Dreams can be influenced by sounds (and visuals) that occur in the waking world. If you’ve ever used a radio alarm clock, you may have experienced the song it’s playing “leaking” into your dream just before you’re actually awake.
Dream:ON uses this theory of external dream influencing to play soundscapes tailored to a particular environment or desired setting.
First up, Dream:ON acts as a competent (and free) smart alarm. Just like the apps I showed you last week, it uses the accelerometer to read movements during sleep, and wake you up at the ideal time – anywhere in a 30 minute window before your final alarm time. A variety of alarm sounds are provided which are all pretty relaxing. You can view a graph of sleep data in the morning.
It also uses this movement data to determine when you’re most likely to be dreaming, and plays the soundscape to you while you’re asleep. The included soundscapes are Peaceful Garden, and Into The City. In the morning, you can record a short journal entry about any dreams you remember, and even tag your Facebook friends if you wish to share.
Some soundscapes are marked “lucid”. These help you to become lucid while dreaming by using audio cues that I presume tell you “you are dreaming”. I’ll tackle the topic of lucid dreaming another day though, so don’t worry if you have no idea what this feature is.
Oh, and there’s a 50 Shades soundscape available, which pretty much makes this app an instant winner in my book. Bring on the kink! Or if horror is more your thing, how about Night of the ZOMBIES?
The app serves as a front end for dream research experiments. Participation is entirely optional of course, and the core features of the app will work even if you don’t submit your dreams. The experiments are fully anonymised, and have received ethical approval from the University of Hertfordshire.
The first experiment looks at how the soundscapes influence dreams. For this, you need to allow it to play a random soundscape rather than choosing a specific one. Upon waking, you submit a short entry about the dream, and researchers can then see how a particular soundscape affected the dreams of its users. There is of course also a “control” soundscape that may be played while you’re asleep, but you won’t be told either way so as not to affect your dream journal entry.
The second experiment looks more generally at the psychology of dreaming. Any dream entry you add will be stored anonymously and used to examine a whole range of factors – such as how gender affects dreams, or significant world events.
The basic app, with smart alarm and two soundscapes, is 100% free. You can download it now, use it for a week just to see if it works, and never pay a penny. If you want additional soundscapes though, most cost $0.99 each, and a few cost up to $4 each, which does seem a little extortionate. Unfortunately, there’s no way to preview any of the soundscapes, but the descriptions are pretty good.
There’s also a few additional free soundscapes available in the store at the time of writing this review - Wild West and A Trip To Tokyo.
Design & Presentation
I have to say, Dream:ON is very professionally put together. The start screen is a beautiful series of cogs and hypnotic background imagery. Interactive elements and buttons have large hit zones – important for the hopeful sleepy dreamer. The interface is a joy and easy to use – apps like this really show how great the iOS platform is.
The first time you launch the app, you’ll be shown full instructions on how to use it, but if you read my last article about apps that help you sleep better, you’ll already know how.
The fact that you can’t preview the soundscapes at all – even the ones that are included or when you’ve bought extra – is a little fishy to me. For all we know, they could be trying to influence hapless dreamers into becoming international super-assassins. Or it could just be a couple of researchers making fart noises. The point is, it would be nice to what exactly is being played. You could try and fake the app into thinking you’re sleeping I guess, but my trust issues don’t quite go that far.
I also can’t see any way to export the dream journal, so you’re essentially locked into using this app if you want to keep those dream entries. One solution might be to use the app as a very general short description of the dream, then to later write it up more fully into a separate application (or a pen and paper dream diary).
I’ve had a few crazy dreams so far, but it’s difficult to attribute them to the app – it could just be a placebo of believing I’m going to have them. However, Twitter shows quite a few satisfied users:
Had a lucid dream using into the city, took 5 days for it to finally work pretty crazy @dreamonapp