Have you ever realized you were dreaming while you were dreaming? If so, you’ve had a lucid dream.

Well, if you liked the experience, or if you’re interested in having more, you might want to check out this story in the Verge, which reports on research by Dr. Jayne Gackenbach of MacEwan University in Alberta. Her findings? Gamers are more likely to have regular lucid dreams than non-gamers.

Gackenbach, a trained experimental psychologist and expert in lucid dreaming, became curious about the impact of video games on dreaming around the time that her son picked up a controller. In 2006, she conducted a survey of 125 participants and, sure enough, found a strong correlation between “heavy” gamers (categorized by more than three two-hour sessions of gaming per week) and lucid dreams. What’s more, subsequent studies have not only reaffirmed these findings, but have also found that heavy gamers are also more likely to have control over only themselves (not their dream environments), to have more bizarre or fantastical dreams, and to have the ability to change from first person to third person perspective at will. Sound familiar?

Yes, it’s almost as if these gamers are taking their virtual experiences with them into their dreams. And when you think about it, that isn’t all that weird. We already dream about things that we encounter in our everyday life, after all.

But wait, the findings get even cooler. Gackenbach and her team also performed studies on nightmares, and they found that gamers have an advantage in that arena as well.

“We have found in some data that nightmares are less often reported among heavy players,” Gackenbach wrote last March in an analysis of studies she had performed on military personnel who had nightmares, “or if no difference in incidence [of nightmares], the response of the game playing dreamer to the self-identified nightmare has been positive.” In other words, the observed gamers either experienced a dropoff in the frequency of their nightmares, or they reported that the nightmares had become less scary. Interestingly, this was especially true of gamers who played combat-intensive games. Gackenbach postulated that this may indicate that playing video games can be similar to the imagery rehearsal technique, in which subjects visualize ways to positively change their nightmares while awake in order to help them overcome the challenges they face while asleep (like a real-life Riddikulus charm).

Of course, the science of dreams is very tricky because so much of it is self-reported. There’s only so much we can do to observe dreaming, and that makes it very hard to study. Not to mention that this topic hasn’t been widely covered by the scientific community. However, if it’s true, there could be related implications about the impact of gaming on our brains. The Verge, when analyzing Gackenbach’s research, cited psychologist Antti Revonsuo’s theory that dreams are evolutionary training grounds for the waking world, and further postulated that if our responsiveness or creativity improves in our dreams, it might also improve in our daily lives.

If you want to learn more about Gackenbach’s findings without wading through the complex language of research studies, you can check out the 2012 book Play Reality: How Videogames Are Changing Everything, which she and her son co-authored. You can also check  out her podcast, which hasn’t been updated in about ten months, but hosts an extensive backlog.

(Source: The Verge)

This article was written by

Courtney is Pixelkin's Associate Managing Editor. While working with the Girl Scouts of Northern California, she mentored young girls in teamwork, leadership, personal responsibility, and safety. Today, she spends her time studying adolescent development and using literary analysis techniques to examine video games.