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Practicing sports in lucid dreams – characteristics, effects, and practical implications

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A B S T R AC T In a lucid dream the dreamer is aware of the dream state and can carry out actions deliberately. Lucid dream practice (LDP) is the rehearsal of movements during lucid dreams and constitutes a specific form of mental practice (MP). Previous studies demonstrated that LDP can enhance physical performance. To gain deeper insight into LDP on a qualitative level, sixteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with lucid dreamers from different countries. Inductive content analysis revealed that many different sports and movements can be practiced in lucid dreams. LDP experiences were very realistic, including kinesthetic perception. Required equipment or sparring partners usually were available or could be created and adjusted by the athletes. Thirteen interviewees (81.3%) reported positive effects of LDP. In particular, 10 participants reported to have improved their physical performance through LDP, confirming findings of previous studies. Other positive effects were, for example, strengthened confidence, insights for physical practice (PP), improved flexibility, and positive emotions. The results also demonstrate the special possibilities of LDP like deliberate manipulation of practice conditions, speed, and perspective. Furthermore, problems occurring during LDP are described and how they can be dealt with. Based on the results, practical advice for interested athletes is provided. In conclusion, the present study demonstrates the great potential of LDP for sports practice. LDP could also be applied in other areas that involve motor learning, like rehabilitation, music, or surgery. The present study complements previous LDP findings and provides input and new ideas for future LDP studies. Furthermore, it is an important contribution to general MP research. Findings from LDP research-a small but growing field-should be incorporated into conceptual discussions on MP. Also, by extending LDP research, athletes and coaches could become more aware of this unique and effective method and could start to integrate it into sports practice.
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Practicing sports in lucid dreams – characteristics, eects, and practical
implications
Melanie Schädlich1, * & Daniel Erlacher2
1 Institute of Sports and Sports Sciences, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
2 Institute of Sport Science, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
* Corresponding author: Heidelberg University, Im Neuenheimer Feld 700, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
Tel: +49 (0) 174-6399330, Fax: +49 (0) 6221 54-4387,
Email: m.schaedlich@stud.uni-heidelberg.de
COMMENTARY
Article History:
Submitted 22th June 2017
Accepted 25th May 2018
Published 29th June 2018
Handling Editor:
Günter Amesberger
University of Salzburg, Austria
Sabine Würth
University of Salzburg, Austria
University of Innsbruck, Austria
Editor-in-Chief:
Martin Kopp
University of Innsbruck, Austria
Reviewers:
Reviewer 1: Jürgen Birklbauer
University of Salzburg, Austria
Reviewer 2: Ninja K. Horr
University of Birmingham,
United Kingdom
ABSTRACT
In a lucid dream the dreamer is aware of the dream state and can carry out actions deliberately.
Lucid dream practice (LDP) is the rehearsal of movements during lucid dreams and constitutes a
specic form of mental practice (MP). Previous studies demonstrated that LDP can enhance physi-
cal performance. To gain deeper insight into LDP on a qualitative level, sixteen semi-structured
interviews were conducted with lucid dreamers from dierent countries. Inductive content analysis
revealed that many dierent sports and movements can be practiced in lucid dreams. LDP experi-
ences were very realistic, including kinesthetic perception. Required equipment or sparring part-
ners usually were available or could be created and adjusted by the athletes. Thirteen interviewees
(81.3%) reported positive eects of LDP. In particular, 10 participants reported to have improved
their physical performance through LDP, conrming ndings of previous studies. Other positive
eects were, for example, strengthened condence, insights for physical practice (PP), improved
exibility, and positive emotions. The results also demonstrate the special possibilities of LDP like
deliberate manipulation of practice conditions, speed, and perspective. Furthermore, problems oc-
curring during LDP are described and how they can be dealt with. Based on the results, practical
advice for interested athletes is provided. In conclusion, the present study demonstrates the great
potential of LDP for sports practice. LDP could also be applied in other areas that involve motor
learning, like rehabilitation, music, or surgery. The present study complements previous LDP nd-
ings and provides input and new ideas for future LDP studies. Furthermore, it is an important con-
tribution to general MP research. Findings from LDP research–a small but growing eld–should
be incorporated into conceptual discussions on MP. Also, by extending LDP research, athletes and
coaches could become more aware of this unique and eective method and could start to integrate
it into sports practice.
Keywords:
lucid dream practice – mental practice – lucid dreaming – motor learning – interview – qualitative
Citation:
Schädlich, M., & Erlacher, D. (2018). Practicing sports in lucid dreams – characteristics, eects, and practical implications. Current Issues in Sport
Science, 3:007. doi: 10.15203/CISS_2018.007
Current Issues in Sport Science 3 (2018)
2018 I innsbruck university press, Innsbruck
Current Issues in Sport Science I ISSN 2414-6641 I http://www.ciss-journal.org/
Vol. 3 I DOI 10.15203/CISS_2018.007 OPEN ACCESS
Mental practice (MP) can be dened as “cognitive rehearsal of
a task in the absence of overt physical movement” (Driskell,
Copper, & Moran, 1994). A plethora of experimental studies has
demonstrated that motor skill-learning benets from MP in var-
ious domains such as sport, music, medical surgery, and neu-
rorehabilitation (cf. Fargier, Collet, Moran, & Massaerelli, 2016).
While the term “mental practice” is usually applied to rehearsal
while awake, it can be extended to the dream state: A lucid
dream is a dream in which the dreamer is consciously aware
that he or she is dreaming and can thus decide to carry out
specic actions (Schredl & Erlacher, 2004). Lucid dreams mainly
occur in REM sleep (Erlacher & Schredl, 2008). A method of veri-
fying lucid dreams is by eye signals which can validate verbal
dream reports (also see Schädlich, 2018): While lucid, dreamers
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 2
can deliberately move their eyes in a distinct pattern, usually a
fast repeated left–right movement which can be detected in
the electrooculogram. The application of movement rehearsal
in lucid dreams, lucid dream practice (LDP), was rst studied by
Paul Tholey (e.g. Tholey, 1990). Similar to general MP research
(cf. Malouin, Jackson, & Richards, 2013), studies found corre-
spondences between LDP and physically executed movements
supporting the conception that physical and dreamed move-
ments share the same neural substrate (cf. Schädlich, Erlacher,
& Schredl, 2016). In a questionnaire study Erlacher, Stumbrys,
and Schredl (2011) showed that out of all athletes who have
lucid dreams 9% practiced motor skills in lucid dreams–77%
of those reported to have improved subsequently. These num-
bers reinforce anecdotal reports of amateur and professional
athletes who eectively used lucid dream practice (cf. Tholey,
1990; cf. Erlacher, 2007).
Three quantitative studies demonstrated that enhancing ath-
letic performance through LDP is possible: In two eld studies
lucid dreamers improved their performances in a coin-tossing
task (Erlacher & Schredl, 2010) as well as a nger-tapping task
(Stumbrys, Erlacher, & Schredl, 2016). Schädlich, Erlacher, and
Schredl (2016) investigated LDP in a sleep laboratory study em-
ploying a dart throwing task: The dream reports revealed that
experiences diered strongly concerning the number of dis-
tractions (e.g. by dream characters) experienced during LDP. A
post-hoc analysis showed that the lucid dreamers with few dis-
tractions during LDP improved signicantly over time whereas
the ones with multiple distractions did not. Although these
ndings are only preliminary, they elucidate the necessity of an
extensive qualitative study. Furthermore, in a qualitative study
numerous LDP experiences can be analyzed, which are inde-
pendent of pre-determined study tasks. Only one qualitatively
study investigated LDP (Tholey, 1981): Six experienced lucid
dreamers reported that they were able to carry out familiar
complex motor skills in lucid dreams without diculties. The
participants also reported positive training eects within the
dream as well as on waking performance.
