In January I finally pulled the trigger and bought myself a Remee sleep mask. Unlike a typical sleep mask, it contains a set of LEDs which blink at you in your sleep. The idea behind this being that the light travels through your eyelids and if you’re in the middle of a dream, you see this flashing pattern and realize that you’re dreaming. Then you can get down to business of playing around in the dream. Lucid Dreaming baby, it’s an awesome, awesome thing.
This mask is inspired by a product called the Novadreamer which came out a long time ago and cost $300, which was a harsh entry fee. The Remee costs $95, much more accessible but still not cheap. The main difference between the Novadreamer and the Remee is that the Novadreamer used an infrared LED and photodectector to monitor for fast movements of your eyelid/eyeball and thereby know when REM sleep is occurring. The Remee simply waits 4.5hrs after you turn it on, and then begins flashing every 20 minutes (these times are user-programmable). At first I was disappointed by this revelation that it works on a simple timer mechanism. But the more I thought about it, maybe that’s a good thing; like the saying goes, “keep it simple, stupid.”
A great case-study in the pitfalls of needless complexity is the Wakemate, the other sleep gadget I previously wrote about. When it worked, it was extremely cool. But at least once a week it would lose your data for the night, and then in October of 2011 their website stopped functioning, which bricked everything. I thought perhaps it was my phone at fault, but since getting the Note II, I retried using the Wakemate with the new phone; exact same problem. In my opinion, the device should have connected to your PC and had standalone software. No bluetooth, no iOS or android phone needed, no website controlling your access to the data, no internet connectivity issues blocking you from uploading your sleep data… All this is needless complexity that can break the system. I would still be using it today, had their website not gone unresponsive (you can still access your old data, but you can’t login to upload new nights, or at least I can’t).
So that in mind, I think it’s good that the Remee is a very simplistic circuit which runs on a watch battery. Low complexity, no connectivity to anything required. You can reprogram it to have different timing settings, different flashing patterns, and different LED brightnesses using the Bitbanger Labs website. We’ll see how long that remains functional, but even if it went down tomorrow, the default settings are pretty good. I hope to use this baby for many years to come.
I’m not used to sleeping with a mask on, so for the last few weeks, the toughest challenge has been simply keeping the mask on all night. I tend to just yank it off my head in the middle of the night. Then when the ideal time for dreaming rolls around (maybe 1-2 hours before the alarm clock), it’s just chilling on my pillow. Rats!
The box for this thing is inspiring and badass. First words you read on the back are “Shrink to the size of an atom. Travel to Mars. Fly.” I mean seriously, what product in your life have you ever bought that had those kind of claims on the box!?!?! The text goes on to clarify that Lucid Dreaming is actually pretty hard to acheieve, and is going to require a lot of discipline. Understatement! BUT–those acts are achievable for dreamers willing to be persistent, and devote some waking-time-hours into reality checking (simply asking, ‘am I dreaming?’). I want to try doing all three, as a challenge to myself. But in the reverse order they are listed: Flying should be easy. I’ve done that in several dreams before. Travel to Mars should be achieveable by summoning a spacecraft or a door (which I’ve done once). Shrinking to the size of an atom, now that might be a hard one. What would that even look like? I don’t know! It a long-term goal to shoot for!
I have a little bit of experience with LED sleep masks, which can also be called LDID or Lucid Dreaming Induction Devices. In college I constructed one that connected to a PC using the serial port, and included a circuit that would check for eyelid movement just like the Novadreamer. In a way, it did the same thing as the WakeMate in tracking your sleep cycles too: the eyelid movement data was written to a spreadsheet using a Visual BASIC program. Viewing a graph of that data would show you how long you dreamed for, and at what times during the night. I was able to use it successfully to lucid dream a handful of times, but it was uhh, a beast to wear. Wearing a mask is hard enough, but wearing a mask with a bunch of cables coming out the top, which just makes it that much easier to fall off if you toss around (at all) during the night… it was a tall order to sustain. Eventually something went wrong with the circuit and I never took the time to troubleshoot the issue. The cables made it awfully tough to use on a regular basis, as a comfort issue. So that was that.
I’m feeling hopeful that the Remee is more of a long-term, sustainable setup. Lying on my side with the mask on is plenty comfy, although I’m still figuring out the optimum positioning on my face so the LEDs line up at eye-height, and then maintaining that at night through different sleeping positions. I have had a couple dreams where the Remee was with me and I was observing the flashing, but didn’t cross that bridge of remembering that, hey, this means you’re dreaming! This will probably be a reoccuring theme over the next few months!
At the most basic level, I’m happy to have this thing because it’s a daily reminder to put effort into dreaming, and a reminder in the morning to ask that all-important, time-critical question, “What Did You Dream??” It’ll take some practice, trial and error, and simple luck before I get a lucid dream out of it. For now, I’m satisfied that going to bed now has a new mindfulness to it, a new mantra of “It’s Time To Dream.”