After anyone has had a lucid dream there is a sudden interest in any way to increase the chances of having another one. It doesn’t take long till you stumble on the bold claims of some specific nutritional supplements called Nootropics. Take them and they will enhance your dream recall, as well as increase the intensity of your dreams. They will advertise adding a greater sense of meaning to the dreams that you are having as well is helping you become more self aware while dreaming. Bottom line is that they guarantee, “take them and have more lucid dreams.”
As early as 1975, dream researchers found out that acetylcholine and its inhibitors are somehow involved with dream sleep (Amatruda et al 1975). In fact, noted dream scientist J. Allen Hobson stated rather boldly that “Cholinergic brainstem mechanisms cause REM sleep and dreaming.” (1988, p. 202). Around the same time, high acetylcholine levels in the brain was associated with the prevention of memory loss, which is why it appears to be effective in treating Alzheimers.
Ryan Hurd began his Dream Studies Portal in 2007 (http://dreamstudies.org/about/). Here is a summary of his experiences with Nootropics. He first started using Piracetam in 1990. It is a subclass of the nootropics known as racetams. He reports that they tend to sharpen his senses, as well as his working memory. He found out that this supplement inhibits dream recall however and started looking elsewhere .
Priacetam is not approved by the FDA in the United States. There has been some research in England touting its ability to reduce symptoms in the following: aging, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s and senile dementia, clotting, coagulation, vasosplastic disorders, depression, anxiety, stroke, developmental coordination disorder, schizophrenia, and closed craniocerebral trauma! There also very few side effects noted.
When Ryan Hurd tried Galantamine he found that it boosted his lucid dreaming, but left him with a headache when he woke up. The mechanism of action is to stimulate neurons called nicotonic receptors. He points out that nicotine has a similar effect that must be used in very low doses to stay asleep. The presence of galantamine has been shown to promote dreaming sleep. Specifically, the compound acts immediately to increase the duration of REM sleep, and the dream state is made more structurally sound (Riemann et al, 1994). Also, not only does galathamine increase the period of sleep that gives us dreams, but it also seems to help with recalling those dreams upon awakening.
In 2004, Stephen LaBerge applied for a patent for the use of cholinesterase inhibitors like galantamine to promote lucid dreaming. While dream researchers had discussed the importance of the cholinergic systems with dream creation and dream recall, no one had yet mentioned that it may increase the likelihood of self-awareness in dreams as well. Laberge’s pilot studies show that galantamine treatments are more effective than placebos for lucid dreaming induction. ). Most recently, LaBerge and LaMarca (2012) have presented their well-controlled galantamine data set, which shows there is a 5.8X greater likelihood of having a lucid dream with 8mg of galantamine versus placebo. It’s a small trial, but double-blind and placebo controlled. In 2007, Thomas Yushak verified LaBerge’s results that galantamine increases lucid dreaming, in particular lucid dreams that emerge direct from awakening and going back to sleep without losing awareness (also know as Wake-back-to-bed dreams.)
Taking a supplement like galantamine directly affects your brain chemistry, and so it should not be taken lightly. It’s not for everyone. Some people will have adverse reactions. The most frequent side effects are gastro-intestinal, including: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia (loss of appetite), and weight loss. As LaBerge (2004) has noted, galantamine has been shown to also increase micro-awakenings during the night. For some light sleepers, it’s possible that galantamine can interfere with a restful night and you will wake up not feeling refreshed. Also, the following medical issues have been documented to be irritated or worsened by the use of galantamine: asthma, lung diseases, epilepsy or history of seizures, heart problems, including slow heartbeat or heart murmur, kidney and/or liver problems, stomach ulcer, and urinary tract problems.
LaBerge (2004) also notes that there “was also associated with a significantly elevated frequency of sleep paralysis and a 40% increase in estimated time awake during the night.” Sleep paralysis is a parasoma where muscle can no longer move during the transition into sleep onset and also during REM sleep.
Subjects who are aware during this state experiece strange sensations that feel like being held down or being crushed by a weight on the chest. Fear makes the sensations worse, and can spin into intensely real waking-dreams that may involve the presence of a strange force bearing down on the sleeper’s chest.
Ryan Hurd has the following suggestions on dosage and maximizing the effects of Nootropics: “Taken orally, the galantamine supplement is active and at full strength within an hour of ingestion. The half-life is about 7 hours. Recommended dosage for dream enhancement is on the low side: 4 – 8 mg. (Alzheimer’s patients, on the other hand, often take 12mg or more a day). It’s best to take the supplement in the middle of the night to take advantage of the longer REM (dreaming sleep) cycles that occur in the second half of the night. Taking the pill before you go to bed can be counter-productive, and may result in unpleasant experiences.”
Amatruda, TT, III, Black DA, McKenna TM, McCarley RW, Hobson JA (1975). Sleep cycle control and cholinergic mechanisms: differential effects of carbachol injections at pontine brain stem sites.Brain Research, 98, p. 501-515.
Hobson, J.A. (1988), The Dreaming Brain. New York: Basic Books.
Luc Laberge, Paul Bégin , Jacques Montplaisir and Jean Mathieu (March 2004), “Sleep complaints in patients with myotonic dystrophy, Journal of Sleep Research, Volume 13, Issue 1, pages 95–100
La Marca, K. and Laberge, S. (2012). Pre-sleep treatment with galantamine increases the likelihood of lucid dreaming. Poster session, presented June 25, 2012 at the Annual conference for the International Association for the Study of Dreams, Berkeley, CA
Riemann, D., Gann, H. Dressing, H., Muller W., Aldenhoff, J. (1994). Influence of the cholinesterase inhibitor galanthamine hydrobromide on normal sleep. Psychiatry Research, 51 (3), p. 253-267.
Yuschak, T. (2007) Pharmacological induction of lucid dreams. Published online 2007 but not currently available.
Another reference is the Beginners Nootropic Guide (http://peaknootropics.com/beginners-nootropic-guide/)