Drugs that would help you lucid dream on purpose
July 24, 2013 9:48 AM   Subscribe

What kinds of drugs (medical or recreational) might you take in order to ensure you are able to lucid dream when you fall asleep? Far-out theories are fine as this is for a story. The more details the better, re: neurological elements involved with memory or self-awareness. Thanks!
posted by egeanin to Science & Nature (39 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Not necessarily pleasant dreams, but plenty lucid.
posted by nanook at 9:51 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've heard Chantix can result in very vivid dreams.
posted by stenseng at 9:53 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Valerian produces vivid, cinematic dreams. Melatonin to a lesser extent (for me anyway). I think vitamins B6 and B12 come up often in the lucid dreaming literature as well.
posted by jquinby at 9:57 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Effexor, in the higher doses. I'm on that and it does the same as the above.
posted by Autumn at 9:58 AM on July 24, 2013

5-HTP (a natural precursor to serotonin) can produce very vivid dreams. The Dream Studies blog talks about it and other supplements for increasing vividness and lucid dreaming.
posted by TNOTGILL at 10:03 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Prozac did that to me.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:08 AM on July 24, 2013

Nicotine patches do it for me whenever I attempt to quit smoking.
posted by rideunicorns at 10:09 AM on July 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

Gingko Biloba works for me. I've never heard it work for anyone else, though.
posted by greasepig at 10:11 AM on July 24, 2013

One of the noted side-effects of the HIV drug Atripla is vivid, almost hallucinatory dreams.
posted by xingcat at 10:13 AM on July 24, 2013

They aren't kidding about high doses of Melatonin.
posted by zinon at 10:13 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lamictal does that for me - but they happen right before I wake up. Sometimes, I'll still think I'm in the dream when I awaken. Then I blink, and I realize I'm not in a castle on Mars.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:14 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not sure if this fits with what you want but I taught myself to lucid dream. I used a technique that I read in a book. What you do is consciously, through the day, stop and ask yourself 'Am I dreaming?" Then take a few seconds to just be aware of what's going on around you. Eventually, this thought becomes a habit and it will happen in a dream.

I did this thought during the day thing for a while and then it happened in a dream. The first time the answer came back as yes and with the difference in awareness, it shocked me right awake. The only way to describe it was being woken up in a really weird world.

I then spent some time trying to figure out how to control the dreams better. At first it was like my dream would just want to go on as set and I was just a more aware reactor. It was pretty cool. I felt like an explorer. Then I finally figured out how to 'make' something happen although it didn't always happen exactly how I wanted.

The best part was figuring out how to get myself to fly. At first it didn't work. My subsconscious just didn't want to do it. I kept trying and trying with better and better success and then one night "Lift off!" Woo.

It's been a long time since I've consciously tried to lucid dream. The "Am I dreaming question" still occasionally happens but most the time I answer 'yes, whatever' and let it continue on in a semi lucid way. I found playing around in my dreams really cool and interesting but it took a lot of work. I didn't always feel rested when I woke up because it felt like I had already been up. I also think that it's important for general mental health for your brain to more freely just go through it's dream state without a lot of interference all the time. Maybe I'll get into again for the fun and adventure.

I'm aware that I work out a lot of stress in my dreams and they bring up emotional things that I should deal with that I may not be as aware of during the waking day.

Anyways if you have anymore questions about what it's like to lucid dream, feel free to ask. It is pretty durn cool.
posted by Jalliah at 10:19 AM on July 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:26 AM on July 24, 2013

Nicotine patch. I once left one on overnight and the dreams were incredible. That's why it's actually recommended to remove them before you go to sleep. Didn't help me at all to quit smoking BTW. But if you want those dreams, they're over the counter, and they come in various strengths. :)
posted by monospace at 10:28 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have insomnia, so I have taken tons of sleep medications in my time. The most vivid, lucid (usually nightmarish) dreams I have ever had were when I took Valerian. I was aware I was asleep and dreaming the whole night. Second to that are narcotic dreams, but that's not consistent. I take them for migraines and sometimes I sleep fine, other times it's like Timothy Leary personally told me a bedtime story. Valerian, however, consistently produces this result.
posted by headspace at 10:29 AM on July 24, 2013

Mefloquine. Good lord I hated taking that stuff.
posted by Quonab at 10:31 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Huperzine A has a reputation as being pretty effective for lucid dreaming.
posted by cr_joe at 10:31 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not a drug, but reading graphic novels results in extremely vivid dreams, for me. Not necessarily lucid (although I have been known to lucid dream) but since so many are answering for varying values between "vivid" and "lucid," I thought I'd throw that in. I suspect it's related to my mind's "thinking in pictures" switch getting thrown.
posted by Infinity_8 at 10:36 AM on July 24, 2013

Another vote for Lariam/Mefloquine. It gave me crazy, very vivid dreams. It was so disturbing that I stopped taking the drug (I was taking it as a prophylactic). It also can cause hallucinations and psychosis in some people.
posted by quince at 10:54 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Clary sage essential oil I found quite effective. Don't try it after having a drink, unless you're wanting lucid nightmares.

Only downside is that it makes the place smell like meat.
posted by scruss at 10:55 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Traditional" European mystics and contemporary Wiccans use mugwort for lucid dreaming. It can be used as a ticture, but most of what I've read has the plant sewn into "dream pillows"to sleep on/with.
posted by LizardOfDoom at 10:56 AM on July 24, 2013

There is a big difference between a "vivid" dream - an intense and very realistic dream that you swear could have been real - and a "lucid" dream - simply, a dream in which you know you are dreaming. You can have a lucid dream that is very far from vivid ("I was in a haze, everything was blurry and colorless, then I realized I was dreaming and woke up"). Some answers above seem to say the drugs produce "vivid" dreams, but do not mention "lucid" dreams (which is what you are asking for). Just want to clear that up.

