April 17, 2012
iPhone Uers Can Create Their Own Dreams
Michael Harper for RedOrbit.com
There´s an app for everything these days, from banking and baseball to photo editing and navigation.
It´s all part of a global experiment to see if dreams can be chosen and manipulated.
"If it's birds tweeting, then the idea is that you'll hear birds tweeting in your dream," said Wiseman, speaking to Reuters.
The user can choose such soundscapes as “Ocean View,” “On the Run,” or “Relaxing Rainforest.” After choosing a wakeup time, the user places their iPhone screen-down on their bed. The app will then monitor body movements throughout the night to determine the REM stage of sleep, where dreams most often occur.
If the user is in REM, in the last 20 minutes of sleep the app begins to play the selected soundstage, attempting to create a specific type of dream. If the user begins to move or wake up, the volume is automatically reduced so as not to disturb the user and lull them back to sleep.
When the time comes for the alarm to sound, the app wakes the user up and asks the user to make a few short notes about the dream, which will then be sent to a database for further research.
Since there is only a ten-second window in which a person remembers their dreams, this is a pivotal point in the apps process.
“Ten seconds later and it´s gone,” said Wiseman, adding dreams are likely to occur in the last 20 minutes before waking.
Additionally, the researchers want to determine if they can inspire lucid dreams, which is a state when the dreamer is aware they are dreaming and try to control the dream themselves.
The app features different versions of soundscapes, one for regular dreaming and one for lucid dreams.
“Some of our soundscapes have a voice-over which tells you that you´re dreaming and that it´s okay for you to take over that dream. And one of the questions we´re asking is ℠Do those induce lucid dreams?´” Wiseman told Reuters reporter Natasha Baker.
According to sleep experts, however, lucid dreams are quite rare. Allan Hobson is a dream researcher and professor of psychiatry emeritus at Harvard University. Speaking to Baker, Hobson said, “There´s no question that you can influence the plot of your dreams. But lucid dreaming is rare because it´s a design error; it shouldn´t happen.”
“The body doesn´t want to be awake and asleep at the same time – the brain wants to be in one state or the other,” he added.
Wiseman said he came up with the idea for the Dream:ON app while he was researching the link between external stimuli and sleep, and hopes Dream:ON could one day be used to help people suffering from depression.
“The research into depression and dreaming is quite well established in that (depressed people) dream more, and their dreams are more negative,” said Wiseman.
Dream:ON is currently only available for iPhone, though an Android version is planned to be available later in the year.