Ryan Hurd on Lucid Dreaming, Visualization & Sleep Staging
- What is lucid dreaming?
- Inception in real life? The science behind the mind-bending movie
- Are some people naturally good at lucid dreaming, or is it something you can learn?
- The physiological factors that affect ability to lucid dream
- How insomnia can be a gateway to lucid dreaming
- Why the Western style of 8 hours straight hours of sleep is actually pretty weird (polyphasic, monophasic & nonphasic sleep)
- How to overcome insomnia (and why sleeping in on the weekend won’t fix your sleep debt)
- The effect of electronics (like smart phones & tablets) on sleep quality (and the apps you can use to mitigate the effects)
- How getting notifications during the night reduces release of growth hormone and impedes brain flushing
- Why you should always sleep after cramming or practising something over and over
- Why Practising something in a dream is even more effective than visualization
- Ryan's studies on galantamine's effect on sleep and lucid dreaming
- How galantamine works in the brain & interacts with acetylcholine
- Recommended usage of galantamine (NOTE: this is strong stuff. Make sure you listen carefully, do your research, and check with a doctor if you're taking any medications)
- What to eat before bed for optimal sleep staging, REM cycles and lucid dreaming opportunities
- The sleep tracking device Ryan is really excited about
- Ryan's 3 tips for getting started with lucid dreaming (and his favorite 'reality test' to see if you've entered the lucid dreaming state), and his top 3 tips to live optimal.
LINKS & RESOURCES:
DreamStudies.com (store for curated dream studies gear)
Exploring The World of Lucid Dreaming by Steven LaBerge
F.lux blue light blocker for laptops
Aurora Sleep Mask (now available for pre-order)
And some extra links from Ryan Hurd:
Ryan's recommended dream apps:
Optimal Performance Podcast #17:
Ryan Hurd on Lucid Dreaming, Visualization & Galantamine
Ryan M: You're listening to the Optimal Performance Podcast sponsored by Natural Stacks. If you're into biohacking, performance or getting more out of life, this is the show for you! For more on building optimal performance, check out optimalperformance.com
Alright, happy Thursday all you optimal performers! I'm your host Ryan Munsey and today we're chatting about dreaming and lucid dreams with our co-host Mr. Ryan Hurd. Welcome to the show and thanks for hanging out with us, Ryan!
Ryan H: Thanks for having me, Ryan!
Ryan M: Hey, so let's introduce you to our listeners, Ryan. You are a dream researcher, an author and an educator. And just a few minutes we're gonna find out exactly what a dream researcher does. We're gonna share with our listeners what lucid dreaming is all about. This is kind of a new topic for me so I'm excited to dive into this. But before we do, a little bit of housekeeping. So for our listeners, as always you can go to optimalperformance.com to see the video version of this podcast and that will come with links and resources to any of the cool stuff that we talk about. We'll have links back to Ryan's research and his website and any other show notes that are relevant to what we talk about. And of course, make sure you head on over to iTunes, leave us a 5* review, like this one from workoutnut11. I don't know who you are workoutnut11, but you went straight to number one in my heart with this review. I promise our listeners I
did not put this person up to it, I don't know who this is but: Love the show, Ryan Munsey does an amazing job. Great guests and great content. The questions asked really drive the show better than most podcasts.' So, that's awesome! Keep letting us know that you guys like it. Leave us some reviews, let us know, you know, what guests you want on the show, what information can we give you that will help you guys achieve optimal performance in your lives, 'cause that's what we're here for.
Okay! So fact of the day, before we really dive in with Ryan. I was doing a little bit of research on dreams before we started and I found out that some of the world's greatest inventions came from the inventors dreams. For example, the Google home page, Tesla's alternating current generator, the Periodic Table, the sewing machine and the spiral form of the DNA double helix. So, these are all things that popped into people's heads during dreams and have altered the course of history.
So, with that said, Ryan let's jump in. What does a dream researcher do and, you know, how did you get into this?
Ryan H: Yeah, great question. Well dream studies is at a really interesting point in history now. It's finally becoming its own discipline that's sort of branching out of the traditional disciplines. So what I do is basically - it's interdisciplinary - I do anthropology, psychology, consciousness studies and I teach online.
