A psychologist plans to sweeten people's dreams using their smartphones.
Professor Richard Wiseman expects thousands of people to take part in an experiment in manipulating dreams.
Participants will download a specially designed iPhone app that turns their phone in to a dream factory. Placed on the bed, the phone can detect when a sleeper is not moving, which signifies the onset of dreaming.
It then plays a carefully crafted "soundscape" designed to evoke pleasant scenes such as walking in woods, or lying on a beach.
The idea is that this will influence dreaming, causing dreamers to conjure up situations and experiences inspired by the sounds they are hearing.
At the end of the dream the app sounds a gentle alarm to wake the dreamer, who submits a brief description of the dream to a "dream catcher" database.
Prof Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, who is best known for his work on the paranormal, said: "Getting a good night's sleep and having pleasant dreams boosts people's productivity, and is essential for their psychological and physical well being. Despite this, we know very little about how to influence dreams. This experiment aims to change that."
As many as 10,000 people are expected to take part in the mass-participation study, launched at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.
Prof Wiseman teamed up with app developers YUZA, which created the "Dream:ON" software. Participants will be encouraged to share their dreams via Facebook and Twitter.
A national survey conducted for the experiment found that 21% of respondents had trouble sleeping and 15% suffered from unpleasant dreams.
Prof Wiseman said depressed people dreamed far more than others, and often had negative dreams. "Perhaps improving their dreams might help them," he added.
The "Dream:ON" app can be downloaded for free from iTunes or via the project site, http://dreamonapp.com.
Throughout history, dreams have been associated with creative thinking.
Here are some examples of creative dreams:
- Chemist Friedrich August Kekule dreamed about a snake grabbing its own tail, which led him to discover the circular structure of the benzene molecule.
- Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine, dreamed about a tribe who danced around him carrying spears with holes near their tips.
- Mary Shelley found the inspiration for her Frankenstein story in a dream about scientists creating life.
- Paul McCartney awoke to find the tune for the Beatles hit Yesterday fully formed in his head.
- Jack Nicklaus invented a new golf swing after dreaming that he was holding his golf club in a completely different position.
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