A new iPhone app making news this week offers an intriguing modern convenience — the chance to control your own dreams.
For realsies. Sigmund, a 99-cent app developed by Harvard Ph.D. student Daniel Nadler, aims to let you program your own dreams, and is based on hard data from existing sleep science studies.
It's sort of like Inception, but without the byzantine plot. It works like this. You tell Sigmund the time you're going to sleep and the time you plan to wake up. The app uses a secret algorithm to determine the likely times during the night that you'll be in REM or dream-state sleep.
Next, you program Sigmund with a selection of one to five keywords or terms, chosen from a list of categories. Set your iPhone on the bedside table and Sigmund will whisper these terms during the night, via a pleasant female voice, during your REM sleep stages.
The idea is that the keywords will work subliminally to "program" your dreams. Ideally, selections like "beach," "ocean" and "water" will whisk you away to somewhere tropical and pleasant.
Real World Testing
We like to take the hard-nosed, two-fisted approach to science here at the Digital Crave blog. As it happens, I've had an active dream life since I was a little kid, and can often recall what seems like hours of dreams on any given morning. As you might imagine, it's a blessing and a curse — like watching a triple feature film festival each night.
At any rate, I downloaded Sigmund to my iPod Touch yesterday and set myself up with a set of five keywords. I chose terms I hoped would be particular enough so that I could determine whether Sigmund was having any luck hacking into my parietal lobe. My Sigmund keywords: jaguar, lipstick, Egyptian, sailor and Christmas.
As is often the case with developing technologies, the results were mixed. I had no dreams concerning jaguars, sailors or lipstick that I can recall, although I did dream about playing racquetball with Queen Cersei from the HBO swords-and-sorcery series Game of Thrones. She had very red lips in the dream, and also was wearing a Detroit Tigers jersey. This seems relevant somehow. I wish I could say I was making this up.
I didn't dream about Christmas per se, but I did have a long dream sequence where I was playing Asteroids on an Atari 2600 video game system. I got the 2600 for Christmas when I was eight years old and it remains the best Christmas morning ever.
The most promising portion of the night, relative to Sigmund's efficacy, was a very vivid dream in which I was an extra in the video for the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian." In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I'm prone to dreams about 1980s rock star babes in general, and Susanna Hoffs in particular.
But still, seeing as how "Egyptian" is a pretty specific term, I'm willing to believe that this dream was more than coincidence. I'm going to keep experimenting with Sigmund. Tonight's test keywords — Amsterdam, hotel, affair, bed and the Go-Go's. Updates as events warrant.
Note: This was written by Glenn McDonald, a Digital Crave contributor.