Most recently I was teaching at the Rhine Institute, teaching about dreams and psychic experiences. But I've also given lectures at Stanford University on sleep paralysis and nightmares, and a few other places around the United States. For myself, as an independent dream researcher, it's a lot of writing [laughs] and a lot of late nights! And it gives me a lot of freedom and basically I have a back end, I sell books and digital products that kind of, that help me keep aloft. And I make alliances with - most of my colleagues are from the International Association for the Study of Dreams. Great place to check out if you're interested at all to see what dream research is looking like today. From what the clinicians are doing, the sleep researchers are doing, neuroscience, as well as people who are working with dreams. On a, you know, peer-to-peer level, like people who wanna work in a dream group and remember more dreams and work dreams even from a shamanic perspective. This organization is really science from shamanism, which is one of the interesting things about it. So, so yeah a lot of my work in online right now. I have a three-year-old son that kinda keeps me busy during a lot of the day and the night and I'm doing some work at night and then I'm working when I sleep so [laughs] it keeps me busy.
Ryan M: Okay. Well a lot of our listeners like to do, you know, the n=1 experiments on themselves so I think this is gonna be a great episode and hopefully we can give our listeners a lot of actionable tips and things to, you know, play with and experiment with to find out what works for them. So, tell us - what is lucid dreaming? How does it differ from regular dreaming?
Ryan H: Right. So lucid dreaming is knowing that you're dreaming while you're still in the dream state.
Ryan M: Sounds like Inception.
Ryan H: It is Inception! In fact, Chris Nolan did his homework. He visited Stephen LaBerge who was pretty much the scientific father, if you could say so, of lucid dreaming. He did a lot of this psycho-physiological research in the 80's and 90's and he really tried to put some of that research into the movie, which was really fun for me to watch the movie and see, oh, I see where he got this piece and he got that piece! Exactly. It's knowing you're dreaming! So, with that knowledge comes power and great
responsibility, let's not forget!
Ryan M: [Laughs]
Ryan H: But you have the freedom of choice more than anything. You have the ability to, to take a different path or to manifest content that's not there, or to, you know, to go a different way. Or to remember an intention from earlier. So there's lots of possibilities in the lucid dream state. It essentially
mirrors your own waking interests. So, if you have a passion for something, lucid dreaming can help you out with it.
Ryan M: So, is this one of those things where some people are just naturally really good at it, or is it something that you can - is a skill that you can hone?
Ryan H: One of the interesting things about the research that's come out of the last 30 years, especially through Stephen LaBerge's work, is that lucid dreaming is a learn-able skill. A lot of people who've never had one before pick up his book or some of the other books that are out there now, try a couple of sleep
practices and, low and behold, within two weeks they have their first lucid dream. So it is a learn-able skill. And I think that's exciting. Now, I do suspect that some people are better at it than other just
because of probably natural, probably physiology factors having to do with their sleep cycles. But motivation is probably just as strong.
Ryan M: Okay, so what physiological factors, in regards to sleep cycles, makes somebody better at lucid dreaming?
Ryan H: Well this, this is one of the things that we haven't quite figured out yet. But, what I'm suspecting - this is more of my opinion - is that people who tend to wake up more in the night and who are lighter sleepers tend to have more lucid dreams. And what this has to do with most likely is the activation of the
frontal part of the brain during REM sleep. Normally, I mean let me backtrack. Normally, when you go to
sleep you know there's sort of - you're cycling through two, basically three major kinds of sleep; a light
sleep, a deep sleep, which is very restorative and super important for athletics, you know, performance and you know deep muscle you know, generation. And then REM sleep, which is classically dream sleep,
and that tends to happen towards the second half of the night. So, so what happens in REM sleep in
general is that the frontal part of the brain kind of is not as active as it is in the waking stage. And the middle part of the brain, which is sort of our emotional center, where our emotional logic, the amygdala fires up. And so you see a lot of just different kinds of scenarios that you expect in waking life and it tends
to have an emotional logic to it. You know, lucid dreams tends to be a hybrid of that, in which you have
some frontal activity in the frontal brain, and this has been demonstrated through - by a number of different researchers over the years, and that this activity seems to be related to self-consciousness.
Ryan M: Okay. Now, you mentioned that seemingly the people who have the most episodes or the greatest incidence of lucid dreams are those who sleep the lightest and wake up the most during the
night. And I think from everything that I've ever heard in regards to getting high-quality sleep, restorative sleep, recovery, and from our standpoint remember we're optimal performance. We want that deep sleep, uninterrupted, not waking up.
Ryan H: Absolutely.
Ryan M: So, how do we balance that?
Ryan H: Right well that, you know, there's actually not a conflict there.
Ryan M: Okay.
