Anyone who sleeps and dreams now does not notice much of their environment. At least that’s what you should be thinking. An international team of researchers has now shown that this does not apply to everyone: Through a sophisticated experimental setup, the scientists succeeded in communicating with the dreamers.
Karen Concolly and her group from Northwestern University in Evanston chose very special people to try. All people were either conscious dreamers or had received special training. Scientists understand that lucid or lucid dreaming is the ability to perceive that a person dreams during a dream. Many conscious dreamers can then change the content of their dreams in a targeted way.
Konkoli and her co-workers were instructed to sleep either in Germany, France, Holland or the United States and let them spend the night there or take a long nap. With the help of polysomnography, the researchers closely monitored the body functions of the test subjects. Among other things, they recorded brain waves, heart rate, body temperature, eye movements, and breathing. In this way, the group was able to determine when people are in REM sleep, which is the stage of sleep in which lucid dreams and dreams usually occur. It is characterized, among other things, by the presence of rapid eye movements.
Scientists previously identified and practiced different signals with participants. In doing this, the test subjects must first indicate through a very specific series of eye movements that they were now in a lucid dream. This was followed by a question-and-answer session in which the researchers asked the participants, for example, simple yes-no questions or math problems. Here, too, the test subjects must provide the answer by eye movements or pre-defined facial muscles.
The connection was successful in 26 percent of the cases
In about a quarter of the sessions, the participants were able to successfully tell the researchers that they were having a lucid dream. In half of the cases, the participants correctly answered at least one of the subsequent questions. Additionally, they were usually able to remember communicating with researchers in their sleep afterward. Sometimes, as the test subjects have reported, they feel as if the researchers’ question has been carried into the dream from the outside. In other cases, it became part of the dream. Then, the participants remembered a voice on the radio that asked them in a dream how much five minus two equals.
But couldn’t the correct answers just be a coincidence? To rule this out, the researchers also questioned people who fell asleep at times when they did not signal conscious dreams or when their bodily functions indicated they were not in dream sleep. In more than 350 attempts, the researchers received one correct, one incorrect, and eleven answers that could not be clearly classified. Otherwise, people didn’t react in any specific way.