Our goal was to demonstrate a variety of LDP experiences, to
conrm positive eects found in other studies, and to derive
implications for sports practice. Our main questions were: What
are the eects of LDP on physical performance? Does LDP pro-
vide special possibilities? How are movements and other fea-
tures perceived? What problems occur and how are they dealt
with? What can we learn from the interviewees’ experiences?
Methods
Participants
Sixteen lucid dreamers were interviewed. Participants’ char-
acteristics are depicted in Table 1. Participants were required
to have performed sports they were familiar with from physi-
cal practice (PP) in at least one dream during which they were
aware of the dream state. Via emails the rst author ensured
that the potential participants had understood the denition
of lucid dreaming by asking for examples and asking further
questions if necessary. Interviewees (N in parentheses) were
from Germany (9), the United Kingdom (3), Norway (1), Spain
(1), the United States (1), and New Zealand (1). Mean age was
32.9 ± 7.9 years at the time of the interview. With two excep-
tions (P04, P09), participants practiced at least one sport in an
organization. Participants were recruited via advertisements in
internet forums, online journals on lucid dreaming, posts on so-
cial networking sites as well as via personal contacts.
Interview guide
Based on our main questions, the rst author developed a draft
of a semi-structured interview guide which was then sent to
several sports scientists and lucid dreamers and adjusted ac-
cording to their feedback. The complete interview guide con-
tained few closed and many open questions. Some questions
were based on previous ndings or anecdotes. For example, in
Tholey’s (1981) study participants jumping and spinning in lu-
cid dreams led to peculiarities. So we specically inquired about
gravity, jumps, and turns. We also included questions about the
dream environment, equipment, partners etc. In order to relate
the possible eects of LDP to the interviewees’ goals we also
inquired what their motivation was to practice sports in lucid
dreams. Table 2 depicts all questions, sorted by sections. The
rst author translated the interview guide into English for non-
German speakers. During interview conduction the ordering
of questions usually followed the interview guide but deviated
when the interviewees spontaneously addressed a dierent is-
sue. Whenever it appeared interesting to gain more informa-
tion, the interviewer asked additional questions.
Data collection
Fifteen interviews were conducted via a free internet telephone
service and recorded via a connected recorder program. One
interview was conducted via landline telephone and recorded
by digital voice recorder. The rst author conducted all inter-
views in German (native tongue) or English (uent). Fourteen
interviews were conducted in the participants’ native language
(German or English); the Norwegian and Spanish lucid dream-
ers were uent English speakers. The original interview guide
contained more questions which are not analyzed in this study.
The interviews lasted between 35 and 210 min, with an average
duration of 89 min. ± 46.8 min. In some cases participants sent
additional information via email, for example, extracts from
dream diaries. Passages that were unclear during transcription
as well as skipped or misunderstood questions were sent to the
participants via email and the email responses were added to
the interview transcriptions.
At the beginning of the interview participants were informed
that we wanted to nd out more about the experiences and
potential eects of motor practice in lucid dreams. Further-
more, they were informed that participation was voluntary and
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 3
Table 1: Overview of participants and lucid dream practice experiences
Code Sex
(m/f)
Age
(years)
Lucid dream
frequencya
Number
of LDP
dreams
Skills/
competing
level
Overview of LDP experiences
P01 m 31 6 3 Kickboxing:
green belt
Martial artsb: Kata (form), specic kick combination
P02 m 21 7 58 Kung Fu: spears, sparring, Tan Toi positions
P03 m 27 7 2 Karate:
regional
Karate: techniques
P04 f 23 7 43 Alpine skiing: having fun, jumps and salti (things she
cannot do in waking life)
Gymnastics: short routine for laboratory study
P05 f 39 7 400 Yoga:
teaching
Juggling: basic technique; Yoga: postures, stretching;
Swimming
P06 m 53 6 8 Mountain biking: e.g. impossible descents, balancing,
racing, tricks
P07 f 29 7 2 Breakdance: choreography; Dancing: choreography
(experimenting)
P08cf 29 7c95dTaekwondo:
Red belt with
black tag/ local
Taekwondo: basic forms and techniques, sparring
Riding: jumping fences, dressage
P09 m 29 4 1 Cross-country skiing: continued skiing from before non-
lucid dream
P10 m 35 6 7 Aikido: specic combinations, stick forms
P11 m 41 7 >100 Diving:
teaching,
under water
lming
Diving: keeping balance/ stability in current, getting
used to the environment
Climbing: enjoys the thrill and ow like in waking life;
Football: having fun
P12cm 28 7c>1000dGymnastics:
invited to
compete on
national level
Swimming: ip turn, basic styles for exam; Gymnastics:
ne-tuning specic elements/ routines; Rugby: e.g. tack-
ling, ne-tuning ight, strategy; Judo, CrossFit, Snow-
boarding, Bouldering,…
P13 m 36 7 5 Taiji: sequences (Yang style); Skating: skating downhill,
deliberately exaggerating
P14 m 29 7 13 Kickboxing:
black belt, rst
dan/ local
Martial artb: sparring, specic jumps and kicks, practice
for black belt; Breakdance: improving specic moves;
Parcour, Skate boarding, Surng, push-ups
P15 m 36 6 75dKarate and
Kickboxing:
black belt/
international
(Kick-boxinge)
Taiji /Qi Gong: walking forms, experiencing movements
and body on a deeper level
Martial artsb: sparring, practicing specic jumps and
kicks, experimenting
Push-ups: experimenting (how many he can do in a
lucid dream)
P16 m 40 6 >1000 Taiji: Teaching Taiji: e.g. forms, creating new movements; Taekwondo:
Fighting Football: e.g. fancy goals; Alpine skiing: impos-
sible jumps
a) Scale from 0 to 7 (0: never; 1: less than once a year; 2: about once a year; 3: about 2 to 4 times a year; 4: about once a month; 5: about 2 to 3 times a month;
6: about once a week; 7: several times a week)
b) Combat sport (dierent styles)
c) Participants are lucid in almost every dream since early childhood (“natural” lucid dreamers)
d) At times practiced regularly in lucid dreams (at least once a week)
e) Irish Gold, European Gold, World Silver, European Silver
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 4
Section Questions
Lucid dream practice
experiences
How often did you spontaneously practice sports in lucid dreams?
How often did you deliberately practice sports in a lucid dream?
What motivated or triggered your lucid dream practice?
Please describe one or more dreams and what movements you practiced.
Specic applications
Have you ever practiced in a lucid dream…
…to support learning a new movement? /…to improve a specic movement?
…to become more condent or uent?
…to correct a mistake?
…to improve a more general skill, like power or balance?
…to improve tactics (team sport)?
…to complement physical practice?
…when you were not able to practice physically?
…to prepare yourself for a contest or a similar event?
…to mentally prepare yourself (e.g. reducing anxiety)?
…to adjust to certain situational conditions like a new or changed training environment?
Specic characteristics
Please describe what your movements during lucid dream practice in general felt like.
