Dreaming of a good night’s sleep, with a little help from your smartphone

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 an iPhone app that turns their phone into a dream factory.

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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.

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 per cent of respondents had trouble sleeping and 15 per cent suffered from unpleasant dreams. Prof Wiseman said depressed people dreamed far more than others, and often had negative dreams.

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.

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.