Are Lucid Dreams Tiring?

By Thomas via Email

Are Lucid Dreams Tiring?

Can you lose energy in a dream, lucid or not? My sister says that I would wake up tired after dreaming. Waddo you think?

Rebecca Casale

Rebecca says: It's a myth that you could exhaust yourself having a great big run in a lucid dream. After all, your real muscles are paralyzed during sleep. Your body isn't really running or burning up energy. So why would you feel depleted?

So, in terms of physical energy depletion, there's really no logic to this argument. But what about dreams being mentally or emotionally tiring?

The best way to test this is to survey lucid dreamers themselves. Go ahead, take our poll.

My intuitive response is no - and that's based on my 17 years of personal experience. Lucid dreams aren't tiring for me at all. They make me feel invigorated and I often have more energy the next morning because I'm on a natural high, reveling in my latest lucid dream insights. But perhaps I'm not typical.

Types of Dreams

Digging a little deeper, I asked myself: when do I feel tired when I wake up?

Obviously not having enough sleep is one problem. A night of heavy drinking or taking certain medications can also take their toll on sleep quality.

But what of dreaming? When I have multiple, rapid-fire nightmares or just very busy non-lucid dreams which go on for a long time, I wake up frazzled. If they are emotional or anxiety-producing I'll wake up feeling mentally drained.

These sorts of dreams are much more common in children, teenagers and young adults - probably because they are generally are undergoing the most life changes and psychological adjustments. So, these types of hectic, non-lucid dreams can be tiring and drain you of energy emotionally, particularly when they are mentally disturbing.

Ironically, becoming lucid during these highly emotional dreams is the solution for me. If I'm having a nightmare, I'm likely to become lucid, at which point I can instantly dispel the anxiety and face down my fears.

Equally, a very busy and intense string of non-lucid dreams can be like a noisy orchestra with no conductor - very tiring to experience as an unconscious dreamer. But when you become lucid, your consciousness brings harmony to the orchestra, and turns that thing of pandemonium into crystal clear beauty.

So, far from being tiring, lucidity can give way to mental clarity and peace in your most emotionally tiring dreams.

The Dream Orchestra

Physical Rest

Healthy sleepers undergo a process called sleep paralysis every night, from the moment you fall asleep to the moment you wake up in the morning, and all the little disturbances in between. Your muscles are waxy and unresponsive whether you are in deep sleep, or a lighter REM sleep, or in a lucid dream.

One of the main goals of sleep is to heal and rest the body. So it would be a serious flaw in the mechanism if we had the ability to undermine that process. Examples of such flaws include sleep disorders like sleepwalking, REM behavior disorder and restless leg syndrome.

Two Exceptions

Now, I can think of two specific situations where lucid dreams can cause sleep loss or impaired quality of sleep. Let's explore those.

1. Pushing Too Hard

Tiredness can be caused indirectly by your efforts to induce a lucid dream. There are lucid dreaming techniques which involve manipulating your sleep cycles to provoke a lucid dream (such as Wake Back to Bed or the Cycle Adjustment Technique). These are to be used wisely.

For instance, if you have a hectic life and already have to get up at 6am to go to a stressful job, I wouldn't recommend waking yourself an hour earlier to practice lucid dreaming. If you suspect you aren't getting enough sleep (which is 7-9 hours for most people) then you are probably already sleep deprived. These lucid dreaming techniques will only exacerbate that problem.

Instead I would recommend using techniques which encourage relaxation such as meditation, self hypnosis and Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams.

2. Perma-Lucid Dreamers

A very small fraction of the population are "perma-lucid dreamers". They lucid dream every night, and have been doing so for as long as they can remember. Some of them don't even know that conscious dreaming is special - they assume everyone does it. They just started lucid dreaming naturally as children and it became the permanent way of dreaming, to retain a waking level of consciousness during their night-time hallucinations.

These people often complain of feeling engulfed by their lucid dreams, unable to shut their brains down at night. They say lucid dreams are tiring. So what's going on here?

This is a truly under-researched area so we don't have any good scientific answers. True perma-lucid dreamers are always conscious during their dreams - but why would 100 extra minutes of consciousness at night make them feel so frazzled? Is it the sheer larger-than-life lucid dream intensity? Possibly, but I can't say I've ever felt negatively overwhelmed by lucidity like that. Perhaps there is an underlying sleep disorder to be identified here.

If the effect is purely sleep lost to a conscious dream then we're talking about a difference of 60-90 minutes of lost sleep compared to a casual lucid dreamer, or 100 minutes compared to a non-lucid dreamer.

That's because REM (dream) sleep is divided to a handful of phases totaling about 100 minutes every night. Your dreams are scattered, with the longest ones later in the morning. In no way do you dream for 8 hours every night.

If you can shed some light on the why some perma-lucid dreamers wake up feeling tired, please share your thoughts at the lucid dreaming forum or in the comments below. I am not a perma-lucid dreamer myself and would love to have more insight.

Final Thoughts

Lucid dreams are beautiful and joyful and inspiring affairs which give us positive, life-changing experiences - in contrast to the mental chaos of anxiety dreams or nightmares. Could they also be tiring? It's not a complaint I hear from your typical lucid dreamer. Rather, it's a projected worry from people who have never lucid dreamed before.

This makes it one of the great misconceptions about lucid dreaming.

About The Author

About The Author

Rebecca Casale is a lucid dreamer and a science writer with a special interest in biology and the brain. She is the founder of World of Lucid Dreaming and Science Me.