Please describe in what ways movements during lucid dream practice felt dierent compared to wakefulness.
How did you perceive (…) during lucid dream practice?
…gravity
…muscle power
…jumps and turns
…balance
…surroundings and equipment
Please describe your (…) during lucid dream practice.
…visual impressions
…acoustic impressions
…perception of other senses, like smell, taste, temperature or pain.
Problems What problems did occur? How did you deal with them?
Eects
Did you ever get the impression that your motor performance improved while you were practicing in a lucid
dream? Please describe these experiences.
Did you ever get the impression that your motor performance in wakefulness improved as a consequence
lucid dream practice? Please describe these experiences.
In what other ways has your lucid dream practice inuenced your performance in wakefulness?
Manipulation
Have you ever manipulated speed during lucid dream practice, like moving slow motion or sped up? Please
describe these experiences.
Have you ever actively constructed or changed your environment during lucid dream practice? Please de-
scribe these experiences.
Have you ever summoned a coach or another person to assist with lucid dream practice? Please describe
these experiences.
Evaluation
Please describe the most positive experience you had with lucid dream practice!
Please describe the most negative experience you had with lucid dream practice!
Have you ever learned or experienced anything completely new during lucid dream practice, like a new
body sensation or a new idea for waking practice?
Do you think you will use lucid dreams again to practice movements in future? How intensely and in what
ways do you want to use lucid dreaming in the future?
What is most important for you about lucid dream practice?
Who do you think can benet from lucid dream practice?
Who can benet from lucid dream practice
Are there any preconditions for learning lucid dream practice or for beneting from it?
Table 2: Semi-structured interview guide
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 5
that quotes will be anonymous. All participants gave written
consent to participate. The study was approved by the ethics
committee of the Faculty of Behavioral and Cultural Studies of
Heidelberg University.
Data analysis
All interviews were digitally recorded and then transcribed
verbatim by the rst author. Parts of the audio les that were
unrelated to the study were deleted and not transcribed. The
transcriptions revealed that the participants had jumped a lot
between questions. Therefore, the rst author sorted the an-
swers as well as additional email material in order to have a
complete data set for every participant, following the structure
of the interview guide.
Inductive content analysis according to Mayring (2000) was
used to obtain higher and lower order themes from the tran-
scribed interviews. The rst author familiarized herself with
the material by transcribing, sorting, and re-reading the inter-
views. She then identied themes of interest and started cre-
ating themes from the answers by clustering quotes from the
interviewees. Subsequently, the second author reviewed the
preliminary theme framework and discussed it with the rst au-
thor after becoming familiar with the raw interview transcrip-
tions. The rst author then adjusted the themes. This process of
discussing and adjusting was repeated several times until both
authors agreed on the nal higher and lower order themes.
Results
Figure 1 depicts an overview of all the results section. In text, +
indicates where additional quotes for a theme or example are
provided in the supplementary material.
Figure 1: Overview of results sections
Note: Grey boxes represent result sections and higher order themes (when marked with * lower order themes are presented in the text).
White boxes display lower order themes.
Abbreviations: LDP: Lucid dream practice; PP: Physical practice.
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 6
(bivariate), level of LDP experience, and eects of LDP per par-
ticipant. Literature, lucid dreamers in internet forums and lucid
dream researchers/ university lectures inspired the participants
to initially try LDP and/ or to use it in specic ways.
Positive eects of lucid dream practice on physical practice
Altogether, 13 of the 16 interviewees named one or more posi-
tive eects of LDP. We identied the following four lower order
themes of positive eects:
Better performance within a lucid dream (13)+. Altogether, 13 par-
ticipants were or got better during LDP. Seven participants said
that their performance during LDP (the whole time) was gener-
ally better, easier, or perfect. Three interviewees reported that
they generally executed their movements more precisely, more
focused, or with better control during LDP: Ten participants felt
that they improved in the course of LDP. For example, seven
martial artists said they got better in techniques and sparring
during LDP. P05 learned the basic sequence of juggling during
LDP (which also improved her physical performance)+.
Improved performance in physical practice (10)+. Altogether, 10
interviewees used LDP successfully to support learning a new
movement and/ or to optimize movements. Two participants
learned techniques from Taekwondo (P08) and Judo (P12)
techniques fast because they practiced a lot in lucid dreams.
P12 impressed his teacher when he improved his swimming
styles through regular LDP in order to get best marks in his
sport studies. He practiced each new style in lucid dreams after
learning it in PP and then was much better at it in the next PP
lecture+. Eight interviewees named particular movement se-
quences that they improved through LDP. Here is an example in
which a martial artist (P01) practiced a complicated sequence
of kicks laterally inverted in a lucid dream. The next time he per-
formed the inverted version of the combination physically, it
worked right away+. P10 practiced an Aikido combination in a
lucid dream (see Equipment, partners, and environment) which
helped him to position himself better in the following Aikido
class. P12 improved his ip turn in swimming, gymnastic ele-
ments (e.g. double ip from the bars), and his running style.
Three lucid dreamers said their balance improved through LDP:
For example, it helped P11 to balance against the currents in
scuba diving.
Enhanced condence (8). Eight lucid dreamers noticed improved
condence in PP as a consequence of LDP. P12 said that LDP
helped his condence in all his sports because movements be-
come more uent and precise. P11 became more comfortable
with diving because the dreams gave him a feeling of calm and
relaxation. P08 said LDP reduced nervousness before a com-
petition (sparring between clubs). Apart from practicing move-
ments, a friend from waking life appeared during LDP and gave
her a “pep talk” which signicantly improved her condence.
P08 then performed well in the competition although she had
to spar against participants with higher belts.
Other positive eects (6)+. Altogether, six interviewees reported
at least one other positive eect: P11 realized that he took too
Overview of lucid dream practice experiences
Table 1 provides an overview of LDP experiences, showing the
number of LDP dreams per participant (estimated when multi-
ple) as well as short descriptions of the sports and movements
they practiced. Examples and quotes of LDP experiences are
presented within the following sections. Quotes from German
interview transcripts were translated into English by the rst
author.
Motivation
The motivation between the interviewees to apply LDP varied:
Altogether, 11 participants used LDP for at least one particular
purpose regarding their sport: Nine interviewees used LDP to
generally complement PP, substitute PP, or to prepare for events
like competitions; six lucid dreamers applied LDP to become
more condent in their sport; seven participants used LDP to
improve PP with specic goals in mind, like correcting specic
routines or the learning of a new movement. The remaining ve
participants used LDP for one or more of the following reasons:
out of curiosity, to have fun, because intense PP or non-lucid
sports dreams led to spontaneous LDP dreams, or because they
participated in LDP studies (P04). Table 3 depicts motivation
Table 3: Motivation, experience and eects
Code
Motivationa:
Purposeful
usage of LDP
LDP
experienceb
Positive eects
of LDPc
P02 yes 2yes
P05 yes 3yes
P06 yes 1yes
P07 yes 1yes
P08 yes 2yes
P10 yes 1yes
P11 yes 3yes
P12 yes 3yes
P14 yes 1yes
P15 yes 2yes
P16 yes 3yes
P01 no 1 yes
P03 no 1 no
P04 no 2 yes
P09 no 1 no
P13 no 1 no
a) “ Yes”: named at least one specic application of LDP for their waking life
sport(s)
b) 1: 2-13 dreams; 2: 43-95; dreams; 3: >100 dreams
c) “Yes”: named at least one positive eect of LDP on their waking life
sport(s)
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 7
advice (especially with gymnastics and swimming). P12 delib-
erately slowed down or sped up time during LDP. For his swim-
ming practice he sometimes slowed down his movements to
improve the main phase of a style and sometimes he swam
extremely fast in order to ne-tune fast movements. He also
slowed down ghts during Rugby practice and manipulated
speed in both directions for gymnastic practice. Two interview-
ees intentionally applied third person perspective to evaluate
their movements: P02 once watched himself doing certain Tan
Toi positions and thereby took inner notes concerning his view-
ing direction and arm positions. Although he saw himself from
the outside, he could feel himself in his body. P12 regularly
changed perspective in various LDP dreams, e.g. in swimming
and gymnastics. In Judo LDP dreams he at times took the per-
spective of his sparring partner.