Ryan H: You absolutely want to have uninterrupted, deep sleep. But what tends to happen in the second part of the night, once most of us have cycled through our deep sleep already and it's already happened, is you tend to just scatter back and forth between light sleep and REM. That's when more of these
arousals happen that might be related to lucid dreaming. And people basically are naturally doing this in
which they're - say if you wake up in the middle of the night and you're up for a while, if you do some reading or some meditation, that's a method of going back into a lucid dream because you're arousing the higher parts of the brain and going back into sleep. And so you're taking a disturbance and basically
shifting it back in. So, it is true - now this is the thing - people who are into lucid dreaming, they do disturb their sleep somewhat. Their practices do actually disturb their sleep. So it's good to be able to have a little extra time to sleep in. And, basically make sleep a more important priority in your life.
Ryan M: Okay. Which is never a bad thing. Most people need to do that anyway.
Ryan H: Yeah! Well that's - and that's actually, you know, 'cause it's the water we swim in that nobody actually sleeps enough. But you notice that they're poor of health besides exercise and diet, you know, if you're not sleeping enough the rest is just gonna go to crumb, it doesn't matter.
Ryan M: Yeah, if you're not sleeping right or well or enough then your exercise is gonna suffer, you're gonna be more tempted to eat off-track, you crave foods that you normally wouldn't crave. Yeah, it throws everything off. And not to mention cognitive functioning and all of that, so, I'm right there with you on that one. Okay, so then I want to backtrack because, you know like, like the typical entrepreneur or the business owner who may pass out, you know, on the couch. I've got a friend who owns restaurants and he always talks about passing out on the couch with his daughter at 8 or 9 in the evening and then he'll wake up at 12 and he can't go back to sleep 'cause he's got all these things on his head. Is that - is that just the stuff on his mind or is that an element of lucid dreaming or maybe something that he could hone, or any of us in that scenario could hone?
Ryan H: Right. Well, I mean, that, you know - it sounds like a kind of insomnia of sorts. And, and it can actually - there was just a research piece that came out just last week on a blog called 'The Psychology of Lucid Dreaming' talking about how insomnia can be an invitation to lucid dreaming because if you find yourself awake in the middle of the night and you can't go to sleep then you can use some of these practices that are essentially meditative or mindfulness practices that on their own are important because they calm you down and they really relax you, which allows sleep to happen again. But at the same time, there's an edge to them in which you can still keep the lucidity as you fall back asleep and go straight smoothly from the wake state into a lucid dream. And that's, well that's what some of this research is suggesting. So, but the main thing of insomnia is, a lot of has to do with attitude. I mean there are like, lots of reasons people have insomnia, right?
Ryan M: Right.
Ryan H: That goes beyond this discussion.
Ryan M: Right.
Ryan H: But in terms of what I'm talking about, um, we have to be more naturalistic, I think, about the way we approach sleep and be okay with getting it while we can, and realizing that, you know, actually the way that we sleep as Westerners is kind of messed up. This whole like - and you've heard this probably - the whole consolidated 8 hours is - right, it's historically, it's new.
Ryan M: Right! I mean, there - there are plenty of figures over the course of history who slept whenever they felt the need to and, you know, it wasn't on that 16 awake and 8 sleeping schedule.
Ryan H: And even beyond that, I mean, those - those, that's like a creative personality type and, yeah, you know, those are almost like, you'd say, non-phasic sleepers. And, you know, I know several people in my own life who have that now and you basically have to make your life work around that, you know. And you're more likely to be an artist if you have non-phasic, you know, you're not gonna become a banker [laughs].
Ryan M: [Laughs] Right! Right!
Ryan H: Because it just doesn't work with the lifestyle. But if you look at indigenous cultures, even before essentially the industrial revolution, like pre-modern European sleep, you see that people went to sleep earlier in the night. Like your friend basically crashes kind of after dusk, wakes up around midnight and it
was not uncommon for people to be awake for a number of hours in the middle of the night in which they were using this quiet solitude time to write letters, you know, love-making, even visiting neighbors, you know, by candlelight and having intimate conversation. Prayer, of course, vigil, all that kind of thing. And then going back for a second sleep in the second half of night, which more or less lasts until the sun rises. That I think is the way that we're actually sort of, is the more natural way of sleeping, the Paleolithic way of sleeping if you could put it that way. I'm not saying go on a Paleo sleep diet [laughs].
Ryan M: [laughs] Right!
Ryan: But in general, right? So, so I think we have to relax a little bit sometimes with insomnia. And so what - the most important thing is what the sleep doctors will say is, you know: are you tired during the day? Are you suffering from, you know, from sleepiness? And irritability and all that. And if you are, then you need to get more sleep and find something that works.
Ryan M: So, you know, lucid dreams aside, let's say somebody falls into that category. What advice would you have for them, um, you know, maybe your top 2 or 3 tips to get better sleep or to, you know, overcome insomnia?
