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Scientist hopes to help you create “perfect dream”

April 10, 2012
Courtesy of the Uni­vers­ity of Hert­ford­shire
and World Science staff

A new study will in­ves­t­i­gate wheth­er a com­put­er pro­gram can help sleep­ers achieve a “per­fect dream.”

The stu­dy, which uses a spe­cially de­signed “app” or ap­plica­t­ion for the Ap­ple iPhone, is to be launched on April 10.

Psy­chol­o­gist Rich­ard Wise­man of the Uni­vers­ity of Hert­ford­shire, U.K., teamed up with London-based Yuza In­terna­t­ional, a de­vel­op­er of iPhone apps, to cre­ate the app, called “Dream: ON.” It mon­i­tors a per­son as they sleep and plays a spe­cially crafted “sound­scape” when the sleep­er ex­hib­its signs of dream­ing. Each sound­scape is de­signed to evoke a pleas­ant sce­nar­i­o, such a walk in the woods or ly­ing on a beach.

Wise­man hopes the sounds will in­flu­ence peo­ple’s dreams. Even­tu­ally the app sounds a gen­tle alarm and prompts the per­son to sub­mit a de­scrip­tion of their dream in­to a database. Users are al­so en­cour­aged to share their dreams via Face­book and Twit­ter.

Wise­man hopes to col­lect thou­sands of dream re­ports night­ly. “The app is free and we want as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to par­ti­ci­pate,” said Wise­man, who is us­ing the oc­ca­sion of the Ed­in­burgh In­terna­t­ional Sci­ence Fes­ti­val to launch the ex­pe­ri­ment. 

Pro­spec­tive users can join the ex­pe­ri­ment by vis­it­ing the web­site www.dreamonapp.com. “Re­search sug­gests that peo­ple vary in their abil­ity to in­cor­po­rate the Sound­scapes in­to their dreams and it may take sev­er­al nights be­fore Dream:ON is ef­fec­tive,” the web­site notes.

“I have con­ducted many mass par­ticipa­t­ion ex­pe­ri­ments in the past, but this is by far the most am­bi­tious and ex­cit­ing,” Wise­man said. The app is de­signed to mon­i­tor sleep­ers’ move­ments to gauge wheth­er they have en­tered the dream­ing phase of sleep, called REM or rap­id eye move­ment sleep.

As part of the proj­ect, Wise­man has car­ried out a na­t­ional sur­vey in­to dream­ing in the U.K. The re­sults dem­on­strate the need for sweeter dreams, he said, with 21 per­cent of re­spon­dents re­port­ing that they have trou­ble sleep­ing and 15 per­cent suf­fer­ing from un­pleas­ant dreams. “Get­ting a good night’s sleep and hav­ing pleas­ant dreams boosts peo­ple’s pro­duc­ti­vity, and is es­sen­tial for their psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal well-be­ing. De­spite this, we know very lit­tle about how to in­flu­ence dreams,” he ex­plained. “This ex­pe­ri­ment aims to change that.”


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A new study will investigate whether a computer program can help sleepers achieve the perfect dream. The study, which uses a specially designed “app” or application for the Apple iPhone, is to be launched on April 10. Psychologist Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, U.K., teamed up with London-based Yuza International, a developer of iPhone apps, to create the app, called “Dream: ON.” It monitors a person as they sleep and plays a specially crafted “soundscape” when they dream. Each soundscape is designed to evoke a pleasant scenario, such a walk in the woods or lying on a beach. Wiseman hopes the sounds will influence people’s dreams. Eventually the app sounds a gentle alarm and prompts the person to submit a description of their dream into a database. Users are also encouraged to share their dreams via Facebook and Twitter. Wiseman hopes to collect thousands of dream reports nightly. “The app is free and we want as many people as possible to participate,” said Wiseman, who is using the occasion of the Edinburgh International Science Festival to launch the experiment. Prospective users can join the experiment by visiting the website www.dreamonapp.com. “Research suggests that people vary in their ability to incorporate the Soundscapes into their dreams and it may take several nights before Dream:ON is effective,” the website notes. “I have conducted many mass participation experiments in the past, but this is by far the most ambitious and exciting,” Wiseman said. The app is designed to monitor sleepers’ movements to gauge whether they have entered the dreaming phase of sleep, called REM or rapid eye movement sleep. As part of the project, Wiseman has carried out a national survey into dreaming in the U.K. The results demonstrate the need for sweeter dreams, he said, with 21% of respondents reporting that they have trouble sleeping and 15% suffering from unpleasant dreams. “Getting a good night’s sleep and having pleasant dreams boosts people’s productivity, and is essential for their psychological and physical well-being. Despite this, we know very little about how to influence dreams,” he explained. “This experiment aims to change that.”