I've never noticed any drugs help me lucid dream, but one technique you may find helpful is mindfulness meditation, which can help prepare your mind for being "aware" of the present moment - absolute crucial for lucid dreaming - or any of the techniques listed here.
posted by 3FLryan at 11:04 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Particularly, you might find the "Reality Checks" section of the page I liked above useful.
posted by 3FLryan at 11:11 AM on July 24, 2013

When I was taking Trazodone to sleep, it gave me dreams much more vivid and intense than usual--and as I normally have intense, vivid dreams, that's pretty impressive!

I lucid dream periodically, and what seems to trigger it the most in me is not medication, but being sleep-deprived and/or so exhausted that my body is weary but my brain is whirling--my body wants to fall asleep, but my mind can't. So when I go to bed, part of me falls asleep and starts dreaming, but the conscious part of me remains awake, and I end up with dreams that I can participate in and control to an extent.

Admittedly, those particular dreams tend to end up as things like me wandering around my house and discovering doors that don't exist in real life, aware that I'm dreaming the whole time, rather than adventuring through time and space, but hey. (I occasionally get the latter, but I don't know of anything that can bring them on.)
posted by telophase at 11:24 AM on July 24, 2013

Cymbalta (an SNRI) gave me so many vivid dreams that I actually got tired of them, as well as a few awesome lucid dreams. (In one of them, I tried the light switch reality check linked above, and discovered that the switchplate was made of candy and the walls were made of cake, so I went around eating the entire neighborhood. Seriously, good dream.)

SNRIs are notorious for their side effects upon discontinuation, however. Among other things, coming off Cymbalta gave me horrible sleep paralysis: while falling asleep, I got weird, blurry but completely convincing hallucinations in which I'd throw myself off the bed or out the nearest window, yet at the same time I was fully aware that I was lying on the bed and unable to move. I could make the hallucination stop by willing myself to move a limb, but it took an immense amount of effort.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:38 AM on July 24, 2013

5HTP + Melatonin works for me. I'd say 200mg of 5HTP and 10mg of melatonin is a sweet spot.
posted by bobdow at 11:45 AM on July 24, 2013

I attended a seminar on lucid dreaming the other day and the researcher referred to a drug typically administered to Alzheimers patients, which has been demonstrated to increase lucid dreaming. I will see if I can find the name of it.

I will caution you that some people in this thread have been talking about vivid dreams, not lucid dreams. Lariam, for instance, produces extremely vivid, often terrifying dreams, so realistic as to be close to hallucinations, which are not at all lucid and which are not an experience you want to have.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:55 AM on July 24, 2013

Here we go. Galantamine.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:57 AM on July 24, 2013

If you want to give your story character a background that might enable them to always lucid dream then long term childhood abuse + love of books and escaping into stories is very plausible.
posted by meepmeow at 12:02 PM on July 24, 2013

Drugs (medicinal or recreational) can really vary a lot from person to person. Erowid (http://www.erowid.org/) might be a good resource for you as it has lots of descriptions of people's experiences on various things.
posted by HMSSM at 12:16 PM on July 24, 2013

Not a drug, but Remee is a sleep mask that is supposed to help you get to the lucid dreaming state.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:18 PM on July 24, 2013

Also not a drug, but a pretty reliable method I've found is to meditate in bed, lying on my back and progressively relaxing every part of my body, for a longish period (15-30 minutes) before falling asleep. I usually have a lucid dream when I do this, either immediately or more often later in the night.
posted by zeri at 12:52 PM on July 24, 2013

A good shot of Absinthe right before bed creates really weird vivid interesting dreams before bed.
posted by JimmyJames at 1:45 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Chantix and nicotine patches resulted in some very vivid and mostly awful dreams, but they weren't lucid. Kava kava gets me as close to lucid dreams as I've ever been; there's awareness that I'm dreaming but I'm not able to control what's happening. Yet.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:49 PM on July 24, 2013

Used to lucid dream as a kid a lot. Melatonin causes vivid (also: horrible!) dreams for me, not lucid ones, so I avoid it these days after the one with the rabid dogs eating the legs off a guy in a wheelchair aaauuugh if only that had been lucid dreaming so I could've walked away.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:55 PM on July 24, 2013

I am a crazy-ass lucid dreamer; fly, make stuff appear, make people appear, meditate, all in crisp crisp detail...me-mail me if you want to share notes. (or any other lucid dreaming me-fites, I lurve this stuff).

I don't use drugs to do it tho.

If you are researching for a story here are two big LD sites

Lucidity Institute - Stephen LaBerge has been researching LDs for years

Dream Views - LD forum
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:43 PM on July 24, 2013

I sometimes have lucid dreams and, when I have been using nicotine patches, have extremely vivid dreams every time I sleep. So, I think that the patches definitely increase lucid dreaming (by about a gazillion %) for me. It's possible that they could induce lucid dreams in someone that had never experienced them before but was pre-disposed to do so and the patch simply tipped them over the edge, I guess.

Probably not a good idea to use them too often though - you could end up addicted to the nicotine and have to take up smoking to wean yourself off ;-).
posted by dg at 9:43 PM on July 24, 2013


Seriously try ZMA, it's cheap and easy to find at any supplement store or online. I get crazy lucid dreams when I take this a half hour before bed. I thought it was just me but then I found my fiance and friends had the same results when they took it.
posted by phishie at 9:09 AM on July 25, 2013

The one time that I managed to have a lucid dream, I was working on my dream recall, working on building a habit if checking if I was dreaming or not throughout the day, and drinking this.
posted by nobeagle at 2:57 PM on July 26, 2013

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