Most important features of lucid dream practice. When asked
what they liked the most about LDP, eight participants named
the positive eect on PP. Eight interviewees especially appre-
ciated that during LDP they can do things which are impos-
sible or too risky in wakefulness: doing somersaults and jumps
on skis (P04), going downhill very fast on a bike (P06) or skis
(P04), or diving down very deep (P11). Seven lucid dreamers
liked the new sensations or movements that they learned in
LDP. Four participants even gained insights from LDP: For ex-
ample, P02 said that LDP helped him to understand where the
power of motion comes from and P12 had “aha moments in
his LDP dreams concerning movements. To eight participants
fun and positive feelings were important. For example, P04
awoke in a positive mood after enjoying skiing in lucid dreams;
P10 and P16 had experiences where they felt happy to a point
where they were almost ecstatic during LDP–P10 practiced a
jump faster and faster until he laughed with joy. Concerning
the interviewees’ intentions to use LDP in future, 15 of all 16
interviewees (all but P03) said they can imagine using dreams
for sports again. P03 was one of three participants who did not
report any positive eects. He only had two LDP dreams, both
of which contained problems. He therefore was not convinced
of the ecacy of LDP. Eight participants named specic pur-
poses and ideas for their future LDP, while seven of them said
they might use it occasionally or when a particular goal comes
up in PP.
People who could benet from lucid dream practice. When asked
who could generally benet from LDP, eleven interviewees
answered “everybody” or “every athlete”. Three lucid dream-
ers said that (especially) professional athletes could use LDP
to improve their performance. Furthermore, it was suggested
that LDP could be especially eective for children with learn-
ing diculties, for disabled people, as compensation when PP
is limited and in rehabilitation. Some said LDP could be useful
for athletes with extreme sports (with risk of severe injuries) to
become more secure. Two participants said that LDP is more
suited for individual sports than for team sports because with
team sports there are more variables to control.
much air into his lungs when diving. P06 was motivated to do
more PP. For P07 it was positive to carry out movements more
consciously. P16 focused on specic aspects of his Taiji practice
because of LDP. It also helped with his teaching. P02 said that
LDP improved his proprioception and helped him to memorize
sequences. P12 reported that his physical exibility in CrossFit
had improved because of LDP+.
Integration of lucid dream practice into physical practice
The interviewees integrated LDP into PP in three dierent ways:
Lucid dream practice as complementary practice (7). Seven par-
ticipants (all martial artists) complemented their PP by prac-
ticing in lucid dreams. P14 especially used LDP when he was
training for his black belt. For P15 and P16 the interaction of
physical, mental, and lucid dream practice is most eective.
P12 complemented PP with LDP with all his sports. For some
sports he also used MP, also for preparing LDP.
Lucid dream practice as compensation for physical practice (4).
Two interviewees used LDP when guided PP was limited (P15:
club closed, P02: missed class). P12 and P16 practiced in lucid
dreams when they were injured and could not practice physi-
cally (in their dreams they were not injured). P12 said that it
helped him “to retain motor activity”, whereas it did not reduce
the urge to move when awake. P16 enjoyed the feeling of mov-
ing freely.
Lucid dream practice as preparation for specic events (4). Four
participants used LDP in at least one way to prepare for an
event or varying conditions of PP. P08 prepared herself for belt
gradings and a contest, P14 for his black belt grading. P05 had
a lucid Yoga dream that reduced her fear of teaching a class in
Portuguese by showing her to rely on her body and to explain
by demonstrating. As preparation for Rugby matches P12 prac-
ticed tackling and repeated tactics on the blackboard.
Important features and possibilities of lucid dream practice
Lucid dreams can be used in specic ways for sports practice
and oer various possibilities:
Manipulation of practice conditions, time, and perspective. Five
lucid dreamers deliberately manipulated the environment or
equipment in lucid dreams – for four of them this worked well
most of the time. For example, P12 changed the substances
through which he swam to practice with varying resistances.
For Judo practice he deliberately created sparring partners of
dierent heights and weights to be prepared for all pheno-
types. P11 created the sea to go diving, P08 created an arena
for horse riding and a gym for Taekwondo. Four interviewees
successfully summoned partners, teachers, or assistants dur-
ing LDP, e.g. by spinning and changing the scene to one with
partners (P16). Sometimes sparring partners appeared because
of the dreamer’s intentions to spar. P08 wanted to spar with a
partner of her own size and created a copy of herself. P12 sum-
moned professionals who he knew from waking life to give him
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 8
Senses
All participants had visual perception during LDP and most of
them spontaneously described it as normal or realistic. Here are
some examples of visual perception: snow and trees in detail
(P09), rising air bubbles when diving (P11), realistic upside-
down vision in a headstand (P14). Eight interviewees experi-
enced colors as more vivid or contrasts as stronger. Four lucid
dreamers reported that their vision was always or sometimes
attenuated because the perceptual focus was mainly on the
body. In particular, P01 reported that his vision is downgraded”
to about 20% when he performed complex movements. Re-
garding sound, except for P06 all participants had auditory ex-
periences during LDP. For P02 and P16 sound was much more
vivid than in wakefulness. Examples are the sound of hooves
and wind in the ear during horse riding (P08) and the typical
“whooshing” of a sweeping spear and the crack when it hits
the ground (P02). Three participants reported that their LDP
dreams were always complete and realistic regarding all senses.
Seven lucid dreamers named examples of touch, temperature,
pain, taste, and/ or smell during LDP: feeling clothes on skin
(P02), feeling wind or airow (P04, P11, P06), and the warmth
of sunshine and vibration of bike wheels (P06). P12 smelt chlo-
rine in a swimming pool and tasted the jelly beans when he
fell into a self-created jelly bean pit during gymnastics. P02 felt
pain when he was struck hard in sparring, P06 after a bike crash
and P08 when she was kicked in sparring. However, for P08
pain was “duller” than it would have been in waking life and
P03 hardly felt any pain when he got kicked in lucid dreams.
Equipment, partners, and environment
Usually, participants found or created the equipment and
partners they needed for LDP. Eleven interviewees found
themselves in unfamiliar, strange, or changing environments
(only four of them were disturbed by that, see Problems): For
example, P01 once had the oor turn into a trampoline while
jumping but found it rather funny. The Kung Fu equipment of
P02 once became invisible but since he could still feel it, it did
not interrupt his practice. When a dream of P10 started out in a
swimming pool, he used his environment in a creative way by
sparring against a spiral of water which helped him to detect
weaknesses in his positions+.