Ryan H: So, the first thing to know about sleep is that if you aren't getting enough of it, it can actually take a month or longer to kind of get your mojo back. You can run a sleep debt that can last a month long biologically. So basically, crashing, you know, on Saturday or Sunday and catching up doesn't actually work if you're going back to the grind Monday through Friday to the thing. So, so you have to make deeper changes in your life. Everyone's got their own unique sleep need. I mean, most of us need between 7 and 9 hours. Um, and that's pretty typical. There's about 2 or 3 percent of the population who can survive on 5 hours of sleep, they're called short sleepers and they're just apparently, just - they're just like, they've got the genes for it and they're just wired like that. A lot of us think we're short sleepers and we're fooling ourselves! And we're just increasing the risk of cancer and diabetes and everything else that can go wrong with you as you enter the second half of life. So, so to get back into a natural sleep rhythm, I say, go camping. See what happens to your sleep rhythms. See what happens! See how much you sleep when you don't have all these things bugging you. You know, a nice 4 or 5-day trip, you could probably sort it out and get your rhythms figured out. Then when you come back from that trip, start making some nice allowances for a, um, electronic-free zone, I'd say several hours before you go to bed.
Ryan M: I'm really glad you brought that up because that's actually a question that I have written down that I wanna talk to you about. I've seen some people speak in conferences and seminars before and this is not something that we've actually had on the podcast so I'm really hoping that you can, you know, shed light on this on the podcast. You know, what effect do electronics like our phones, Wi-Fi networks in our homes, what effects do those have on our sleep and our quality of REM cycles?
Ryan H: It's crushing; I mean in a bad way. Everything about what's happened with smartphones especially and tablets and essentially the way we cradle our media into the bed, like that is not doing good for us or for kids. The statistics with kids are kind of alarming, you know. I mean, kids are just as sleep-deprived as we are and their great big brains are growing and you're like: 'oh, that can't be good.' So there's two main effects, right? Number one: media use at night, it's emitting blue light in the spectrum from the monitor is going to essentially prevent the release of melatonin in the brain into the bloodstream, which means you're not gonna fall asleep until later. It can really suspend it by an hour or two and blue light, you know, is what TV monitors and computer monitors are made of. It wasn't such a big deal with TV because people used to, you know, be several feet away from their television but our practice now is that we keep it within like 9 to 12 inches.
Ryan M: Right.
Ryan H: That's a problem. And you know, it's just, it's worse. And so if you are using an iPad or whatnot at night, they say 14 inches away is really a nice distance. And number two you can use different kinds of apps to change the composition of the light in your screen and I recommend f.lux. That's what I've been using for years, it's a great app. It's on right now. It sucks when you try to watch a movie off of Netflix and then everything is dark and orange and you're like: 'oh yeah!' But besides that it's a great app. So that's the number one thing, okay, is it's disturbing our sleep in that way. The second way is that media is actually disturbing us throughout the night in punctuated ways through texts, through e-mails, just through the 'bing's' and 'bop's'. Most of us are waking up in the night with - from alerts and that causes sleep fragmentation. And when you get that, especially in the first half of the night, your deep sleep totals really go down and if you're looking for athletic performance this is not something you want to happen. You want the first half of - that first 4-hour block to be really solid. That's when human growth hormone is released, that's when all the stuff that's happening with the washing of the, you know the toxins out of the brain cells. Really important, so if we're hitting sleep fragmentation you're gonna stay in light sleep and you might not get that deep restorative level.
Ryan M: I just want to reiterate or kind of focus on that, like kind of put it in bold letters for our listeners. That firsts 4 hours, we want that to be as uninterrupted and as deep as possible for all those reasons you just mentioned.
Ryan H: Right, right! And, you know and one of the way I like looking at the night of sleep is the first half, that first four hours, think of it as restorative sleep and then the second half of the night is thought of as integrative sleep. And that's when you're getting all these dreams and the lighter stages of sleep that seem to be related to memory consolidation and also, you know, performance. There's performance factors there as well.
Ryan M: That's what I wanna touch on. Before we go all the way down that road, I wanna go back to f.lux. I have that on my PC as well and on my Macs I have my iPhone and my Mac I have a blue blocker and it just a - it looks like a sticker, it's a clear sticker that goes over top of the screen. But the f.lux is f.lux and we'll actually have a link to that in the show notes. So for anybody listening you don't have to find that on your own, just go to optimalperformance.com and in the show notes we'll have a link, you can go download it. Really easy to put on a PC. So thank you for bringing that one up, Ryan, that's great. Okay, so the performance enhancing benefits of that integrative sleep or lucid dreaming, how can we use those 4 hours to our advantage?
