Some Updated research on Lucid Dreaming

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Though I've been somewhat distracted by a trial somewhere, and another book that came out of it, I'm now almost out of the legal woods, and have already embarked in extra research for Sleeping Demons: the character background has changed a little, and I've got a much better grip of sleep disorders etc. So here's a tidbit of recent research, which was funded partially by the Wellcome Foundation: and an update on Sophie's character.

She's no longer a clinical psychologist, but a neuro psychiatrist

 

 “LUCID DREAMING is one of the most interesting discoveries of the last ten years. It is the ability to think about, signal, and deliberately try to transform a dream during the dream. Bernard J. Baars, In the Theater of Consciousness,

 

Like a latter day Vampire slayer, DR SOPHIE LAKE offers hope to those haunted by the terrors of the night.  Through a proven clinical method, she helps her patients recover from trauma, depression and panic attacks by re-scripting their nightmares – to the point some become ‘lucid’ and can refashion their dreams at will.

 

"As a model for mental illness, understanding lucid dreaming is absolutely crucial." The authors suggest triggering lucid dreaming in sleepers might enable them to control nightmares, for example in those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder.

                                                                                    The Guardian, 11th May 2013

 

Sophie’s World: My Beautiful Nightmare

 

“I'll let you be in my dream, if I can be in yours…” Bob Dylan

 

Working out of her hospital office in UCL’s neurology headquarters in Queen’s Square in Bloomsbury, Dr Sophie Lake developed a niche as a pioneering neuro-psychiatrist who specialises in sleep disorders, insomnia traumatic nightmares, night terrors, and related conditions such as PSTD.

Much more than ‘flashbacks’ recurrent nightmares are a hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of Sophie’s patients are soldiers, journalists or police officers who have witnessed war and catastrophe, or victims of torture or child abuse, who are effectively re-traumatised every night in their dreams. 

These recurrent nightmare may seem to have nothing to do with the original traumatic event, which could be decades old.  It could be a nightmare of pursuit, falling, of abduction, stalking, murder, being buried alive, of some malevolent force inside a forest or whirlwind, a dream of shame, embarrassment, the return of dead parents or lost loves.

Untreated, this condition can go well beyond insomnia and exhaustion, confusing the borders of reality and delusion, leading to psychosis, aggression, depression, perhaps ultimately to suicide or violent crime.

Based on the latest research in psychiatry, Sophie has devised an effective therapy for those who are haunted by nightmares.

The Science of Sleep: the Broken Peace of the Night

 

We need sleep more than we need food. All animals sleep and dream, and will die within about three weeks if completely deprived of sleep. Humans spend one third of their lives asleep, and at least half of this time is devoted to rapid eye movement (REM) or Non-REM dreaming.  Dreaming is vital for incorporating memories, solving puzzles, learning new skills and overcoming emotional problems.  During REM sleep the brain is more active than when awake.

Negative emotions are more frequent in dreams by a 2:1 margin. Though much more common among children and adolescents about 10 per cent of the adult population suffer nightmares which disturb their sleep. Women suffer from nightmares at a much higher rate than men, by a ratio of 4:1.

Post traumatic nightmares are extremely common among combat veterans, emergency and aid workers, and victims of sexual or physical abuse. Often these nightmares are recurrent.  The psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV-TR describes Nightmare Disorder as “frightening dreams usually involving threats to survival, security, or self-esteem” which can lead to social problems, substance abuse, depression, psychosis and suicide.

A related but entirely different phenomenon, REM Behaviour Disorder, can cause people to act out their dreams. This has been the focus of numerous criminal trials into car accidents, house break-ins, sexual attacks and sleep related violence. A recent UK survey found 2.1% of the sample were currently experiencing violent behaviour). Like somnambulism (sleep walking) or sleep paralysis (a condition of being awake but unable to move) these incidents may be caused by emotional disturbance such as bereavement or divorce, prescription drugs or the onset of some neurological disease or physical brain trauma.

 

“So tell me about your nightmares….”                                                                            Opening session with Dr Sophie Lake’

 

Through a process called imagery rescripting or rehearsal traumatic dream defusal Sophie has developed a means of combating these nightmares after a handful of sessions. Patients are asked to describe their dreams during a session, and then to keep a dream log. 

Review the dream log to identify what  negative feelings, behaviours, or traits are being experienced in the nightmare
Identify when an ongoing dream becomes scary
Stop the dream even if means forcing your eyes open
Change the negative aspect to a positive one

Sophie calls this the RISC method. She always stresses the ‘risk’ acronym so that her patients to take control and treat dreams as an adventure of self-exploration. Through the process of discussing the nightmare, reshaping it and re-imagining it with a new outcome Sophie’s patients are normally able to face their fears, resolve memories or inner conflicts, and sleep more soundly.

Some of her patients become so adept at this kind of therapy they become ‘lucid’ – i.e. conscious that their dreaming - and thereby able to shape their dreams at will. Her patient work on lucid dreaming has drawn Sophie into research project in collaboration with University College London’s leading neuroscience department which is researching both communicating with lucid dreamers (See The Observer 27/04/14) and triggering lucid dreaming through electric scalp simulation. But it will soon become controversial

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