Device Helps Control Dreams

Have you ever wanted to stretch your arms out wide, and with nothing more than sheer will power, take off on an amazing flight through the air? Or jaunt around all seven continents, without ever having to get on a plane?

Sure, you say, but only in your dreams, right? Well, in your dreams experiences like flying, for example, can be more real than you ever imagined.

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a cutting-edge device that may help you realize your wildest dreams while you sleep comfortably in bed. Stephen LaBerge has spent years studying lucid dreaming, defined as the experience of dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming.

Planning a Good Dream

He founded the Lucidity Institute at Stanford, where research subjects are taught to understand their dreams as a state of consciousness where anything is possible, and all is within their power.

"What makes a good lucid dreamer is someone who has inner awareness," says LaBerge. "You've got to sleep with the intention of having a lucid dream."

In order to assist dreamers have more lucid dreams, LaBerge engineered the NovaDreamer, a high-tech mask with sensors that detect Rapid Eye Movement while you sleep. Lights embedded in the mask flash on and off to encourage a heightened sense of awareness while remaining in REM sleep.

After a while, the mind becomes trained to understand the visual cues as a subconscious alarm clock that awakens the mind to a lucid dreaming state. Once in a lucid dream state, users can better understand and manipulate the context, or dream "reality" that surrounds them. The result is a richer dream experience.

The NovaDreamer device also includes an accompanying software package, intended as a teaching tool to let users track their REM patterns and see where lucid dreaming may be occurring.

In LaBerge's research, most subjects achieved more lucid dreams after a few months, though he points out that results can vary. But aside from simply maximizing dreaming experiences, the applications for the NovaDreamer are vast.

"Dreams are much like the waking state," says LaBerge, "and we can use dreams to tap into the mind."

He sees exciting future applications in therapeutic treatment of nightmares, self-confidence, mental health, experimental learning, and also for a general exploration of our consciousness. "After all," says LaBerge, "dreaming is a powerful manifestation of our consciousness."