Playing physically interactive video games is associated with lucid dreaming, study finds

New research indicates that a certain type of gaming is associated with experiencing lucid dreams, in which the dreamer is aware they’re dreaming while it’s still happening. Sometimes, people who are lucid dreaming can even play an active role in their dreams — an experience known as control dreaming.

The study was published in the journal Dreaming.

Marc Sestir, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Central Arkansas, and Jennifer Peszka, an associate professor of psychology at Hendrix College, became interested in the connection between video game play and lucid dreaming thanks to Peszka’s student Ming Tai — a gamer herself and co-author of the new study.

In the study, the researchers surveyed 297 undergraduate students regarding their dreams and gaming behavior.

Game play in general was unrelated to lucid dreaming. However, the researchers found that a particular type of gaming — physically interactive games such as Nintendo’s Wii system or Microsoft’s Kinect — were associated with both lucid and control dreaming frequency. In other words, students who reported playing physically interactive games more often tended to also report experiencing lucid and control dreams more often.

“Lucid and control dreaming are very interesting states, but beyond academic curiosity they also may have some therapeutic effects for issues such as PTSD,” Peszka and Sestir told PsyPost.

“If this is true, then finding ways to increase their frequency would be beneficial. We found some initial evidence that certain types of game play, particularly physically interactive games where body motion is used to control the game, may be linked to such increases. It is interesting to think that gaming, which is frequently considered to have negative effects for health and well-being, could be beneficial in this context.”

The findings provide some preliminary evidence that physically interactive games are associated with lucid dreaming. But more research is necessary to determine whether physically interactive games actually help induce such dreams. The cross-sectional nature of the study does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect.

“We would caution moderation of video game play as there are aspects of gaming that may be detrimental, particularly before attempting sleep. The effects of frequent gaming are broad, diverse, and not fully understood. This study should not be taken as prescriptive, though we hope it may provide an initial basis for improving lucid and control dream induction for therapeutic purposes,” the researchers said.

“We believe immersion in realistic, controllable virtual environments such as video games is a powerful psychological state that warrants a lot more study, particularly in its overlap with the characteristics of dream states,” Peszka and Sestir added.

The study, “Relationships Between Video Game Play Factors and Frequency of Lucid and Control Dreaming Experiences“, was authored by Marc Sestir, Ming Tai and Jennifer Peszka.