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How Do I Remember My Dreams Every Day While Most People Can’t

Last updated on April 24, 2023
How Do I Remember My Dreams While Other People Can't

I’ve always asked myself why I can’t remember my dreams, and I think you people have too, at least once in your lives.

I used to be able to recall just little fragments of me jumping from balcony to balcony like a real-life superhero or escaping a creepy big building. Yet, the important part, the context, was vanishing from my brain’s attic 9 times out of 10.

And I didn’t make too much of a deal from it until I learned that analyzing our dreams can have a tremendous impact. Just look at how these celebrities changed their lives by putting in the effort to remember their dreams:

  • Paul McCartney came up with the legendary Beatles’ masterpiece “Yesterday” in his dreams;
Paul McCartney quote about the power of remembering dreams and the idea behind Yesterday
  • Dmitri Mendeleev invented the periodic table in his dreams;

“I saw in a dream, a table, where all the elements fell into place as required. Awakening, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper.”

- Dmitri Mendeleev as quoted by Paul Strathern in “Mendeleyev’s Dream: The Quest for the Elements”

  • Google’s co-founder Larry Page came up with the idea for the mighty search engine while he was dreaming.

Larry Page’s advice: “When a really great dream shows up, grab it!” 

Write that down, frame it, and put it on a wall, my friend.

Moving on, do you think your brain is not able to match the dreams of the legendary men above? Think again because you’re a few paragraphs away from finding out:

  • What dreams really are;
  • Why you can’t remember yours;
  • The answer to the question “Is it possible not to dream?”;
  • Strikingly efficient techniques that will enable you to recall your dreams almost every single day.

Dreams explained

Scientists are still looking for the perfect theory that could explain why we dream. The most common definition of dreams is that they are “a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep.”

Man on a grass field during one of his dreams

However, other research shows that, during sleep, we bound fragments of knowledge into representations. And we use these to “recall information about personal experience and to help us understand and act in the world.”

“When these bonds [representations] are weakened, this information can be recombined, either in dreams or misremembered episodes… perhaps resulting in a process leading us down unusual paths to creative insights and new ideas.”

What time of our sleep do we dream?

We tend to dream more in the stage of our sleep when we go through an awake-like period. This stage is called REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep. For you to get to that stage after you crawl under your bedsheets, you need to experience 3 more stages.

The 4 stages people have to go through to dream

Why do some people can’t remember their dreams and others can

First of all, keep in mind that everyone dreams and that it’s normal to forget everything once you wake up.

Our brains are somehow wired to block out our imaginary adventures from the real-life, just so it won’t create any confusion.

Thus, if you think it’s possible for you to be the single one in this world that can’t remember their dreams because your friends are always storytelling about theirs, you’re wrong.

“Waking up is like going from air to water while holding sand [the memory of your dream] in your hand,”

- Neuroscientist Raphael Vallat told Discover Magazine.

Sand and water analogy to why some people can't remember their dreams

The 4 main factors that influence your dream recall rate

If it’s true that all of us forget dreams, why do some of us have the ability to remember them at a much higher rate? Isn’t that strange?

Not really. Some people can’t remember their dreams and the main “why” behind that is their lifestyle. Your way of living is decisive in whether you will remember your dreams or not in the morning.

To be more precise, here are the main factors that influence your dream recall rate.

1. Sleep quantity

Fewer hours of sleep means less dreaming. But once you catch back on that lost sleeping time, be prepared for some intensive imaginary adventures.

Science says: If you are a light sleeper, tending to wake up often at night, you are likely to dream more. Thus, why some people can’t remember their dreams as often as they’d like? Because they sleep like logs.

2. Your personality

If you set your mind to remember your dreams before going to bed, you will have a better dream recall rate.

Therefore, creative personalities like artists and content creators are more likely to remember their dreams than, let’s say, engineers. The latter ones are more technical and not so interested in the land of dreams.