Ryan H: Right, right. Well, you know I - for myself I first realized this when I was studying for an exam in college and I was doing what I thought was going to be an all-nighter for biology and I literally fell asleep on the book at about probably 5 in the morning or something like that. And so I had, I think I had 2 hours of sleep and it was an early class, other side of campus. Anyway, I fell asleep and what amazed me when I woke up for the alarm is that I quizzed myself and about the stuff I had been reading, and it was all there. It was all there! And I was like: 'that's interesting!' And I practiced this more times and I basically figured out that yeah, even if you get a tiny little bit of sleep when you're cramming for a test, that's better than staying up all night long. There is some memory consolidation that happens. Now that was just a, you know, my own personal experience but this is backed up by research. And we really see this. We see this, um, and it's happened in a light sleep and in REM sleep as well is there's some memory
consolidation factors and it's not just mental, it also relates to gross motor behavior. Right, so athletes, if they have a nap, if they practice something and dream about it, what we're learning is that they actually perform that task better had they not had a dream about it. Now think about that.
Ryan M: Yeah!
Ryan H: It's kind of mind-blowing.
Ryan M: How is that, I mean, you know we hear a lot of champion athletes talk about the mindset and
visualizing something before it actually happens, you know, so you get those mental reps. Is this on that
line or is it-?
Ryan H: It is absolutely. It probably is the same effect in which the, you know visualization and the mental
game is so important to all kinds of sophisticated complex behavior and dreaming and in particular lucid
dreaming can be thought of as a visualization practice, and it's kind of a special one because visualization
or as, you know, sort of a waking, right, daydream, you're prone to distraction and it's not gonna go as
deep. If you're in a dream and you remember: 'oh yeah! I really wanted to practice the shots.' You are in
the zone. You're not going to be disturbed.
Ryan M: I'm so glad you said 'in the zone' because as you were talking about taking that 2-hour nap or 10
minutes or getting any kind of sleep where your brain gets away from that struggle phase. You know, I
don't know if you're familiar with Steven Kotler and any of their research on the flow state. What they
found is that that cycle, it is a cycle so we are, it's on a spectrum. It's not a yes or no phenomenon. We
are always in some phase of flow and as our brain, especially like those more complicated tasks, as we
go through that struggle phase we're accumulating, we're accumulating, we're trying to build in these
things and then we need some kind of a break from it. And then when we come back to it, then and only
then are we even able to or do we have the potential to enter the flow state, or as you said 'get in the
zone'. So there's a lot of parallel between what they're talking about in terms of hacking the flow state and
then what you're saying with using dreams or visualization, lucid dreams to enhance or optimize our
Ryan H: Yeah, absolutely. Now, lucid dreaming I don't think works the same way as a flow state will work
because by definition lucidity is kind of a meta-consciousness in which you've gotta witness going on,
being aware that you're in a dream state. And that witness is what goes away during a flow state. Right?
Ryan M: Right.
Ryan H: So, however, however and this is where it really works is that lucidity is the gateway to a flow
state. It is a gateway to other kinds of extraordinary experiences, you know, way beyond this. Ecstatic
non-dual experiences. I mean this is the stuff that the spiritual seekers have been talking about for
millennia. And so it's absolutely true with sports psychology as well that you have to have - it's kind of
paradoxical - you have to have rigorous practice and focus to be able to let go of all that and let it take
Ryan M: Right, right. If you're focused on the mechanics in the moment then you will not succeed, I
mean, Tiger Woods in a major golf tournament should not be thinking about the mechanics of his golf
swing and if you watch him lately you know that's why he's struggling. 2000-era Tiger Woods was not that
guy or Michael Jordan shooting a game-winning shot is not thinking about, you know, where's my elbow
and am I gonna follow through or whatever, right?
Ryan H: Right, right maybe these guys need to take up some lucid dreaming.
Ryan M: Oh, I'm sure that they have done some visualization. I know Michael Jordan was famous for
working with sports psychologists and being able to get into the flow state, so -
Ryan H: It's getting more popular, I'm hearing, with the football leagues that they're using sleep
scientists now to really, you know, gather up all the information they can get about a holistic way of
looking at their game so it's kind of cool.
Ryan M: Awesome, awesome. Now, we're gonna shift gears just a little bit. I know that you're involved
with some really cool research right now. Tell us about Galantamine. Am I saying that correctly?
