By dramatically boosting the dream phase of sleep, you will be able to induce and master lucid dreaming! Or, you may let your dreams lead you through the most vivid, interesting and creative dream states of your life.
Lucid dreaming is essentially dreaming although being knowledgeable that you're dreaming. Whenever you are in a lucid dream, you have the potential experience of some power over your dream; anything from being capable of flying or walking through walls and more . You also might be capable of being able to shapeshift and produce a complete world like Avatar! It is equivalent to being a managing director of your own movie.
Lucid dreams exist. With the aid of certain nutrients you increase your likelihood of having one.
The Neurochemistry of Dreams
Stephen LaBerge is a pioneer in inducing lucid dreams. In 2004 he applied for a provisional patent [link to www.freepatentsonline.com] for using supplements to raise acetylcholine levels, which he found to clinically improve the ability to lucid dream. It was an early foray into a fascinating area facilitating lucid dreams through stimulating neurotransmitter balances. Agile scientist Thomas Yuschak and social networks of oneironauts took these initial discoveries and refined them into specific and highly effective protocols.
While these protocols use over the counter supplements and vitamins, you should determine for yourself the suitability of this approach. If you elect to pass, no worries, we have other exciting options in future posts. The supplements in this protocol are widely used, and even beneficial for other ends, although some may require consideration in special cases. Well note these special cases, but we recommend reading Yuschaks more in-depth material in the resources section if you have concerns or are interested in pursuing the nuances.
It seems odd, on first glance, that acetylcholine plays a key role in lucid dreaming. It is more typically associated with memory and learning. But the cholinergic neurons activated by this transmitter are nvolved in levels of wakefulness as well. This correlation was found in the 50s where dreams were first associated with REM sleep. Acetylcholine levels diminish with age, this may explain why some people had lucid dreams when they were young, but havent had them since. But if we just raise the dial on acetylcholine levels, wed be missing an essential key . . . timing. Before discussing the importance of this, lets explore how neurotransmitter levels are manipulated.
Boosting a Neurotransmitter
There are four primary ways to boost a specific neurotransmitter:
1.Precursor - a building block thats used to synthesize the neurotransmitter. Often these are nutrients or supplements which require specific vitamins to complete the synthesis.
2.Agonist - which simulates the neurotransmitter, and creates a similar effect with the receptors designed to respond to this transmitter; agonists are most often chemical pharmaceuticals.
3.Antagonist - An antagonist works in the reverse, blocking receptors which can trigger the brain to create more of the associated transmitter. Natural substances like Yohimbe work this way.
4.Inhibit - you can inhibit the uptake, that is the breakdown of the neurotransmitter, allowing the body to create it faster than it is normally broken down. This is a popular strategy in the medical treatment of conditions like depression with MAO inhibitors which affect the re-uptake of serotonin (among other neurotransmitters.)
A powerful method to boost acetylcholine is through the use of galantamine (obtained from plant sources like the Voronovsnowdrop or Red Spider Lily), which acts as a natural re-update inhibitor. Oddly, it also seems to work as an agonist as well, making it particularly effective. Galantamines effect peaks in about 60 minutes.
Since acetycholine levels are associated with wakefulness, as well as REM sleep, you dont want to boost them immediately before going to bed. It will likely keep you awake and deprive you of the deep, early sleep cycles necessary for restoring the body. Optimal timing is to awaken 4-5 hours in, take 4 to 8 mg of galantamine and go back to sleep. And hang on for the ride. The acetylcholine boost in 60 minutes coincides with the onset of longer REM cycles in later sleep periods which extend 30 minutes and beyond. You can get galantamine supplements combined with choline (a precursor for acetycholine) for even better results.
Another natural substance that functions as a re-uptake inhibitor is a Chinese medicine with a long history called Huperzine A (an extract from firmoss.) 200mcg is the recommended dosage for it. Although it hasnt panned out in trials as well as galantamine, some experimenters have found it effective.
Galantamine takes 48 hours to completely clear out of the system. If taken everyday, its effects will rapidly diminish as tolerance and desensitization occur. Ideally, once every couple of days is best for this protocol. There are ways to shorten this cycle of sensitization discussed by Yuschak in the resources section.
The REM Rebound and Serotonin
Raising acetycholine levels at the right time is very powerful, but combining this technique with a serotonin protocol creates a synergistic effect. This combination gives over an 80% chance of triggering a lucid dream. Granted these arent controlled, double-blind studies, but many skeptics, nevertheless, have been shocked by just how well this actually works.
Acetylcholine switches on wakefulness and dreaming while serotonin switches them off. This is why a glass of milk or big turkey dinner can make us sleepy; both contain tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin. (Actually the protein interferes with the synthesis, its best to take tryptophan on an empty stomach. Thanks Tom.) A natural amino acid called 5-HTP, which is higher up the chain of precursors in production of serotonin (e.g. tryptophan converts to 5-HTP which converts to serotonin) is even more potent.
Taking between 100-150 mg of 5-HTP before bed has several beneficial effects. It helps get to sleep faster and increases the quality of deep sleep cycles. It suppresses the short REM cycles in earlier phases of sleep and creates a rebound effect, intensifying the later and longer REM cycles. Its absorbed quickly, peaking in 90 minutes and clears from the system largely within about 6 hours.
A couple of caveats with 5-HTP, however: dont take it with vitamin B-6. There is evidence that this may synthesize serotonin in the gut rather than the brain and serotonin created this way doesnt pass easily through the blood brain barrier. Also be careful tweaking serotonin if you are already taking anti-depressants or MAO inhibitors, including natural inhibitors like St. Johns Wort, which could amplify the effect. MAO inhibitors also mess with dopamine and norepinephrine which may interfere with the protocol.