Richmond Magazine: Scientists tap into the dreamscape, learning about the composition of dreams, and how we might be able to control them.

There’s been a sharp uptick in sleep-related maladies, including nightmares, during the COVID-19 pandemic, says David Pomm, clinical psychologist at the Central Virginia VA Health Care System. “The reasons are largely unknown, probably linked to the stress of the coronavirus.” 

Pomm does not deal in dream therapy. He treats sleep-challenged patients with CBTI, or cognitive behavioral therapy. “If people are exhibiting bad dreams, we can coordinate care with a psychiatrist or neurologist, or medication could help,” he says, “but we prefer to get them back to better sleep habits and getting the sleep cycle reset to what it was designed to be.”

It might sound like a plot device from the 2010 film “Inception” or a trope from a Philip K. Dick story, but lucid dreamers do walk among us — you may even be one. The American Psychological Association defines a lucid dream as one “in which the sleeper is aware that he or she is dreaming and may be able to influence the progress of the dream narrative.” 

It’s a very real concept, confirms Dr. Edward Peck, a Richmond-based neuropsychologist who treats conditions such as dementia, memory loss, ADHD, traumatic brain injury and various sleep disorders. Not only is lucid dreaming recognized by science, he says that its use as a therapeutic pathway is only one of many promising recent health discoveries in dream science. 

“It’s a fascinating area, given today’s technology and what might be available in the future,” Peck says. “I think lucid dreaming therapy or guided imagery through dream therapy may be another one of the wonderful ways that the human body can learn to take better care of itself.” 

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