Ryan H: Well, some people say that, some people say Galantamine, Galantamine. And it's true, I've
just - it hasn't been published peer review yet but we've released the poster at the International
Association for the Study of Dreams, two of my colleagues that work at the University of Texas. And I
don't work at the University of Texas but I know them through the ASD. Essentially what we're
experimenting with is just finding people whose experiences of Galantamine have led them successfully
to have lucid dreams and we're asking them: 'How were your lucid dreams different?' and 'In what ways
were they different?' We basically ran them through a 20 question, you know, quiz, you know in which
they basically went through it. And we based the questions on a lot of what we are hearing in the lucid
dreaming about how Galantamine affects lucid dreams and what we're hearing on the cultural level is
things like, well number one Galantamine helps you go lucid. It also makes lucid dreams longer. It also
can make them more vivid. And people are also talking that their Galantamine lucid dreams are sort of
more exciting, less scary. And there's sort of, there's an interesting effect going on and what we don't
know is is this stuff, you know, placebo effect? Is this actually something that's happening, you know, on
the molecular level or a combination of both? And there's very little research in the dream community
about this, however Galantamine has been used, and is still used to this day for Alzheimer's medication
for improving cognitive function. So we know it has a role in cognitive function, it improves recall and the
question is is it might actually be improving and solidifying the REM state and possibly even meta-
cognition or, you know, self-awareness in the dream state as well. So our study, which was just again
retrospective, we weren't doing anything clinical. But we basically found that people are saying that
Galantamine gives them longer dreams, more vivid dreams and interestingly less fearful dreams than
those that were preceded by Galantamine. So they feel a little more protected and are kind of having a
better time at it. And so that was interesting, and so that's what we've done so far and our hope is to get
this published this fall.
Ryan M: That's really cool! I hope you guys are able to get it published and I hope you're able to take it
even farther. So, I guess let's backtrack. What is Galantamine? How much were people taking? You
know, when were they taking it? Because I've actually, I think I've heard that there are some potential
drawbacks with Galantamine also.
Ryan H: So, so what Galantamine does is it actually prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine in the
brain for, um, I think it has about an 8 or 7-hour half-life. And what acetylcholine is - is what gives us what
makes REM dreaming possible, it's sort of the chemical substrate that REM balloons in. You can't have
REM without acetylcholine based memory. And when you have, you know, and when serotonin is on the
rise acetylcholine drops and that's, you know, when we have sort of waking awareness. And so by
preventing the breakdown of it it's increasing the, you know the rigors of it and allowing REM state to
happen if the brain is already in a place where it wants to go into REM. Here's the drawback: take it at a
time where you're not gonna experience REM and you're gonna have a pretty crappy time. For instance,
don't, you know take Galantamine the first thing when you go to bed at night. What happens is, is it works
while you're trying to go into deep sleep and it causes all kinds of confusion with sleep staging and people
report lots of things like night terrors and even sleep paralysis terrors, you know, those feelings of
paralysis where you can't move; very scary, very scary phenomena and nobody really wants that.
Ryan M: [laughs] No, no, no! That - that's, nobody's going back for seconds if that's their first experience.
Ryan H: That's not what we want, really. So you take Galantamine the second half of the night when
the REM state, you know that integrative sleep, when REM is naturally the cycles are going longer
anyway. And, and my colleague Scott Sparrow has - also has a hypothesis that meditation with
Galantamine is even a stronger way of going about it. So you're doing mental practices plus you're giving
yourself a supplement. And it's a natural supplement, it's synthesized from a number of plants: daffodil,
snowdrop plant. So it's -
Ryan M: Potentially something that, you know shamans may have mixed in a cup at one point.
Ryan H: Well, tell you what! Tell you what you're not too far off because there is a, I believe it's in a
Homer's Iliad where Odysseus gets dropped off on the island, Circe’s island, and all of his men are
transformed into pigs. The way he rescues them is by taking, making a tincture or some kind of
concoction from the snowdrop plant and giving this to the men and they remember who they are. So this,
so, so it's got a long history for cognitive aims.
Ryan M: Alright, who knew we were going to Homer's Iliad on the OPP today? Awesome! Awesome.
Is there a best practice in terms of dose amount for Galantamine?
Ryan H: Recommended dose is between 4 to 8 milligrams for those who are taking it and it is not
regulated like most, you know, natural synthesized products. And so do your homework, I would say, and
take a look at reviews and look on Amazon and see what's out there. And just, you know, and kind of go
based on that. That's the way it is, of course in the supplements market! But there hasn't been any kind of
strange instances of impurity of Galantamine like there has, for instance for Tryptophan, you know, which
had a big scare a few years back. So, so you know that being said, you know there's also
contraindications with medications and whatnot. I have an article on my website that I can shoot you to
make part of the show notes.
