Dreams have been a constant fascination for humans since time began. The very concept that our mind is busy making elaborate movies – while we sleep – is mind boggling, or at least it is to me. But dreams are a waste of time for many people, ultimately limited by being completely passive – you can’t control them, so what’s the point? Or can you?
The Remee Lucid Dreaming Mask (pronounced rem-may) claims to aid you in mastering the art of dream control; or as it’s more commonly known, Lucid Dreaming. Join me as we lose ourselves down the rabbit hole; the adventures of Alice will seem truly tame in comparison. We’ll also be giving a brand new Remee Lucid Dreaming mask to one MakeUseOf reader to complete the experience!
As a child, I was fascinated by dreams, meticulously recording them in notebooks, sometimes 5 or 6 pages a night. I quickly realized that so called “dream interpretation” was a fool’s game — nothing in our dreams has any significant meaning; they are simply amalgamations of visual stimuli and manifestation of overtly obvious and sometimes hidden desires; a re-organisation of your mental storage; white noise to flush out the system. They are to be enjoyed, not interpreted. In my research though, I stumbled upon the phenomenon of lucid dreaming, and sure enough a few nights after reading about them I experienced my first ever lucid dream. To say it rocked my world is an understatement.
The term “lucid dreaming” was coined in the 1970s by a sleep researcher named Stephen LaBerge (who went on to found the Lucidity Institute), and refers to the act of being concious within a dream state. Despite sounding suspiciously like a hippie cult, it’s actually grounded in science (and has been practiced for centuries) — experiments have proven a state of lucidity by having subjects communicate with the waking world through eye movements. For more on the science behind it, Wikipedia has you covered.
Although dreams are played back experientially and feel very much real, we generally have no control over how they pan out. Psychologists believe that during a sleep state, the areas of the brain that perform critical evaluation are inhibited, hence why even the most absurd happenings won’t have us batting an eye lid (no pun intended). Lucid dreams occur when you wake up within the dream state — a Eureka moment, recognising the fact that you are dreaming — and you may then be able to exert varying levels of control over the dream. The best analogy I can think of to describe the lucid dreaming experience is that of the Star Trek Holodeck — a virtual environment that responds to your every whim, free from social, moral, or physical consequences.
You can recreate any environment you wish; visit anywhere in the world or even out of this world; make love to your favourite movie star; practice a recital you have tomorrow; or just simply, fly. It’s an exhilerating feeling which leaves you with the most profound sense of freedom.
Best of all, it’s something you can learn to do.
Lucid dreams can occur naturally for many, but most people don’t realise it. The main problem is dream recall; if you don’t remember regular dreams when you wake up, you won’t remember the lucid ones either. Secondly, becoming concious within REM sleep is not a natural state to be in – the brain will try it’s hardest to kick you awake, or force you back to a non-lucid state. You probably remember many times within the dream state of a sudden flash of lucidity – “I’m dreaming!” – you proudly exclaim; but then it all fades, or the dream morphs into something else. Learning to overcome this natural urge to escape the lucid state is the next step once you’ve begun to experience lucidity often.
How Does Lucidity Occur?
There are a few ways in which you can naturally become lucid — spontaneous occurences that trigger the lucid state. You can recognize these dream clues after-the-fact with clarity, but during the dream state, your mind will try to make excuses for them. The appearance of a deceased relative, or a pet dinosaur perhaps. Your brain will rationalize; but in the off chance you recognize one of these clues, lucidity may be triggered. “A pet dinosaur!? I must be dreaming!”
The Remee Lucid Dreaming mask works on the principle that external cues will leak into a dream and may be identifiable by a trained dreamer — you might have experienced a form of this yourself, when a song inexplicably begins playing in your dream, but turns out to be your radio alarm clock trying to wake you up. Embedded in the Remee Lucid Dreaming mask are a set of three red LEDs over each eye – red being the least disruptive to sleep. The signals it emits may manifest themselves in a variety of ways – a flashing police car, a flickering street light, or random lightning without a storm. Whether you identify these or not is up to you.
The Remee and Competitors
The Remee Lucid Dreaming mask is loosely based upon the original NovaDreamer that LaBerge invented as a training aid to prospective lucid dreamers. Dreams occur at set time intervals throughout the night, so you can theoretically predict when they are happening, or you can at least caluclate these intervals yourself.