Problems
Some interviewees reported more general problems like not
becoming lucid when LDP was planned or waking up too early.
However, we focus on specic problems concerning LDP. Ten
participants (62.5%) experienced problems during LDP. In the
following we describe these problems as well as triggers and
reactions.
Movements (7). For seven interviewees movements or exercis-
es did not work out as planned. For example, P03 had heavy
limbs and was only able to do Karate in slow motion. In his
Perception of movements
We identied four lower order themes of kinesthetic perception:
Realistic or hyper-realistic (12)+. Altogether, 12 participants
described movements in lucid dreams generally as realistic,
“hyper-realistic” or “more detailed” than in wakefulness: “You
perceive the movement very attentive, very detailed. You are in-
credibly aware about every single part of that movement” (P09).
More uent (7)+. Seven lucid dreamers described movements in
lucid dreams as “uent”, “uid”, “in a ow”, “very soft”, “softer”
(than in wakefulness), or “smooth”.
Less exhaustive (10). Altogether, 10 interviewees experienced
movements as requiring less eort, lighter, or less exhausting.
P05 also mentioned that she experienced no feeling of over-
stretching or burning muscles.
Other experiences (9). During LDP, P10 and P05 felt a strong en-
ergy ow (“Qi” in Aikido and “Prana” in Yoga); P13, P15, and P16
felt body and mind merge. Four lucid dreamers described LDP
movements with positive attributes like good” (P13) or “peace-
ful” (P11). Three interviewees described their movements as
dierent from wakefulness in unspecic terms, like feeling
“mystic, a bit magical almost” (P15). P09 said that although he
felt his muscles move with skiing he could also feel his body
lying in bed.
Perception of specic features
The participants described their experiences with gravity,
jumps, turns, and balance as follows:
Gravity. Gravity was experienced in three dierent ways: always
normal (4), deviating at times (mostly reduced; 8), or gener-
ally reduced (4). Reduced gravity occurred with jumping (also
see Jumps and turns), skiing (P04), bouldering (P12), and rising
movement impulses in Taiji (P16). P10 experienced stronger
gravity with squats, P15 with push-ups. For ve participants
gravity deviations were problematic (see Problems).
Jumps and turns. Eight interviewees experienced reduced grav-
ity during jumps (and sometimes turns) in lucid dreams. Three
of them found reduced gravity helpful because it gave them
more time “to think about the movement during turns” (P01), “cor-
rect any imperfections” (P14), or to “remap the kick” (P15) when
jumping. P08 felt no dizziness as in wakefulness when spinning,
while P07 had diculties to feel her body when spinning in lu-
cid dreams. P10 described turns in lucid dreams as very intense
at times because of a strong acceleration, whereas P06 experi-
enced a reduced g-force during turns. For six participants turns
or spins led to a change of scene or awakening (see Problems)–
interestingly, according to P12 and P14 only spinning around
the longitudinal but not the hip axis has that eect.
Balance. Ten lucid dreamers experienced better (6) or even per-
fect (4) balance during LDP. For example, in contrast to wakeful-
ness, P12 managed to balance on a tight rope and P10 did not
have balance problems with a particular jump.
Muscle power. Muscle power was perceived as normal (5), gen-
erally stronger (3), generally reduced (2), and varying (5).
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 9
quently to LDP: P14 practiced a break dance element (“are”) in
a lucid dream. He was familiar with it but had never performed
it physically. It worked well in the dream. He woke up directly
afterwards and enthusiastically tried to do the are on the bed-
room oor. But because he was physically not prepared for it,
he injured his hand. He still considered the experience a “break-
through” concerning the understanding of the move.
As preconditions and supporting factors for eective LDP
(apart from becoming lucid), the interviewees named disci-
pline, concentration, patience, high motivation, and intense
engagement with the sport. However, ve lucid dreamers em-
phasized that it is important to approach LDP with an open
mind and to have fun with it. P14 believed that some people
may be limited by their expectations: “They think:Oh, I can only
do my long jump training if I nd a long jump pit’, but in fact you
can just jump. P12, the most experienced interviewee regard-
ing number and variety of LDP experiences, said that it helps
to have a basic idea of the movement you are practicing–the
more you are familiar with it, the more realistic the experience
and the more eective the practice. P16 recommends starting
with LDP as a child to get used to it. He also suggests perform-
ing reality checks during PP to facilitate lucidity during sports
dreams.
Concerning the combination of dierent practice methods,
three interviewees continuously used a combination of PP, MP,
and LDP: Two martial artists (P15, P16) said that for them this
is the most eective way of practice. P12, as a coach and natu-
ral lucid dreamer with over 1000 LDP experiences from various
sports, it was part of his practice routines. He described several
examples where he combined the three practice methods. The
impressive improvement of his swimming skills (cf. Improved
performance in physical practice) may have been supported by
the fact that as a preparation for LDP, he watched videos show-
ing the recent style in detail. Then knowing what to focus on,
he practiced each night until next PP, where he demonstrated
much better skills than at the last session, which he then ne-
tuned with input from his teacher.
Discussion
The aim of this study was to gain extensive insight on the quali-
tative aspects of LDP. Before discussing the results, we would
like to point out some limitations:
Firstly, since this is an interview study, the results are based on
retrospectively reported subjective impressions which provide
an extensive description of LDP. Because no objective data (e.g.
performance change) were collected, the positive eects which
were reported by the majority of the sample, may not have
been (all) directly caused by LDP but could be due to generally
enhanced condence or expectations (for empirical data see
e.g. Schädlich, 2018). Furthermore, because of the semi-struc-
tured nature of the interview the interviewees were automati-
cally aware of the study goal. However, the goal was presented
in a neutral way (see Methods). Furthermore, we actively asked
Taiji dreams, P16 sometimes experienced physical movement
blockades but used them as exercises to strengthen the con-
nection between body and mind.
Equipment, body, or gravity (7). P08 sometimes had walls stand-
ing or moving in her way but pushed them away or went into
another room. P10 sometimes had trouble to nd a suitable
stick for the stick form. He only managed to adjust it partly or
for a short period. P11 sometimes could not feel his body but
managed “to call it back”. Five participants had problems with
gravity. For example, P12 started oating when bouldering (but
not with climbing because he had the rope for orientation).
However, four interviewees were able to inuence gravity. For
example, P16 managed to prevent oating by grounding him-
self or he used it to his advantage by emphasizing the lightness
of Taiji. P15 approached the problem three times with push-
ups: after oating at the rst attempt and being too heavy at
the second, he nally found an “intermediate play” and was able
to regulate gravity for a while.
Partners / team mates / games (7). Five lucid dreamers reported
dreams in which they could not nd sparring partners or in-
teract with them as planned. P03 managed to persuade two
dream characters to ght him by telling them that this was a
dream and they will be able to do Karate. The horses in P08’s
dreams sometimes did not cooperate. They also sometimes
disappeared visually (she could still feel them) but P08 was able
to make them reappear. P12 tried to play Rugby with his team
mates in lucid dreams but they instead displayed distracting
activities like drinking beer on the eld. Although being very
experienced, he found it hard to inuence that factor. Still, P12
eectively used LDP for his Rugby practice by practicing tack-
ling. Only one other participant (P11) simulated games (foot-
ball) during LDP and said that always funny things happened
but playing soccer in lucid dreams was mostly for fun anyway,
not for practice purposes.
