Posted on Apr 18, 2013 in Other stuff, Science & nature
I don’t really remember mine either, unless it’s something really scary. And then, even when I do, I forget it not long after waking up. So why do people have trouble remembering their dreams, and can I train myself to remember them more clearly?
My sincerest apologies to Hall & Oates for that.
Anyway. It’s happened to all of us. We’re in the middle of a strange/amazing/fantastic/scary/breathtaking/other adjective dream — maybe even aware that we’re dreaming — and then wake up and think to ourselves, “man, that dream was something else… now… wait. What was that about again? Why can’t I remember anything now?”
You’re not alone. On average, we forget 95-99% of our dreams when we wake up. But why?
Well, like a lot of questions we answer here, sometimes there’s just no clear-cut answer, and that’s certainly the case here. However, there are some theories.
One suggestion is that we don’t remember our dreams simply because we, well, sleep right through them. Along those lines, it’s suggested that dreams are like doing any task that doesn’t take a lot of concentration — like driving on a straight open road, or singing along to a song you know the lyrics to by heart — the time can pass and you don’t really recall what you just drove by or sang. Since you aren’t really paying active, conscious attention, you don’t remember.
Other research indicates that there may be an actual chemical and biological reason dreams aren’t recalled. During REM sleep, when dreams occur, some of the brain chemicals that are necessary to convert short term memories to long term ones are suppressed — so unless the dream is especially vivid or you wake up during or immediately after it, you’re unlikely to remember the dream.
Some research has also indicated that people that aren’t particularly good at tasks involving visual imagination — like those horrible SAT questions where they ask you “which structure can you build from these blocks” — tend to recall dreams less than those who have good visual imagination skills, on average.
So, is there anything you can do to improve your dream recall? Sure.
First of all, if you’re female, you’re in luck — women tend to be able to recall dreams more frequently than men.
Secondly — though this generally leads to being tired, crabby, and irritable the next day — just about everyone can remember their dreams if they are woken up during or immediately after a dream. Unless your significant other has you on an EEG and is willing to stay up all night watching it, however, this probably isn’t the most reliable method.
One thing everyone can do is to keep a dream journal. Keep a pen and paper on the nightstand and upon awakening from a dream, immediately write down everything you can remember. Not only will this give you a record of what happens in your dreams, but the very act of keeping a dream journal can have the effect of improving dream recall.
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