Tools for dream typing

While trying any kind of sleep-typing, you probably want to use a keyboard like this:

This keyboard is missing every key that lets you delete words you’ve typed or otherwise send commands to the OS or text editor/messaging program you’re typing in (Ubuntu+ion3 and irssi here — your mileage may vary). When you drift off to unconscious sleep, it’s very easy to accidentally delete text, close the program, or other such counterproductive things.

It can be difficult to try to study something that by definition screws around with the thought processes you use to study it (I’m sure scientifically-minded drug-experimenter types would agree). But I have definitely had dreams where I was able to do some sciencey stuff while playing around — examining the simulated world to see how detailed it is (I wonder what rendering engine my brain uses …), testing what I can and can’t do in it, and so forth. Inevitably, since dreams are so hard to remember, I forget about the allure of the whole thing for long stretches of time. But eventually I have another vivid dream and start thinking about the possibility of playing around with a complete, realistic virtual world of my very own, and my inner SimCity player insists that I try it again.

Since dreams are so intangible when one’s awake, I don’t think that there’s any way for them to become a serious enough interest to detract from real life. But they’re a fascinating phenomenon and I’ve had fun when I’ve played around with them.  Also, a few nights ago I had a long dream where I spent a lovely afternoon with Janeane Garofalo. And when the negative results of your experiment are “a lovely afternoon with Janeane Garofalo,” you have a good experimental design on your hands.

134 replies on “Tools for dream typing”

  1. “I don’t usually know I’m dreaming, and can’t really fly, but sometimes I sort of swim through the air.”
    I used to to do this all the time when I was a kid (in my dream, obviously). The problem was it felt so.. REAL, the way I flew, that I was very upset when I couldn’t do it for real 😦

    And regarding lucid dreams… my phone background is normally black text on white: “ARE YOU DREAMING?”, on account of me checking that about 17 times an hour.

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  2. So, about the Batman comment. I’m terrible at riddles but has anyone else noticed how lame the riddles from The Riddler are? Almost as bad as that one in “Da Vinci Code” about an apple.

    Of course this is coming from someone who didn’t understand “what’s black, white, and read all over?” until she was 16.

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  3. memento: thanks – I ordered the DVD of the movie, it arrived today – a very odd film and I enjoyed it very much.

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  4. What was so cool about the keyboard (and the comic) was that I’ve actually woken up and found myself typing. I found my fingers going in the same pattern and I realized I was typing out keywords in my online conversations. So, the terms ‘LOL’, ‘Hell no’ and ‘Try Google – not me’ came up a lot (I had to figure out which invisible keys my fingers were going for.)
    Sometimes, when my friends are talking, I transcript them on my knee by typing what they say with my fingers. It’s even funnier when I subconsciously hit the backspace button when I know I hit a key wrong, even though there’s no evidence.

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  5. Vi says: “The body is paralyzed when you dream (ever wake up before your body did, and couldn’t move?).”

    Ugh… been there. It was absolutely terrifying.
    It’s really really weird, because you can see everything, but can’t move, and you start feeling that you’re trapped.

    (And I was like that for nearly half an hour. The first thing I did when I could move again was scream.)

    I’m one of those people who doesn’t wake up gradually like most other people do. It’s like, BOOM, and I’m awake.

    And also, I’ve found that I can type slightly better with my eyes shut than with them open. I wonder if I can type in my sleep…

    Hmmm…. Now there seems to be an interesting project… train myself to use my PC while asleep… heh heh…

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  6. I suffer from Sleep Paralysis (mind wakes up before the body) and Hypnagogic Hallucinations (kinda like the opposite, except you’re dreaming and pretty sure you’re awake) on alternating occasions.

    Sleep Paralysis is completely useless, it’s scary at first but once you know what it is it’s like “damnit, hurry up and move, I need to pee.”

    But Hypnagogic Hallucinations are very useful, I find that I can move during these, because whilst having a bad dream in this state, I can thrash about etc. So why not type?

