How gadgets could unlock the potential of lucid dreaming

If you ever needed an excuse to get more sleep, some exciting new discoveries about lucid dreaming could be. A recent study has just proven that, under the right conditions, we can not only communicate with lucid people, but also answer questions. Sure, the subjects only solved simple math questions (the sort of thing most 8th graders could) but that provokes a tantalizing thought – what else can we do while we’re in Slumberland ?

Scientists who communicate with lucid dreamers are nothing new, but the latest experiment has increased the complexity of this communication, just enough to renew public interest in this mysterious activity.

For the uninitiated, lucid dreaming is realizing that you are in a dream and then being able to influence what happens in it. As simple as it sounds, it’s actually a tricky thing to do, and an even more difficult thing to study. But with this latest research, scientists are starting to consider that there might be some tangible benefits that we could reap – something community of passionate dreamers suggested for years.

Can we access parts of our mind that normally remain filtered during our waking life? Could we use this as a therapeutic tool? Could we even unlock powerful learning tools? The answer seems enticing may be. And technology could be the catalyst we need.

Lucid dreaming research has its roots in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1975, Dr. Keith Hearne demonstrated that it was possible to communicate with lucid dreamers in an experience where subjects repeated a predefined pattern of eye movements for the sleep. Ten years later, Stephen LaBerge, a name now synonymous with subject, was able to determine that our sense of time in the lucid dreaming state was the same as in the waking world – hinting at a stronger relationship between the state. lucid and awake state. that we might have suspected.

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What we have now is a more direct ‘conversation’ between the dreamer and the scientist, albeit somewhat limited to simple math and food likes / dislikes. “It opens up a lot of possibilities for dream research, of course, but also, there is a lot of potential in all kinds of applications. If you think about it, our participants learned new knowledge while sleeping. Dr Kristoff Appel, one of the study’s authors, told Engadget.

Of course, if popular culture has taught us anything, it’s that behind those heavy eyelids lies when our inner genius go out to play. “In the future, maybe we could use this for creative purposes, maybe connect the dream to some machines to control robots, or maybe use it in a creative space to create art or music, perhaps composing melodies from a dream. The Beatles song, “Yesterday”, is said to have been composed or the idea came from a dream. Appeal added.

Now don’t confuse that with something like those hypnosis audio tapes from olden times. The kind that convinced Chandler Bing he was a strong and confident woman. These programs purported to speak to the subconscious, Appel and his colleagues were simply talking to someone who was also asleep. If you are wondering what really defines sleep from a scientific standpoint, it is a combination of measurable signals.

“You measure brain activity, you measure eye movements and muscle tension. This is called the classic polysomnographic recording in the sleep laboratory. And from those recordings you can certainly objectively say okay, it’s awake, maybe it’s REM sleep, it’s deep sleep, and so on, ”according to Appel.

Kristen LaMarca, a clinical psychologist based in California, is even more excited about the potential of lucid dreaming. “It’s a fantastic magical state, just wildly imaginative. There are so many positive emotions and beauty and some of that stuff, we’ve actually quantified the research, ”she told Engadget.

It’s not just for flying or visiting faraway places, however. LaMarca uses lucid dreaming as a therapeutic tool, helping people overcome things like PTSD. “With PTSD, you are already revisiting these scenarios in different aspects of your life,” she says. “So the point of lucidity is to do this in a wiser way, in a more conscious way.” Once patients are able to achieve lucidity, LaMarca said, they know they are safe and the situation is not real, which allows them to deal with it better.

You might well ask yourself, “How can I achieve this ‘magical’ state?” The short answer is: with practice. There are many, many online guides on how to do it, but most of them revolve around two key ideas: reality checks and dream signs. The first involves things like counting the number of fingers on your hand (this can change in a dream) or using technology (which often doesn’t work in the land of the nod). Dream signs, LaMarca’s preferred method, is to recognize things that regularly occur in your dreams – such as a character or recurring situation – as a way to trigger awareness and, ideally, to be able to control it. “Another really great thing to focus on is your own thinking process as a dream sign itself. And this is often ignored in the literature. But your own thought is a very good sign of a dream, ”she added.

