsciousness, meaning they can gain a better understanding of themselves and the forces driving them.

  • It allows people to confront their inner demons and face their deepest fears in a safe environment, which generally benefits them in life.

  • Interacting with our subconscious minds can enhance creativity and innovativeness.

  • Lucid dreams are safe environments for people to experiment with different approaches to solving problems they face in waking life.

  • Dreamers can practise various skills in their sleep, which can help them make improvements in waking life, too.

  • Lucid dreams can be therapeutic for people dealing with loss or unresolved issues relating to loved ones who have passed away. It gives people the opportunity to spiritually deal with the past and/or their loss.

  • Mastering their dream world often increases people’s confidence in waking life, where they develop a sense of mastery also.

  • Lucid dreams are great entertainment. Oneironauts can get up to nearly anything in their dreams, like flying around or talking to a character from their favourite novel.

  • Individuals recovering from substance use disorder may be able to use the risk-free environment of lucid dreaming to confront the inner conflicts they face during recovery.

  • Lucid dreaming can help people discover their aspirations for the future when they lack orientation and confidence in waking life.

  • It can be an effective strategy to cope with nightmares, and can positively affect other sleep variables.

What are the risks of lucid dreaming?

What Are The Risks Of Lucid Dreaming?

While it can be beneficial in numerous ways, lucid dreaming also comes with certain risks.

As with many things in life, lucid dreaming can be valuable if it doesn’t take up an excessive amount of someone’s headspace. Although we do not spend a lot of time in our lives dreaming, and even less time lucid dreaming, we can become obsessed with our dreams and use it as a means to escape reality. In such cases, discontinuing the practice and/or talking to a professional may help to discover what makes us fixate on lucid dreaming.

A common adverse effect of lucid dreaming is poor sleep quality, which can result in irritability and fatigue. Feeling tired and tense has rarely helped anyone live a more content waking life.

Also, some oneironauts find themselves feeling confused as a consequence of lucid dreaming. Moreover, it has also been associated with subclinical psychosis and dissociation.

Some research suggests that lucid dreaming may be generally risky for people with psychologically vulnerable dispositions.

In a 2018 longitudinal study of 187 self-reporting individuals, deliberate lucid dreaming induction was associated with blurred lines between dreams and waking life or reality. It is indicated that this can increase symptoms of “dissociation and schizotypy”.

That said, others claim that skilful oneironauts find lucid dreaming helpful to enhance and better connect with their waking lives.

The same 2018 study also found an inverse association of positive lucid dream emotions with “several psychopathological symptoms” (Aviram & Soffer-Dudek, 2018).

For individuals recovering from substance use disorder, lucid dreaming can be risky if they are tempted to indulge in fantasies of using the substance while dreaming. Relapse in a dream is dangerous because it can weaken a person’s resolve to stay sober, and thus lead to relapse in waking life.

For anyone, indulging in unhealthy fantasies when lucid dreaming can be dangerous, as it may spill over into waking life.

Lastly, there is some concern that getting in touch with one’s subconscious can be potentially dangerous if the individual is not yet ready to face what they may encounter. However, most people report positive outcomes from such confrontation or contact.

Related article

What Are The Risks Of Lucid Dreaming?

Tips to manage your lucid dreaming experience

Tips To Manage Your Lucid Dreaming Experience

As a (prospective) oneironaut, you can do a number of things to enhance your lucid dreaming experience, and to make it safe and sustainable.

Focus on achieving new goals when you’re awake

It can be tempting to use lucid dreaming to experience a sense of liberation when we do things in our dreams that we (think we) can’t achieve in waking life. However, seeking to achieve these experiences in real, waking life can have an even more profound impact. Don’t forget that you can achieve incredible things if you set realistic goals and just go for it.

Stick to a schedule

Limit your lucid dreaming by regimenting yourself with a schedule. Try to lucid dream only at times when it won’t impact your schedule, work life, or social life.

Don’t rely solely on lucid dreaming

While lucid dreaming can be therapeutic, opening up to our unconscious may also bring to light fears or unresolved issues. When confronting these, it may be useful to consider combining lucid dreaming with conventional treatments such as therapy.

Indulge in healthy fantasies

As mentioned above, using lucid dreaming to indulge in harmful fantasies can spill over into waking life and even increase the likelihood of relapse among people recovering from substance use disorder. Avoid such risks by dreaming about healthy things such as sunbathing or learning new skills.

Is lucid dreaming dangerous?

Is Lucid Dreaming Dangerous?

The bottom line is that lucid dreaming is neither innately positive nor negative. If you're not in a particularly vulnerable psychological state, you may as well see how it works for you. Some people benefit greatly from the possibilities lucid dreaming has to offer. However, it can be harmful if an individual becomes obsessive with it and/or uses it as a form of constant escape. Whether it can benefit a person largely depends on their mental stability and on the characteristics of lucidity, researchers say.

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  • Aviram, Liat, Soffer-Dudek, & Nirit. (2018/03/22). Lucid Dreaming: Intensity, But Not Frequency, Is Inversely Related to Psychopathology -
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