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“Why Can’t I Remember My Dreams?” And Other Questions
Everyone dreams. Not everyone can remember dreams, but anyone with a functioning brain – even those in a coma – can dream. We actually dream quite frequently: about 3 to 6 six dreams a night, lasting from 5 to 20 minutes each. WHY we dream though is another matter altogether. Neuroscience has come up with a couple of explanations:
- Cognitive development in our brains
- Unconscious mental activity
- Our brain processing suppressed emotions and thoughts
- Preparing for future threats
- Organising our thoughts and memories throughout the day
Dreams are difficult to study, so a lot about them isn’t known yet. But, we do know the reason why we can’t remember our dreams. Neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and noradrenaline (which are responsible for retaining memories) drop dramatically when we sleep every night, which causes dreams to slip away just as we’re trying to recall them.
Stages Of Sleep
So how do dreams happen? We don’t actually dream through the night. Dreams only happen in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep, which only occurs in the last stage of the sleep cycle. In order, they are
- Stage 1: Right after we fall asleep (10-20 minutes)
- Stage 2: Our body temperature lowers and heart rate slows down (20-30 minutes)
- Stage 3: Deep sleep (35-45 minutes)
- Stage 4: Slow wave sleep, where lucid dreaming can start (45-80 minutes)
- Stage 5: REM sleep, for most dreams and nightmares (90 minutes)
Our sleep goes through this cycle three to four times a night, which is why we dream fairly frequently and vividly. This is why people who have uninterrupted sleep have poor dream recall – their brain hasn’t reached the stage where it lets itself start dreaming.
How To Remember Dreams More Effectively
So what are the techniques that you can use to remember your dreams? Here are some methods that you can try:
1. Stay Still
After waking up, don’t move. Your brain is still in that middle state between waking up and sleeping, and any movement will kick in its “it’s time to wake up” mode. Try to remember as much as you can about your dream before you get up from bed.
2. Keep A Dream Journal
If you wake up in the middle of the night because of your dreams, keep a dream journal next to your bed to quickly jot down details so you don’t end up forgetting. Even just scribbles and phrases can trigger recall when you wake up in the morning.
3. Have A Softer Alarm
Harsh alarms can quickly jolt your brain into activity. This kicks in your instinct for fight or flight, making it significantly harder to remember dreams. Try to ease yourself into waking up.
Meditation before and after you sleep can put your brain into a state where it’s less distracted and more likely to retain information. Some meditation is enough to even bring up memories of past dreams that you thought you’ve forgotten.
5. Get Enough Sleep
If your body is too tired, it can divert your brain’s attention to recuperation rather than dreaming, which can give you shorter dreams that are nearly impossible to remember. Giving yourself ample time to sleep can take the load off, allowing your brain to dream longer.
Following these tips won’t guarantee that you’ll remember ALL your dreams in picture-perfect clarity, but it’ll certainly get rid of that forgetful feeling that leave you dazed as you wake up in the morning.
Get Some Rest, Sleep Well
With a little practice and preparation before bed, you’ll find yourself remembering dreams easier. If you’re really curious about what goes on in your head in the night, you can also try other methods like hypnosis. Sweet dreams!
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