Why Do We Dream?
The mystery of dreams has inspired artists, writers, and philosophers since the dawn of time. So, what causes the strange phenomenon of dreaming? Research has shown that dreams can help us process our memories, emotions, traumas, and thoughts. Psychologists Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud theorised that it had a lot to do with the unconscious aspects of our psyche. To this day, dreams continue to baffle and amuse us with their absurd and sometimes recurring themes.
When we sleep, our frontal lobes signal the body to reduce movement and brain activity. We go into recovery mode and let our fight-or-flight responses melt away. However, the inactivity shifts a few hours into our sleep as the brain gears up for dreams. Our minds become more open to things that wouldn’t normally make sense in our waking life: think flying through space, fighting monsters, and otherworldly realms.
How Dreams Work
We pass through four stages of non-REM sleep before we get into deep REM sleep. Rapid eye movement brings our brains into an active state of alertness and activity, almost as if we’re awake! We have dreams at intervals that range from 90 minutes to 120 minutes each and with every REM phase, our dreams get crazier and more vivid.
Why We Forget Dreams
Let’s get scientific for a moment! The neurotransmitter responsible for memory is called norepinephrine, and this decreases while we’re sleeping. As a result, we end up forgetting a lot of what we just experienced. Thanks to the amygdala, we find it much easier to remember nightmares that leave lasting impressions via intense emotions and feelings of anxiety.
10 Ways To Remember Your Dreams
You might ask yourself: “Why can’t I remember my dreams?” – well, you aren’t alone! Within five minutes of waking up, most of us forget 50% of our dreams, and beyond that time frame, we can barely remember 10% of them. The good news is that there are lots of ways to improve dream recall! Now, let’s go into how to remember your dreams better!
1. Get A Good Night’s Rest
We all need our beauty sleep, but how many hours is enough? Getting a solid seven to nine hours of sleep every night will increase your chances of having more REM dreams! Following a regular sleep cycle improves memory retention and you’ll remember dreams better than you did before.
2. Wake Up Slowly & Don’t Move
Forget about setting an alarm! Wake yourself up as gently as you can so you can concentrate on remembering your dreams. Try to focus on one spot on the ceiling or even close your eyes. Stay still and avoid any sudden movements as you retrace your steps through the dream world.
3. Self Hypnosis
Before going to bed, listen to some sleep hypnosis audio videos on YouTube that play special frequencies meant to induce deep REM sleep. This could also lead you into the realm of lucid dreaming, which means you can take control of your in-dream actions!
4. Wake Up A Few Times
Waking up in the middle of REM sleep will make it easy to remember your last dream. Set an alarm to wake you within four to five hours of falling asleep!
5. Eyes Off The Screen
Going to bed after hours of staring at your computer or phone will decrease the quality of your sleep. For best results, stop using your gadgets at least an hour before bedtime so your eyes have time to adjust and rest.
6. Keep A Dream Journal
Have a notebook and a pen by your bed-side or have a digital journal on your phone. Write as many details as you can remember as soon as you wake up! Don’t wait any longer than five to ten minutes to jot down your notes.
7. Don’t Drink Coffee or Alcohol
Don’t drink any caffeinated or alcoholic drinks before sleeping! Doing this will lessen your REM sleep and fog your memory even faster than usual. Stick to water or tea and you’ll do just fine!
8. Don’t Sleep On A Full Stomach
Give yourself at least three hours to digest your dinner or late-night snacks, especially sweets and spicy food. Otherwise, you’ll have trouble maintaining long REM states. In addition to all of that, according to the International Journal of Psychophysiology, going to bed with a full belly actually increases your chances of a nightmare – and that’s not the kind of dream you want to be remembering!
9. Practice Meditation
Meditate daily for 15 to 20 minutes while doing breathing exercises. This will enhance your visualisation skills, mindfulness, focus, and relaxation: all the factors you need to realise you’re in a dream!
10. Program Yourself
Throughout the day, chant the mantra “I will remember my dreams” several times. You can also constantly ask yourself: “Am I dreaming?”. If you find yourself conscious while you’re asleep, you could be asking yourself the same question in the middle of a lucid dream!
Once you get your technique down, you’ll have tons of your dreams on record! You can use them to understand yourself better, think of new ideas, or you could just share them with your friends. Now, it’s time to get your forty winks and put your newfound dream skills to the test!