Ryan M: Yes, absolutely! If you send us that link, we'll put it on the show notes. So, now I guess if
you're saying that by increasing or preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, you know, I guess if
somebody were to supplement with acetylcholine that that may increase the ability to experience lucid
dreams. Is that correct? Are there other nootropics or, or you know supplements in that realm?
Ryan H: Right. What people typically do is they take it with um, with choline. But however a lot of
people that causes awakenings and so it's not always recommended. Another thing that people often take
it with is the B vitamin complex, especially B6 and B12. Those seems to have an effect on the dreams, of
making more vivid dreams. And paired with Galantamine you've got sort of a double punch with that. And,
you know but you can also, of course, have a diet that is strong in the B complexes that, you know, eat
lots of broccoli and kind of that kind of thing. And, and stay away from - if you want to just try the
Galantamine first and see how it's like I would recommend, I think probably the safest dosage is to start
with 4 milligrams and see what that does. Some people it turns, it makes them so they can't go back to
sleep at night. And so, if you are prone to insomnia it's a possibility that that will happen.
Ryan M: Okay, so maybe the ultimate sleep pre-sleep meal might be something like oysters for the
zinc, some whole eggs to get some choline and broccoli with the B vitamins?
Ryan H: [laughs] Yeah! Maybe make an oyster broccoli smoothie!
Ryan M: There you go!
Ryan H: It sounds delicious!
Ryan M: It does, doesn't it? [laughs] So, okay let's go down that food route just a little bit. Are there
ways to eat, you know, that can help? I mean I know there are ways that we can eat that'll help the brain
function, but for sleep specifically?
Ryan H: Essentially most of the recommendations I know are, work for not disturbing sleep as well.
And that's just don't eat lots of fatty foods before bed and watch your high sugar intake before bed
because of what it does to, you know, your blood sugar and that can affect the way that melatonin works
and the way that, the way the sleep stages. You might go to sleep quicker, kind of like alcohol, all the
alcohol sugars. It might help you fall asleep but it'll disturb your sleep later in the night. And so there's that
Ryan M: That reactive hypoglycemic drop, yeah.
Ryan H: Yep! There you are! There you are. So, you know I-
Ryan M: That's the food science degree. I can't help myself!
Ryan H: [laughs] I love it! No, it's great! And you probably know more about that angle than I do. But
I do recommend, you know, if you're gonna snack at night, you know, make it like cottage cheese.
Something that's a mixture of high-density carbs and fats and, but not just fat and not fat and sugar. And
a little bit of protein.
Ryan M: Okay, okay. So, let's go back to your research. Like, what is the next step? Where do you
guys go from here with this exploration?
Ryan H: With the Galantamine study we're really thinking about going clinical for our next step and
seeing if people basically do a double-blind placebo in which, you know, people take a substance and
report their dreams back for, you know, x amount of days and then we'll, we'll analyze what you know,
they said happened. Possibly we'll even hook that up with some in-home sleep lab type stuff. There's
some new devices coming on the market that might make that easier so we could actually get some -
take a look at their sleep staging. I'd be very interested in that. And as well as looking at their actually
dream content, you know, and looking at how the dream content itself changes.
Ryan M: So, what kind of devices might those be?
Ryan H: Well, right now, so Aurora is about to release and that's the Aurora lucid dreaming mask. And
that has been, had a really successful Kickstarter last year and they've, they're finally coming into
production right now and they're kind of unique on the market for their - it's a headband that you wear that
actually senses your brain waves versus by an EG node as well as doing body motion. And uses that to
figure out when you're in REM sleep. And when you're in REM sleep it flashes lights and you can even
program sounds to tell yourself, you know: 'hey, you're dreaming!' And, you know, if you've kind of gone
through some of the preliminary work you're like: 'oh yeah! If I start seeing flashing strobe lights in my
dreams it means I'm dreaming.'
Ryan M: Okay.
Ryan H: And so this is something that - dream masks have been around for about 30 years but this is
a very sophisticated one in terms of the actual stage of sleep so I'm pretty excited about it especially how
it might galvanize this sort of home sleep lab, you know, movement. You know basically just the
Quantified Self movement.
Ryan M: Exactly.
Ryan H: What, you know, what is your sleep doing? I mean, a lot of this we thought was gonna
happen with Zeo but Zeo went under I guess a couple years ago. It turned out that most people just aren't
that interested in their sleep to wear a headband. They'd rather use something that is on the mattress or
something that kind of just passively gives them sleep information, even if it's not very good sleep
information. But the Aurora mask is interesting because it's for people who are very much into dreams,
into lucid dreams and they're motivated. And I think we might get some really strong data from them.
