The problem in this regard is however that our brains seem “programmed” to erase our dream-related memories as quickly and efficiently as possible.
To properly recall your dreams, you need to somehow circumvent this natural obstacle.
How can you accomplish that? Luckily, there are certain techniques you can use.
How do you recall dreams?
To recall dreams means to simply remember them when you wake up.
The problem with this whole angle is though that apparently, humans will almost exclusively remember dreams they just had when they woke up.
A proper sleep cycle consists of several REM sleep stages. In fact, we cycle through one of these stages every 90 minutes on average, every night, and apparently, we dream quite a bit during every REM stage. We just do not remember most of these dreams, and if one happens to be into lucid dreaming, remembering as many dreams as possible becomes very important.
Why is it of the essence though that we remember/recall these dreams?
First of all: lucid dreams – as special as they are – are but dreams themselves and as such, they too can be forgotten. The last thing a lucid dreamer would want is to actually have the experience and then to completely forget it.
Secondly: Being able to recall dreams is very useful from the point of view of various lucid dream-inducing techniques. By keeping a “dream journal,” the aspiring lucid dreamer will be able to recognize reoccurring dream patterns, scenarios and characters. For a lucid dreamer, this is a trove of essential information indeed.
So how do you go about remembering your dreams?
Your first move is to get plenty of sleep. This is needed for several reasons. First of all: to have long and proper REM sleep stages, you need to be well-rested and on a healthy sleep schedule.
Some people use melatonin to achieve proper sleep, but it is not a must for the purposes of dream recall, although it has to be noted that in addition to deepening and lengthening REM sleep, melatonin has been found to turn dreams more vivid and easier to remember too.
Another reason why you need to be well-rested is that – if you are really looking to jump on the dream-recall wagon, hook, line and sinker – you’ll be waking up several times a night. Indeed, your brain only really has the capacity to properly remember a dream, if it occurs just before you wake up.
Those who want to recall as many of their dreams as possible, may therefore set their alarm clocks to rouse them several times a night, in the hopes of locking up as many dream memories as possible.
A full sleep cycle takes up about 90 minutes, so that’s a good starting point for setting that alarm. Obviously, an experiment like this – especially when coupled with dream-recording during the brief intervals while the subject is actually awake – may exact quite a toll on sleep quality.
Given the nature of the human brain, it is obvious that someone aspiring to achieve lucid dreaming should indeed keep a record of his/her dreams. This is what I did as a sort of first step towards lucid dreaming, and indeed, it paid off well, in ways I could never have anticipated.
It is useful to know that as you fall asleep, your very first REM “dream” stage will be the shortest. The one at the end of your night’s sleep is usually the longest. In the beginning, you will likely dream for about 10 minutes. Later REM stages expand, and by the end of night, you may indeed dream for as long as 45 minutes.
Use whatever recording medium you feel most comfortable with, because when you are roused in the middle of the night, you may not be in a shape to fiddle too much with something that’s not handy and easy to handle. When you awaken and you do indeed remember a dream: know that you MUST record it. Otherwise, if you go back to sleep, you brain may well erase it all by morning.
Another, less “brutal” and intrusive technique for dream recall involves simply telling yourself before you fall asleep that you do indeed want to remember the dreams you are about to have. Make a sort of mental note.
You may also want to tell yourself that you will have interesting dreams that are indeed fully deserving of your attention.
This way, you’ll give your dream-related thoughts and memories a sort of priority.
If you already have a dream journal going, read through it before bedtime. This is an interesting way to lull your brain into dream-mode, and to give your dream-related thoughts priority over the day’s issues, or other thoughts linked to mundane existence.
In the morning, when you wake up, stay in bed, remain in the position in which you were upon awakening and try to remember what you dreamt. Try to grab onto a memory-fragment if you have no clear idea in this regard and try to work backwards from it.
If you find that you cannot remember anything at all, just imagine a dream you may have had and ask yourself whether you indeed had that dream.
