Dreams can be sweet, dreams can be scary. Dreams can be sexy, dreams can be sinister. Dreams can be surreal, dreams can be ever so slightly so-what. The one thing they all have in common is that dreams are beyond our control.
Or are they?
A smartphone app was launched in 2012 called DreamON. Its producers claim that it can manipulate people’s dreams by playing a ‘soundscape’ that invokes a pleasant scenario like lying on a beach or walking through a meadow. It’s timed to start about 20 minutes before the user wants to wake, then it plays a gentle alarm so that – hopefully – the user will wake up with that enjoyable dream uppermost in their consciousness.
Now, well over half a million people have downloaded the app, 13 million dream reports have been recorded and the producers are confidently claiming that it can indeed shape our dreams.
If the app proves robust and can be developed further, the possibilities are fascinating. It could do so much more than just put a smile on people’s faces, as the DreamON inventor points out.
“Sleep scientists have long known that the dreams of those diagnosed with depression are especially long, frequent, and negative,” he says. “It’s possible that dream influence will become a radical new therapeutic tool in the fight against depression.”
It could also be used as a tool to overcome behavioural difficulties, improve focus and even combat phobias. Imagine a dream-based program on an in-flight entertainment system that could alleviate the fear of flying!
The commercial potential is equally mind boggling. A team of experts in Neurolinguistic Programming are now working to make it possible to create dream experiences that tie in directly with blockbuster movies. Needless to say, Hollywood is watching their progress with keen interest.
Or will it turn out that this was all just a dream?