In what is being touted as “the world's largest dream experiment,” a psychologist from Britain’s University of Hertfordshire is inviting volunteers to try using an iPhone app to control their dreams. Prof. Richard Wiseman teamed up with the developers at software company YUZA to create Dream:ON, an app that plays soundscapes while its user sleeps, intended to shape what sort of dreams they have. The project comes in response to a UK survey conducted by Wiseman, in which 15% of respondents claimed that they frequently suffered from unpleasant dreams.

To use Dream:ON, people start by indicating the time at which they would like to wake up. Next, they select an alarm tone, followed by one of several “soundscapes” – examples include titles like Peaceful Garden and A Trip to Tokyo. The phone is then plugged into an external power source, and left turned on at the bedside.

Throughout the night, the phone uses its microphone to monitor the user’s movements. Approximately 20 minutes before their selected wake-up time, and once a decrease in their movements indicates that they’ve entered REM sleep (the sleep stage at which dreams occur), the soundscape will be played. Theoretically, that audio will be incorporated into the existing dream. Of course, it’s possible that someone could simply end up dreaming that an axe murderer was chasing them through a peaceful garden – that’s the sort of thing that the project is looking at.

Once the person starts moving again, indicating that they are no longer dreaming, the alarm will sound to wake them. As a side benefit, by not being woken up while in deep REM sleep, users should wake up feeling more refreshed – a strategy already employed by products like the sleep-monitoring Sleeptracker alarm.

The app will subsequently prompt users to submit a report of their dream.

After a few months, Wiseman and his team will review the various users’ reports, to see how well the app works. Dream:ON is available now as a free download at the App Store, while an Android version is expected to come out later this year. If it does indeed work, more soundscapes could be on the way – some of them would be free, while others would have to be purchased.

Should the idea behind Dream:ON sound at all familiar to some readers, it’s because something similar already exists, in the form of the Japanese Yumemiru app. There’s no word on how effective that one has proven to be.

The video below provides an outline of Prof. Wiseman’s project.

Source: University of Hertfordshire