The human mind is a fascinating machine that keeps its wheels churning, even as you sleep. What's even more fascinating is that the average person will dream anywhere from four to six times per night, depending on their most active REM sleep, but will only remember one or two, if any at all, the morning after. It's still unclear to scientists why this is, but if you're wondering how to remember your dreams, it's not a completely impossible feat.
When I was a kid, I can remember having a recurring dream about Bugs Bunny at least once a year. As I got older, my dreams became less of a cartoon marathon and more vivid, more fantastical. Even now, there are plenty of mornings I'll wake up to give my husband a play-by-play of events Tim Burton would be proud to author, and I've actually based one of my short stories on a nightmare I once had. Still, there are plenty of dreams I can only grasp highlights of, and some mornings I wake up feeling as though the insides of my eyelids were an out-of-order movie screen playing all through the night.
So how can you go about actually remembering your dreams? Actively recalling where your mind wanders at night boils down to a few clichés: where there's a will, there's a way and, my personal favorite, practice makes perfect. Here are a few ways to get started yourself.
1. Literally Tell Yourself You Want To Remember Your Dreams
Yet another bullet point to tack onto your bedtime routine, the process of remembering your dreams begins before your head even hits the pillow.
Trust me, I understand the grueling nighttime thought process when all of the day's stressors and tomorrow's responsibilities flash through your head like a flip book, but it's important to put a hold on the usual tasks and focus on what you want to achieve from tonight's snooze.
In order to wake up fully aware of what you dreamed out the night before, the National Sleep Foundation suggests telling yourself you want to remember your dreams while you're falling asleep.
Personally, I think you can do even better than that. Perhaps start to tell yourself you want to remember your dreams while you're brushing your teeth, washing off your makeup, etc. The more you instill this in your brain, the more likely it is that it'll actually happen.
2. Keep A Journal By Your Bedside To Jot Down Any And Every Detail
Even if you feel like that part about you wearing a blue shirt is insignificant, put it in the book. According to The Lucidity Institute,
We seem to have built-in dream erasers in our minds, which make dream experiences more difficult to recall than waking ones. So, whenever you remember a dream, write it down. If you don't feel like writing out a long dream story at 3 a.m., note down key points of the plot. Also write down the precise content of any dialogue from the dream, because words will almost inevitably be forgotten in a very short time.
3. Take A Few Vitamins Before Bed
Specifically, vitamin B.
Certified life coach and dream worker Amy Cope said B-vitamins are a shortcut to dream recall. In a blog post about how to remember your dreams, Cope explained,
Vitamin B supplements help improve your memory, giving you another leg up for recalling your dreams. Choline bitartrate is a B-vitamin that is particularly associated with increased dreaming. It's not always included in a B-complex supplement, but it can be purchased on its own. Whenever I want to remember more dreams, I take both B-complex and choline bitartrate supplements before going to sleep.
Hey, it can't hurt to try, right?
4. Use Technology To Track Your REM Sleep
This method is a little extreme, but if you're determined to cite your dreams down to the detail as soon as you wake up, it's worth the try.
Using either a smartphone or fitness tracker, set an alarm to wake you up in intervals of 90 minutes after the first four and a half hours of sleep. When you've wiggled yourself awake from each stage of REM, scribble what, if anything, you can remember from your dreams before drifting back asleep.
I told you, practice makes perfect!
5. Of Course, Make Sure You're Getting Enough Sleep
In order to dream, you have to sleep, right? This one's kind of self-explanatory, but the bottom line is your body and mind need to be well-rested in order for your imagination to do its thing.
According to World of Lucid Dreaming, when you're sleep-deprived, your body craves and prioritizes NREM sleep, which is the deep sleep stage that happens during the first four to six hours and helps you physically and mentally reset. In other words, when you're overly tired, the last thing you're body's concerned with is sugar plum fairies dancing in your head.
It's kind of a catch-22, right? In order to remember your dreams, you have to get a good night's sleep, but you also might need to disrupt your sleep at some points.
Good luck, and sweet dreams!