Everyone Dreams - Tips for Recalling Them
- Created on Thursday, 19 April 2012 10:30
- Written by Maria Tadd
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Are our dreams just some confusing concoction of images that bombard us in our sleep, perhaps rehashing our day's events, or are they more? Are they messages from our higher self or from our conscious or subconscious? Are they trying to tell us something? This blog series will cover all aspects of dreaming including how to remember them, what do dreams mean, the different types of dreams, various methods to interpret them, when dreams are warning us about our health and much more.
Everyone Dreams (including most mammals)
Rapid Eye Movement aka REM sleep has been around since mammals evolved some 220 million years ago and is the phase during sleep when most dreams occur. In fact, according to some studies, subjects who were awakened during REM sleep reported dreams or dream-like experiences an average of 82% of the time. This high recall rate may, in part, have been due to the fact that subjects were awakened.
Although the preponderance of dreaming takes place during REM sleep, dreams also occur at the onset of sleep, during non-REM sleep and even in some waking states. Often at sleep onset we awake with a jerk, sometimes recalling some dream-like images. If we get 7-8 hrs of sleep, we typically will experience 4-6 periods of REM sleep during which time we are dreaming. However for many, dream recall is elusive.
The Importance of Dreams
Some research supports the hypothesis that dreams help us adapt to stressful waking events by activating habitual defense mechanisms. By “rehearsing” a particular response or behavior while you sleep, you will have an easier time dealing with that stressful situation in you waking life. Dreams can also help us problem solve and can provide an “ah hah” moment. Sleep and dreaming appear to play critical roles in memory and learning (hence “listening” to a foreign language while sleeping). We know that sleep deprivation has all sorts or deleterious effects, but what about dream deprivation? Studies have shown that dreaming is very important for maintaining our mental health.
How to Remember Your Dreams
Every night we have many opportunities to dream. But some of us can’t remember even one. If this is the case, there are things you can do to enhance dream recall. One of the first steps is to program yourself before you go to sleep. Make a declaration before going to sleep that you will remember your dreams. Don’t be disappointed if the next morning you can’t remember anything – it may take some time. When you fall asleep each night with the intention that you will capture even just a snippet of your dream, eventually you will. And then, once you start remembering them, recall will become easier and easier and who knows, maybe the flood gates will open. It is just like any activity you do during your waking life ― the more you practice, the better you get.
You may also find that there are certain times of the month, such as the full or new moon when your recall is much better. I am not sure why this is true, but it certainly makes a difference for me.
The best way to remember your dreams is to record them as soon as you wake up, even it if is in the middle of the night. Keeping pen and paper by the bed or a little recorder will go a long way in helping you capture your nighttime adventures. If you share your bed, you may want to have a little reading lamp or pen that lights up so you don’t disturb your partner. As you awaken, try to move as little as possible and try not to think right away about your upcoming day. Write down or voice record all of your dreams and images, as they can fade quickly if not recorded. Any distractions will cause the memory of your dreams to vanish. If you can't remember a full dream, record the last thing that was on your mind before awakening, even if you have only a vague memory of it. I keep a small recorder by my pillow so that it is within reach at all times. When recording, I usually replay the dream in my head before recording it as I find that sometimes the act of speaking may interfere with my memory. When I have finished recording it, I often include the date so in the event that I don’t transcribe the dream right away, I have a record of when it occurred.
When writing or transcribing your dream, always write in the present tense. At first you might only remember snippets. But even snippets can be interpreted and can provide insight. Once you get into the habit of recording your dreams, in all likelihood you will be able to recall more and more. I’ve had dreams that felt like they went on forever and when typed, single spaced, have filled up two pages.
If you remember unusual images, you may want to draw them. For example, I have dreamed of hybrid and "tribrid" animals (i.e., a Rottweiler with rhinoceros horns and webbed feet like a duck’s) and have sketched them upon waking. Here’s an example. Not a great work of art, but enough to capture the image.
Joining a dream group can be an incentive to remember your dreams. Knowing that you will be presenting a dream to the group can get the recall juices flowing. Dream groups are also a great way to get insight in what the dream was about.
Also, when recording your dreams don’t forget to mention how you felt. It may not necessarily be part of the transcription but you may want to include some notes at the bottom of the page. Feelings/emotions are important when interpreting.
Dreams can provide a wealth of information and are important for our mental health. Knowing how to interpret them will provide you with an invaluable tool in terms of how you live your life and how you live in the world. Stay tuned — part two of this series will include dream interpretation.