Good dream recallers are capable of remembering as many as 4 dreams every night. You may now be far from this level, but by practicing the above, you will set yourself onto the right path.
How do I improve my dream recall?
To improve your dream recalling abilities, you can improve on the above said techniques, tweaking them here and there.
Here are a few ways you can accomplish just that.
If you feel up to it, you should really provide a detailed description of the dreams you do indeed remember.
Write down everything about them: dialogues, colors, sensations, feelings various dream scenarios elicited in you, tactile sensations and temperature-related ones.
Draw pictures of your dream scenarios, as well as of the symbols and various faces that you encounter.
If you really are a heavy sleeper and you feel utterly unable to record anything having woken up in the middle of the night, use the mnemonic technique: just change something in your room, and mentally link that change to a particular memory. This way, you will find it easier to recall that particular memory in the morning.
Ritualizing your whole dream journal effort also makes sense. To this end, you can take to using a special color pen for it, as well as fleshing out your nightly rough notes and copying them over into another booklet, during the day.
As stated above, it is very important to just spend some time in bed after awakening, motionless, your mind filled only with the dream sensations and thoughts of the night that just wrapped up.
Always make time for this exercise, and do not forget to do a reality check or two too, while at it.
Keep motionless in the beginning, and run all your dream-memories through your head. When done, change position and assume another one in which you usually sleep. With your eyes closed, attempt to conjure up some more memories of a different dream you may have had.
In addition to your on-the-spot recording, prepare yourself to record dreams throughout the day. Sometimes dream recall strikes when you least expect it, and it would really be a shame to let these memories go to waste, just because you have your mind filled with other thoughts at that point.
Even if you only manage to recall some dream fragments, note them all down, with special attention to detail.
Over time, you’ll realize that you have certain reoccurring dreams. Jumping really high, flying and floating are such reoccurring elements for me. If you wake up in the morning unable to recall anything dream-related, run these reoccurring themes through your head. They may in fact trigger an unexpected dream recall and due to their familiarity, they are indeed much more likely to do so than any other thoughts you may have.
Some call these reoccurring dream patterns “dream signs.” When you have a fair number of dream memories noted down, these dream signs will become obvious to you.
Many of these patterns are relatively common (like the ones I mentioned above), but some of them will be unique to you. Such unique elements may be people you know, your job etc. Be aware of these unique signs, and whenever you’re faced with them in real life, perform a reality check.
This technique will ease your path to lucid dreaming.
In what order should I write my dreams?
That’s an easy one: just write them down in the order in which you remember them.
With dreams, it is very difficult to tell which one came before the other, and at the end of the day, order usually does not carry any added significance.
Be aware of the fact that you can indeed remember more in-dream events than you could possibly have had time for, during a single night.
In the realm of dreams, time is indeed a very flexible concept. There were cases when people reported dreams that lasted a year. The record-holder in this regard is apparently someone who had a dream that lasted a century.
Why can’t I remember any of my dreams?
Some people remember their dreams easier than others. There are indeed people out there who never seem to remember anything. It goes without saying that such people are obviously not the best candidates for lucid dreaming and dream recall.
Everyone dreams – science is fairly sure of that – but some people’s brains erase all traces of dream memories, while others’ don’t.
Exactly why this happens has not really been studied extensively enough.
What science does currently know is that those who do indeed remember their dreams respond better to hearing their own names when awake, during the day. These differences surface as more prominent alpha-wave decreases, and they obviously denote a difference in the way the actual dreaming process happens in these individuals.
Research has also verified the logical conclusion that those who are good at dream recalling, awaken more times during the night, than those who aren’t. One might call bad dream recallers “better sleepers.”
Good dream recallers are apparently awake during the night for an average of 30 minutes, while bad dream recallers for an average of 14. Both these numbers are well within what’s considered normal in this regard though.
Obviously, there is still a lot more research that needs to be done into this issue.
Bad dream recallers can in fact improve their dream recalling skills too, through the techniques I detailed above.