Why We Cannot Remember Our Dreams

This photo is copyright (c) 2013 and made available under wikimedia commons license

It is believed that the average person spends about two hours per night dreaming, with all the action taking place while you are in REM sleep. You would think that with that much time devoted to dreams each day, we would all waked up and have a vivid memory of at least some part of it. The reality is that while some of the dream may stick with us when we first wake up, it is usually all gone by the time we head downstairs for a morning cup of coffee. Yes, there are some dreams that stay with us in startling detail, but those are generally the ones that are in some way vivid and horrific in a way that is incredibly difficult to shake.


There has to be some scientific reason as to why our dreams seem to drift away the moment that the first rays of daylight penetrate our eyelids. Sleep researchers have yet to truly pinpoint exactly why it happens, but the general consensus is that it has to do with the way in which the brain stores memories and how it operates when we are asleep. There is a whole bunch of technical brain stuff that will help explain it, but if I try to explain it to you here, there is a pretty strong chance that you will be asleep, and dreaming, before you reach the end of the paragraph.


This photo is copyright (c) 2013 and made available under wikimedia commons licenseThe question then becomes how we can go about remembering the things we dream about every night. This is an important question if you are one of those that believe that what we see in our sleep are messages from our subconscious mind that are alerting us to potential issues in our lives. There are in fact several ways, some easy, others a bit more difficult, to remember the dreams we have, and all it really takes is a little bit of practice.


The simplest way to start cataloguing your dreams is to keep a journal on your bedside table. The moment you wake, you should write down every little thing that you remember about your dream. Some days may result in nothing more than a couple of objects you remember, while others will provide you with landscapes and scenarios that stick with you in glaring detail, all of which would likely be lost if you didn’t commit them to paper. It’s not your fist instinct to think about that in the morning, though, so it may take a little time to get in the habit of grabbing that journal the moment you wake.


That is on the easy end of the dream remembering scale, with lucid dreaming found at the other, more difficult end. If you don’t already know, lucid dreaming is the practice of basically being aware of what is going on within your dream and then stepping inside and controlling where it goes. It is believed that everyone possesses the ability to lucid dream, but it is not a skill that will happen over the course of a couple of nights. With a little bit of grim determination, though, you might very well be able to control all that happens in your dream world, making it easy to remember and record all of the events when you wake.

This photo is copyright (c) 2013 and made available under wikimedia commons license


There is a belief that you can also basically will yourself to remember your dreams when you hit the sack for the evening. This involves telling yourself that you will remember all that you “see,” planting the idea in your subconscious before the lights go out for the night. It also helps if you try to develop a regular sleep schedule, as research has shown that people do much better at remembering their dreams when they go to bed and rise and the same times every day.


It can be incredibly frustrating to wake up after a great dream, only to find that the memory of it fades in a matter of moments. Perhaps you can have great dreams every night by combining a couple of the methods outlined above. Write down all of your dreams in a journal, and then practice lucid dreaming so that you can easily return to the ones that were particularly happy.



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Morgan is the founder and editor of REALITYPLEX. After suffering from a life-threatening accident, he realized that the way we perceive things around us is based on our beliefs, emotions and experiences. In an effort to draw the line between perception and reality, he launched REALITYPLEX in 2011. Get to know him better and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and G+