By: Ellen Davidson
Remembering your dreams takes some conscious effort. You must be aware that you are trying to remember them and be diligent about following the necessary steps towards achieving your goal. You may feel as though your dreams are meaningless, and merely a by-product of sleep. However, with a concerted effort towards remembering them, they can help you decipher any inner turmoil that may be manifesting itself in your dreams, which can help you target points of stress, depression, and fear. Likewise, those who are truly talented at dream recall may also be gifted at producing lucid dreams, which are dreams that you can control. Many people who lucid dream take advantage of this skill by acting out fantasies such as flying in their sleep.
Will Yourself to Remember
The first tip is as obvious as telling yourself “I will remember my dreams.” You must be clear in your intention to remember, putting every fiber of your will into this activity prior to sleeping. Something about chanting this thought to ourselves seems to be very helpful in dream recall. It’s as if we convince our brain that it needs to store away the information collected when we dream. To even further engage the brain in this idea, voice this desire aloud. Clear your head of anything else that may be distracting you from your goal before sleeping. This mantra, which almost takes the form of meditation, should be the only thing occupying your mind.
Mull it Over
Upon awakening, don’t be too quick to hop out of bed. Taking some time to lay with your eyes closed and play back the bits you remember from a dream will help you to soak up all the details. This hypnagogic state is the waking time when your dreams will be clearest, as if you can actually rewind back to the visual clarity of them you experienced while asleep. A major key to memory retention is merely reviewing things as many times as possible. In a way, you’re trying to memorize what you saw and felt before you get up and such an act becomes significantly more challenging.
Keep A Dream Journal
As soon as you physically get up each morning, scribble your dreams into a journal. Have the journal and a writing utensil right next to your bed and ready instead of scrambling around to find something to write in, which will probably cause your dreams to evaporate in the stress of the moment. If you delay this too much, you will promptly forget about your dreams, even if you remembered a good deal about them in the moments after your awakening. Do not be discouraged if you don’t remember very many details at first. Even writing down a feeling you had when waking that was prompted by a dream can be helpful. Over time, you will be able to delve into not only the plot of the dream, but sensory associations that came with it as well as emotions. You may also draw things you saw in your dream if you can’t readily express them in words.
Talk About Your Dreams
It’s true that there may be few things more obnoxious than hearing all the details of somebody else’s convoluted dream sequence. However, telling people about your dreams can help jog your memory into details you may have forgotten. Likewise, you will yet again be repeating your dream over in your head, and if you’ve followed the above steps, this should be your third time to “replay” the dreams you had the night before. Likewise, when you talk your dream over with a friend, they may have some unique interpretations as to what your dreams meant that you may have not considered. The outsider point of view can be helpful in fully exploring the themes and elements present within your dreams.
Maintain a Schedule
To get the best quality of sleep possible, go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time every day. Maintaining a consistent schedule will help ensure you reach the stage of sleep in which dreaming occurs as many times as possible during the night, which is typically five times. This stage of sleep is known as REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement. If you awaken during REM sleep, your chances of remembering your dreams are much greater, since you will have just been dreaming at that moment. Likewise, the longest REM cycle occurs after you’ve been asleep for just more than six hours, and can last a full hour. This hour of dreaming is usually the vivid dreams that people remember the most, but if your sleep-deprived lifestyle only allows you to get six hours of sleep a night, you won’t quite break into this dream-lucrative territory.
Eat and Drink Right
If you drink alcohol or eat fatty foods prior to going to sleep, your quality of sleep will be compromised and you will not remember as many of your dreams. While alcohol brings on sleep more rapidly, it increases non-REM sleep and can cause mid-sleep withdrawal symptoms, which can produce shallow, fitful sleep. After the effects of the alcohol have worn off, you could experience what is known as REM-rebound which will produce dreams, but these are often nightmares. It is not recommended to get your dream recall from a REM-rebound session. Junk foods appear to have the same negative impact on sleep as alcohol, as they increase the brain waves that encourages nightmares. Nightmares, aside from not being the kind of dream you want to remember, are not very relaxing to the sleep cycle.
Challenge Your Memory
Recalling your dreams is just another exercise for improving your overall memory, so doing brain exercises that aid in memory retention will also be helpful in remembering dreams. Some word games, such as Scrabble and crossword puzzles, are said to be helpful in memory retention. You can also think back to a childhood event and try to recall as many details as possible. The more obscure the event is, the more you’re challenging your brain to work in a fashion conducive to memory-recall. Essentially, you are training your brain to be more detail-oriented, and to not generalize information as you perceive it.
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Reposted from Group Health Insurance’s Blog