The future of recording your dreams | The Big Idea

We all do it. Every night, whether we're aware of it or not, we dream. What does it mean? And what happens to our brains when we're in a dream state?

At the Center for Sleep Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, I dared to dream. Technicians hooked me up to about 40 different wires all over my body. It was a way for Dr. Steven Feinsilver to track my brain waves and monitor my sleep cycles while I spent the night in his lab.

Dr. Feinsilver said there is a reason our brains create dream periods, also called rem periods throughout the night. Ordinary sleep is like turning your brain off and that is bad, he said. So your brain kind of re-charges batteries by turning itself on, doing something fairly random—dreaming—for 15 to 20 minutes, and then going back to a normal sleep.

Dr. Philip Watson, a senior neuropsychologist at Northwell Health, said our dreams sometimes seem so real because a lot of the areas in our brain become activated—specifically areas involved in sensory processing.

Scientists and researchers from all over the world are now trying to bring that realism to a whole new level.

Daniel Oldis is an independent dream researcher who wrote a book in the 1970s called "The Lucid Dream Manifesto." Since then, he has worked with the University of Texas to create technology that would record our dreams. He and his partners use electromyography, or EMG sensors, to measure speech and movement in dreams and feed that the information into a computer program.

Back at Lenox Hill, I woke up with all my wires intact, ready to hear my data that was fed into a computer program. Dr. Feinsilver said I slept for about five and a half hours, I snored lightly at times and had irregular breathing. That means I have mild sleep apnea but nothing to worry about.

During my overnight stay at Lenox Hill, I didn't remember any of my dreams. Dr. Feinsilver explained that the only way to remember a dream is to you wake up in the middle of or very close to a REM cycle. That is not easy to do because REM cycles usually take up only about only about a quarter of your sleep.

Oldis said he is restless in his research. In just 10 to 20 years from now, he thinks dreamers will have a whole lot to look forward to. He predicts that we will go to sleep wearing sensors on our heads to measure speech and image and pajamas with built-in sensors to capture muscle movement. All that information will be streamed to computers or smartphones a converted into a movie. He said people will then share those movies online.

So make sure you know how to cut and edit video because when the time comes you might not want your strangest thoughts and images shared with the world.