Distractions/ instability (8). Altogether, eight participants experi-
enced distractions or instability of the dream scene during LDP.
Four participants were distracted during or just before LDP,
e.g. by dream characters. Two of them lost lucidity as a conse-
quence. In one lucid dream, P10 realized he was naked and got
so distracted by trying to create clothes that he never actually
started the intended LDP. However, he remembered that expe-
rience in a later dream and instead of trying to change things
he integrated the present environment in his practice (see
Equipment, partners, and environment). Six interviewees some-
times had trouble keeping the dream scene stable–in four cas-
es spinning was named as a cause. Consequently, P14 became
mindful about that eect and now stabilizes the dream after
performing spinning kicks.
Memory (4). Four participants at times had diculties to re-
member their martial arts forms.
Preconditions and recommendations
Before presenting more general recommendations, we want
to include the only example of a negative experience subse-
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 10
LDP is especially suited for the martial arts because both re-
quire discipline and focus and can therefore benet from each
other. Furthermore, martial arts often involve meditation exer-
cises. Lucid dreaming also is associated with mindfulness and
meditation (cf. Stumbrys, Erlacher & Malinowski, 2015). Medita-
tion exercises could facilitate lucid dreaming but it is also pos-
sible that martial artists take more interest in lucid dreaming
because they are interested in meditation and consciousness.
Concerning the number LDP experiences, we originally asked
about spontaneous and deliberate LDP dreams. However, the
interviewees had diculties with that dierentiation because
they could have a general goal to practice sports in lucid
dreams, without intending it for a particular night. Instead, we
dierentiated between athletes who practiced with a particu-
lar sport-related purpose as opposed to the ones who tried LDP
for other reasons (see Motivation).
We included reports of being better or improving during LDP
(independent of their eect on waking life) because they could
potentially aect PP and other LDP dreams. However, more in-
teresting for sports practice are the reported direct eects on
PP: Altogether, 13 participants reported positive eects of LDP,
including performance enhancement, increased condence,
and other positive eects. To evaluate this result, the interview-
ees’ motivations should be adduced: All 11 participants who
used LDP purposefully as well as two of the less motivated re-
ported positive outcomes. Hence, motivation appears to have
a positive inuence on the ecacy of LDP. However, this eect
could be moderated by the number of LDP experiences in the
sense that higher motivation yields more LDP experiences
which heightens the chance of positive eects (see Table 3).
Regarding performance enhancement in particular, 10 inter-
viewees reported improved physical performance as a con-
sequence of LDP. Some examples were quite impressive: P01
reported to have successfully inverted a complicated sequence
of kicks in a lucid dream and P12 said that he got a better grade
in his swimming exam due to LDP than his teacher thought
possible. All seven participants who had intended to specical-
ly improve performance accomplished their goal according to
their reports. Although this nding is based on subjective im-
pressions, it is strengthened by previous quantitative research
(vor overview see Schädlich, 2018). At this point we would like
to mention that performing sport in non-lucid dreams, i.e. with-
out being aware of the dream state, could, lead to similar ef-
fects. Some interviews mentioned that at times they frequently
and intensely dreamed about sports practice non-lucidly. How-
ever, lucidity has the advantage that one can actively decide
to practice and what and how to practice. Dresler et al. (2014)
showed that experienced volition in lucid dreams is compa-
rable to wakefulness and higher than in non-lucid dreams. In
particular, intention enactment and self-determination were
pronounced in lucid dreams compared to non-lucid dreams.
Just as for MP in wakefulness we ask the question: How does
LDP aect physical performance? Previous LDP studies support
the motor simulation theory by Jeannerod (2001) which pro-
poses that motor imagery (MI) is eective because it activates
about and reported all kinds of LDP, including positive, neutral
and negative experiences which should reduce a potential bias
towards merely positive aspects.
Secondly, the sample is rather inhomogeneous concerning
LDP experience and the interview durations varied strongly
(35 - 210 min). We wanted to provide an extensive overview of
LDP and therefore included all participants who met the crite-
ria. Therefore, the sample contains participants with dierent
motivations, experiences and evaluations regarding LDP. The
varying length of the interviews can be explained by the vary-
ing number and variety of LDP experiences (see Table 1) as well
as the amount of detail the interviewees provided in their an-
swers.
Thirdly, in contrast to sleep laboratory studies, we cannot en-
sure that the reported LDP experiences occurred in (REM) sleep
and it might be that our participants experienced their lucid
dreams in other dream states or even in wakefulness. However,
from our experience with dream reports this seems rather im-
plausible except for P09 who reported that he felt his muscles
move when skiing in his lucid dream, while feeling his body in
bed at the same time. It is possible that P09 was not completely
asleep throughout his LDP experience. Even it did not (com-
pletely) occur in (REM) sleep, it still constitutes a form of mental
practice during a lucid dream like state. Therefore, we did not
exclude the data set.
Fourthly, in interview studies two approaches are possible:
either an independent examiner involved or a consensus ap-
proach is chosen where experts from the eld judge the state-
ments. Because of the extensive and specic data about lucid
dream and sport data we decided the second approached:
while the rst author conducted and transcribed the inter-
views, the second author was not involved in these processes
and viewed the material and analyses with a critical mind.
For these reasons, conclusions must be drawn carefully and
need further validation (in addition to previous research). De-
spite of the limitations, the present study demonstrated the
multiple possibilities of LDP: Similar to MP in wakefulness LDP
can be used to complement PP, as a substitute, when PP is not
possible and as a preparation for specic events. Based on the
subjective reports of the interviewees, it is possible that LDP
can support the learning of new movements and the improve-
ment of familiar movements, even the repetition of strategies
in team sports. Furthermore, it appears that LDP can strength-
en condence in PP and help to reduce anxiety. It was also
reported that LDP led to specic insights or new experiences
which could also facilitate PP. In the following the results are
discussed in detail.
Our ndings demonstrate that LDP can be applied in various
sports as well as for dierent movements or routines. With this
we add to existing examples of LDP from anecdotes (cf. Tholey,
1990) and a qualitative study (Tholey, 1981). However, it is sa-
lient that our sample includes many martial artists, although we
did not advertise in martial arts related media. Ten interview-
ees (62.5%) practiced at least one combat sport. How can this
correlation be explained? Some interviewees mentioned that
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 11
strong: they experienced movements as more detailed than in
PP. Furthermore, four participants said that their vision was at-
tenuated because their focus was on their body–for P01 this
happened especially for complex movements. Altogether, our
results demonstrate a strong kinesthetic perception, which can
at times even be the most dominant sense during LDP.
In our study 12 interviewees had experiences with reduced
(mostly) or increased gravity, triggered by jumps as well as ris-
ing and sinking movements (squats, push-ups). This is in line
with Tholey’s (1981) nding that his participants also often went
into oating when jumping. Also, Erlacher (2007) described ex-
amples of reduced and enhanced gravity during squats in lucid
dreams. However, of the ve interviewees who were at times
aected by gravity in our study, four found ways to regulate it.
So deviations in gravity do not constitute a general problem
in LDP. On the contrary, some participants benetted from re-
duced gravity during jumping because it gave them more time
to adjust their movements.
