|artistic rendition by xkcd|
This is what the app I made set out to change. And this blogpost will hopefully convince you with its data, that a new frontier is absolutely available to those who seek to push the limits of their own minds potential.
If you already know about lucid dreaming, you can skip the short intro. Otherwise, read on and strap yourself in. This blog post is very literally for real.
What Is Lucid Dreaming - A Short Intro
In all seriousness though, lucid dreaming is a way to "wake up" inside your own dream, while still not waking up to the world outside of your own mind. It will not make you more tired in the morning, but instead of being the passenger of the dream, you get a chance to put your hands on the steering wheel. It is a way to explore your own consciousness inside the dream world, and travel to the outer limits of your imagination, without the dull constraints of psychical reality.
As strange as it may sound to some, you don't have to be uncritically bounced around by your impulses while being in a dream. Nightmares, feelings of fear and artificial barriers can be removed, let go and imagined away. With training, anyone can learn to master not just the world of their dreams, but through the same awareness, also the emotions and actions in their waking life. As this blogpost will try to prove, this odd clarity is also something anyone can learn. And I made an app to teach it.
The App And How To Learn Lucid Dreaming With It
Because of the big and completely unexpected response, the project gained a life that I had just not imagined it would. Of my crazy side projects, this was not one of those I would ever expect to become the most popular in its category world wide. But dreaming was here to stay, and people where quickly buzzing about the app and the tools in it, while also throwing around a ton of good feedback. In a short time, it quickly became one of my most popular and stable success as far as personal projects goes. As such, it also geared me towards providing running updates when time permitted it. One of which just so happen to also provide the project with one of the most unique datasets in the world.
I would suggest you check out the app page yourself, and of course, give it a download. But to understand the bigger picture, one needs to understand briefly how learning lucid dreaming can be achieved. Just underneath this link to the app, is a short stew on the two main techniques it takes to normally achieve lucid dreaming. That the app just so happens to also be able to teach you:
The first exercise
The second exercise is the key to the new cloud data, but the first exercise is hardest to wrap ones head around. So to turn brains inside out, we'll start off with this: No matter how ridiculous this sounds, take a deep breath and ask yourself in the most serious mindset you can muster: "Am I in a dream right now?".
Look at the environment around you. Try to feel the texture of your sensations. Do you remember why you are where you are right now. Try reading some small text, like on a clock, look away and then back to read it again. This is especially hard to do in a dream, because of the fluid nature of whatever manifests in a dream universe.
Doing what is called "Reality Checks" is an extremely important exercise to learning to wake yourself up inside a dream. Congratulations on what might have been your first one! Once your awareness gets tuned to distinguishing waking life and dreams, you can and should start to habitually determine when you are in one or the other.
Not only is it a bizarre exercise, but once you actually ask yourself that ultimate question inside your dream for the first time, and realize where you are, you may get so exited you wake up just after. Just look at how it went for a first timer, in the hit movie Inception:
The app allows you to receive simple Reality Check notifications, at random through the day. But it goes even further, and allows you to also set a custom notification sound, that plays when you are supposed to take a moment and establish the reality around you. This additional auditory clue will psychologically condition you over time, to remember to automatically do a Reality Check each time you hear it. Just like the famous experiment by Pavlov on associated actions to certain stimulus.
If you haven't fallen of your chair yet, it can be told about this exercise while wrapping it up, that the app takes the psychological mind-trick one clever step further. By having an extra option to also play the sound at random times when you are in deep sleep at night - so that the reality check can be triggered exactly where you are trying to make it occur! I hope it's possible to see how it all comes together, and that your mind is not too severely blown away to read on.
The second exercise
The second exercise is to simply and consistently keep a Dream Journal. The comic at the top lightly pokes fun of quickly suffering amnesia about the mindbending adventures you take, but the truth is that this habitual forgetfulness can be very effectively deflected. If you write down the dream right after waking up, your dream memory can be trained and greatly enhanced each time. At first, it may seem futile and pointless to just write down five words from an disconnected and scattered mess. But that's the secret. That your ability to remember your own dreams will multiply many times over, once you start writing them down. And that exercising your dream memory will allow you to remember more from your dreams with time, make them stand more clear, as well as help you become more aware of yourself dreaming.
It is not a great mystery why writing something down helps you remember it better, but it may come as a surprise that even lucid dreams, which are often very vivid and profound, can be forgotten rather quickly if they aren't written down too. Even if you levitated and flew across the universe, breathed under water, seduced a super model and moved the heaven and earth with pure willpower, that memory might fade throughout the day, unless you make it a point to write down the key aspects. After which it is not only something you can look back on, but also something you can often remember very detailed again without looking back in your journal.
Luckily the app makes all this easy in several ways. Not only can you have a silent notification ready each morning when you wake up, which allows quick access to a new blank journal entry to fill out. There's also the premium option of having continuous speech-to-text, when you're just too dazed to type straight right out of bed. Keeping a dream journal doesn't have to be a great struggle, and over time, many have discovered the great benefit of keeping one.
The Dream Cloud And The Users
The dream journal feature in the app, comes with one final and very important addition that you may have guessed: The ability to voluntary have your entries backed up! I must stress that this feature is completely voluntary, that I (or anyone else for that matter) have never read any dreams in the cloud knowing which account they where linked to, and that the app can be used just as well without backing up your dreams online. If some people would never trust their dreams to a cloud service, although millions trust their emails to one with the same infrastructure, they are in their rights to do so. Nevertheless, more than 2000 users have chosen to create a cloud account at the current time of writing, and it is through these unique oneironauts that we will take a first peak on what it takes to to learn lucid dreaming.
