How to Remember Your Dreams

Optional audio transcript

Dreams have become something that I love to write about. They are a great way to show what is happening in your mind. But what happens if, near suddenly, you don’t remember your dreams? Is there something wrong? What changed so that you can’t remember what you need to write about? Well, that is my issue right now.

I realized that I haven’t been able to remember most of my dreams lately. Some are still there, like walking through a random outside mall with a friend buying clothes. That one I only remember because I just woke up from it. But nothing else shows up in my mind for the past week. Typically, I can write down my dreams when I first wake up. But one dream? That’s not normal for me.

There are reasons as to why you can’t remember your dreams

Since I do know a few things about dreams at this point, I’m going to guess as to why my dreams stopped being memorable. First, I think that with my job, I have been having different experiences every day. It could just be that my mind isn’t as sparked with imagination as it used to. Second, I have started a second job which has allowed stress to enter my world. It could influence how I dream and how I remember them.

So, with my guesses here, we are going with:

  1. Outside influence of the mindset
  2. Stress
  3. Sleep schedule changes

I added the last one as it could be an issue for others. I have been waking up around 6 A.M. every day, typically not able to fall back asleep. It is rare that I sleep in past 7 A.M. I’m a morning person and it is a curse on my days off.

What does science think about not remembering your dreams?

There was a study done on dream recall in 2018, looking at brain function and dream remembrance. There are a few places in the brain that were looked at for dream recall. There are two portions of the brain that they looked at specifically.

  • Temporo-parietal junctions (TPJ) – influences attention and social cognitively.
  • Medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) – has the highest baseline metabolic activity when you rest.

Now, most of this is gibberish to me, but it seems to make some sense. You would want to see the areas of the brain that have the most functionality in times of sleep. This study also added in the hippocampus and amygdala, for obvious reasons in their role of the brain.

Don't forget, like the elephant, remember your dreams
Don’t forget, like the elephant by Gerd Altmann 

There were 92 participants in the study, which for a sleep study is a pretty decent number. For the result of the study, MPFC apparently has some major influence on whether we recall dreams. It could also share some of the spotlight with cerebral blood flow and how much it takes to recall dreams.

What does this mean?

Well, there are ways to measure dream recall and scientists have found parts of the brain that aid in remembering your dreams. That is fascinating as most people cannot explain as to why we dream in the first place. We mostly dream during the REM stage of sleep, which happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep. You can dream outside of it, though. It’s a normal thing. Don’t really worry about it.

During your REM sleep, brain frequencies can look just like those that occur when we are awake. It is interesting to see what we dream about during these times. I’ve discussed this before, and the answer is that no one knows. It is unfortunate that we haven’t figured this one out yet, but I believe it’ll happen eventually.

Is there a way to fix not remembering your dreams?

Well, yes and no. Figuring out what changed in your lifestyle is the biggest note to take. It could be any of the listed above, or it could be something in your subconscious. It would take some moments of reflection to seek out as to why you would stop dreaming. Once you’ve figured that out, it could be as easy as getting that issue settled to remember dreams again.

Another way, according to Head Space, is to attempt some lucid dreaming. It is considered the best way to remember your dreams again. It does have something to do with being in control and, thus, having some memory bound to the dream.

Which is really neat and why haven’t I done this yet?

Remember your dreams and it is a scientific anomaly

Head Space also states that meditation is a great tool to use as well in the same article. But, since the company has a meditation app, it may just be for the sales. And they are right, for some of what they say.

EOC Institute overwhelmingly agrees that meditation is necessary for lucid dreaming. Psychology Today states that meditation is helpful in keeping in the moment which would be helpful in lucid dreaming. Unfortunately, nothing was found with overall mindfulness and dreaming recall.

Meeting a giraffe in your dreams, remember your dreams
Meeting a giraffe in your dreams

Another study from 2018 discussed the idea of meditation and lucid dreaming. It was formed from other studies, such as one in 1988 where no connection of lucid dreaming and meditation was found, but the frequency of dream recall was increased. The 2018 study had 178 participants.

The conclusion of the study was that there was some correlation with meditation and dream recall. A course to handle stress reduction that was also studied did not have any effect on dream recall. This one was interesting in that they had multiple meditation types in the study and added in stress reduction.

So, what do we do with this information?

Well, for one, I was wrong about stress being reduced could help remember your dreams. Although only one study found proved that, it still has some significance. Meditation may very well be the answer to aiding in dream recall and getting those dreams back.

What I still want to know is why we forget at random times, but that answer is just as aloof as finding what dreams are. Maybe dreams just come and go, and we cannot really bring them back with sheer will. That would be nice, though.

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