Practicing sports in lucid dreams – characteristics, effects, and practical implications

Melanie Schädlich, Daniel Erlacher


In a lucid dream the dreamer is aware of the dream state and can carry out actions deliberately. Lucid dream practice (LDP) is the rehearsal of movements during lucid dreams and constitutes a specific form of mental practice. Previous studies demonstrated that LDP can enhance physical performance. To gain deeper insight into LDP on a qualitative level, sixteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with lucid dreamers from different countries. Inductive content analysis revealed that many different sports and movements can be practiced in lucid dreams. LDP experiences were very realistic, including kinesthetic perception. Required equipment or sparring partners usually were available or could be created and adjusted by the athletes. Thirteen interviewees (81.3%) reported positive effects of LDP. In particular, 10 participants reported to have improved their physical performance through LDP, confirming findings of previous studies. Other positive effects were, for example, strengthened confidence, insights for physical practice (PP), improved flexibility, and positive emotions. The results also demonstrate the special possibilities of LDP like deliberate manipulation of practice conditions, speed, and perspective. Furthermore, problems occurring during LDP are described and how they can be dealt with. Based on the results, practical advice for interested athletes is provided. In conclusion, the present study demonstrates the great potential of LDP for sports practice. LDP could also be applied in other areas that involve motor learning, like rehabilitation, music, or surgery. The present study complements previous LDP findings and provides input and new ideas for future LDP studies. Furthermore, it is an important contribution to general MP research. Findings from LDP research–a small but growing field–should be incorporated into conceptual discussions on MP. Also, by extending LDP research, athletes and coaches could become more aware of this unique and effective method and could start to integrate it into sports practice.


lucid dream practice; mental practice; lucid dreaming; motor learning; interview; qualitative

Full Text:



Cai, D. J., Mednick, S. A., Harrison, E. M., Kanady, J. C., & Mednick, S. C. (2009). REM, not incubation, improves creativity by priming associative networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106 (25), 10130-10134. doi:10.1073/pnas.0900271106

Dresler M., Eibl L., Fischer C.F., Wehrle R., Spoormaker V.I., Steiger A., & Czisch M., Pawlowski M. (2014). Volitional components of consciousness vary across wakefulness, dreaming and lucid dreaming. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 987. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00987

Dresler, M., Koch, S. P., Wehrle, R., Spoormaker, V. I., Holsboer, F., Steiger, A., . . . Czisch, M. (2011). Dreamed movement elicits activation in the sensorimotor cortex. Current Biology, 21(21), 1833–1837. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.09.029

Driskell, J.E., Copper, C., & Moran, A. (1994). Does mental practice enhance performance? Journal of Applied Psychology, 79(4), 481–492.

Erlacher, D. (2007). Motorisches Lernen im luziden Traum: Phänomenologische und experimentelle Betrachtungen. Saarbrücken. VDM.

Erlacher, D., Schädlich, M., Stumbrys, T., & Schredl, M. (2014). Time for actions in lucid dreams: Effects of task modality, length, and complexity. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1013. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.01013

Erlacher, D., & Schredl, M. (2008). Cardiovascular responses to dreamed physical exercise during REM lucid dreaming. Dreaming, 18(2), 112–121. doi:10.1037/1053-0797.18.2.112

Erlacher, D., & Schredl, M. (2010). Practicing a motor task in a lucid dream enhances subsequent performance: A pilot study. The Sport Psychologist, 24(2), 157–167. doi:10.1123/tsp.24.2.157

Erlacher, D., Stumbrys, T., & Schredl, M. (2011). Frequency of lucid dreams and lucid dream practice in German athletes. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 31(3), 237–246. doi:10.2190/IC.31.3.f

Fargier, P., Collet, C., Moran, A., & Massarelli, R. (2016): Inter-disciplinarity in sport sciences: The neuroscience example. European Journal of Sport Science 17(1),1–9. doi:10.1080/17461391.2016.1207710

Guillot, A., Tolleron, C., & Collet, C. (2010). Does motor imagery enhance stretching and flexibility? Journal of Sports Sciences 28(3), 291-298. doi:10.1080/02640410903473828

Iber, C., Ancoli–Israel, S., Chesson, A., & Quan, S. F. (2007). The AASM manual for the scoring of sleep and associated events: Rules, terminology and technical specifications (1st ed.). Westchester, Illinois: American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Jeannerod, M. (2001). Neural simulation of action: a unifying mechanism for motor cognition. Neuroimage, 14, 103–109.

Kanthack, T., Guillot, A., Papaxanthis, C., Guizard, T., Collet, C., & Di Rienzo, F. (2017). Neurophysiological insights on flexibility improvements through motor imagery. Behavioural Brain Research, 331, 159-168. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2017.05.004

LaBerge, S. & Rheingold, H. (1990). Exploring the world of lucid dreams. New York: Ballantine.

Malouin, F., Jackson, P.L., & Richards, C.L. (2013). Towards the integration of mental practice in rehabilitation programs: A critical review. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(576), 1–20. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00576

O’Shea, H., Moran, A. (2017). Does motor simulation theory explain the cognitive mechanisms underlying motor imagery? A critical review. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 72. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00072

Schädlich, M., Erlacher, D., & Schredl, M. (2016) Improvement of darts performance following lucid dream practice depends on the number of distractions while rehearsing within the dream – a sleep laboratory pilot study. Journal of Sports Sciences. doi:10.1080/02640414.2016.1267387

Schredl, M., & Erlacher, D. (2004). Lucid dreaming frequency and personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 1463–1473.

Schredl, M., & Erlacher, D. (2007). Self-reported effects of dreams on waking-life creativity: An empirical study. Journal of Psychology, 141 (1), 35-46.

Stumbrys, T., & Daniels, M. (2010). An exploratory study of creative problem solving in lucid dreams: Preliminary findings and methodological considerations. International Journal of Dream Research, 3(2), 121-129. doi:10.11588/ijodr.2010.2.6167

Stumbrys, T., & Erlacher, D. (2017). Mindfulness and lucid dream frequency predicts the ability to control lucid dreams. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 36(3), 229-239.

Stumbrys, T., Erlacher, D., & Malinowski, P. (2015). Meta-awareness during day and night: The relationship between mindfulness and lucid dreaming. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 34(4), 415–433.

Stumbrys, T., Erlacher, D., Schädlich, M., & Schredl, M. (2012). Induction of lucid dreams: A systematic review of evidence. Consciousness and Cognition, 21(3), 1456–1475.

Stumbrys, T., Erlacher, D., & Schredl, M. (2016). Effectiveness of motor practice in lucid dreams: A comparison with physical and mental practice. Journal of Sports Sciences, 34(1), 27–34. doi:10.1080/02640414.2015.1030342

Tholey, P. (1981). Empirische Untersuchungen über Klarträume. Gestalt Theory, 3, 21–62.

Tholey, P. (1990). Applications of lucid dreaming in sports. Lucidity Letter, 9, 6–17.

Vergeer, I., Roberts, J. Movement and stretching imagery during flexibility training. Journal of Sports Sciences., 24(2), 197–208.

Vogt, S., Di Rienzo, F., Collet, C., Collins, A., & Guillot, A. (2013). Multiple roles of motor imagery during action observation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 807. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00807

Williams, J. G., Odley, J. L., & Callaghan, M. (2004). Motor imagery boosts proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation in the retention of range-of-movement at the hip joint. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 3, 160–166.


Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


  • There are currently no refbacks.