Ryan M: Awesome. That's really exciting. Alright, so Ryan, pretend like you're talking to me, because I
mean you are, but also to our listeners. If you had to give somebody 2 or 3 things that they could do to,
you know begin an exploration or a journey into lucid dreaming, what kinds of things would we need to do
to, you know, develop that or get some experience with it?
Ryan H: Sure! Well, the number one thing is, is you have to have pretty good dream recall to start with.
And so I wouldn't suggest someone delve into these practices - like waking up in the middle of the night
and taking Galantamine and going back to sleep - if they're not already recalling, you know, I'd say five
dreams a week at a minimum and even better, twice that, recalling a dream at night would really be good.
And the good news is, is that you can increase your dream recall very quickly by simply having a dream
journal. So, that would be it. I would say have a dream journal and start writing down your dreams or
using a - using one of these apps that are out there now for recording your dreams and, and just kind of
get into the habit of thinking about: 'what did I dream last night?' as soon as you wake up. And as you go
to sleep, you know, reminding yourself: 'I'm gonna remember my dreams tonight.' That's a feedback
system that is very quick and effective towards increasing dream recall. And so that - that'll do it. And then
from there I would say, well...I would say that's when it starts getting interesting.
Ryan M: Okay.
Ryan H: I would say read a, you know, read an introductory book on lucid dreaming. That will help you
find your motivation for why do you want to go lucid in the first place. You know, it'll kind of pump you up.
That motivational factor is very hard to measure, but I think it's actually critical towards using these
practices to go in lucid. If you don't know why you want to do it, it's not gonna work so have a, you know
have a goal in mind and then move forward and then try some of these practices in some of the books
that are out there. I have an e-book out there that actually goes through it, it's called the ‘Lucid Immersion
Guidebook’ and I break down the practices that are out there into mental, physical and emotional
practices. And essentially my method is try to make it holistic and to try 2 or 3 things kind of at a time for a
spell of a week or so and see how it works, see how it goes. What happens with your dream recall? Did
you have any lucid dreams? Did you come close? Did you question if you were dreaming? And then, you
know, so it's very - at this point of the conversation people often talk about particular lucid dreaming
practices to do and there's a lot out there, but probably the number one practice would be to start doing
reality checks during the day if you've never had a lucid dream before. And that is the practice of asking
yourself: 'in this moment, right now, am I dreaming?' And really consider it. And then ask yourself: 'how do
you know?' How can you test your reality? And the lucid dreaming community has come up with a few
ways that you actually can test your reality because believe it or not, looking around you room and saying
'I feel like I'm awake' is not actually an effective strategy!
Ryan M: Alright, so, can you share some of those with us?
Ryan H: So one of the classic ones is simply to look at the nearest clock or text on a book and, and look
at what, you know, you read. Look away and then look again. And dreams - because dreams tend to be
very unstable when it comes to text, often it will change; a little flicker, or something strange will happen,
or the clock won't be there anymore. Right? And so then you know: 'ah, I'm dreaming!' And so this is
something that you practice in the waking state, too! I mean, that's the point, you have to kind of make a
behavioral cognitive practice, you're making a habit. That habit will bleed over into your dream life.
Ryan M: Okay, awesome. Alright so Ryan this has really been a fascinating and amazing episode. We
are almost out of time and I wanna get to our final question but before we do that, let our listeners where
they can get more of you and I know you've mentioned your e-book. If you shoot me an e-mail with that
link, we'll put that on the show notes as well.
Ryan H: You bet, you bet! So check out my blog first. That's dreamstudies.org and I basically cover
consciousness, sleep studies and dream studies with a particular interest in lucid dreaming for my blog.
And that's dreamstudies.org. And I also have dreamstudies.com which is my shop, my digital store Dream
Studies Press. And I've got all of my e-books there and they're all arranged in bundles and kits and
everything for convenience. And I do have couple of affiliate products as well there so I try to kind of
curate the best, you know dream studies related gear under one roof.
Ryan M: Awesome, very cool. Now, before I let you go. All of our guests have to answer this question
before they escape. Your top 3 tips for our listeners to live optimal.
Ryan H: Sleep more, dream more and get out in nature. We didn't talk about that, but get out in nature.
Ryan M: Very cool, very cool! Maybe we'll have you back for another episode, we'll talk about getting out in nature.
Ryan H: It's critical.
Ryan M: Okay, okay. Ryan, this has been awesome. I can't thank you enough for spending some time with us, sharing your knowledge, this has been awesome. For all of our listeners, thank you guys for tuning in. Make sure you guys head over to optimalperformance.com to get the show notes, all the links that we've mentioned and watch the video version. And of course go to iTunes, leave us a 5* review and we will talk to you guys next Thursday.
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