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  7. It might be a good idea to open the keyboard and remove the plungers for undesired keys, as sometimes one’s pinky might slip into a hole.

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  8. While my dreams are very vivid, I can rarely remember them. THey also seem to be slightly nonsensical. One of the most realistic ones I had involved walikng down a valley, over a bridge, and into an old house, which was being used as a school. Possibly the wiedet dream I had was immediately after moving into the city where I now live, and I saw a short clip of the inside of a shopping mall in teh background to a news report (the mall in question is connected to the concourse of the railway station, which the reoprt was about), and dreamed I was beig chased by a giant iced coffee carton down that mall. I had never seen it before (having moved from overseas), and yet when i walked down that mall a few days later it was almost perfect, everything that could have been seen from where the camera was. Something like this would be good for me, as I can never remember my dreams except in a few circumstances.

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  9. I once started to drift off to sleep in the middle of an IM sessions and mid sentence broke off then typed “i want some fires” because someone in my dream had fries… it was a freak accident and something i have not since been able to replicate.

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  10. Although I’ve never typed in my sleep, during uni I have managed to fall fast asleep for an entire lecture yet wake up with a full set of notes in front of me. The content was dubious at best in the details, but accurate in the overall subject and the handwriting messy, but clearly my own. I fully expect to wake up having typed something one of these days after falling asleep in front of the computer.

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  11. Ummm…doesn’t dreaming usually occur during REM sleep?
    and isn’t that when the brain locks up most bodily functions so that you can’t move your hands, legs, mouth, etc?
    so doesn’t that sorta rule out dream typing?
    sorry to spoil the idea…

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  12. Funny I should read this today… I awoke this morning (2 pm) after a bizzare series of dreams involving cannolli, voting booths, miniature mandolins and Star Jones (when she was still fat). After I woke I noticed as most people do how quickly these things slip away from us. And like any megalomaniac I thought about how amazing my dreams were and what magnificent novel/film fodder they would make. So sign me the fuck up and I’ll give you a cut of my royalties.

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  13. I have never communicated a dream when sleeping, but I have done some interesting things while at least mostly asleep, such as make weird graphics, text documents with 4000+lines of “sssssssssssssss”, and probably most awesome, install ubuntu. Only problem was that I couldn’t recall my username or password, which meant I had to start over anyway. This of course is all aside from random calls I make at 4am, oh and telling those lucky few who actually pick up “how lucky they are that I called them”.

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  14. I nodded off a few time while doing paper work at my old job. My hand kept moving even though I was asleep but it didn’t resemble any real words, or even any letters (Pencil and paper, not type writer) But I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t woken up each time I nodded off. I need to take a week end to play with this and see if my sleeping mind can produce legiable writing. so far I seem to be doing well for 4:46 AM and yes, I know my spelling is atrocious.

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  15. I hardly remember any of my dreams, and I don’t think I have had any lucid dreams at all. The most recent dream that I can really remember was I think from over a year ago. It was sort of weird. My alarm clock next to my bed was going off and I dreamed that I pressed the button. The beeping continued. I pressed it multiple times furiously and even unplugged it from the wall, but it didn’t stop beeping. I took it outside on the deck, placed it on a chair (no cushion), and smashed it repeatedly with a hammer. Then I slowly began to realize that my right hand was, in fact, hanging limp at my side, and not being used to smash a clock that still hadn’t stopped beeping. It was still beeping because I had never even pressed the button, much less unplugged it and started smashing it with a hammer.

    Strange dream. I guess my subconscious mind wanted me to get a little more sleep before waking up.

    I also remember a little about a dream that took place in a building that I think was sort of like a cross between an airport, a hospital, and my elementary school. It had something to do with fluorescent lights and mind control.

    I really can’t remember any dreams besides those two, or at least not at the moment. I think there were one or two others that I did remember when I was awake, but that I have now forgotten.