The Remee is available from SleepWithRemee.com with free US shipping for $95, in a variety of colors. (Mind Flayer not included, sorry)
Inside, you’ll find the mask itself, and a quick start guide. That’s all. A coin cell battery is provided, but you’ll need to remove a small plastic strip before first use.
There’s another popular device on the market — the REM Dreamer which retails at €147 — double the price of the Remee Lucid Dreaming mask, but the key difference is that the REM Dreamer uses infra-red sensors to detect when eye movements occur. Remee does not — it simply flashes at pre-determined intervals.
Basic usage of the Remee Lucid Dreaming mask is simple: slip open the top, slide the switch on, and secure the velcro. The lights will initially sweep from left to right, and if you press nothing else, they will pulse and fade out. The device is now active, and the light show will start after the default wait time of 4.5 hours, repeating every 15 minutes.
There’s also a “nap mode” that starts the signals after just 20 minutes; to activate this mode, shortly after switching on, hold the front button (it’s hidden under the fabric, just to the right of the Remee logo).
The first night wearing the mask, it left a huge mark on the tops of my ears and the brightness intensity was far too high, so a lot of the signal caused me to wake up immediately. I’ve lowered it back to a medium setting now, and I’m being a little more careful with the strap. It takes a little getting used to, but isn’t unreasonably uncomfortable compared to any other kind of sleep mask. Sleeping with your head to the the side becomes a little difficult due to the slight bulk of the device. The most disconcerting thing for me was waking up to complete darkness; I don’t normally wear a sleep mask, and generally enjoy rising with the sun.
The Remee Lucid Dreaming mask can be programmed with a variety of different light sequences, though with only one button on the device, it’s difficult to see how to change these settings. Aptly, programming sequences and other settings can be sent using an encoded sequence of flashing lights, via the online Remee website. To do this, pull down the fabric and expose the two light sensors on the front of the device; activate programming mode by holding the button for about ten seconds, then hold the device up to your monitor, aligning the light sensors with the on-screen black and white boxes.
Hit start, and watch as the on-screen boxes flash — the indicator LEDs on the back of the mask should flash correspondingly. At the end of a successful transmission, a back and forth sweep is displayed on the mask, otherwise an error has occurred (in which case, you should turn off and start again). It worked about 4 times out of 5 for me — you do need to really make sure the fabric is pulled down enough for the light sensors to effectively read the screen, but otherwise I found the programming method to be quite clever. It’s a little fiddly, but I haven’t felt the need to adjust the settings again, so it’s a great trade-off in terms of functionality vs ease of adjustment. Three levels of brightness can always be adjusted just before sleep from the mask itself.
Here’s a quick video demo of reprogramming:
Why It Might Not Work for You
An awful lot of people bought the device when it was launched on Kickstarter last year, and have given some rather negative reviews of the device. They were apparently expecting an insta-dream magical device, but that’s not how lucid dreaming works. This dream researcher wrote a long piece on why the Remee specifically won’t work, which boils down to the fact it doesn’t detect REM sleep.
Being able to actually remember your dreams first is a necessity. Ideally, you need to be recalling at least 3 dreams a night before the Remee is going to be of much use at all. This can be problematic if you have a hectic lifestyle that means you’re waking up early or rushing off to work. Always keep a pen and notepad by your bedside, and if time is a problem, just jot down some very basic notes that will help you to remember more fully later on. If you don’t write anything, I guarantee you’ll have forgotten them all in a few minutes.
Analysing those dreams is also important — look for anything unusual that should have given the game away; over time, you’ll see what kind of recurring dream signs you have, and you’ll be better able to recognise them during dreams. Particularly, see if you can remember each time how – if at all – the lights of the Remee manifested themselves.
Before you go to bed, mentally repeat some mantras to remind yourself to remember your dreams, and tell yourself you’ll identify the light patterns that indicate you’re dreaming. Repeat until you’re asleep. As silly as this sounds, this is the brain we’re dealing with here, so it’s really all about placebos.
The Remee Lucid Dreaming mask is a tool, and it’s foundation are indeed laid solidly in science, but it’s impossible to ever truly tell you if it works. To be honest – it’s probably not that effective – even trained users of the original NovaDreamer only claimed about 10-30% success attributable to the device, and most practitioners will say learning the tried and tested mental disciplines is a far better way to get started.
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