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Dream Journaling​

Why we forget our dreams and how to remember them

Why we forget our dreams and how to remember them

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Every so often I will wake up in the middle of the night from an amazingly detailed dream that felt like it lasted an eternity. The feelings it would arouse in me stuck in my heart, and I knew this would be a dream that would linger in my mind for a while or so I had thought. Due to my body aching for more sleep, I would tell myself, "I will still remember it in the morning." 

However, by the time the sunrise had woken me up, a newer dream was fresh in my head whilst the one I had cherished before was now forgotten. This is the dreaded trick we play on ourselves in our dreary delusions. We convince ourselves that we will be able to remember an extravagant setting with a plot that is like The Lord of the Rings— that is, very long and intricate. 

Not only that, but we tell ourselves that we will perfectly recall the emotions that we felt; nevertheless, when memories fade so do sentiments. It may be difficult to get out of this habit, but dream journaling is a key helper when building up dream recall. 

While it can be hard to remember dreams, it’s worth the effort!

Why can't we remember our dreams?

Since there are many benefits to remembering dreams, many people wonder what causes us to forget dreams in the first place. Some people when asked what they dream of share that they do not dream. However, this is rarely the case; many just do not remember dreaming. 

Scientists have not yet come to a conclusion as to why some people remember their dreams better than others, but many have discovered that it may be linked to brain structure, such as the density of white matter in the brain, or psychological characteristics of an individual (Eichenlaub, Jean-Baptiste, et al.; Vallat, Raphael et al.). Dreams are still mostly a mystery even to science, and your dreams can currently only be experienced by you.

How to remember your dreams better

Make sure to get enough sleep

I personally seem to remember my dreams better based on the quality of sleep I get as well as how I wake up. If I am able to set aside at least 8 hours to sleep a night, I have more dream content to remember, so my brain is usually able to remember at least one dream from the night. 

As well as that, if my body wakes up from my sleep cycle on its own, I am usually able to come out of a dream remembering it. On occasion if my alarm is the one to wake me up, my brain fills up with thoughts of what I must complete for the day and pushes out any knowledge of dreams I may have had. 

However, never be too hard on yourself for not remembering your dream. You always have tomorrow to try again. If you do remember what you dreamt of, write it down as soon as possible.

Write down your dreams as you wake up

There are two main ways to jot down your dreams in the middle of the night: on paper or on your phone. You may prefer one or the other based on your middle-of-the-night habits. The phone is an easy choice since you can quickly pull up a dream journal app to type up your dream on. 

However, just beware that blue light from your screen may mess with your sleep cycle and quality of sleep if you are on your phone for too long. 

If you do not feel like typing, the Oniri app now has a feature where you can add a voice recording to your dream entries. This is a great option since I find myself remembering dreams longer if I share them aloud. 

If you are not a fan of pulling out your phone in the middle of the night, a classic pen/pencil and paper will also do the trick. You do not even have to turn on your light for this technique if you do not wish to, but make sure your scribbles are legible. I find this abstract moment to write down your dreams in the dark almost freeing.

Do not underestimate how much you may forget 

If you find yourself not wanting to wake yourself up too much to note your dreams or if you do not have time to write them down, try writing as little as possible with only the key points you feel will trigger the rest of your memory. 

Do not underestimate how much you may forget, though. On one occasion I woke up and only wrote down, “Lerakin, Wizard of Labor Day,” expecting that phrase to explain everything that just happened in my dream; now all I have to show is five words in that journal entry. Make sure to leave enough bare bones that you can add in the meat of the story later.

Although dreams are still an enigma to science, what goes on in your mind at night is your story to tell. We may never know what truly causes us to forget our dreams, but that only means we should cherish when we do remember them. Instead of being upset at yourself for a lapse in memory, celebrate when you wake up with that dream still in your mind. Journal it as quickly as possible so you may hold that story forever.

Josie, an Oniri user.

Sources 

Eichenlaub, Jean-Baptiste et al. “Resting Brain Activity Varies with Dream Recall Frequency Between Subjects.” Neuropsychopharmacol 39, 1594–1602 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2014.6. 

Vallat, Raphael et al. “Dream Recall Frequency Is Associated With Medial Prefrontal Cortex White-Matter Density.” Frontiers in Psychology vol. 9 1856. 27 Sep. 2018, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01856.

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