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  16. You won’t be able to right during REM sleep because the brain stem causes a muscular atony (to prevent you from moving while you’re dreaming of fights and all).
    BTW the loss of such muscular atony during REM sleep may be a symptom of Parkinson disease.

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  17. I thought this was a joke at first. You can actually type during your sleep? I’m a pretty big nerd but I don’t think I’ve ever managed THAT. Lol.

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  18. As one who constantly dwells on the fantastic and imaginary, I really wish I had more vivid dreams and the skills to examine them. I’ve never had a lucid dream, and I can’t yet type well enough to do your experiment (I can’t do the standard style of typing, and it’s freaking hard to learn after you’ve been doing it the wrong way for so long). I envy you.

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  19. Wow…what a concept…..but I think a voice to text set-up with a simple single button microphone queue would be more productive. BTW: I would have to put a drool screen on my keyboard……sad to day I suppose.

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  20. Look into the drug DMT. It’s what (according to white coats) causes the actual dreams. Unfortunately, it’s illegal to obtain :D. Have a great day!

    —kay

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  21. Removing the ability to unconsciously delete actually impedes our progress. You should make it so that it alerts/leaves a symbol whenever someone attempts to delete what they have written — rather than not letting them delete at all. Self-editing is a big part of any blog. We won’t be able to understand what exactly they wanted to keep or get rid of and that could be a huge criticism.

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  22. PS. Finally, psychology and neurology. Something a liberal arts major can understand on this website. xD

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  23. Wow, if you can pull that off it’d be pretty neat. The closest I came was when I was up all night trying to write a paper for class. It was getting bright out and I nodded off while typing. When I woke up again, I had apparently written a passage about golden octopii sitting on a fence with an apple and bowler hat. The class was about Hymalayan life. xP

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  24. Hum … don’t forget that in your dream the left part of your brain is disconnected of your right brain part. This why you never see you in a dream reading something.

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  25. I, for one, have read many times in dreams. It probably helps that I tend to be an avid reader while awake, making it a “natural” activity while asleep.
    Or, I could have an oddly wired brain.

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  26. I do have an oddly wired brain, and do not have this “muscular atony”. Or at least the inclination I have to not move while dreaming is easily overcome by the power of suggestion (I’m very suggestible while asleep).

    My friends abuse this fact to no end.

    I also have those hypnagogic hallucinations which can rarely be frightening but are usually super-awesome. I can narrate them with no problem, though it does require a sort of mental disconnect. I can and do narrate regular dreams upon request as well (though I’ll never remember it the next morning). So I could probably do the typing thing… I’ll have to try it.

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  27. This was kind of cool. I’ve recently had issues with sleeptyping, being a pwn for 13 years. While it’s not new to me.. I’ve learned recently that if you type a message you don’t mean.. or are hallucinating about.. or in the middle of… and send it to someone you shouldn’t – you are still responsible.. sigh. I highly recommend adding to your picture by locking up the mouse. That will allow the typing and you CAN’T hit send!! woohoo. Just more food for thought.
    Hey – Emporer Z – let me please tell you – NO – you DON’T. I’ve had what’s known as hypnogogic hallucinations for 13 years – all 5 senses are active during the dream state, and I am awake and dreaming simultaneously, sometimes for a moment, sometimes for an entire 4 or 5 hour dream sequence. And, I can assure you, while some of it is cool (I LOVE flying), be very sure to understand that lucid dreaming is more realistic than what schizophrenics go through….. imagine being trapped in a nightmare. Imagine waking up from a nightmare, into a nightmare, into a nightmare – and at each stage, when you’re sure you’re finally awake and you get up to move around – and the unthinkable happens to you- and just before the most frightening thing you can imagine occurs, you wake up again.. lay there… and wonder if you’re actually awake. Imagine hearing voices of those you love call out, talk to them… and nobody’s there. Wake up and wonder why your family’s in the living room making a dang rackit when you’re trying to sleep – and you look at the clock to see it’s 3:00 am… plus, now you have to lock every door and window air tight – because you can hear them open, witness someone coming in – and there may be no one there at all.
    It’s fun sometimes – but i don’t think you oughtta try it. GHB can cause it better than any other drug, and it is legal – but you gotta have a dang good reason to get it, since it’s also known as the date rape drug and foundation for ecstasy.

