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When an ancient Egyptian sought a meeting with Bess, the god of fertility and childbirth, he would draw a picture of the god on his hand, wrap the hand and neck in a black cloth, and then lay down to sleep. This process is described in a papyrus that dates back to about 1350 BC. An early documented example Using sensory stimulation to try to influence dream content.

Three thousand years later, neuroscientists and psychologists are turning this ancient idea into something more scientific. Dispelling long-held beliefs about the disconnect between our minds and bodies during sleep, these “dream engineers” use sounds, smells, touch and even body movements to influence the content of people’s dreams. are using In doing so, they have reaped remarkable benefits, from improving sleep quality and mood to enhancing learning and creativity.

Better yet, dream engineers are now developing dream induction devices that anyone can use in their own home. This raises the possibility that we may all soon be using our sleeping hours to our advantage. However, the power these techniques have over the resting brain is leading some, not least the researchers themselves, to worry about the potential for misuse. “I have no doubt that dream engineering can open many minds, heal others, and help us understand each other more clearly,” he says. Adam Horowitz at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It could also become an advertising gimmick. We have to proceed with care and a vigilant eye.”

Dream engineering is not the same as dreaming,…