Everyone is familiar with the phrase 'you are what you eat', but did you know that your diet can play an important role in the quality of your sleep and dreams?
Unfortunately, with our hectic schedules, many of us neglect the importance of a healthy and balanced diet and, as a result, we may find that our dream-life inadvertently suffers.
As lucid dreamers, it's important to be aware of the influence of our diet on our dreams. So in today's article we'll explore various food that may be beneficial for lucid dreaming.
It's important to note that while the foods listed below can support brain health, they should not be considered a replacement for medical treatment or advice from a healthcare professional.
Acetylcholine the Lucid Dreaming Neurotransmitter
Recent research has demonstrated a connection between the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and the clarity of dream recall and your chance of lucidity.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in cognitive function and memory.
Choline (a precursor to acetylcholine) is an ‘essential’ nutrient for humans and is required to help to maintain optimal memory and cognitive function.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition researchers found that the majority of Europeans, American, Canadian and Australian populations have suboptimal choline intake.
Foods High in Choline
The following foods are a good source of dietary choline, and may be beneficial for improving acetylcholine levels during dreaming - potentially improving your chances of a lucid dream!
Eggs: Egg yolks are one of the richest dietary sources of choline.
Liver: Organ meats, particularly liver, are high in choline. Beef liver contains the highest amount of choline per 100 grams.
Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, cod, and haddock are good sources of choline.
Soybeans: Soybeans and soy products like tofu are high in choline.
Chicken: Chicken breast is a good source of choline.
Beef: Beef contains choline, particularly in cuts like sirloin and round steak.
Dairy products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese are good sources of choline.
Brussels sprouts: Brussels sprouts are one of the highest vegetable sources of choline.
Quinoa: Quinoa is a good source of choline among plant-based foods.
Broccoli: Broccoli is another vegetable that is relatively high in choline .
Potatoes: Potatoes are a popular and versatile source of choline.
Sleep and Forgetting
In Ancient Greek mythology, some accounts of Hypnos, the mythical god of sleep, connect him to the river Lethe, the "river of forgetting".
Curiously, modern sleep research has shown that during NREM sleep, the activity of acetylcholinesterase (the enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine) may be higher compared to wakefulness, which may contribute to a decrease in acetylcholine levels and the forgetfulness associated with sleep.
Dreaming is often sandwiched between periods of NREM, which likely accounts for most people's inability to recall their dreams.
Perhaps acetylcholinesterase is the mythical river of forgetting!
So, is it possible to reduce our levels of acetylcholinesterase during sleep and therefore improve our dream recall and chance for lucidity?
The producers of lucid dreaming pills certainly think so!
Dietary Alternatives to Lucid Dreaming Pills
In recent years there has been a spike in interest in 'lucid dreaming pills'. These products are often marketed as panacea for lucid dream induction.
The active ingredient in most lucid dreaming pills are a variety of drugs known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, these inhibit the activity of acetylcholinesterase, which is responsible for breaking down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the nervous system.
Limiting the influence of acetylcholinesterase helps to increase acetylcholine levels.
I strongly recommend against the use of such products, due to a lack of research into their long-term effects on healthy individuals, their haphazard combination with other active ingredients, and the all-too-often hyperbolic claims of those who sell them.
However, there are safe and natural dietary alternatives.
Dietary forms of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors include:
Sage: Sage is an herb that contains compounds that act as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. It has been shown to improve cognitive function and memory.
Rosemary: Rosemary is another herb that contains compounds that act as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. It has been shown to improve cognitive function and mood.
Ginger: Ginger contains compounds that have been shown to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain and inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity.
Turmeric: As mentioned earlier, turmeric contains curcumin, which has been shown to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain and inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity.
Apples: Apples contain a compound called quercetin, which has been shown to inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity.
Grapes: Grapes and grape juice contain a compound called resveratrol, which has been shown to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain and inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity.
Pomegranates: Pomegranates contain compounds that have been shown to inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity and improve cognitive function.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon contains compounds that have been shown to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain and inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity.
Oregano: Oregano is an herb that contains compounds that act as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and may help to improve cognitive function.
Black pepper: Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which has been shown to inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity and improve cognitive function.
lucid Dreaming and Health
In general, developing skills in lucid dreaming is predominantly determined by behavioural adaptions and psychological training.
However, it is important to remember that our psychology is predicated upon biology.
For the average and healthy dreamer, this means little more than maintaining regular exercise and a balanced and healthy diet.
There are no short-cuts to experiencing a lucid dream, and any pills, foods, or products that claim otherwise are vastly overstating their benefits.
While it's important to remain mindful of our diet, it's important to remember that there is no food or pill that can "give you" lucid dreams.
That said, ignoring the importance of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle can be detrimental to your practice.
As with all things lucid dream related, a balanced, logical, and evidence based approach is the best best way forward!
If you are concerned that your diet may be lacking, then seek the advice of a trained nutritionist or medical professional before making any changes.
Stay healthy and stay lucid!