Hackaday Prize Entry: Lucid Dreaming Research

Lucid dreaming is one of the rare psychological phenomenon terrible sci-fi frequently gets right. Yes, lucid dreaming does exist, and one of the best ways to turn a normal dream into a lucid dream is to fixate on a particular object, sound, or smell. For their Hackaday Prize entry, [Jae] is building a device to turn the electronic enthusiast community on to lucid dreaming. It’s a research platform that allows anyone to study their own dreams and access a world where you can do anything.

The core of this project is an 8-channel EEG used to measure the electrical activity in the brain during sleep. These EEG electrodes are fed into a 24-bit ADC which is sampled 250 times per second by an ARM Cortex M4F microcontroller. The captured data is recorded or sent to a PC or smartphone over a Bluetooth connection where a familiar sound can be played (think of the briefcase in Inception), or some other signal that will tell the dreamer they’re dreaming.

We’ve seen a few similar builds in the past, most famously a NeuroSky MindWave headset turned into a comfortable single-channel EEG-type device. The NeuroSky hardware is limited, though, and a setup with proper amplifiers and ADCs will be significantly more helpful in debugging the meatspace between [Jae]’s ears.

21 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Lucid Dreaming Research

  1. There are two problems with lucid dreaming, having godlike powers actually gets rather boring after a while and because you can just erase anything in the dream that you don’t like consequently you stop using dreams to realistically think through the real world problems and issues in your life. That may not be a very healthy thing to do all the time.

    Having said that I still teach the skill to my children and once they “get it” they no longer have dreams that scare them enough to disrupt their sleep. Teleportation and fireballs pretty much covers most monsters and scary scenarios. :-)

      1. It is much harder to teach an adult than it is to teach a young child, because for them the world is less constrained than it is for an adult. One trick is to go to bed with a remote control and have a little ritual where it is checked and place next to your bed ready for when you need it, then as you fall asleep you visualise it appearing in your hand whenever you want it, then you press a button and imagine whatever scene you wish. This becomes your teleport or reality channel changer, eventually you don’t need it and can just jump at will. Once you are jumping at will you should become conscious of the fact that you have control over your reality then you can just change part of the location you are in rather than going to another and from that point on you are Morpheus.

        Melatonin seems to cause some people to have more vivid dreams.

        Other people, who visualise regularly seem to gain control more rapidly because they are practised in manipulating hypnagogic imagery.

        Hypnagogic states have been associated with certain brain wave frequencies and patterns, but this does not necessarily prove that inducing such patterns via synchronisation with external stimuli will cause the person to enter a Hypnagogic state. Then again it may work for some…

        1. Melatonin however reduces REM sleep, the kind that most dreams take place in. BTW I prefer the reality check(test to see if you are dreaming, do it a lot during waking life, and it will start to happen in dreams) of pinching your nose, and trying to breathe though it. In dreams (at least for me) the air comes though as easily as having nothing stopping it.

      2. My trick is light switches and imaginary floor plans of my apartment. I know I’m dreaming when I wake up in an apartment that is similar to mine by has the rooms in different places, the stairs moved, and some other things that I purposely designed.

        As for light switches, I had a series of nightmares after losing power for around 10 hours in the middle of a freak show storm, while living in a mobile home with pitiful insulation (indoor temp was down to 40F before power came on at 1 AM, and the police hadn’t expected the storm so there were no shelters). In the first nightmare, I would wake up and try to turn on the light, but nothing happened so I stumbled around in the dark til I realized it was a dream and woke up; it became a nightmare because I would get out of bed, turn on the light, nothing would happen and I would wake up again and repeat. Eventually I could see that the light’s filament was glowing, and a red LED would light on a remote control as long as I didn’t look directly at it. But I kept dreaming that I was dreaming til I woke up rather spooked.

        Now, though, light switches in dreams just don’t work. So if I try one, and nothing happens, I know I’m dreaming and can change things around.

    1. That’s why I personally use an action that dream-me does naturally to trigger myself; not outside stimuli. If my dream self is going to turn on a light and nothing happens, that is my way of knowing I can goof off. If the dream never takes me near a light switch, then my brain can process all it wants.

  2. I once tried lucid dreaming. The method, which I found somewhere, is to adopt a habit. Ask yourself, now and then, “Am I awake?”. Then check, and answer. One day you’ll find yourself doing it in a dream.

    Worked for me. My conscious mind came back semi-online. Ultimately though dreams aren’t a virtual reality. Things are only consistent as much as you’re thinking about them. So there’s some potential but it’s not godlike. Or maybe I’m not very good at it. Don’t really see the point, now.

  3. Two techniques that work well for me are:

    1) Reality Testing. Similar to what Greenaum said, make a habit of occasionally testing basic features of reality. Jumping is one way- in dreams you won’t come back down and gravity is never quite right.

    2) Re-read text. Anything in written form, when read a second time, will change when you are dreaming. This one sounds strange, but actually works really well. Make a habit of glancing twice at small written things such as room numbers, street signs, etc. Any piece of text. If it’s different on second glance, you are dreaming. I don’t know the scientific reason for this- maybe the written language part of our brain is scrambled while sleeping or something. Anyway, this habit is easier to acquire and less embarrassing in daily life than periodically jumping to see if gravity is still on.

    Lucid dreaming is a ton of fun, and I recommend giving it a go. I find it easier in the late morning, after falling asleep for a second time (such as on a Sunday morning when there’s time to sleep in).

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