Researchers have explored various applications of lucid dreaming, but the application of healing has received little attention (Stumbrys & Erlacher, 2016). Chronic pain is a widespread health issue (Wilkerson, Kim, Windsor, & Mareiniss, 2016) and one case study purports substantial chronic pain relief from a single lucid dream (Zappaterra, Jim, & Pangarkar, 2014). The purpose of this study was to investigate the self-reported influence of lucid dreaming on chronic pain, as well as learn more about the individuals who claim to have had such an experience by examining the relationship of certain personality characteristics.
A mixed-method approach was utilized in a retrospective manner. Recruitment consisted of individuals who have experienced the phenomenon of relieving or attempting to relieve chronic pain through lucid dreaming. Participants (N = 10) filled out the Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS) and Plymouth Sensory Imagery Questionnaire (Psi-Q) using an online survey. Additionally, each participant completed a semi-structured interview to gather qualitative data about their subjective experience, as well as measure pain, expectation, and dream vividness using a Numeric Rating Scale-11 (NRS-11).
A Wilcoxon signed rank test found a significant reduction in pain when comparing scores before the lucid dream experience (Mdn = 6.63) to after the lucid dream experience (Mdn = 1.25) (T = 45, z = -2.67, p = .004). Spearman's rho was used to test the relationship of the pain differential (i.e., pain before - pain after) and several variables: trait absorption, expectation, dream vividness, and mental imagery ability. None of these variables had a statistically significant relationship with the pain differential. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Five themes emerged: beliefs, expectations, demographics prior to experience, characteristics of the lucid dream, and positive outcomes.
This study demonstrated evidence in support of using lucid dreams for chronic pain relief. Lucid dreaming abilities, such as remembering intentions and dream control, were found to be an integral component of many participants’ experiences. Future research should also look at the variable of expectation, as well as intention, positive affect, and insight.