Lucid Dream and Sport

Daniel Erlacher

Daniel Erlacher

My name is Daniel Erlacher and I’m doing my Ph.D. at the University of Heidelberg. My research focuses on the possibility of motor learning in lucid dreams. The connection between lucid dreaming and sport has fascinated me for a long time. The first time I heard about lucid dreaming was when I read Stephen LaBerges Book “lucid dreaming” (the German title is “Hellwach im Traum”). I took me almost half a year to experience my first lucid dreams. At that time I already started my university study with the major in exercise science and I wondered if somebody is practicing, for example snowboarding, in his or her lucid dreams will this lucid dream practice enhance his or her snowboarding technique in the waking state. I found support for my ideas through the pioneer work from Prof. Paul Tholey who claimed that he learned – beside different other sport skills – to ride a unicycle in his lucid dreams. During an exchange year in the United States I did an internship for four months at the psychophysiological laboratory from Dr. Stephen LaBerge at the Stanford University. At LaBerges laboratory I learned the basics about sleep and dream research and during the four months we recorded more than 60 lucid dreams! Back in Germany I wrote my final thesis about “motor learning in lucid dreams” (see links below).

After my studies in the year 2002 I applied for a scholarship at the “Deutschen Studienstiftung” and started my doctoral research. Currently we investigate in several studies in the sleep laboratory the equivalence between lucid dreamed movements and movements in the waking state. For example, we could find that the heart rate and the respiratory rate changes when lucid dreamers execute deep knee bends during their lucid dreams. To obtain an objective signal form the lucid dreamer that he or she is really lucid dreaming and doing the tasks we asked him or her for, we instructed our participants to move their eyes from left to right and again from left to right (LRLR). Those LRLR eye movements are measurable in the electrooculogram (EOG) and determine specific sequences of the lucid dream task in the polysomnographic recording (see figure). Because of the special physiological state of REM sleep the lucid dreamed movements lead not to real movements – they are only in the mind!

Recording of a lucid dream. In the EOG channel you can see clearly 5 LRLR eye movements separating the lucid dream in distinct sequences of the lucid dream task. The lucid dream task was to count and to do 10 deep knee bends. In the heart rate and respiration rate recording you can see the increase of those physiological parameters while doing the deep knee bends (Erlacher & Schredl, submitted).

Actually, to obtain interesting research results I’m convinced that we don’t need to conduct complicated and expensive studies in the sleep laboratory. Many questions can be answered with simple experiments done by many lucid dreamers at home. For example, if we want to know if lucid dreams are in color we can simply ask lucid dreamer if their lucid dreams are in color. Even with the most sophisticated instruments in the sleeping lab we could not answer this simple question unless we ask the dreamer because dreams are personal experiences and not recordable. Because of that we offer a quarterly “online-experiment: lucid dreaming” on But for that more in the next blog!

- Erlacher, D., & Schredl, M. (submitted). Physiological response to physical activity during REM lucid dreaming.

- Techniktraining im Klartraum