The idea of being able to direct your dreams is so appealing. You could fly or defeat the zombie hordes or perform ballet to an adoring crowd, if only you could realize that you were dreaming and seize control!
Unfortunately, there's no surefire way to spark lucid dreaming, which happens when the sleeper realizes that they aren't really awake. But, a new study suggests, pounding the snooze button might help. Scientists at Swansea University in Wales have reported that lucid dream frequency is associated with how often people use the snooze button on their alarm clocks, wake up during the night, and remember their dreams overall.
About half of us have a lucid dream at least once in our lives, and one in five people have them at least once a month. Though no single trick has a very high success rate, scientists have found that two methods can be somewhat effective at inducing lucid dreams when combined. To use the techniques, people must visualize becoming lucid before they go to bed. People must also set an alarm for an hour before their natural wake time and, when they are roused, focus on being lucid when they nod off again.
So, "Although the use of alarm clocks to elicit lucid dreams has thus been proposed, there have been no studies about the use of alarm clocks by lucid dreamers," wrote the researchers. They asked 84 people between the ages of 18 and 75 if they'd ever had a lucid dream, how often they could recall their dreams, how often they woke up during the night, and whether they used alarm clocks and snooze buttons.
It turned out that the participants who most often experienced lucid dreams were also more likely to hit the snooze button and wake up more in the night, and could often recall their dreams. On top of this, the researchers were able to use dream recall frequency and snooze button use to correctly guess whether someone had ever had a lucid dream in 78.6 percent of the participants.
To make sure alarm clocks themselves weren't behind the snooze button effect, the researchers compared alarm clock users who also used the snooze button to those that didn't. The snooze-button users still had significantly more lucid dreams.
"Using the practice of alarm clock snoozing might increase the occurrence of lucid dreams," wrote the researchers, who published the findings November 30 in the journal Dreaming. "However, because this is a correlational study, it may be that lucid dreamers for some reason choose to snooze, rather than the causation being that snoozing causes lucid dreaming."
One reason for the link between snoozing and lucid dreams could be that interrupting someone's sleep makes them more likely to hit REM—the stage during which dreams most often occur—quickly when they drift off again.
Two drawbacks to the study are that the pool of people who enrolled wasn't very large, and they were asked to recall their dreams after the fact. In future, the researchers say, they'd like to pull in more people and experiment with snooze button use when people are actually sleeping.