Most dreamers dream without control, sleeping as if on autopilot. While lucid dreamers typically have all the fun in a limitless dreamworld, the rest of us rarely even recall what happened. But a new device from MIT aims to give everyone a little control over where their dreams might take them, according to a new paper published in the Elsevier journal Consciousness and Cognition.
Dream upgrade, to partially lucid
Most people are aware of how the last thoughts before sleep often direct the theme of the dreams that follow. Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces group's Dormio device is designed to help people influence or direct these final thoughts enough to send dreams in the right direction, according to a blog post shared on MIT's website.
"We showed that dream incubation is tied to performance benefits on three tests of creativity, both objective and subjective metrics," said Co-Author and Lead Researcher Adam Haar Horowitz of the study, titled "Dormio: A Targeted Dream Incubation Device."
Dormio group first announced its intentions two years ago, reports Hackster. Since then, more studies were carried out to study the efficacy of Dormio — in addition to experimenting with how it might help boost a person's creative capacities.
Writers and musicians often say some of their best ideas come from dreams, and a device with the abilities of Dormio might direct our dreams to capture themes that may enhance a person's creativity. For example, imagine deciding between a dream of space travel for a sci-fi novel, or dreaming of a night on stage with Frank Zappa — absorbing intuitive style for an album to break the music industry.
Hacking dreams: the hypnagogic state
In essence, Dormio is a sophisticated sleep tracker — alerting wearers when they're in REM (or deep) sleep. It also detects when wearers have entered hypnagogia — the state between wakefulness and sleep, when we're still partially lucid.
"This state of mind is trippy, loose, flexible, and divergent," said Haar Horowitz in the press release. "It's like turning the notch up high on mind-wandering and making it immersive — being pushed and pulled with new sensations like your body [is] floating and falling, with your thoughts quickly snapping in and out of control."
In this state, the mind is especially susceptible to dream suggestions — a state Dormio recognizes and then plays pre-selected audio to direct dreams without fully awakening the wearer. Once dreaming starts, people typically experience things associated with what was heard in a hypnagogic state.
Of course, more research and analysis is needed to understand how effective Dormio might be. But universities and sleep researchers across the globe are working to shed light on the mysteries of hypnagogic suggestion, and perhaps the keys to achieving a greater measure of lucidity than most have ever felt before.