5 Tips Based on Science for Recalling Dreams and Dream Content That Actually Work
Have you ever wished that you could analyze your dreams, only to realize that you can't even remember them to begin with? Is recalling dreams and dream content such a problem for you that you are starting to believe you don't even have them? When it comes to dreams, we all have them. Literally. Some people like to play cool and claim that they don't, but that is never the case. Maybe even you think that you do not dream, and that has nothing to do with playing it cool. The truth is that dreaming is a process that we all experience, and not remembering your dreams does not mean that you don't dream. All it means is that you don't remember them! Confused yet?
Simply put, it is physically impossible not to dream in your sleeping hours, but we dream differently every night, and we recall differently every morning, so this will change the way you are able to recall your dreams and analyze them on a day to day basis. How well you are able to recall and then understand your dreams and their meanings depends on a wide variety of factors. And it is those combination of factors that will help you to remember, recall dream content, and maybe even analyze it.
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1. Remember that dreaming is a short term memory process.
A number of studies have been conducted to determine just where in our brains our dreams are located. Some of them are located in the limbic system, but many of them are stored in our short-term memory. To help you understand how the brain views short term and long term memory, consider your brain to have two banks. In each bank, is information. One of those banks is long term memory, and the other is short term memory. Long term memory works like the gigs on your hard drive. It only holds so much, and once it is full it is full until you delete information and replace it with new.
2. Get a good and full night's sleep, as often as you possibly can.
It's not important enough to get a good night's sleep on the night you want to remember dreams. Dream recall and understanding dreams and their meanings requires practice and habit, that's how long term memory is formed. And dreams only occur during certain sleep periods. If you are not getting enough rest, your brain is not going to enter those sleep periods frequently enough during the course of a night, or over a certain period of time.
So if you really want to make an intense study of your dreams, get in the practice now of sleeping well as often as you can. This puts your brain into the circadian rhythm you need to enter that REM sleep stage where dream occurs, the last stage of sleep that your brain enters when you are sleeping. If you are constantly waking up early, hearing noises in the middle of the night, becoming distracted during sleep, by the time you fall back asleep, every single time, you have to start from the beginning of your sleep stages again. This will impede the dream process, but more importantly, impede your ability to recall it.
3. No food, drugs, alcohol, not even cough medicine for at least one hour before you go to bed.
This is a very common dream recall tip, and if you think about what we said regarding short term memory recall, this makes perfect sense. How sensible were you the last time you had a few glasses of wine, during your conscious state? Did you have a tough time remembering what your friends were talking about 5 minutes ago? That's because substances, chemicals, anything that requires metabolism by our brain and blood (yes, that means even food!) impedes our ability to recall dreams. If these matters impede our abilities to recall actual things that happened to us in our waking life, imagine how difficult it would be to recall things that happened while we were sleeping, if we were under the influence of these things! If you must imbibe, give yourself at least one hour before bed to let your brain and blood metabolize the substances you have put in your system before attempting a restful night of dreams that will lead to recall. The stronger the substances, such as drugs or alcohol, the longer you have to wait for your brain to do that work before you go to bed.
In other words, the more sober you are before you fall asleep, the greater your chances of recall in the morning. Sorry to be the bearer of that bad news, but if dream study is truly on your bucket list, this is an important one. The more you get into this practice, the more you will understand this importance. Now, this is not saying give it up all together. Once in a while is cool, so long as you already have a regular practice of getting good sleep anyway.
4. Try jogging your short term memory as soon as you wake up in the morning.
We speak often of a dream journal here, and that is an important tool to have when you are studying your dreams and their meanings. But what is the point of a journal if you can't remember anything? There are ways that you can jog that memory in your waking life from your dreaming life from the second you wake up in the morning so that you even have something to write in your dream journal.
Try at first to focus on something on or near your bed, before your feet even hit the floor, or before you really get up and get the blood moving for the day. Maybe it's your clock, or a glass of water, or a book, or even your phone. Just after you wake up, focus on that object for a few minutes and think about what dreams you had that night, even if you can't remember them. By focusing on an object, you put your mind back into that dream state, and you may even see that object turn into something else, like a significant clue from your dream world. Maybe it will become a doorknob? Or a set of keys? Or a staircase that gives you a clue to the whole rest of your dream story? Whatever you think about, or keeps popping into your head in that moment, is an important clue for your dream recall. Write that down and ponder throughout the day on that clue, and the rest of your dream details will come forth. This is a very simple trick to turn the dream content from your short term memory into your long term memory, because you are constantly applying reinforcement techniques to transform a short term dream into a long term one.
5. Wake up a little bit earlier than you normally do.
The reason this tip is so important in dream recall and in the understanding of your dreams and their meanings is due to those stages of sleep. We often remember dreams just as we wake up, because dreaming occurs in the last stage of sleep, and so of course this is the stage we are in when we wake up. If you are able to wake up slightly earlier than you normally do, even 15 minutes, then you will find more frequent dream recall occurring. Write down or meditate on the things that you are thinking about as soon as you wake up, even if you are groggy and fuzzy and the words or symbols don't make any sense.
This to many is a very powerful dream recall tip, and one of the most popular because it is something that you can begin manipulating and trying right now. Have you ever woken up wondering why you were thinking of someone or something? You were probably having a dream about them. Since you are awake a few minutes earlier than you need to be anyway, you can spend that time meditating on that person or thing, and you will find more dream recall literally falls into place. It's an easy tip that you can try right away, like tomorrow morning!
What do you think? Have you used any of these recall tips to discover dreams and their meanings in your life? Are there other dream recall tips not mentioned here that you want to point out to our readers and friends? Do tell, I can't wait to find out!