Why do most of us find it hard to remember our dreams? We dream every night. Usually several times, and typically dreams are between 5 and 20 minutes long.
Earlier this year, researchers at the Lyon institute of Neuroscience in France discovered that there are two groups: those who are highly likely to recall dreaming when they wake up, and those who aren’t. Those who recalled a lot had activity occurring in a particular brain region (the temporo-parietal junction). The ones who aren’t recalling dreaming probably do have dreams, they just aren’t remembering them.
So it seems like there’s something different going on in our brains when we are asleep that stops long term memories forming in the way that they do when we are awake.
Most people who can remember their dreams tend to find that they can remember them very briefly when they wake up. Then the memory starts to fade quickly as their brain shakes off the fog of sleep, like the early morning sun burning away the morning mist. This is certainly the way with me. Occasionally I find that I will vaguely remember a dream if something reminds me of it, but otherwise I usually forget them pretty quickly. Also, strangely, and this is only a feeling, I’m not 100% sure of it, I think I sometimes remember previously dreams more when I’m already in the dream state. i.e. if I have a type of dream that I’ve had before, within the dream I’m more likely to think ‘aha, I’ve been in this dream before’.
Ultimately, whilst there are people making claims for a number of techniques for remembering dreams, the only reliable method is to capture the memory as soon as you wake up, before it fades. Keep some paper and pencil/pen next to your bed (or some people prefer to use a voice recorder). The trick is to just do it quickly and as soon as you wake up. Don’t think you have to write out a properly thought-through description of your dream with full sentences. Just a few key words and – perhaps even better – some simple sketches can be enough. You can always return to the notes later to add in more detail. But if you think you need to write out a full, moment-by-moment, grammatically correct sentences then you are less likely to even do it, given how tired and groggy many of us feel when we first wake up! J
Although we still don’t know exactly why we dream, it does appear that our dreams are products of our subconscious minds, and that they are influenced by what’s been going on in our lives. Therefore by remembering our dreams we can get some insights into our own subconscious thoughts. Many people also find their dreams a source of creative ideas. Some find it useful to dwell on something they need creative solutions to, before they fall asleep at night, so that their subconscious can come up with ideas in their dreams.
If nothing else, given that some researchers have estimated that we spend up to 6 years of our lives dreaming, its good to be able to remember what we were doing in our dreams!