Lucid dreams – who doesn’t wanna have them? Online, since long guides have existed detailing how to dream lucidly. For example, you can create the routine of performing a ‘reality check’, like holding your breath, looking at your watch or switching the light on. If this happens in your dream, but you still breathe or the light doesn’t go on (for some reason, electric light doesn’t seem to work in many people’s dreams), then you know you are dreaming and can start controlling it.
It takes a lot of practice, though, to control a dream and not wake up. Now, however, apps exist to aid you in this endeavor. As the BBC puts it, lucid dreaming has moved from the margin – featured in New Age fare like Carlos Castaneda’s The Art of Dreaming - to the mainstream. Apps like Dream:ON play sound cues, like singing birds, and thereby attempt to instill a dream without waking you up. Other apps are Singularity Experience, Dreamz and Lucid Dream Brainwave.
I very much wonder whether it works, however. In my experience, lucid dreams happen at that moment right between being asleep and being awake. That’s usually (hopefully) not the state you’re in in the middle of the night, but more like in the morning. Maybe if you combine it with setting your alarm way early and then going back to sleep again – another old lucid dreamer’s trick – it’ll work, but I doubt whether most working people will go to such lengths. Still, great stuff!
Lucid dreaming technically refers to any occasion when the sleeper is aware they are dreaming. But it is also used to describe the idea of being able to control those dreams.
Once confined to a handful of niche groups, interest in lucid dreaming has grown in recent years, spurred on by a spate of innovations from smartphone apps to specialist eye masks, all promising the ability to influence our dreams.
“A couple of years ago there were about four or five people organising meetings” says Mac Sweeney, a dentist and lucid dreaming expert from Islington, London. “Now there are closer to 50, and that’s in the capital alone.”
In addition to the group meetings, Michael has toyed with Dream:ON, the most popular of the many new smartphone apps now available.
Created by psychologist Richard Wiseman, the app has seen over half a million downloads in just six weeks.
“The new wave of interest is led by technology,” says Wiseman, whose app claims to allow users to choose their dream before bed, and plays sound cues once they have entered the right phase of sleep.
“When I selected birdsong, for example, I found myself dreaming that I was in a green and sunny field,” says Cave.
Whilst this isn’t strictly lucid dreaming, as it doesn’t offer users control from within a dream, there are many more which promise just that.
Singularity Experience, Dreamz, Sigmund and Lucid Dream Brainwave all work in a similar way, by playing subtle audio cues whilst the user is asleep. Not enough to wake them, but hopefully sufficient to trigger awareness inside a dream.
[R]eferences to lucid dreaming stretch back at least as far as Tibetan Buddhists in the 8th century, for whom it was just one stage in the practice of “dream yoga”. In 1867 Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denys even wrote an instruction manual entitled Dreams and How To Guide Them before a Dutch psychiatrist, Frederick Van Eeden, finally coined the term “lucid dreaming” in the early 20th century.
More recently it has been hinted at by films like Inception and the Science of Sleep, which have no doubt contributed to its allure.
Disappointingly, Hobson tells us, “lucid dreaming is very hard work and won’t happen for everyone”.
There’s no guarantee that the apps will help, either. Success rates in those we asked were low, even among experienced lucid dreamers.
Ultimately, the lucid dreaming adherents say attaining the revered state requires discipline and practice, and the key is being able to quickly distinguish dreams from reality.