There is increasing scientific and anecdotal evidence to suggest that the hormone melatonin may increase lucid dreams. People who have taken the synthetic hormone as a sleep aid have sometimes reported having melatonin lucid dreams as a result, which they could recall afterward in great detail. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland of the brain and is thought to regulate the sleep-wake (or circadian) cycle by chemically initiating drowsiness in humans. Melatonin secretion is inhibited by light during the day, and permitted by darkness, which led some researchers to dub melatonin the “hormone of darkness”. As the sun wanes in the evening, our bodies start secreting melatonin in preparation for sleep. Melatonin production peaks when we are in our deepest state of sleep, about three or four hours in, and falls off as we enter the lighter state of sleep characterized by REM and dreams.
Melatonin may be taken as a supplement by people who have trouble falling or staying asleep, or by people afflicted with circadian rhythm disorders. More than a few people who have used melatonin report that it not only increased their dream recall and frequency of lucid dreams, but melatonin also seemed to make their dreams stranger than usual. Because of this synergy between melatonin and lucid dreaming, some dream workers have experimented with using the supplement as part of a lucid dreaming practice. Also, with melatonin dreams vivid and memorable dream content seems to be the norm: people have reported experiencing really vivid and weird melatonin dreams after taking the hormone as a sleep aid. Vivid dreams seemed to especially increase in frequency for people who took larger doses of melatonin than needed to simply aid sleep. However, the jury is still out on whether melatonin actually increases the strangeness of a person’s dreams, or whether it just ensures that they remember the strange ones more clearly.
How does taking this hormone work to induce melatonin lucid dreaming and increase the vividness of dreams? Melatonin is a hormone that regulates both sleeping and waking, which means that depending on the amount of melatonin in the brain, it can either send you to sleep or actually wake you up at higher doses. Some researchers have suggested that at certain doses, melatonin increases the number of dreams a person remembers by artificially prolonging the amount of time spent in REM sleep. Melatonin might also induce a state of consciousness that is closer to full awareness than a person usually experiences in REM sleep. Taking melatonin may also increase a person’s chances of experiencing a lucid dream for a similar reason, by elevating them to a more self-aware state while they are still in REM sleep.
The activity of melatonin may also be linked to certain dreamlike states of consciousness that humans experience while awake. Clinical trials have been held involving empathogenic and hallucinogenic substances such as cannabis and LSD which showed that these drugs increase melatonin synthesis in the brain. Some researchers think that these substances may induce melatonin activity in the brain during the waking state, which would suggest that melatonin may have a role in promoting the lucid yet dreamlike state in which psychedelic visions and other related phenomena manifest. So, it is very possible that in lucid dreaming melatonin may be a big factor whether taken as a supplement or when already being produced by the body.
The potential of melatonin to induce lucid dreams and increase vivid dreams has not been fully explored at this time, either by sleep researchers or people involved in dream work. What we can say for now about the link between melatonin and dreams is that melatonin seems to amplify a person’s level of conscious awareness while they are in a dreaming state, so that they are more likely to recognize that they are dreaming and to achieve lucidity in the dreaming state. When melatonin synthesis is promoted in the brain by ingestion of certain entheogens like cannabis or LSD, melatonin may also work the opposite way by imparting a dreamlike quality to a person’s waking experience. The phenomenon of melatonin lucid dreams is one interesting biological mechanism that might help to explain why our brains sometimes generate vivid or lucid dreams. Understanding how hormones like melatonin work in the brain to promote sleep, REM states and even lucid dreams might help us to better understand the physiological basis for lucid dreams. In future, it might even be possible to use melatonin as a supplement to increase lucid dreaming frequency in order to explore these experiences as part of meaningful dream work.