Tweet dreams made of this: phone app that could banish nightmares

Professor Richard Wiseman demonstrates his sleep technology. Picture: Ellen Relander
Professor Richard Wiseman demonstrates his sleep technology. Picture: Ellen Relander
Share this article
Have your say

A PSYCHOLOGIST plans to sweeten sleepers’ dreams using their smartphones.

Professor Richard Wiseman expects thousands of people to take part in an experiment in manipulating dreams.

Participants will download a specially-designed iPhone application that turns their phone into a “dream factory”.

Placed on the bed, the phone can detect when a sleeper is not moving, which signifies the onset of dreaming.

It then plays a “soundscape” designed to evoke pleasant scenes, such as walking in woods or lying on a beach.

The idea is that this will influence dreaming, causing dreamers to conjure up situations and experiences inspired by the sounds they are hearing.

At the end of the dream, the app sounds a gentle alarm to wake the dreamer, who submits a brief description of the event to a “dream catcher” database.

Prof Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, who is best known for his work on the paranormal, said: “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. This experiment aims to change that.”

As many as 10,000 people are expected to take part in the mass-participation study, launched at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Prof Wiseman teamed up with app developer YUZA, which created the Dream:ON software.

Participants will be encouraged to share their dreams on Facebook and Twitter.

A national survey conducted for the experiment found that 21 per cent of respondents had trouble sleeping and 15 per cent suffered from unpleasant dreams.

Prof Wiseman said depressed people dreamed far more than others, and often had negative dreams.

“Perhaps improving their dreams might help them,” he added.

Throughout history, dreams have been associated with creative thinking.

Examples of creative dreams include that of chemist Friedrich August Kekule, who dreamed about a snake grabbing its own tail, which led him to discover the circular structure of the benzene molecule. Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine, dreamed about a tribe who carried spears with holes near their tips. Mary Shelley found the inspiration for her Frankenstein story in a dream about scientists creating life.