Having trouble remembering your dreams?
How to enhance dream recall.
Researchers have identified many factors that may influence dream recall. The most important of these are; sleep quality, visual memory, life-style,
stress, creativity and the attitude towards dreams. Many studies have been published but there has not yet been comprehensive research that
includes all of these factors.
The easiest one to control is probably the attitude towards dreaming. If you don't believe your dreams are important, you will rarely remember them.
If you want to remember your dreams you must take them seriously. You must then instil into your conscious mind that you will remember them on
waking; training yourself to the extent that the first thing you think of when you become aware that you are waking from sleep, is "What was I
dreaming?" Affirmations repeated throughout the day are usually effective. Simple commands such as, "I will remember my dreams." or a statement
of fact such as, "I DO remember my dreams" or "I always remember my dreams," tend to be particularly effective. You need to repeat the affirmation
many times during the day. If you're one of those people who claim they never remember their dreams, this step is of the utmost importance. You
must re-train your neural pathways with the belief that you do remember your dreams and, with persistence, there is no reason why you will not
remember four or five dreams every night. Our sleeping brains conjure up many dreams each night, far more than we ever remember, but we are
only likely to remember the dreams occurring during the last REM period before waking. Hence, the quality of sleep affects dream recall. Nocturnal
awakenings are common during light sleep which is why many people say they remember their dreams if they are sleeping away from home or if an
anxious state of mind. If you're really determined to remember as many dreams as possible you can set an alarm clock to wake you at the end of
every REM period, occurring approximately every 90 minutes throughout the night, the first one being 90 minutes after falling asleep. Indeed there
are now devices on the market that are designed to wake you gently, usually by flashing lights inside an eyepiece, every time they detect a period of
REM, (signalled by moving eyelids). This is a bit extreme for most people and the devices are still rather expensive and certainly not necessary.
Intent is usually sufficient to elicit dream recall. If you are sufficiently determined to remember at least one dream every night then, with practice, you
It's pretty well accepted now that the right side of the brain is the seat of creative thoughts and processes and the left side is primarily concerned
with analytical thought and language. Any activator before sleep that stimulates right brain function will tend to enhance your dreaming life.
Listening to music, pursuing creative arts, practising meditation or using relaxation techniques before bed are all useful in enhancing recall.
Reading a book about dreams at bedtime is also very effective. If you're one of those people who tend to live their lives in pursuit of everyday tasks
and concrete goals, with little interest in creative or spiritual activities, it's likely that your left brain dominates your thought processes and you
probably have great difficulty remembering your dreams. This does not disbar you from remembering, it just means that you might have to work a
bit harder at practising right-brain activation techniques before retiring for the night.
Remembering a dream is not enough - you also need to record it if you want to explore its meaning later. It's important that you keep a pen and
paper close to hand when you go to bed. Often the best place is under your pillow enabling you to scribble out a remembered dream without too
much movement and without opening your eyes too wide. You'll find that as soon as you open your eyes and begin to register that you are fully
conscious, the dream will slip quickly and silently away. A pen with an in-built light is useful so you don't have to switch on the bedside lamp. I use
a small Dictaphone but, be warned, speech tends to be quite distorted, more so than writing, when you're in that strange state between sleep and
Another useful tip is not to change your position whilst you are trying to remember a dream. A dream that is only vaguely remembered will slip
away before you've turned your head on the pillow. If you do move, as doubtless you will until you get used to it, you must return immediately to
the position you were in when you woke. By doing this, you will often be able to re-capture it. Once remembered, a dream must be recorded
immediately. It's very tempting sometimes to go over the dream in your mind, (especially if you wake in the middle of the night), and believe that
you will remember it later. The chances are that you won't, unless it was a very vivid or frightening dream but even then a lot of the detail will be
lost. There's nothing more frustrating than the vague memory of a dream now forgotten. If this happens, it's important that you record whatever
you remember even if this is only a vague recollection of a feeling or a colour. By doing this you will be sending yourself a very powerful message
that you are serious about honouring your dreams. You could also try viewing your subconscious as the best friend you ever had, a friend whose
main purpose in life is to help you. You don't have to take your friend's advice but surely you would want to do them the courtesy of listening to
what they have to say, even though sometimes they might reveal some home truths about you that you'd prefer not to know. Give your dreams the
respect due to them and they will reward you tenfold.
When you begin to remember your dreams, I would urge you to give serious consideration to the dream content and incorporate this inner
wisdom in your life by acting on your dreams whenever possible. If the dream seems to be suggesting that you contact a certain person, then
contact them. If an animal brings you a wisdom teaching, go out and buy a physical representation of the animal and keep it wherever you feel
you'll need to be reminded of its wisdom or its character. You may choose to wear clothes of a particular colour on the day following a dream
where that colour was given prominence. Or it may be that you will chance on one of your dream images in your everyday reality. For instance;
you may see an identical candlestick for sale that you had seen in a dream previously. By purchasing it, you will be reminded of the dream and
it's message each time you use it. By taking action after a dream you will be reinforcing the dream message and this will further stimulate dream
Copyright J.C.Harthan 2002