We Can All Dream On

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Have your dreams ever left you feeling like you haven’t slept at all? That’s how I felt this morning when I woke up. I can’t tell you exactly what my dreams were about, but I can say they were vivid, stressful and exhausting.  Whether it’s battling a city-crushing robot, escaping flesh-eating zombies or surviving a family vacation, my REM escapades tend to be more cinematic than peaceful. But a new iPhone app may be able to help.

A UK company called YUZA recently released the Dream:ON iPhone app, which is designed to engineer pleasant and customized dreams that promise to help you “wake up feeling refreshed and happy.” The app was developed by British psychologist Richard Wiseman, a professor at the University of Hertfordshire in England.

"If it's birds tweeting, then the idea is that you'll hear birds tweeting in your dream," Wiseman has told the press.

Dream:ON comes with 20 different soundscapes meant to play during REM (rapid eye movement), when we are most likely to dream. Lay your phone on your bed and the app monitors your movement, adjusting the volume accordingly. Users are asked to record what they remember of their dreams once awake, passing the data on to Wiseman and his team to analyze.

You also have the option to tag any friends who appeared in your dreams and share via Facebook. Many people, I imagine, will be reluctant to use this feature for fear of subsequent embarrassment and societal shunning.

The app also offers soundscapes that encourage lucid dreaming, in which the sleeper controls his or her dreams. There is debate about whether or not lucid dreaming is something we should attempt. Some doctors say the body isn’t meant to be both asleep and conscious at the same time.

"There's no question that you can influence the plot of your dreams. But lucid dreaming is rare because it's a design error; it shouldn't happen," Dr. Allan Hobson, of Harvard University, told the Chicago Tribune.

A more recent study suggests lucid dreaming may even be behind alien abduction accounts. But that’s a different story.

Wiseman hopes the information gleaned will help to determine whether or not it’s possible to give the world sweeter dreams, something his research has shown we are sorely in need of.

As for me? I’ve downloaded Dream:ON and plan to give it a whirl tonight. Bring on the flowers, birds and bubbling brooks!

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