Simple ways to improve dream recall
Most of us are fascinated by the insight our dreams can give us into our subconscious mind – but dreams are famously difficult to remember, and we’ve all experienced the frustration of trying to keep hold of a snippet of a dream only to find it gone. Fortunately, dream recall is a skill which can be mastered like any other skill, with a little bit of effort and practice.
Get Plenty of Sleep
This is absolutely vital. If you are tired and stressed, you are much less likely to recall your dreams. Each of us has approximately 100 minutes of REM dream time during an 8 hour sleep period, but dream periods increase in length dramatically during the night. Your first dream, about 90 minutes after you fall asleep, will only last for a few minutes; by the time you wake up in the morning, your final dream may have been up to 45 minutes in length. So if you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll be missing out on the extended REM periods, which offer much better dream recall opportunities.
Talk To Yourself
Before you settle to sleep, tell yourself “I remember my dreams accurately and easily”. Always affirm this in the present tense, as if it is already happening, as this invites your subconscious to co-operate. If you go to sleep in the full expectation of remembering a dream when you wake up, it’s much more likely to happen.
Keep a Dream Journal
Have a journal or your phone or a voice recorder next to your bed. Every time you wake up in the night, lie absolutely still. Keep your eyes closed and don’t move. Ask yourself what you were dreaming and give it a few moments for images or sensations to come back into your mind. If you know the plot of your dream, run through it in your mind, re-telling it to yourself. Then write down or speak every tiny detail you can recall, even if it’s completely disjoined and vague. Don’t self-censor. Your first records will be sparse, but as you practice, you’ll be able to record more and more details. Perseverance is key.
Try an Alarm Clock
In order to recall a dream, experts agree that you must wake up during the REM period itself, otherwise the dream does not lodge in your memory. We don’t fully understand why this is, but studies have shown it to be the case. To ensure that you wake up during an REM period, you could try setting your alarm clock for either 4.5 or 6 hours after you’re likely to fall asleep (which obviously only works if you fall asleep at a regular-ish time – another argument for regular sleep habits!).
There is some debate about whether dream recall is easier when you wake naturally from an REM period, and it probably is – but while you’re learning, using an alarm clock to get into the habit is no bad thing. If you don’t have to be up early the following day, you could even repeat this throughout the night – each time you successfully wake up from a dream, set the alarm for 90 minutes onwards, by which time a new REM period should be underway.
Keep Your Journal Handy During the Day
Often images, smells, sounds or events during the day can trigger a momentary flash of a dream – try to note these down, and what triggered them, immediately. If you don’t have journal with you, just jot them down anywhere, to transfer into your journal that evening.
Talk About Your Dreams
Telling someone about your dream seems to be a good trigger for further recall in many people. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of sharing dreams with your family in the morning. Alternatively, make a pact with a friend to help each other get better with dream recall, and set aside a few moments during the day to discuss each other’s dreams.
Dreams are such magical, flighty things, and their very elusiveness makes them all the more fascinating. By following these simple strategies, you can improve your dream recall over time, and get more of an insight into yourself.