As soon as we wake up in the morning, I ask my husband, “Did you dream?” Eight out of 10 times he'll tell me no, while I go on a tangent detailing the who, what, and when of my own nighttime adventures. Of course, we all dream, and in fact, studies show that the human mind conjures up fantastical worlds and hypothetical scenarios anywhere from four to six times per night. But the majority of us will forget anywhere from 95 to 99 percent of them. So if you've ever wondered why you don't remember your dreams, you're not alone, and the good news is the answer isn't so mysterious after all.
I've been fascinated with dreaming since I was a kid, especially because the dreams I do tend to remember are either overly dramatic, terrifying, or just plain weird. I rarely, if ever, wake up from a pleasant dream, but I always just assumed that was because, being the writer that I am, I have an overactive imagination. And while I still have no doubt that this character trait has something to do with it, science says there minute details in our everyday lives that may determine whether or not we'll remember our dreams.
For example, you could just be a heavy sleeper.
If by the end of the day, you're down for the count, nearly passed out on the couch, science says you're the type to hardly remember anything you dream about.
A 2013 study performed by researchers at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center and the University of Lyon found that people who tend to experience deep sleep with few to no interruptions are less likely to remember their dreams, while light sleepers tend to wake up frequently in the middle of the night when their dreams are still fresh in their minds.
I guess you could consider this the silver lining of a restless night, right?
It might also have something to do with your diet.
You know the saying, "you are what you eat?" Well, apparently, that rings true for dreams as well.
Sleep expert for Sleep Train Kelsey Down tells Elite Daily that, interestingly enough, your eating habits can also determine whether or not you remember your dreams. Dairy products, she says, “are frequently reported as triggering bizarre dreams during sleep, possibly due to an upset stomach, because dairy is a common food sensitivity.”
In addition to dairy, fatty meats like steak or fried foods can also affect your sleep patterns. When you indulge in heavy meals too close to sleep, digestion goes into overdrive while you're trying to wind down. This causes your body to produce heat, leading to tossing, turning, and unusual dreams.
Dr. Gary Wenk, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the Ohio State University and Medical Center, told First We Feast
The interesting thing about dream content when you dream outside of REM is that it incorporates things that are going on around you, especially in your body. So, does body state influence how you dream? Sure. Body temperature, having a fever, room temperature -- those will all be incorporated into the dream narrative.
Dream recall can also be affected by your hormones.
If you aren't remembering your dreams, there's a small chance it might be because there isn't anything worth remembering.
Usually, the night visions you wake up grasping for details about are the wild, unusual, or emotional ones that really resonated with your psyche in some way, and unless you've mastered the art of lucid dreaming, you can't consciously choose what your dreams will be about. You can, however, encourage vivid content.
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep and awake patterns. When a person has high levels of melatonin, their dreams are likely to be more animated, while those with low melatonin experience disturbances in their sleep cycles, causing them to have fewer and fuzzier dreams.
If you want to naturally increase your melatonin intake, try incorporating more almonds, sunflower seeds, cherries, and bananas in your diet.
Of course, it could just be that you really aren't that interested in dream recall.
Some people are obsessed with the ability to dream. They want to know why and how the human mind works when we're asleep, reading up on dream themes and diagnosing their own to extract some kind of meaning from them.
But then there are those who can recognize and appreciate what the mind is capable of, but are most likely not going to keep a dream journal or wake up every 90 minutes to analyze what they remember.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, actively trying to remember your dreams is a solid strategy, but if you're not concentrated or particularly motivated to, these vivid thoughts are bound to fade from memory.
If dream recall intrigues you, put these practices into play, focus, and snooze away.