Scientists “awaken” dreams in real life

Whether your teeth are falling out or you’re going to school without pants, nightmares are no fun. They’re especially bad when they’re frequent—which makes a supposedly restful night’s sleep something to dread.

When recurring nightmares are particularly bad, therapy can sometimes provide a solution. There is no perfect treatment, but researchers are getting better at it. In fact, Swiss scientists have just developed a new technique that allows you to manipulate your emotions while you sleep sound.

That’s correct. Just like in beginning.

In a paper published in the magazine on Thursday Current Biologythe authors of the study have developed a method in which a sound associated with a good feeling during the day is played via a wearable headband. As you sleep, the sound plays through your ears, inducing (hopefully) peaceful dreams.

“There is a relationship between the types of emotions experienced in dreams and our emotional well-being,” said Lampros Perogamvros, a sleep researcher at the University of Geneva and the study’s lead author, in a press release. “Based on this observation, we had the idea that we could help people by manipulating emotions in their dreams. In this study we show that we can reduce the number of emotionally very strong and very negative dreams in patients with nightmares.”

However, it’s not that easy to just load up a playlist of your favorite music for your late-night snooze. This method is combined with Imaginational Rehearsal Therapy, a process in which patients re-imagine common nightmares for a more positive outcome. Suppose you often have dreams of showing up unprepared for a high school exam. You could rewrite this narrative to make sure you master it every time.

The new study recruited 36 patients who suffered from frequent nightmares and provided them with an imagination trial therapy. Half were tasked with associating the positive outcome of their dreams with a sound made by a wearable headband called the Dreem. They then practiced this association daily for two weeks. The other half of the study cohort received only the Imaginations trial therapy.

While patients slept, the headband also measures electrical signals in the brain so it can begin playing the sound during REM sleep — the time when most nightmares occur.

The results showed that both groups had fewer nightmares. However, the person who received sound therapy experienced fewer nightmares after the two weeks they were trained and up to three months later. This group also reported happier dreams.

It should be noted that the sample size for the study was relatively small and was recruited in Switzerland. The study authors recommend building this research with more participants to see if it can work better on a larger scale. However, the results are very promising.

“We observed a rapid decrease in nightmares, along with dreams becoming more emotionally positive,” Perogamvros said. “For us, researchers and clinicians, these findings are very promising for both the study of emotional processing during sleep and for the development of new therapies.”

From the screen to your dreams, it turns out there was a little more truth to Inception after all. Just remember that once you start listening to Edith Piaf’s music, you should probably wake up as soon as possible. Scientists “awaken” dreams in real life

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