Concerning problems, our study shows that LDP does not al-
ways work out as expected. However, all but one participant
(P03) were not discouraged by them. Furthermore, the lucid
dreamers presented examples of how problems can be dealt
with. Especially the more experienced lucid dreamers provided
some concrete examples and general advice of how to deal
with problems or how to avoid them. Some problems seem to
arise from the presence of other dream characters, who–in case
of combat or team sports–might be required for LDP practice.
Experiences with sparring partners are mixed but results show
that it is possible to overcome these problems. Although two
examples showed that game simulations during LDP do not
work well, LDP can still be used to practice movements from
team sports (P12: tackling in Rugby; P16: passes and goals in
soccer).
Three interviewees regularly used combinations of PP, MP (in
wakefulness), and LDP. P12 reported amazing performance
gains when practicing dierent swimming styles in lucid
dreams because for one thing he watched videos to prepare his
LDP. This “externally guided motor simulation” (Vogt, Di Rienzo,
Collet, Collins, & Guillot, 2013, p. 3) is referred to as action ob-
servation and can be located on a continuum with motor imag-
ery. This is an example where a particular form of MP, action ob-
servation, was used to provide specic input for LDP which led
to a great performance gain. MP research has demonstrated,
PP combined with MP yields the largest gains in motor perfor-
mance (cf. Malouin et al., 2013). The combination of PP, MP, and
LDP could be a fruitful approach for both research and sports
practice, especially for athletes who are lucid frequently.
After demonstrating the eects and potential LDP, we would
like to point out that our research questions and results mainly
referred to actual practice of movement during lucid dreams.
However, the interviewees also had experiences during lucid
dreams which improved their sport without (or additionally to)
actual rehearsal of movements: P08 was given a helpful “pep
talk”. P12 repeated Rugby tactics on the black board and sum-
moned teachers for guidance. Others got advice on how to
similar motor systems in the brain as executed movements and
can thus be used for an o-line rehearsal via movement simula-
tion. Using neuroimaging methods, Dresler et al. (2011) showed
that dreamed hand movements elicited activation in the sen-
sorimotor cortex. Functional equivalence was also found for
peripheral eectors (Erlacher & Schredl, 2008) and relative tim-
ing (Erlacher, Schädlich, Stumbrys, & Schredl, 2014) of dreamed
movements. However, O’Shea and Moran (2017) point out that
the psychological mechanisms underlying MI are not yet fully
understood and require further analysis. Existing LDP studies
should be included in conceptual considerations and future
LDP studies can contribute to fundamental MP questions like
the mode of operation of MI.
Another positive and signicant eect of LDP is enhanced con-
dence. Of the 11 interviewees who used LDP purposefully for
their sport, eight (72.7%) reported strengthened condence or
reduced nervousness, whereas none of the ve less goal-driven
participants reported eects of that kind. A particularly inter-
esting example from Other positive eects is the one of P12: He
was the only one who reported that his exibility improved af-
ter LDP. Studies from MP (in wakefulness) showed that motor
imagery (MI) can lead to higher stretching gains (Guillot, Toller-
on, & Collet, 2010; Williams, Odley, & Callaghan, 2004) or higher
perceived comfort (Vergeer & Roberts, 2006). However, even in
MP studies it is unclear what processes lead to exibility gains
(Kanthack et al., 2017). Future studies could investigate the ef-
cacy of LDP in exibility tasks and relate them to MI studies.
A very important feature of LDP is the ability to manipulate the
dream environment and practice conditions. We demonstrated
that this potential can be used to create or vary conditions from
PP but it also gives the athlete the chance to practice under
conditions that are impossible to do in PP and may be dicult
to imagine in waking MP, like performing in slow motion or de-
liberately changing perspective. Furthermore, the participants
emphasized that LDP is also good for doing things that are im-
possible or too risky in wakefulness. For some lucid dreamers
LDP provided insights and new sensations. These eects could
be supported by the particularly creative state of mind during
sleep and (lucid) dreams: Research has demonstrated a cre-
ative potential of REM sleep in general (Cai, Mednick, Harrison,
Kanady, & Mednick, 2009), dreams (Schredl & Erlacher, 2007),
and lucid dreams in particular (Stumbrys & Daniels, 2010). Last
but not least, eight participants particularly appreciated the
fun and positive emotions during or after LDP, which shows
that LDP can be more than additional practice time. Especially
for elite athletes who already practice a lot, LDP can be addi-
tional “serious” practice but can also be used to have fun and
experiment and thereby could enhance motivation and reduce
performance anxiety.
Regarding perception during LDP, our results demonstrate that
the overall experience is realistic and can involve all senses.
Twelve interviewees (75%) experienced movements as very re-
alistic. This compares to Tholey’s (1981) study in which ve of
six lucid dreamers (83.3%) experienced movements as in wake-
fulness. For some participants kinesthetic imagery was very
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 12
PP and possibly MP. Also athletes who are not lucid frequently
could benet from LDP because even single LDP experiences
can lead to positive eects. Furthermore, LDP not only has a
potential for improving sports but can be used for rehabilita-
tion as well as activities that require specic motor skills, like
playing musical instruments or surgery. LDP as a specic way of
MP has not received much attention in research so far. The pres-
ent study elucidates the necessity to include LDP in general MP
research and discussions. We also want to encourage research-
ers to further investigate the benets of LDP both qualitatively,
quantitatively, and in various areas of applications.
Funding
The authors have no funding or support to report.
Competing Interests
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Data Availability Statement
All relevant data are within the paper.
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doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.01013
improve their sport, e.g. by changing their nutrition. These ex-
amples open up another eld of LDP that is yet to be explored.
We are aware that in order to practice sports in lucid dreams,
athletes need to induce lucidity rst and gain a certain level of
dream control. There is a plethora of dierent techniques which
have been tested more or less extensively (for an overview see
Stumbrys, Erlacher, Schädlich, & Schredl, 2012). Although to
date there is no technique that reliably induces lucidity, re-
search shows that some techniques work better than others,
especially cognitive induction techniques such as Mnemonic
Induced Lucid Dreaming (MILD; LaBerge, 1980) and Reality
Testing (Levitan, 1989). Stumbrys et al. (2012) suggest combin-
ing dierent techniques, including a method called Wake-Back-
To-Bed (WBTB; LaBerge, Phillips, & Levitan, 1994). It should be
mentioned that many of the interviewees became lucid when
dreaming about their sport anyway. Thus, it could be helpful
to keep a dream diary and especially record all sport dreams
and peculiarities (“dream signs, cf. LaBerge & Rheingold, 1990)
in those that could lead to lucidity. Also, as recommended by
P16, performing “reality checks” (e.g. LaBerge & Rheingold,
1990) during PP may facilitate LDP. Concerning the ability to
inuence the dream, a current study by Stumbrys and Erlacher
(2017) suggested that developing mindfulness in wakefulness
could help to obtain more control over the dream body and
environment.
However, the example of P01, who had only three LDP dreams,
shows that one does not have to be very experienced with LDP
to have a positive experience and even an eect on waking
performance. Based on our results we created a short list of ad-
vice for everyone who wants to use LDP or introduce the idea
to others:
1. Motivation: Chose a sport or movement you want to im-
prove in some way but do not set your goals too high for
the beginning.
2. Fun: Approach LDP with curiosity and have fun experi-
menting with it
3. Familiarity: You should be somewhat familiar with the
movement you want to practice
4. Focus: Stay focused on what you wanted to do. If some-
thing does not work the way you intended, you can try to
adjust it. If it does not work, practice anyway. Unfamiliar or
bizarre practice conditions could actually lead to new expe-
riences or insights.
