Patients with narcolepsy experience a significantly higher frequency of lucid dreaming, with many reporting a positive impact on distress experienced from nightmares with this type of dreaming. The results of this study appear in the journal Sleep.

Martin Dresler, MD, from the Max-Plank-Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, and colleagues interviewed 60 patients ages 23–82 who met the diagnostic criteria for narcolepsy (with and without cataplexy) and 919 control subjects ages 14–93 via telephone using dream recall frequency scales. In order to assess dream recall frequency (DF), patients were questioned on how often they remembered their dream in the last few months using a 7-point rating scale from 0 (never) to 6 (almost every morning). Nightmare frequency (NF) and lucid dream frequency (LDF) were determined using an 8-point rating scale from 0 (never) to 7 (several times a week). Questionnaires for patients with narcolepsy also included information on the occurrence of dream lucidity and any potential relief provided by lucid dreaming during nightmares.

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The patients with narcolepsy reported a significantly higher DF (4.3±0.3 vs. 0.8±0.1 dreams/week, d=2.1), NF (4.5±0.8 vs. 0.4±0.1 nightmares/month, d=0.9), and LDF (6.9±1.0 vs. 0.7±0.1 lucid dreams/ month, d=1.1) compared to controls. This increased remained significant even after controlling for age, gender, and generally increased dream recall frequency in narcolepsy patients. Of the 47 narcolepsy patients who experienced lucid dreams, 33 felt relieved through dream lucidity during nightmares at least sometimes; 20 patients reported feeling relief often or almost always. DF, NF, and LDF did not differ between the 10 drug-naive and 45 patients who took medication frequently (P>0.4).

A more systematic use of lucid dreaming may be a promising therapy for treating nightmare symptoms in patients with narcolepsy, the authors conclude.

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