One of the most adorable things that I'm honored to witness pretty much daily is my dog dreaming. He barks with his muzzle shut, he runs fiercely while laying on his side, and his nose keeps itself busy on the way. Although these unconscious visions are something we have in common, only us humans seem to know how to remember dreams and share them with others.
I should admit it's not as easy as it sounds. Everybody wants to recall their dreams but not a whole lot of us actually do. Upon awakening, we usually are left with mere snippets of the story. Most often it's just a general emotion that tends to envelop us without an explanation.
Recalling our night time visions requires hard and consistent work. But it does pay off beautifully. Here are a few ways to remember your dreams and stop this amazing source of inspiration and a tool for psychoanalysis from slipping through your fingers.
1. Sleep enough
Getting enough sleep is crucial for dream recall. For adults, that's 6-8 hours per night. Of course, everybody's different and you may as well survive on 4 hours per night. But if you're interested in recording and analyzing your dreams, you probably want to shoot for more.
There are four sleep stages in one cycle: Non-REM (NREM) sleep, that are Stages 1, 2, and 3, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. The most vivid dreams occur in REM Stage.
The first sleep cycle lasts for about 90 min and the subsequent ones last for around 110-120 min. This is due to the REM stages getting longer with each cycle. So, if you don't sleep enough, your REM stages, as well as your dreams, will be fewer and shorter.
2. Monitor your sleep cycles
The fact is that everybody dreams every night, if they allow themselves enough of resting time. If you get 8 hours of sleep, you can easily experience up to 5 dreams per night.
Unfortunately, only the last one is the most likely to remain in your memory upon waking. Each time you cycle back from REM to the first stags of sleep, a once-vivid dream disappears as you transition.
That is unless you monitor your sleep cycles and get yourself woken up at REM stage. You can do that with such sleep trackers as smart wristbands or by simply counting the time when you are most likely to be experiencing your dreams.
Experts advice to allow yourself 4.5 hours of sleep first. After this first awaking, set the alarm clock to 6 hours after you went to sleep and after this – to 7.5 hours.
This experiment shouldn't be made too often, though. Only do this if you don't have any sleep disorders, get adequate sleep, and are easily to fall back to sleep. You can also just set the alarm at 7.5 hours after going to sleep with a greater chance to catch that last dream.
3. Don't move
After you wake up, anything can distract you and disrupt your dream recall. For this reason, make sure to keep your alarm clock in reach so you don't have to move from the position you opened your eyes in. Better not use radio alarms or alarm signals that are too upbeat or contain singing. Keep it calm and tender.
Once you open your eyes, be sure to fix them on the one object you see first. Keep your gaze on it until the dream is retrieved and saved in your memory. If you put something special, for example a statue, at your beside table to fixate your eyes on when you wake up, it will trigger your brain for better dream recall.
4. Keep a dream journal
This tip is almost intuitive, but probably the most important too. It is much much easier to remember things if we write them down. Dreams are no exception.
Keep a notepad on your bedside table or anywhere where it's reachable without much stretching or, god forbid, leaving the bed. Write down everything and anything you can: a feeling you woke up with, the people you dreamed, a phrase someone told you in a dream, or a song that you heard in the background.
If the words don't come easily, don't limit yourself – sketch and doodle. If it's hard for you to keep it up with your thoughts and write them down, switch to a voice recorder instead of the notepad. Be creative and know what works for you best.
The key here is to record the first detail as soon as possible. The smallest bit of information will trigger the recall of another small bit. Next thing you know, you remember the whole dream with significant details and stretches of dialogue. All you need is practice and persistence.
5. Bedtime mantra
Tell yourself to remember your dreams and you will! Just before going to sleep have this one thought to yourself on repeat and chances are it will be easier to retrieve your dreamscapes in the morning.
Technique of giving your brain a task to work on during sleep can be used to achieve other things too. Ever since my middle school I've used it intuitively to wake up at a certain time, avoiding the often-irritating alarm clock signal. All you need to do is to visualize the hour that you need to get up at.
You can also gently meditate on the problem that you have and need a solution to just before drowsing off. The brain will work things out for you and a fresh idea will hit you like a morning sunbeam on your face.
If you want to know how to remember dreams better but for some reason find these tips above too much of a hassle, there are some natural remedies you can try.
Rosemary essential oil is known to be a great memory and cognition booster. Try aromatherapy before going to sleep by trickling one or two drops on your pillow.
Mugwort tea has been reported to have impressive abilities to make your dreams extremely intense and vivid. These in turn are automatically easier to remember.
You can also enrich your diet with foods containing one of the essential amino acids Tryptophan or its supplements. Tryptophan is converted into 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), which is converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin that plays a big role not only in our happiness perception, but also in cognition, learning, memory, and many physiological processes. Tryptophan is also a precursor to hormone melatonin that regulate sleep-wake cycles.
7. Watch for patterns
Start paying more attention to your evening routines in connection to the sleep quality and dream intensity experienced during the following night. What kind of food, mood, sleeping conditions, room temperature, sleeping time and hours do you suspect to be responsible for better rest and dream recall? If you watch yourself closely, there's a big chance you'll see some telltale signs of what is good for you and what is better to avoid.