You’re taking a morning walk with your best friend around a pristine lake, when suddenly an alligator lunges out of the water. The two of you leap onto the nearest tree and begin to frantically climb its branches. You turn to your friend in panic—but your friend is no longer your friend—she’s turned into your middle school math teacher. You look down to see that the alligator is also climbing the tree, just about to snap at your foot. You try to scream, but nothing comes out.
You’re jolted awake. Phew! What a crazy dream.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have more control over our dreams and steer them into more pleasant scenarios? Maybe cut back on those dreadful nightmares? Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire, believes this is a possibility. The results of his two-year study on dream control are now in—and they are hopeful.
A few years ago, Wiseman teamed–up with app developers YUZA to develop an iphone app called Dream:ON. The app, which was downloaded over 500,000 times, allows you to select the type of dream you’d like to have—such as being in a rainforest or a peaceful garden or even bustling New York City.
The app then monitors your movements during sleep and begins to play your chosen soundscape at the optimal moment of the sleep cycle. Then when the time is right, the app sounds a gentle alarm and prompts you to submit a description of your dream.
After studying the responses, Wiseman found that the soundscapes did, in fact, influence people's dreams. Those who chose the Nature soundscape were more likely to dream about greenery and flowers. If they chose the Beach soundscape, they were more likely to dream about the sun on their skin. An interesting side finding was that people's dreams became especially bizarre around the time of a full moon.
When people are able to steer their dreams in a positive direction, as was shown in the study, they are more likely to wake up in a good mood and feel more productive. Wiseman believes that these findings may even lead toward new therapies for people suffering from certain psychological disorders, including depression.