5. Mindfulness: Always be careful when physically perform-
ing a movement after LDP, especially if the movement is
unfamiliar or when there is a risk of injury.
6. Exchange: Connect with others who use LDP or are inter-
ested in it, for example, in lucid dream or sport forums, to
get inspiration or inspire others. It also helps with motiva-
tion.
In conclusion, our study demonstrated the great potential of
LDP. Motivated athletes with a high lucid dream frequency
could include LDP in their practice routine and combine it with
M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
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M. Schädlich & D. Erlacher Sports in lucid dreams
CISS 3 (2018) June 2018 I Article 007 I 14
Supplemental Material: Additional quotes by sections
Positive eects of lucid dream practice on physical practice
Better performance within a lucid dream (13).
P02 There is less hesitation. If I throw out a punch or a kick it doesn’t wobble as much. It’s all very tight and very focused.
P05 That was the dream where it clicked, it was the click! And it’s physical. And you know the kinesthetic feeling is just so strong in lucid
dreams that your body remembers it – you remember, when you wake up.
Positive eects of lucid dream practice on physical practice
Improved performance in physical practice (10).
P12 Every Monday I tried to do the main phase of a new swimming style and it did not work. Then I did it three nights in lucid dreams.
Each Thursday I asked my teacher to take a look and she was astonished how I had accomplished that learning step from Monday to
Thursday. I was able to do the main phase we had learned on Monday perfectly on Thursday.
P01 I got the idea to perform that particular sequence of kicks: rst a spinning crescent kick and while you are in the air, you jump again
and perform a second spinning kick. In waking life I was only able to do that starting with my left foot, so that I did the jumping kick
with my right foot. During the dream I did it that way two or three times and was pretty impressed because the jumps were higher
and lasted longer. And then I got the idea to do it laterally inverted, which did not work at all the rst three times. Then I thought
about it for 5 to 10 seconds: about the exact sequence of movements and how I can invert it. And after two attempts it worked! I
performed it another two, three times and then woke up.
Positive eects of lucid dream practice on physical practice
Other positive eects (6).
P12 In CrossFit I often use a 20 kg Olympic barbell. In the dream I know exactly how much 20 kg are and I can move the barbell just slow
and fast as in reality. I try to maximize the movement. With squats, for example, I try to get my bottom lower or to shift my knee more
forward, backwards, or to the side. For that I try to extend the natural ‘range of motion’ but only so that the brain realizes that this is
possible. I want to become more exible.
Perception of movements
Realistic or hyper-realistic (12).
P05 You have this really deep kinesthetic sense and proprioceptive sense, you know, you can feel exactly what your limbs and muscles
are doing.
Perception of movements
More uent (7).
P02 And generally I feel like everything is kind of aligned. Often in waking life it feels like dierent parts of my body are trying to kind of
ght each other but in dreams it often feels like everything is working together very well without me having to think about it as much.
Equipment, partners, and environment
P10 The water now is my sparring partner. I practice Irimi Nage, entering with Atemi [entering throw and strike technique in
Aikido]. In front of me is a ligree water spiral which reacts to each of my movements, even every little shade. It shows me directly
when I am doing something wrong. I practice it a few times. Once it works perfectly – an exhilarating feeling! I am in harmony with
the water, feel exactly how the technique works
... In one example, a springboard diver practiced complex twists and somersaults in her lucid dreams by slowing down the whole sequence to focus on important details of the dive. In another example a snowboarder, who lucidly practiced several tricks on his board that he could not do in waking life, and reported that the practice in his dreams helped him to get better (Schädlich and Erlacher, 2018). ...
... These recommendations refer to not only repetitive training of sport skills but also other aspects of sport performance. In lucid dreams athletes can attain mental flexibility, acquire new sensory-motor skills, explore more risky actions, practice without fear of injury or negative judgements by trainers and spectators, experience themselves as both athletes and spectators at the same time, manipulate both phenomenal space and phenomenal time and develop greater creativity in sports (Schädlich and Erlacher, 2018). ...
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In a previous questionnaire study with German professional athletes, we showed that the prevalence of lucid dreaming in athletes is 57% and that about 5% of athletes use their lucid dreams to practice sport skills while asleep. The present study applied a Japanese translation of the same questionnaire to a Japanese sample of college athletes to explore cultural differences. We found that about 41% of Japanese athletes stated that they experienced a lucid dream at least once in their lives, 18% experienced them once a month or more frequently, while 3.6% of athletes used lucid dreams for their sport practice. The frequency of lucid dreams in Japanese athletes was lower than in the German athletes, indicating potential cultural differences. Yet lucid dream practice does appear to have a cross-cultural applicability.
... Reports of performing skilful actions in dreams, such as playing sports, are common, but what these reports mean require further analysis. Dream reports suggest that, at times, we experience performing tasks skilfully (Erlacher and Schredl 2010;Schädlich and Erlacher 2018), and at others, we are woefully incapable of even the simplest activities (Hobson 2002;Rosen 2015). Because dreaming is a conscious state that occurs when one is mostly shut off from the surrounding environment, the experiences that occur in dreams can have important implications for theories of cognition. ...
... Imagined performance is also beneficial (Gentili et al. 2006), although likely less so (Tholey 1991). Expert sportspeople may even gain some benefit from practising dream-sports (Schädlich and Erlacher 2018). Athletes who practise their sport in lucid dreams report improved ability , however, since this is a subjective assessment, it is difficult to ascertain whether any true benefit is gained. ...
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The experience of skilled action occurs in dreams if we take dream reports at face value. However, what these reports indicate requires nuanced analysis. It is uncertain what it means to perform any action in a dream whatsoever. If skilled actions do occur in dreams, this has important implications for both theory of action and theory of dreaming. Here, it is argued that since some dreams generate a convincing, hallucinated world where we have virtual bodies that interact with virtual objects, there is a sense in which we can perform virtual actions. Further, we can also perform skilfully, although not all apparent skilful performance is as it seems. Since the dream world is generated by the dreamer’s own mind, it can be difficult to determine whether the dream world simply allows goals to be achieved without the abilities that would be required in a similar waking scenario. Because of this, individual dream reports alone are insufficient to determine what skills are demonstrated in a particular dream. However, taken with evidence from REM sleep behaviour disorder, incompetent dreams, lucid dreams and motor-skill practise, it is likely that skilled virtual dream performance at times involves both opportunity for virtual behaviour and the display of competence. Evidence from cognitive science suggests that dreamers can also lose competence through forgetting and other cognitive incapacities but, more surprisingly, it is possible to gain abilities in a robust sense, consistent with the idea that some dreams, at least, are virtual realities rather than imagination.
... Because lucid dreaming is a kind of neural simulation of the real world (Erlacher, 2010) various applications in a scientific context have been described. For example, the therapeutic intervention in nightmare treatment (Spoormaker & Van den Bout, 2006;Spoormaker, Van den Bout, & Meijer, 2003), feasible improvement of psychological well-being (Stocks et al., 2020) and substantial enhancement of motor skills (Schädlich & Erlacher, 2018;Stumbrys, Erlacher, & Schredl, 2016). Especially, lucid dreaming provides a unique paradigm for the study of the distinctive psychophysiological state of dreaming and consciousness (Dresler et al., 2011;Erlacher & Schredl, 2008). ...
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