Often, people will wake up in the morning thinking that they didn’t dream, but they did. A reason is that unlike the events from our daily life we are used to remembering, dreams are usually unpredictable and illogical, which makes them quite hard to memorize. Also, most dreams are kept only in short-term memory, and this explains why, if we don’t make an effort to remember them, they will quickly disappear when we wake up. This is sad because, as you will read below, there are many benefits to remembering your dreams. But before diving into this, let’s first address a widespread belief: what if you think that you don’t dream at all?
Yes, we all dream every night. The truth is we all have several dreams each night, but we mostly remember the ones we had just before waking up. Most people report only one dream per night simply because they woke up once, in the morning. On the other hand, some people regularly remember several dreams per night, because they wake up more often during the night. So while we all dream, the ability to remember our dreams vary a lot between individuals. Of course, our ability to remember our dreams is linked to our memory, and some people have a better dream memory than others.
There are a lot more characteristics that are correlated with dream recall. For instance, women tend to remember their dreams better than men, and young people better than older people. People that are more creative, open to new experiences, and interested in their emotions are better too. Scientists also noticed that people living in urban environments had a greater dream memory, although this may be explained by the ambient noise-causing more night awakenings, which relates to remembering more.
Remembering our dreams is the first step to getting all their benefits and exploring their huge potential. First of all, dreams can be an incredible source of ideas. Like the painter Salvador Dalí, whose paintings were often inspired by his dreams, or the scientist Dmitri Mendeleev who saw the periodic table of the elements in a dream. You probably have creative solutions and ideas to find in your dreams. In fact, studies found that people who remember their dreams tend to be more creative and have better problem-solving skills than others.
Dreams play an important role in the process of memory consolidation. Recollections from your week are incorporated into your dreams and remembering them strengthens those memories and improves your overall recall capacity. Our brains also delete uneccesary memories and send the important ones to long term memory storage.
Dream journaling over an extended period of time can reveal patterns, through recurrent dreams or the repeated appearance of important details in your waking life, and the more familiar your mind becomes with these patterns, the more awareness it might begin to have in wielding them while asleep. Repeated imagery, or dream symbols can be analyzed to better understand your subconscious and dream content.
Dream journaling can also be a way to break a creative block. Dream researchers believe that the subconscious mind creates scenarios to solve particular problems or explore the curiosities of a day’s events, bringing all those things you may have seen or heard without much thought into the light. A possible explanation is that the bizarreness and unusual characteristics of dreams stimulate a different way of thinking.
Last but not least, remembering your dreams is the first step to analyze and interpret their content, but also to control them —see our articles about lucid dreams. Keeping a dream journal not only helps build dream recall, but it also develops your ability to lucid dream. The more you write down your dreams, the easier it will get to remember them and the more awareness you will have overall within the dream.
Uncomfortable emotions that we avoid in our waking experience can seep into our nightly visions. Dreams may have a survival function when it comes to helping us prepare for situations we may not commonly encounter in our waking lives.Evolutionary theory suggests that nightmares may help us adapt to potential real-life situations. According to the “threat simulation theory,” dreams allow us to practice moving through stressful environments in order to help us prepare for fear-inducing circumstances in the waking world. That might explain why dreams are often accompanied by falling, running away from someone or something, or finding ourselves in embarrassing conundrums.
Dreams contain a lot of information about yourself, that you’ll only be able to exploit if you remember them. The most efficient way to start remembering your dreams is to keep a dream journal. The core idea is to write down everything that you remember about your dream immediately after you wake up. Do this not only in the morning but also in the middle of the night if it happens.
Consistent practice of meditation and mindfulness exercises is linked to a higher dream recall —among many other benefits. Then, science found out that some substances like vitamin B6 and anxiolytics may have an increasing effect on dream memories.
There may even come a point at which you remember more information than what you can write down in a reasonable amount of time! If you’re not sure where to start or what to write, we created the perfect dream journal app for you! With Oniri you can easily write down useful information about your dreams, which you can then use with the other features, such as statistics and analyses. We hope we’ve convinced you to start writing your dreams!
Check out our other article on Tips for dream journaling & remembering more dreams (oniri.io)