Just to clarify, I'm not asking about Hypnopaedia, but about using a lucid dream as a training/rehearsal stage.

The Lucidity Institue claims:

... many people use lucid dreaming to rehearse for success in waking life. Examples of such applications include public speaking, difficult confrontations, artistic performance and athletic prowess. Because the activity of the brain during a dreamed activity is the same as during the real event, neuronal patterns of activation required for a skill (like a ski jump or pirouette) can be established in the dream state in preparation for performance in the waking world.

German Scientist Daniel Erlacher seems to concur, at least in regard of physical training:

Martin Spies-Sweetland used his lucid dreams to practice long jump. Everything he learns in his waking dreams can then be applied to real life.

Is it really possible that things you learn in a lucid dream can be applied to real life?

  • I’m not sure how evidence for / against this will look like. I know several people (me included) who have learned something in dreams. Of course that’s not “evidence” because it’s just anecdotes but it’s pretty conclusive: you can learn something in dreams, it happens all the time. How would I go about disproving this? Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 10:46
  • 2
    I have little doubt that you can learn "some" things. But how about "throwing a basketball"? If you are a bad player, could you use lucid dreams as a training ground? Can your brain create such a realistic simulation (e.g. gravity, aerodynamics, muscle tonus,...) that what you learn in a dream is actually applicable in real life?
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 17:53
  • @Oliver_C That’s a really specific question (and I’m inclined to say “no”). Interesting, though. Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 17:59
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    I don't think I can use my flying skills while I am lucid dreaming in real life...
    – user1304
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 18:26
  • You wouldn't need to clarify many things if the title were "Learning skills while you are lucid dreaming"
    – cregox
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 3:13

2 Answers 2


Related research (in no particular order) - The articles cited below are focused on Mental Imagery, not Lucid Dreaming; but they might help someone find more relevant research.

It is clear that appropriate mental imagery, in conjunction with physical practice, can be as beneficial as physical practice alone for improving cognitive components of physical performance; this includes things like "throwing a basketball" (in fact, most of the mental rehearsal research that I've read about used free throws as the physical activity).

Jones, L. & Stuth, G. (1997) The uses of mental imagery in athletics: An overview. Applied and Preventative Psychology, 6(2), pgs 101-115

Driskell, J.E., Copper, C, & Moran, A. (1994) Does Mental Practice Enhance Performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79(4), pgs 481-492

Bernier, M. & Fournier, J.F. (2010) Functions of mental imagery in expert golfers. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11(6), pgs 444-452

Peynircioglu, Z.F., Thompson, J.L., & Tanielian, T.B. (2000) Improvement Strategies in Free-Throw Shooting and Grip-Strength Tasks. The Journal of General Psychology 127(2), pgs 145-156

  • thanks for the interesting links, I have edited them all into your answer.
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 6:06
  • @Oliver_C - thank you for making that more readable and integrated!
    – MacSean
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 15:46

There have been some interesting studies by Robert Stickgold at Harvard Medical School that show sleep's role in learning. In an article from Scientific America titled Tetris Dreams, author Kristin Leutwyler provides an overview of some of Stickgold's experiments.

The idea that sleep, and in particular dreaming, serves to cement new information and skills in the brain first gained a lot of attention when Stickgold and his colleagues described another set of findings in the March 1999 issue of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. ... They showed that subjects who had slept for six hours or more after learning a new task -- in this case, spotting a visual target on a screen as quickly as possible -- improved, whereas those who didn't sleep on it didn't. Moreover, they found that those who improved the most slept for eight hours, with ample time for both slow-wave and rapid eye movement (REM) periods of sleep.

For more information, check out this Radiolab podcast, which includes an interview with Stickgold and talks about his work in this field.

  • I don't think that the normal process of unconscious learning during sleep has much to do with the question of whether you can learn stuff during lucid dreaming.
    – Christian
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 14:08

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