There you have it, the NPT Lucid Dreamer promises to turn the inevitability of morning wood into cues for inducing lucid dreams. While the temptation is strong to let fly with dick joke after dick joke, as a lucid dreamer, I should appreciate better than anyone how unfair it is to immediately dismiss something because it sounds ridiculous at first. Lucid dreaming still gets the brush-off for sounding ridiculous in certain circles.
The phenomenon of Nocturnal Penile Tumescence (NPT) referenced in the video is legit. Men get spontaneous erections while they sleep that seem to be correlated with periods of REM sleep. However, even after putting the giggle factor associated with a cock ring-ish lucid dream inducing device aside and considering it’s merits, I still have serious reservations about the NPT Lucid Dreamer.
The Use of Audio Cues
The NPT Lucid Dreamer includes a set of headphones that play an audio cue upon detecting an erection. The example heard on a Kickstarter page video is a reverb-treated voice intoning, “You are dreaming.” The campaign implies that the final product’s cues will be customizable to some degree.
Evidence that sensory cues can effectively remind sleeping people that they are dreaming is promising, but not conclusive. For an in-depth explanation and overview of how most lucid dream induction devices work (and often how they don’t), check out Ryan Hurd’s excellent article.
Ryan notes that early versions of the NovaDreamer, a sophisticated light-based lucid dreaming mask, used to incorporate audio cues as well. During a lecture put on by the Lucidity Institute, the organization that develops and sells the NovaDreamer, Dr. Stephen LaBerge advised us that they found audio cues were more likely to wake a person up than visual cues. Dr. LaBerge’s explanation is that we have evolved with a propensity to be awoken by sounds because early humans who woke up when they heard rustling in the grass would have greater odds of avoiding nocturnal predators than those who slept through those noises. [Update: I’m not satisfied including this as an anecdote. I’m going to do my best to get the actual relevant data from Dr. LaBerge.]
My guess is tolerance for, and success with, audio cues is going to vary from person to person; they may very well work for you. The Kickstarter campaign for the NPT Lucid Dreamer seems to take the effectiveness and unobtrusiveness of sleeping with headphones that play voices while you sleep for granted, while I would urge caution in absence of convincing data that this method produces results.
It Seems Like It Can Only Detect One Hard-On Per Sleep Session
There could be something to the suggestion in the video above that it’s more comfortable to fall asleep with a small device hugging your junk than a larger device hugging your face. The one time I tried a NovaDreamer, I could only tolerate it for half a night. I dreamt that it was keeping me awake, so I ripped it off my face. Upon waking up from this, I actually ripped it off my face.
However, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the NPT Lucid Dreamer is comfortable and that audio cues are effective and unobtrusive, this probably not the best way to generate those cues. There is an SFW prototype demonstration at the bottom of the Kickstarter page (it’s demonstrated on an inner tube, not a penis). It shows that the audio cue is triggered when an increase in girth causes the magnets holding the band together to separate. In both the prototype demo and the animated video I’ve included with this post, this separation causes the band to fall off. As far as I can tell, strapping yourself into the NPT Lucid Dreamer will give you only one cue to and, thus, one chance to recognize that you’re dreaming, before you have to wake up and strap yourself in again.
This is a pretty serious disadvantage when compared to dream masks like the NovaDreamer. The NovaDreamer detects REM sleep periods through sensors that detect the namesake Rapid Eye Movements associated with this stage of sleep. It can continue to detect these movements for as long as it has power. There is no need to wake up and strap in and out of the device.
Previous Kickstarter Drama
The back-and-forth in the comment section of the NPT Lucid Dreamer Kickstarter page suggests the person, or persons, running this campaign was previously associated with the cancelled LUCI Kickstarter campaign. That cancelled attempt at crowdfunding a lucid dream inducing headband got so acrimonious that coverage of the drama made it all the way to a Wall Street Journal blog. If you are interested in the NPT Lucid Dreamer, I would encourage you to keep this in mind and do your research before donating.
I’m Going To Pass
I have to commend the minds behind the NPT Lucid Dreamer for taking an extremely novel approach to lucid dream induction and for having the maturity to seriously consider the potential of a biological function most people find mildly embarrassing. That being said, even after getting past the giggle factor associate with the device, I don’t think I would spend money on a device that provides audio cues to become aware in my dreams, much less one that provides only one such audio cue before awakening.