Answer: Video Gaming
Lucid dreaming is a state of dreaming in which the dreamer is aware that they are asleep and can exert control, to a greater or lesser degree, over the dream state. Over the years, people have proposed many ways to facilitate lucid dreaming, including taking pre-bedtime vitamin supplements, using eye masks with a specially tuned lighting array, training oneself to perform rituals and checks during the day so that they continue to be performed while dreaming, and so on.
New research, conducted by Professor Jayne Gackenbach at MacEwan University, indicates that we can probably skip all that prep work in favor of plopping down on the couch and playing some video games. Why video games? Video games, especially first-person shooter games that place the player directly into the “body” of the character, are excellent at priming the brain to recognize the dream world as a construct that can be controlled (just like the player controls the game world while awake).
What’s particularly fascinating about the research is that it indicates one of the long standing tenets held about lucid dreaming—that the dreamer must become aware that they are asleep in order to take control—isn’t necessarily true. In many instances, Gackenbach found that study participants exerted control over their dreams without being fully cognizant (at the time) that they were asleep. In the classic powerless-during-a-nightmare scenario, for example, gamers were better able to fight back (even if they were unaware they were asleep) and exert positive control over the dream sequence. The effect is so pronounced in gamers, in fact, that Gackenbach coined the phrase “Nightmare Protection Effect” to describe it.
Equally fascinating is that over the years Gackenbach has conducted the studies, the lucidity of gamers’ dreams has evolved alongside the games themselves—with increasing detail and control in games translating to increased detail and control in their dreams. With that in mind, the rise of VR gaming should, in all likelihood, increase the lucid dreaming effect among gamers.