Can an iphone app really manipulate your dreams? Why Dream:ON is getting the national press all excited…

This week Sky News reported on a new sleep app called Dream:ON, which uses music to influence the sleeper’s dreams. For regular readers of the Breathing Relief Sleep Blog, a smartphone application claiming to induce/influence sleep is nothing new. So what makes this particular app so newsworthy?

Comments on the original article suggest that the only reason Dream:ON has made national headlines is due to the fact that it is currently marketed specifically for Apple products and is therefore a publicity ploy for the corporation. Otherwise why would the thousands of non-iphone users in the UK be excluded? In a previous post, Breathing Relief did conclude that the app ‘Sleep Cycle’ (available only to iphone users) outperformed its Android counterpart: Sleep as AnDroid, so lucky apple users can be the very first users. The Android population has some time to wait to try out what appears to be a newly-marketed melee of various ‘sleep enhancing’ applications.

Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire has helped to develop this application as a psychological experiment.  Prompted by “A national survey conducted for the experiment found that 21% of respondents had trouble sleeping and 15% suffered from unpleasant dreams.” Dream:ON offers the opportunity to alleviate nightmares and work towards a more pleasant dreaming process. Plus, there’s the quirky bonus of sharing your results with friends on facebook as well as passing them on to the team of psychologists behind the experiment. Innovative and forward-thinking, the app certainly takes a scientific research in a new direction, turning our private bedrooms into laboratory-esque spaces. But are the results going to be in any way conclusive? And what about the lack of ‘control’. Is this really conclusive…or just a bit of fun?

Watching the video on the dedicated Dream:ON website, Professor Wiseman explains how the application works. The technology involved in Dream:ON, is a mixture of that used in any Sleep-Cycle Alarm Clock app, as the accelerometer on your phone (which monitors your movements) is utilised to tell the phone that you are currently in REM mode. This is how the app knows when to start playing your chosen soundtrack- hopefully to affect your dreams. The same technology can ascertain when you are leaving your dream phase of sleep and begins to wake you up so that you can record (any) effects of the music on your dreams.

Which leads to my main concern about this research project, running the tag-line…

Would you like to wake up feeling refreshed and happy? Then Dream:ON.

Dream on indeed. If you think that being pulled out of your dream state (just to contribute to this experiment) will leave you feeling refreshed, then you are sorely mistaken. The whole point of sleep-cycle monitors is to wake you at your lightest phase of sleep, occurring sometime after your dream phase has been completed. Not allowing your cycle to finish naturally leads to the exact opposite of feeling refreshed. Consider this, you always dream, but you don’t always remember your dreams. Why is this? Because your body is waking the correct amount of time after you dream phase, to naturally forget what your subconscious was playing with. When your alarm goes off, or you’re pulled out of a deep sleep, that’s when you tend to remember your dreams the most. That’s also when you feel the most angsty, unsettled and sleep deprived.

Thus, the description of the experiment is accurate, yet the suggestion that this application will positively affect your sleep is wholly inaccurate. It is possible that the combination of this concept with the technology of an original Sleep-Cycle app may prove to be the most wholesome and holistic way of ensuring a fabulous night’s sleep in the future; with wondrous dreams and that ‘Sunday-morning freshness’ on a Tuesday, but until the experiment is over, don’t expect any miracle mornings. One must always look on the bright side of the life. And the shining beacon in this hodge-podge of science, psychology and social media is the fact that Dream:ON, by getting feature by Sky News has raised awareness of sleep cycles and the importance of getting a good night’s sleep; something that we here at Breathing Relief can fully get behind!

For more information visit www.dreamonapp.com and click on FAQ, or watch the video for yourself.