Everyone dreams during sleep, but not everyone can recall the dream once they wake up. Scientists aren’t sure why some people remember more than others. If you want to better remember what happens in your dreaming life, here are some helpful tips.
It’s all in your head…
One study discovered that heightened blood flow activity within certain regions of the brain could help explain the great dreamer divide.
In general, dream recall is thought to require some amount of wakefulness during the night, for the vision to be imprinted in longer-term memory. If you’re a person who wishes to remember your dreams, you should do things to wake yourself up in the night.
For example, drinking water before bed.
“Middle-of-the-night awakenings are frequently accompanied by dream recall,” Robert Stickgold, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told the New York Times. He also suggests repeating the phrase “I’m going to remember my dreams” three times before you drift off to sleep.
…or in your medicine cabinet
If this sounds like a hassle and disrupting your precious ZZZZs is to be avoided, then you might consider taking vitamin B6. According to a 2018 study published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills, those taking a high-dose vitamin B6 supplement before going to bed remembered their dreams better than those who took a placebo.
It is also recommended that, upon waking, you try to remain in the dream for as long as possible. This means keeping your eyes closed, not speaking or moving, and trying to stay in the world your brain has created for as long as possible.
Another ‘dream hack’ is to keep a notepad and pen beside your bed to write down any scraps of dream information that you remember. Dream journaling is a skill that may take time to develop, but by getting in the habit of doing it, your brain may start to remember larger chunks.
If you want to take your dreaming life to the next level and possibly even heal some trauma, you might consider the practice of lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming is a form of dream where the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming and is able to manipulate the dream. This differs from a regular dream, where the dreamer is unaware they are in a dream and has little control of what is happening.
This dream control that lucid dreaming offers might be able to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) overcome nightmares.
“Psychotherapies based on inducing lucid dreaming could be an effective way of treating recurrent nightmares of PTSD patients,” explained Dr. Sérgio Mota-Rolim, Ph.D., of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil. “They — being lucid during the nightmare — would be able to: one, naturally lose their fear by realizing the absence of real threats, i.e. the lack of reality of the perceptual experience; two, simply try to wake up during the nightmare; and, three, change dream context, in a way of transforming the nightmare into a neutral or even a pleasant dream.”
What do dreams mean?
Once you’ve grasped hold of your dreams and find yourself remembering them more often, the inevitable next question is: what do these dream mean?
Surely they can’t just be a random collection of unconnected scenes and images, right? Do dreams hold cryptic messages and warnings? Some people think so. In fact, some are so taken with unscrambling the meaning in their dreams, they have formed dream groups.
Over the last decade, classified ads on the likes of Meetup and craigslist have appeared for those wishing to form or join a dream group. Often run by self-styled shamans or dream coaches, they offer an intimate setting where you share you dreams with others and try to work out the meanings together.
However, before you start sharing your dreams with anyone who will listen, I would like to remind you of a rather amusing episode of This American Life, where the host’s British mother explains her rules for “The 7 Things You Should Never Talk About.” Dream-discussion is number five on the list.
In the episode, the host and her mother visit a dream group. “The dreams themselves were incredibly boring,” laments Mom, “unbearable if you had to listen to that over your breakfast table. It was the analysis that brought them life. But it doesn’t change my opinion of talking about dreams in a general thing, unless you want to sit for two hours and analyze them.”
Wise words, perhaps? Dreams are incredibly personal and may not be of interest to anyone else besides the dreamer.
Can you remember your dreams? What are your techniques for dream recall? If you’re not sure, why not take a nap right now and practice? Surely this is the best homework you’ve ever received. Sweet dreams.