When it comes to sleep and dreaming, health sciences have a tremendous amount to learn. In fact, scientists know so little about the purpose of sleep and dreaming. From a basic perspective, sleep seems to restore our energy levels. Likewise, scientists think REM sleep may reset our brains to allow for better memory and concentration. But how it accomplishes this is a mystery. But despite these hurdles, scientists are pursuing new dream technologies that could change how we approach our sleep.
Researchers at MIT have bee testing a dream control device that might actually let you influence your dream content. If such a device can introduce stimulations at the right time, it has a good chance of altering dream content. Such dream technologies are intriguing because they have the potential to enhance creativity and treat some health conditions. At the same time, they also may provide some deeper insights into this challenging area of health and medicine.
“Targeted dream incubation is a protocol for reactivating memories during sleep in a manner that leads to incorporation of the targeted memory, or related memories, into dream content,” – Adam Haar Horowitz, MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group
Some Basics Regarding Sleep and Dreaming
In terms of sleep, scientists recognize that we go through various sleep stages. From wakefulness, we transition into light sleep before going into deeper sleep. For most people, REM sleep then appears roughly 90 minutes into the night. Our sleep then tends to cycle 3-4 times at night between REM sleep and non-REM sleep. Notably, REM sleep is associated with our most vivid dreams that are often a bit bizarre. But likewise, scientists have now learned dreaming occurs other times as well. And these other dream states might be more susceptible to suggestion than REM states.
In some individuals, it has been found that they can control their dream content during lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is a dream state where some level of awareness persists. While this is rare, however, another sleep state also offers dream control abilities. Referred to as hypnogogia, this state occurs right as we are drifting off to sleep. This knowledge is what has encouraged some researchers to experiment with a dream control device with great potential. With advancing wearable technologies, opportunities appear to be emerging in this hot new field.
“Every benefit shown to be correlated to dreaming deserves an experiment on whether it can be causally shown to come from dreaming. This ranges from past work on nightmares and PTSD to current work on language learning in sleep, or creativity and eureka moments in dreams.” – Adam Haar Horowitz
Recent Research Using Dream Technologies
The most recent research involving these types of dream technologies occurred out of MIT’s Medial Lab’s Fluid Interfaces. This division tests wearable systems that enhance human performance. In essence, the tested 25 adults who were recorded during repeated nap sessions. Prior to thee nap sessions, participants recorded audio instructions in their own voice. These recording where then used to stimulate the participants as they drifted off into hypnagogia. After each time they were awoke, they provided recollections of their most recent dreams.
The dream control device used was called Dormio. Basically, the device was strapped to one hand and measured heart rate, finger relaxation, and skin electrical changes. Based on this data, Dormio could tell when participants entered hypnagogia. At that moment, the dream control device played the pre-recorded audio and then the participants’ recollections. Overall, two-thirds of the participants reported having the audio content incorporated into their dreams.
“Dreaming about a specific theme seems to offer benefits post-sleep, such as on creativity tasks related to this theme. This is unsurprising in light of historical figures like Mary Shelley or Salvador Dalí, who were inspired creatively by their dreams.” – Adam Haar Horowitz
Potential Applications of Dream Technologies
How dream technologies might be used in the future is unclear. However, it’s clear that this will be an evolving field in the near future. From a clinical perspective, conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might benefit from a dream control device. For example, a dream control device could introduce measured content to facilitate acclimation. This would gradually reduce the stress perceived with a particular dream or nightmare image. The same might also be beneficial for other anxiety conditions.
This isn’t the only use of dream technologies in the future. For a long time, dreams have been recognized as a source of inspiration and creativity. With a dream control device, someone might be able to create their own self-inspiration, and perhaps focus more on their Bold Goals. (For more on Bold Goals, check out Ed Kopko’s PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.] Or they may be able to encourage a more creative perspective. This opens the door for digital therapeutics products that might be used in combination with a dream control device. These types of applications could introduce a burgeoning new field for consumers of all ages. And the potential applications seem endless.
Science Fiction Come to Life?
Notably, some classic movies have considered how dream control might affect everyday life. Nightmare of Elm Street, of course, had Freddy Krueger running around in other characters’ dreams. And in Inception, Leonardo di Caprio steals trade secrets from others’ dream subconscious. But with the dream control device being tested at MIT, the potential is a bit more constructive. Dream technologies that serve to enhance humankind’s abilities are the goal of these pursuits. In this regard, the film, Limitless, might be a better target for any dream control device being considered. But in any case, dream technologies could be one of the most exciting future innovations to hit the market.