A two-year study into dream control, first launched at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, suggests that it's possible for people to create their perfect dream, and wake up feeling "happy and refreshed".
In 2010, psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, teamed-up with app developers YUZA to create 'Dream:ON' - a free iPhone app launched at the 2012 Science Festival - that monitors a person during sleep and plays a 'soundscape' when they dream. The soundscapes evoke a pleasant scenario, such as a walk in the woods, or lying on a beach. The idea was that these sounds would influence people's dreams. At the end of the track the app sounded a gentle alarm and prompted the person to submit a description of their dream.
The app was downloaded over 500,000 times and the researchers collected millions of dream reports. Wiseman says the data shows that the soundscapes did indeed influence people's dreams. "If someone chose the nature landscape then they were more likely to dream about greenery and flowers. In contrast, if they selected the beach soundscape then they were more likely to dream about the sun beating down on their skin."
The researchers discovered that people's dreams were especially bizarre around the time of a full moon: "In 2013, neuroscientists from the University of Basel discovered that people experience more disturbed sleeping patterns around the time of a full Moon," said Wiseman, "we have seen a similar pattern, with more bizarre dreams being associated with a full moon."
The team also found that certain soundscapes produced far more pleasant dreams. "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," said Wiseman.
Prof Wiseman, formerly a guest director at the EISF, has published his findings in a new book on sleep and dreaming, Night School, out today. He is also giving a Science Festival talk about his findings on Thursday 17 April in Richard Wiseman’s Night School. This event will involve live EEG projection, a demonstration of mass suggestion, and several pairs of yellow glasses.
As in previous years, Wiseman will be conducting an online survey to determine how a number of factors affect the way we sleep. The survey looks at what effect gender, sleeping position, temperature, location, and a host of other elements has on our sleep.
The results of the survey will then be revealed in April at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.