Lucid dreaming technically refers to any occasion when the sleeper is aware they are dreaming. But it is also used to describe the idea of being able to control those dreams.
Once confined to a handful of niche groups, interest in lucid dreaming has grown in recent years, spurred on by a spate of innovations from smartphone apps to specialist eye masks, all promising the ability to influence our dreams.
... Dream:ON, the most popular of the many new smartphone apps now available.
Created by psychologist Richard Wiseman, the app has seen over half a million downloads in just six weeks.
"The new wave of interest is led by technology," says Wiseman, whose app claims to allow users to choose their dream before bed, and plays sound cues once they have entered the right phase of sleep.
Before going to bed you indicate the type of dream you would like to have and when you want to wake up. You then place your iPhone on your bed and go to sleep. Dream:ON then activates and begins monitoring your sleep pattern.
When Dream:ON senses that you are dreaming, it plays a 'soundscape' that has been carefully designed to help create your desired dream. Whilst your chosen soundscape is playing, Dream:ON continues to monitor your movement and adjusts the volume accordingly to ensure you're not woken up.
New York inventors Duncan Frazier and Steve McGuigan have taken a different approach. Instead of incorporating sound to help people shape their dreams, they use light. They’ve created a sleep mask they call the Remee, which comes with six red LED lights and runs on a three-volt battery.
The device waits until a person is four to five hours into their night’s sleep–a time when periods of REM sleep tend to last longer–then begins flashing the lights in a pattern that lasts 15 to 20 seconds. It’s a visual cue meant to remind the person that they’re dreaming, which is key to having them take control of what happens.
Clearly, there’s lots of interest in driving dreams. When Frazier and McGuigan posted their idea on Kickstarter, they hoped to raise $35,000. More than 6,500 people have pledged almost $600,000 to help them out.
Sleep stages are divided into two main categories: non-REM sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, where dreams typically occur. Over the course of the night a sleeper will cycle through the five stages of sleep a number of times with the REM stages lasting longer and longer towards morning.
In default mode, Remee targets these long chunks of REM sleep towards the end of the sleep period. Before bed, turn Remee on, fine tune the brightness of the lights (if needed) and then go to sleep. Remee will wait for an initial long delay, usually 4-5 hours, until you're in the heart of the heavy REM stages, before initializing light patterns. After the initial long delay Remee will display light patterns for 15-20 seconds with a second shorter delay, default at 15 minutes, between each signal. During non-REM sleep the lights are unlikely to effect you, but if you're in REM sleep the lights will bleed into your dreams, presenting a perfect chance to become lucid.