The data for this blogpost has been made from data collected up until 1st of October 2014, and I have discarded the dreamers whose number of journal entries pr week are zero as well as those whose only journal entry is the one auto-generated by the app at start, which explains the journal. This leaves us with 1684 serious oneioronauts! - Lets take a look at the demographics of the dreamers in the cloud:
AgeLet's start by looking at an age plot of the users:
It seems like an old truism about young people trying to take control of their dreams is not just a myth. Not shown on the graph is a single outlying sage of 103 years old. Statistics being statistics this may just be a fluke, but I like to hope that there's a guy as wise as the earth out there, dreaming his life into existence for the rest of us.
The age-data is quite close to the larger anonymized statistics, that I have access to through mobile analytics, which provides qualified guesses on the age groups who uses the app.
GenderThe gender distribution is 1315 males and 369 females. This could suggest that guys are more prone and adventurous to seeking this altered state of mind (or altered states of minds in general). But this ratio may also be influenced by the design appeal of the app towards certain genders or other factors, so while the results show a very heavy tendency, a deeper conclusion must be up to the reader.
Have they ever had a lucid dream before using the app?A datapoint I thought would be interesting to test the effectiveness and appeal of the app, would be to know if people who tried it, had ever had a lucid dream before. All cards on the table, no skewed data, how effective is the app really?
The beauty of this datapoint is also that all users themselves define what a lucid dream is, and just the confirmation that users have tried it before strengthens the solidity of lucid dreaming existing as a common experience. I can reveal that 742 of the examined cloud users have NEVER tried lucid dreaming before downloading this app. These are in for a ride they can literally only imagine, and I sometimes wonder what seeds where planted to make them seek out the app. Not forgetting the other side though, 942 cloud users have tried lucid dreaming before. Which means the app is slightly more picked up by those who have broken through before, and are now looking for a gadget that can help keep the door open. I hope and believe my app can be that wedge, whether you've tried it before or not.
How long does it take to learn Lucid Dreaming and what does it take?
One detail about the journal, that I have left out until now, can help answer the most immediate relevant question anyone could have about lucid dreaming. Namely; "How long does it take to learn?".
For the first time in human history, this question can be empirically answered and analysed, through the awesome documented progress made by real explorers of the dream world. Whenever you make an entry into your journal, you have the option of marking whether or not you experienced lucidity. So by pinpointing the number of days between peoples first entry and the entry they first become lucid, we can very effectively measure how long it takes to learn!
Below is the scatter-plot, showing the number of days until users have their first lucid dream, and the amount of journal entries they make pr. week to get there (maximum is 7 pr week, more than one entry a day is just concatenated). The user must make more than one entry to be on the graph.
I hope we can all agree that this data is very exiting, considering it is the first graph in the world showing how long it takes to learn lucid dreaming! As it can be seen, there is a tendency-line showing that the more entries you make per week, the quicker the awareness of your dream state can be developed. The data even shows that if you make journal entries 4 times a week or more, it only takes an average of 11.7 days to learn!
The complete average time it takes to learn lucid dreaming, from the first dream entry to the first one with lucidity, is 31.53 days. Out of the 1684 total oneironauts, 431 have documented that they have learned lucid dreaming, so of course those still in training cannot be counted, as well as those who have abandoned their training all together. Considering normal app retention rates across the Play Store, this still means that an impressive 25.5% of people who just made a single entry into their journal, followed through and achieved the new state of mind they where seeking. I am immensely proud of these people and what the app has been able to help them with. On top of that 37.3% of them had never even tried lucid dreaming before (the ones that had never had a lucid dream before this app)!
I think it is quite the breakthrough result to show that control over your dreams can not only be learned, but learned within a very reasonable time frame. It shows that lucid dreaming is far from something unachievable for ordinary people, and that all it takes is a slight determination. Just reflecting on dreams a few times a week can change locked behavior in your sleep into consciously controllable events.
Conclusion and perspective
It is my personal hope that the experience of lucid dreaming becomes more mainstream, and that the role of dreaming becomes even more transparent over the coming years. I envision a future where peoples dreams are both in their own control and used as a tool to gain deeper understanding about their actions and desires. There is much to be learned from a dream, and the raw reactions a dreams path force out of us. Each reaction serves as the seed to the next point in the dream, and as our mind catapults itself through the night or is being consciously guided, the account of what transpired should not be left to be forgotten. When it is analysed, a greater understanding of our waking life is as much a benefit as a greater understanding of our dreams.
My dataset is far from exhausted, and the next analysis I'm working on will try to examine the very core of our dreams through general word analysis and distinctive words. In fact, the dataset is unsurprisingly still growing, and I hope to have even more people tuning in and illuminating the collective consiousness of our shared experience of dreaming. I can already say now, that the 34th most distinctive word-chain of a lucid dream is: "Decided to fly".
To round off, I will finish with a quote from one of the smarter men in history, who while making his incredible visions real, gave a great insight on how our conscious efforts could help take mankind to the future:
"The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence." - Nikola Tesla
 The app is using the Google App Engine, which is the same infrastructure used for many of Google's own projects.
 Oneironauts are the explores of the dream space. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oneirology
 Further experiments in real life (no pun intended), with a broader range of mindfulness techniques/tools available to subjects, could be carried out to determine if there's certain preferences or bias in certain demographics.