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  28. To Steph and a few others who mentioned paralysis during REM – you’re right, almost. While we are paralyzed, sleepwalking can be an exception, as can Hypnogogic hallucinations. The deal is, REM is its own stage of sleep, and is supposed to kick in after deep sleep to ensure that paralysis takes place. Narcolepsy for instance, we can fall asleep anywhere from 1 to 100 times a day for various lengths of time, but we can drop into REM before that happens, and may be awake. Also, during periods of automatic behavior, while we are unconscious, we have passed the ‘falling asleep’ stage, straight to the unconscious stage just before REM, but still able to move. It’s sucky, and yet fun. Gotta take the good with the bad I suppose. But no – you can move while you dream. It’s unheard of because all the facts of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders are still rare. And nobody does any studies on it yet – because nobody understands it yet. Sigh…

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  29. woh… munroe… i hope you check these comments…

    i freaked out for a little, because i had a dream about jeanene garofalo, and that was the most random thing ever, and i thought it might have been a coincident occurence, but yours happened in may, and mine on january 10 (i was keeping a dream journal at the time)

    anyway, it’s probably nothing magical, probably just chance, but it was at least worth mentioning.

    i think it would be an interesting experiment, though, to work on getting lucid (according to many, a dream journal helps, in which one rights down one’s previous night’s dreams), and then learning to type in the dream… maybe it could even be productive – getting work done while sleeping! how sweet…

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  30. I used to do a lot of mapping of small objects from aerial images into a GIS database, which meant clicking many points on polygons. It was pretty tedious and a couple of times I fell asleep while still clicking and would draw silly shapes.

    Sadly I deleted them as soon as I realized i was dreaming (usually by the fact that I was having a conversation with someone who shouldn’t be there) and woke up.

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  31. I’m not sure if I could sleep-type, even in the shallow dream states outside REM, where the neurotransmitter paths to muscle action are not shut off. I think it would be interesting to map emotional states while I sleep and see if I could find ways of guiding my thoughts while asleep toward imagining enjoyable things. I have found it too easy in life during difficult times to have sleep become not an escape, but perhaps a practice ground for bad thoughts. I have used one of my own inventions to monitor and record nighttime teeth grinding and clenching, which I assume is an emotional indicator. Are there EEG emotional indicators? It would be cool to be able to track emotions in REM, when the physical muscle manifestations are not available.

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  33. So, I don’t think I’ve ever dream-typed (well, maybe that would explain some college papers), but I have definitely been reading a book and dreamed several pages of text. I’ve also fallen asleep during movies, with my own plot line continuing in my dream, only to wake up later to be quite surprised.

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  34. One time my mom had come into my room and put blankets on me but the weird thing is, according to her, I looked straight at her, wide-eyed, and said “My mom taped me” (IDK, I really have no clue) Another time when I was vacationing in Massachusettes with my grandparents, I purposely fell asleep on the living room floor and my grandmother brought me up to the room I was staying at, (apparently I walked on two legs perfectly) and in the morning I asked her, “How’d I get in my room??” she told me that I walked and I was surprised. But I don’t remember either of those at all.

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  35. So, I don’t think I’ve ever dream-typed (well, maybe that would explain some college papers), but I have definitely been reading a book and dreamed several pages of text. I’ve also fallen asleep during movies, with my own plot line continuing in my dream, only to wake up later to be quite surprised.

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  36. I suffer from Sleep Paralysis (mind wakes up before the body) and Hypnagogic Hallucinations (kinda like the opposite, except you’re dreaming and pretty sure you’re awake) on alternating occasions.

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