March 30, 2014
Taking Control Of Your Dreams, Literally
I don’t know about you, but I have weird dreams. Never anything too explicit or scary, just weird. I am talking about fighting against a tank battalion in my mother’s backyard kind of weird. Fighting vampires with NERF guns, turning into a werewolf so I could go to a school play, playing chess with United States Presidents who have not even been elected yet (apparently mustaches will make a comeback someday), and other strangeness. Sure, like everyone else, I rarely remember my dreams, but when I do, they usually turn out like this. There are times I wonder if this is a reason that I often find it difficult to go to sleep at night, as my mind tries as hard as it can to hold on to what little sanity I can still claim.
I have often wished I could take control of my dreams and turn them into something more pleasant and less confusing. Of course, save for the rare occurrence of lucid dreaming – I tend to wake up as soon as I realize I am dreaming – that is not likely going to happen. Or is it?
Just recently, psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire concluded a two-year study of dream control in which, back in 2010, they created an iPhone app that was intended to influence the dreams of the users by using various “soundscapes” that could be listened to while someone slept. The app was downloaded more than 500,000 times and the research team collected millions of reports from users. According to the findings, it is actually possible to influence the contents of your dreams. The app, called “Dream:ON,” was designed with various soundscapes that would depict various scenarios such as walking through the woods or lying on the beach. As part of the app, when the scoundscape, and thus the dream, ended there would be a gentle alarm that would prompt the dreamer to submit a description of their dream, thus how the team was able to collect their results. In addition to learning that dreams could be manipulated, Professor Wiseman also learned that dreams tend to be at their weirdest around the full moon.
The goal of Professor Wiseman’s experiment was to show that people are not only able to control their dreams, shaping what he hopes will be a perfect dream, but that doing so will allow a person a more restful sleep which, in turn, will have them be more happy and refreshed while they are awake. According to Professor Wiseman, “Having positive dreams helps people wake-up in a good mood and boosts their productivity. We have now discovered a way of giving people sweet dreams, and this may also form the basis for a new type of therapy to help those suffering from certain psychological problems, such as depression.”
I must admit a certain level of hesitation at hearing about this study, as my first thoughts regarding it – after the initial “that is really cool” part – learn toward the possibility of subliminal messages being sent to us while we sleep. The last thing I need during what little sleep I do get is a Nike commercial playing in my head, telling me what shoes I need to buy. Still, it is hard to deny that this is captivating research with numerous positive applications and I look forward to hearing about where it goes from here. Who knows, maybe it will serve to better all of our lives someday.
One can only dream.
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