We know that nearly 95% of dreams are forgotten. Often, people will wake up in the morning thinking that they didn’t dream this night —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. But the most important reason is related to the particular state of the brain during dreams. The brain zones in charge of the long-term memory are less activated, so it’s harder to keep in memory what is produced during dreams. Instead, 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. But 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 our previous paragraph. In the end, all those factors are basically just statistics. It doesn’t mean someone without all these characteristics can’t improve their dream recall.So now that we acknowledged that we all dream, and that we can all get better at remembering our dreams, why should we?
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. A possible explanation is that the bizarreness and unusual characteristics of dreams stimulate a different way of thinking.In addition to creativity, dreams also play an important role in the process of memory consolidation. To make it simple, recollections from your previous day or before are incorporated into your dreams, and remembering them strengthens those memories and improves your overall recall capacity.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. Dreams contain a lot of information about yourself, that you’ll only be able to exploit if you remember them.
There are different ways to get better at remembering your dreams. First, 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.But the most efficient way to start remembering your dreams, by far, 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, in the morning but also in the middle of the night if it happens. If you make this into a habit, you will see considerable effects on how much of your dreams you can actually remember, as countless studies demonstrated. 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. Check it out!We hope we’ve convinced you to start writing your dreams! Here are some articles to go further: Dream interpretation 101 & Lucid dreams: what they are, and why they are awesome
Aspy, D. J., Madden, N. A., & Delfabbro, P. (2018). Effects of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and a B complex preparation on dreaming and sleep. Perceptual and motor skills, 125(3), 451-462
Cohen, D. B. (1969). Frequency of dream recall estimated by three methods and related to defense preference and anxiety. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 33(6), 661.
Jacquemont, G. (2020). La science des rêves: S’en souvenir – Les interpréter – Les piloter. Paris: Flammarion.
Montangero, J. (2007). Comprendre ses rêves pour mieux se connaître. Odile Jacob.
Reed, H. (1978). Improved dream recall associated with meditation. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 34(1), 150-156.
Schoch, S. F., Cordi, M. J., Schredl, M., & Rasch, B. (2019). The effect of dream report collection and dream incorporation on memory consolidation during sleep. Journal of sleep research, 28(1), e12754.
Schredl, M. (2008). Dream recall frequency in a representative German sample. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 106(3), 699-702.
Sierra‐Siegert, M., Jay, E. L., Florez, C., & Garcia, A. E. (2019). Minding the dreamer within: An experimental study on the effects of enhanced dream recall on creative thinking. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 53(1), 83-96.