However, you will need more than just a trigger. There seems to be a strong connection with the ability to recall memory and the lucid ability. That is why most guides will tell you to keep a dream journal and this is also why people with PTSD might be particularly suitable candidates, given that they spend a lot of time recalling the same event in vivid detail. There are also practical factors. Lucid dreams tend to occur towards the end of the sleep cycle, so some people intentionally wake up about two hours before they normally get out of bed and intend to go back to sleep and hopefully do a dive. in a lucid dream – a technique known as WILD.

If this all seems like a lot of work, there are tools to help you out. Galantamine is a drug generally used to treat cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Thanks to its effects on memory, it has been shown to be useful for promote lucid dreaming. In fact, LaMarca claims that taking galantamine in the middle of the night and then falling back to sleep can put you in a good state for those long, full, very vivid, lucid dreams. Galantamine is available over the counter in the United States, but is only prescribed in most countries in Europe. Another supplement that claims to help is Huperzine A, which usually doesn’t require a prescription. Of course, you should always consult your doctor before trying any new drug, prescription or other.

That’s where technology comes in. In a world filled with sleep trackers and portable silent alarms, we already have tools that they believe can detect different stages of the sleep cycle. and wake us up quietly. Used creatively, these gadgets could be kind of a lucid dreaming starter kit, right? According to Appel, we are not enough here again.

Sleep Tracking Functions on Fitbit Sense Health Tracking Smart Watch Wearable Device, San Ramon, Calif., September 22, 2020 (Photo by Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images)

Smith / Gado Collection via Getty Images

“I would say until a few years ago, just all these sleep-staging algorithms in watches and all these other devices, they weren’t reliable at all. And there are also a lot of research articles on this that show that, for example, REM sleep and being awake can’t really be differentiated from just having a watch recording your sleep as well. You have to analyze brain activity for this, because the rest is not good enough to tell the difference. “

So it turns out that detecting the sleep phase may not be accurate enough with the current wave of wearable devices. Although that doesn’t mean they can’t be helpful in waking you up with the WILD technique. It’s just not smart enough to automatically say when you’re right type sleep. Again.

That hasn’t stopped a wave of small businesses making all kinds of types of gadgets that promise to hold the keys to the Lucid Realm. A simple quick search on Kickstarter will reveal all of bracelets, at headbands at eye masks. All of them promise to make lucidity child’s play. Call is not so confident.

“I’ve tried a bunch of these, different from these Kickstarter stuff, and other lucid dreaming masks, and so on, and so far it doesn’t seem to be working very well. And I think that will change in the next few years, I think there might be more sophisticated apps or devices etc., but at the moment I don’t see any technical device that can induce any lucid dreams reliably, unfortunately.

LaMarca is also cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to make effective devices to induce lucid dreams, but it will take companies working with scientists to get it right. “I would love to see more interdisciplinary collaboration to move this forward, but it’s a shame because there really is a lot of potential to help use technology to help us dream more lucid.

Sophisticated wearable devices may not be the only way technology can help us become clear-headed. There are many apps that also make bold statements to let you know that you are dreaming. These could actually be a bit more practical, for now. Awake (Android) and Lucidity (iOS), for example, work more like training tools that leverage some of the technology in your phone. Every morning you can add to your dream journal and throughout the day they will prompt you to check that you are not sleeping (the idea being that this test will continue in your dreams). Some apps also allow you to set a “trigger” sound – a low volume audio signal that helps you go from passive dreaming to active.

Whichever method you choose, whether it’s classic reality checks, supplements, gadgets, or apps, there is certainly a lot to learn and not just for scientists. For many, the real draw is the scarce access to your own mind, as Appel can attest. “I tried it myself, talking to your subconscious, and asking the dream a question and it answers. So there are a lot of interesting things that you can try out in your lucid dreams, and also a lot of things that you can learn about yourself, in my opinion, with these personal questions.

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