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S3E6 episode "Sleepless in Ponyville" introduces a new task that Luna is doing other than simply raising the moon at night.

Scootaloo: You are so, so much better than The Headless Horse. But what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in Canterlot?
Princess Luna: I am the princess of the night. Thus it is my duty to come into your dreams.
Scootaloo: Oh, yeah... Wait, is this just a dream? But it feels so real!

During her dialogue with Scootaloo she reveals that she has been patrolling ponies dreams to help them overcome fears and nightmares. This is later reinforced in S4E19 "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" when she visit Sweetie dreams, S5E4 "Bloom & Gloom" with Apple Bloom, S5E13 "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?", S6E25 "To Where and Back Again - Part 1" when she visit Starlight and finally in S7E10 "A Royal Problem".

In this last episode Celestia and Luna briefly get their Cutie Mark switched and as a result they both decide to try to perform the other one tasks.

In this occasion Celestia remarks seems to indicate that she has no idea of how hard and stressing dream patrol is.

Princess Celestia: Moon raised! It's even easier than raising the sun. [chuckles] What's next?
Starlight Glimmer: [snoring]
Princess Celestia: Of course. Everypony's asleep at night. Heh. Luna works alone... Oh, but it's nothing I can't handle. All I have to do is watch over Equestria, visit the dream realm, and protect ponies in their nightmares. My list was three times as long! [chuckles] [lightswitches clicking]
Princess Celestia: All right. Everypony's asleep. You're talking to yourself, Celestia. Heh. But there's nopony else to talk to! [chuckles] Yet. I can talk to ponies in their dreams! [vooooom] [whimsical music]
Princess Celestia: Now, to save some ponies from their nightmares. Which aren't real, so it shouldn't be too hard, right? Right. Good call, Celestia! And I'm talking to myself again.

She didn't even start and she already was paranoid, talking to herself like a certain purple pony would do. And it get worse from there... soon after she gets so unstable that her own nightmares take control and she find herself facing Daybreaker.

Princess Celestia: This can't be!
Daybreaker: If Luna can turn into Nightmare Moon, you can absolutely turn into me — Daybreaker! The better, prettier, and more powerful version of you!
Princess Celestia: No! I'll never turn into you!

Basically, she is shown to be completely unable to handle this.

Yet, Celestia's should have already replaced Luna... for a thousand years...

Using the magic of the Elements of Harmony, she defeated her younger sister, and banished her permanently in the moon. The elder sister took on responsibility for both sun and moon and harmony has been maintained in Equestria for generations since.

This seems to indicate that either Luna started doing dream patrol only after her return or Celestia never ever realized that she did in the first place, leaving for a thousand years where young fillies had to care for their nightmare alone.

This only gets better with the show ending. Thanks to Luna & Celestia poor planning, original writers leaving and Sunset Shimmer never returning after her human counterpart was scrapped, Twily is left to take the roles of both princesses on her own, including all the recent bureaucracy that occupied most of Celestia days.

Twilight Sparkle: Before I moved to Ponyville, I didn't really know what friendship was. You've all taught me so much. I can't believe it all might be ending. But when I imagine the future, all I can think about is that we won't be together! I'm literally moving away from you, and it's terrifying!

Twilight Sparkle: I love it. Thank you so much. But I don't want to only look back. Obviously the coronation wasn't perfect, but that doesn't matter. It's our relationships that really count, and we have to maintain them.
Rarity: But now that we'll be living in different places, I'm not exactly sure how.
Twilight Sparkle: I am. I suggest we meet once a moon. In fact, my first royal decree as ruler of Equestria is to establish this Council of Friendship!

Based on her account in the last episode of the show S9E26 "The Last Problem", not only Twily ends up to live separated from her friends but is also so busy that she can basically only manage for a meet up "once a moon" (aka: Thank you Celestia, this is exactly how I wanted to live!).

We never get a description of her daily routine but it is reasonable enough to assume she is already struggling to manage the affair the two princesses kindly left her before retiring on permanent vacation. Believing she also never sleeps at night would be a little too much.

This therefore leaves the real question: is there any indication that someone else ever performed Luna's role as dream defender while she was banished on the moon or after she stepped of and left her ruler role to Twilight at the end of the show? Or optionally, is there any indication that she still care for ponies dreams even after Twily's coronation as the new ruler and Celestia and Luna stepping down?

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    It feels like 90% of this should be a self-answer to your own question
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 18:54
  • @Valorum not exactly - I could be missing some elements either from the comics I still miss or the books (which I will probably never read)
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 18:56
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    Every answer doesn't need to be a 'slam dunk'. Partial answers get love too.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 19:07
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    @Valorum but the whole point of this is asking if I am missing something
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 19:26
  • @SPArcheon While I agree with you, I encourage you to put the last paragraph in bold, to make it easier to identify where your full question is before the reader begins reading it (so they don't get alienated when you say Celestia switched cutie marks with Luna for a while). Commented Mar 27 at 23:47

1 Answer 1

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The only partial answer to this question comes from the official IDW comics. As usual, please keep in mind that the status of the comics is basically "canon unless the show contradicts them".

Issues 4 of the Fiendship is Magic comic line goes into detail about Luna banishment on the moon as Nightmare Moon, building on some plot detail already introduced in the mainline "Nightmare Rarity" comic arc (issue 5-8 of the main IDW comic).

In the story Nightmare Moon meets a tribe of creatures called Nyx that live in a castle on the moon and have powers to shape ponies dreams and dispel nightmares. She tricks them into thinking she is a friend and manages to get one of them to teach her their magic. Afterward she uses those powers to attack Celestia in her dreams and turns on the Nyx and mind control them transforming them into the "Nightmare Forces" that were mentioned in the "Nightmare Rarity" arc. The full synopses can be found here.

Based on this we can know that:

  • the Nyx had power to enter ponies dream and fight nightmares,
  • Luna learned these powers from the Nyx during her banishment as Nightmare Moon
  • during her banishment Luna used a corrupted version of said powers to torment Celestia and the ponies.
  • after the Nyx free themselves from Nightmare Moon influence they start to secretly try to prevent her from harming ponies in their dreams / protect Celestia

Therefore:

  • Before Luna became Nightmare Moon she didn't perform any "dream duty" since she didn't had learned that power yet.
  • During her time as Nightmare Moon Luna was using that power to try to haunt Celestia and the other ponies in their dream, but the escaped Nyx tried to prevent that
  • During Luna time as Nightmare Moon Celestia probably did not know how to enter other ponies dreams since she never had the opportunity of learning that skill from the Nyx
  • After Luna returns to her former self, she start using those powers for their original purpose, taking the place of the Nyx in protecting the ponies in their dreams. The remains of her and the Nyx corruption would become the Tantabus and the residual Nightmare Forces that haunted Rarity (notice how the Nightmare Rarity arc shows the mane six being attacked in their dreams similar to what happens in "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep")

We can therefore conclude that during Luna time as Nightmare Moon nopony else was performing "dream duty" like she did. Not just that: at the time Nightmare Moon was actually using her power to bring nightmare and fear to the ponies and only the Nyx effort managed to contain her.

As for what happened after Luna and Celestia step down and leave Twily as the new ruler at the end of the show... we don't really known. It is probably safe enough to think that either the Nyx managed to take up the task again or Luna kept doing it as she felt that was her duty for having misused those powers for so long.

Notice also that it is totally possible that after the residual Nightmare Forces and the Tantabus were defeated the nightmares simply stopped, leaving only real fears and doubt to haunt the ponies, which would drastically reduce the work of Luna or Twily if she took her place.

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