Why Can’t I Remember My Dreams? (Every Time)
You wake up in the morning, having just been on an epic adventure inside your mind.
You crossed distant lands, defeating armies on your way.
You sailed the high seas and at one point captained a pirate ship whose Jolly Roger flag wafted in the wind above you as you barked your commands.
On your journey, you met the girl of your dreams, and in your deep sleep, you measured the contours of her delicate mouth with your adoring eyes.
You were at the prime of your life, a man who knew no bounds, the king of infinite space…and then you woke up.
The thing is, you did dream all that, but you remember nothing of it.
You heard an alarm, yawned, scratched your belly, and made coffee.
Remembering Your Dream
How come you’ve been robbed of this fantastic dream?
It doesn’t seem fair.
Firstly, there’s a difference in not remembering a thing, to having a dream and retaining a bit of it and then forgetting it as the day goes on.
Many of you have been in that situation when you had a great dream, and then you went to tell someone – who didn’t want to hear ‘cos that’s how it goes most of the time – and you forgot the plot.
As the hours passed, more bits went missing like magical ink disappearing from the pages of a script.
The reason you forget is that you don’t often remember things that are nonessential to you.
Dreaming is related to the same thing we call a wandering mind, or day-dreaming, and you certainly don’t always remember what you thought when you were just mindlessly day-dreaming about stuff.
Why Can’t You Remember Your Dream?
What did you think about the last time you sat on the toilet?
You probably don’t remember because it likely wasn’t essential.
If it was some profound and essential thing, there is more chance you’d remember it.
It’s the same with dreams.
If they seem significant, there is more chance you’ll remember them throughout the day, or perhaps for your entire life if the dream was profound or scary or ugly weird.
You know, like if you dreamt of visiting an adorable little girl and her pet dog, along with her doting father, and then when you returned for a second visit all you found was a dog with the face of the little girl.
All we’re saying is dreams can get weird- primarily if you practice alchemy before bed.
What Do Studies Say About Forgetting your Dream?
Neuroscientists tell us when we do think about something fundamental, maybe a significant problem in your life or the possible loss of a lover, a part of your brain will be activated, and that is called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
If you have a dream that knocks you off your feet, this area of the brain will be activated, and the memory of that dream will stick.
Even then, you’ll forget bits just as you forget events that happen in your real life.
So we forget some dreams because they are not worth keeping.
But what about people who do have massively epic dreams and wake up, as usual, thinking they have not dreamt at all.
These people exist, and in fact, some studies have found that around one in every 250 people claim they have never dreamed.
That is not true, because of everyone dreams.
Most of us have a few dreams a night.
It doesn’t mean we will remember them, in any case.
Most people will remember perhaps one or two dreams a week, but there are no precise statistics, though because we are all different.
Some people might claim to remember a dream every day, others just one in a week or two.
Back to the sticky thing in the brain, most people will wake up knowing they have had a dream, but it will be super vague.
Like they can almost remember it, feel it, but it just drifts away into the air right after they’ve opened their eyes.
These dreams just weren’t essential enough for the brain to want to remember them.
At least these people, though, do have some feeling of a dream they had.
We should say that there is no particular dream skill which will make some people better at remembering dreams than others.
One person might only get a glimpse of dreams for weeks, and then boom, some significant dream happens, and they remember that in detail.
This is how it is for most folks.
What Makes These People Different?
The question remains, what makes these people different from people who claim to have never dreamed at all.
They wake up with nothing remaining.
They don’t remember the full epic, and they don’t even get a sniff of what they dreamed about.
What’s up with those guys?
They go through stages of sleep, just like everybody else.
They go into a deep sleep, sometimes called Rapid Eye Movement sleep, or REM, and their breathing changes, their eyes twitch, and they are in a paralyzed state which is related to something called atonia.
That means the muscles lose their strength.
If you sleep, and we expect all of you do, you will experience this thing called REM sleep.
Your muscles might not be working very well, but this is when your mind comes alive.
It’s dream time
There are certainly people who don’t get enough REM sleep because they have a reduced sleep cycle, but that’s not good for them.
Their mental well-being relies on them getting lots of pleasant REM sessions in their beloved beds.
Those people who say they never remember a dream are not all out of control folks who have terrible sleep cycles.
Not at all, they might have a good night’s sleep just like you do.
The fact they don’t remember their dreams isn’t related to them not entering the REM stage.
They do enter that stage and will do all their lives.
During REM sleep, more blood goes to certain parts of the brain. Namely, something called the limbic system parts of this is the hypothalamus, the amygdala, the thalamus, and the hippocampus.
These bits of your soft machinery process memories, emotions, and stimulations.
Walk outside into the street and see a tiger approaching you and the limbic system will be very active.
What happens then is a kind of processing in something called the frontal lobes.
Now your reason, what should I do.
Should I run, cry, help that girl across the street or fight.
The brain is interconnected like this.
In simple terms you sense, you unconsciously react, you think.
When you are dreaming there is loads of activity in the limbic system, so it might all be going off in there like a firework display.
Some people say that is why dreams are useful for relieving stress.
You are letting it all out, emotions, fears, etc.
The thing is, those frontal lobes aren’t switched on while this is going on.
You’re not reasoning.
This is why you often dream the dream and accept that your classmate could be a dog with the head of your mom.
Some people, of course, do have a kind of frontal lobe wakening and think, wait a minute, this is too weird.
How To Remember Your Dreams?
There is this hormone in your brain called noradrenaline, and it is associated with taking action.
We have lower levels of this while we are sleeping and having those vivid dreams.
This allows you to sleep peacefully and carry on dreaming.
You don’t need to take action.
But if something suddenly wakes you like a pounding at your door, the levels of this hormone will spike, and you’ll act.
You wake up.
You then might remember something of the dream you were having.
There’s a theory that people who fall asleep fast and have a good night’s sleep but then somehow always wake up without an alarm or a door bang won’t remember a dream.
They weren’t shocked out of a dream.
What Do Researchers Say About Dreams?
One researcher said he took many subjects and abruptly awoke them during REM sleep and they could all, 100 per cent of them, recall a dream.
Maybe some people always wake up when they are not in the dream stage.
He said that if you are that type of person who can always get up at the right time, then you might never remember a dream.
He said if you are like that, try sleeping in now and again.
See if that works.
What To Do Before Bedtime?
He added that before bedtime if you drink a few glasses of water, you’ll very likely need the bathroom in the night, and there is more chance of waking up during REM sleep.
Believe it or not, he also said that if you tell yourself before you go to bed that you’ll remember your dreams; then it will be more likely to happen.
There are other theories out there, such as some researchers saying those who claim not to dream, forget more easily.
Maybe they don’t have those essential epic dreams and whatever happens in their sleep evaporates immediately, and this seems to happen all the time.
He said there had been studies with people who said they claimed not to have dreamed in a decade, but when they took part in research and were abruptly awakened they remembered their dreams.
How great that must have felt after a decade of silence.
So, there you go all you non-dreamers.
You can do it.
You can be the king of infinite space and remember it.
You can remember that epic adventure one day, but we guess that depends on if you are the kind of person who has the type of brain to concoct adventures.
Nonetheless, you’ll dream about something, even if it’s just making a cheese and ham sandwich.