There is a story that Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine, had been in a deadlock while working on his invention. He didn’t know how place a needle so it would sew properly. One night he had a dream… actually a nightmare. He was being chased by warriors, who clearly wanted to capture and kill him. He managed to notice that the warriors carried spears that were pierced near the head. After Elias Howe woke up he knew instantly how to solve the problem!
It’s fascinating how some dreams may inspire or bring back good memories. Yet there are other dreams that are… let’s say less pleasant. I’ve been having nightmares since forever. For example a recurring dream where all of my teeth fall out (according to online dream book it means death in the family. Wonderful, isn’t it?), war and collapsing buildings, being eaten alive by some kind of jelly monster and the worst one: gigantic twister (no, not the game..). Those are only a few examples of my dreamland encounters, so when I learnt that DreamJay had announced Nightly app beta tests I signed up right away.
The science behind the dream.
To understand how Nightly app works it’s necessary to know the medical nature of nightmares. According to WHO “nightmare disorder is characterized by a repeated occurrence of frightening dreams, which lead to awakenings with a detailed reminiscence of the nightmare”*. 2-8 % adults suffer from nightmares. It has significant effects on the quality of sleep. Each night when I had a nightmare I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. Obviously I didn’t feel well rested in the morning.
How Nightly app works?
“Our technique is based on research revealing that, meaningful, external stimuli can be incorporated into dream content. In case of nightmares, usage of a positive stimuli can change the dream content and improve patient’s quality of sleep. (…) All you have to do is choose one of our carefully designed video themes. Video with positive tone stimuli is played before sleep and then, at night the app plays specific sounds at specific moments of your sleep so that your brain does not create nightmares.” *
*Quotes from Nightly blog.
Using the app is quite simple. You pick one video theme (Dream Scape), you watch a short video and fall asleep listening to sound cues. You leave your phone on the bed, and later at night it plays you similar sound cues during appropriate sleep phases to improve your dreams. There are a many Dream Scapes to choose from. I’ve decided to try all of them and check if Nightly really works.
Day 1. Rainforest
I picked this one for my first Nightly night because it was supposed to help me unwind (and because I liked the picture of rainforest stream) . The only problem was that I am used to falling asleep in complete silence. I’m not counting noisy neighbours. After many years I’ve learnt to ignore them. I found it hard initially to fall asleep and It took me a long time (or that was my impression). Unfortunately I couldn’t remember the dream I had. The app woke me up 30 mins earlier that I planned, however I felt surprisingly well rested.
Day 2. Rain
It was a controversial decision, I’m not a fan of rain. During Autumn months it makes me feel depressed. Despite that I decided to try it out as the description promised me it will help me focus. I have to admit that the video of splashing raindrops is very relaxing. I didn’t sleep well for some reason, although I was aware that there is an endless list of those. I’ve learnt later that patience is the key and I have to use the app for at least 5 days to experience the real results.
Day 3. Beach
Who wouldn’t like to fall asleep looking at a palm tree, listening to calming sea buzz? I have to say it’s great, even if the palm tree is in the screen of your phone. Later that night I woke up terrified and anxious, however I didn’t remember what was so scary. It was surprising that this peaceful Sound Scape didn’t work! Next morning I have filled in the feedback form about this incident in the app. I received an immediate response from Kate (Dreamjay). She explained to me that I’d had a night terror. Unlike nightmares, you can’t recall the dream after you wake up.
Day 4. Flying
That was probably the best dream I had using Nightly… . Although it wasn’t related to flying at all. I was walking through a forest, all trees were made of ice, shiny and white. The end of the path turned out to be a huge slide and I had a pet fox with me!
Day 5. Message in the bottle
My second favourite soundscape. The video is a short story of message in the bottle (Surprise!). The bottle is drifting across seas… both sounds and video were lovely. I discovered I began to like to fall asleep listening to sounds :)
Day 6. Sea
In my opinion this was the best Sound Scape. “Sea” is quite immersive animation showing seaworld. There are many underwater creatures, ships, seagulls… The sounds cues were perfect for me. I think my brain liked them so much that it refused to wake me up in the morning despite the alarm.
So does it really work?
Starting from the second week I actually felt the difference. Before I had about one nightmare per week. Now it happens once per month. The best thing is that it improved my quality of sleep. I love the fact that Nightly woke me up gently, in an appropriate phase. It also improved my dreams. I still have weird dreams, but even when I dream about scary things, I don’t feel that anxious as I used to. It looks like it works!
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Graphics by Anna Langiewicz