TIP: If you don’t know what your personality is, our life purpose guide will set your mind straight. Beware, it may also make you give up at your job and follow your true passion.

3. Stress: bills, deadlines, traumas

Man who can't remember his dreams because he is overwhelmed by stress

When it comes to stressors like paying bills, meeting deadlines, or coping with traumas, you will generally deal with two types of dreams: disruptive and of avoidance.

The disruptive dreams are easier to remember since they involve the facing of the stressors. On the other hand, the dreams in which you avoid tackling your problems are harder to recall because they have less intensity.

FACT: Trauma-triggered dreams are often the most easy-to-recall dreams as they tend to be extremely vivid and related to a tough moment from someone’s life.

TIP: Woke up in the morning disturbed by a nightmare? Start your day on the right foot by using one of our 11 guaranteed ways to improve your mood.

4. Alcohol and drugs

Some people unknowingly suppress their dreaming state by consuming toxic substances over the limit, and afterwards they claim they don’t know the reason behind their inability to remember their dreams.

The THC drug found in cannabis is known to suppress your REM cycle, so if you are a “user”, even if you take it for medical purposes, you will experience fewer dreams at night.

The same goes for alcohol, which interferes with your REM cycle of sleep – the stage when dreaming happens.

So, what does it mean if you think you don’t dream or you’re not able to?

  1. You don’t sleep enough;
  2. You don’t care about dreams;
  3. You’re stressed out or overwhelmed at work;
  4. You consume too much alcohol and/or drugs.

How to remember your dreams

But you’re here because you can’t remember your dreams as often as you’d like, and you don’t want to let the idea for the next Google to vanish, do you?

So, I’m proud to present to you the 3 dream recalling techniques that will help you learn from your brain’s nightly activity and come up with incredible solutions that will enhance your everyday lifestyle.

Jim Kwik’s D.R.E.A.M.S. technique

  1. Decide that you are going to remember a dream in advance;
  2. Record by keeping a dream journal by your bed. See if there are any images or feelings you can describe and give a title to each of your dreams;
  3. Eyes: keep them shut to not let anything distract you. Also, don’t rush out of bed and take it slow, trying to remember what you dreamed.
  4. Affirmations: set the intention to remember your dreams by doing some self-talk before bed.
  5. Manage your sleep by making sure you get off the screens at least 1-2 hours before you go to sleep and set 10-20 minutes for meditation beforehand. Also, make sure that you fall asleep into a room that is completely dark. Another good tip here is to go to bed and get up at the same hours.
  6. Share your dreams with others.

“A night full of alarms” technique

A night full of alarms technique, an answer to why some people can't remember their dreams

Not to be confused with Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars”, this technique involves setting your alarms to go off every hour of the night.

Suggested by neuroscientist Raphael Vallat, this method may be effective, but we strongly advise you against it, and for a good reason.

“I’d probably guess you’d remember a dream six times out of 10, with most happening in the second part of the night. Try it for yourself, although, I am not responsible for the very bad day you’ll have after this experiment.”

Vallat said for Discover Magazine.

The “three glasses” technique

The three glasses of water technique, a solution to why some people can't remember their dreams

One of the world’s most renowned sleep psychologists in the world, Michael J. Breus Ph.D., recommends this technique if you are looking for an efficient way to remember your dreams.

All you need to do is to drink three glasses of water before you go to bed. This will make you go to the bathroom more often during the night and usually wake up at the end of the REM cycles, exactly when you’re most likely to remember your dreams.

To sum up, now you know what dreams are, what influences your dream recall rate, and efficient techniques that enable you to become a master dream catcher, who’s always on the lookout for all the great ideas his brain can come up with, and no longer asks himself, like so many people do, “why I can’t remember my dreams”.

Bonus tip: The next time you or one of your friends can’t seem to find a solution to a problem, lend a hand and tell them “sleep on it” and then point to this blog post. It may prove to be a life-changing piece of advice!

Until then, what was your latest dream about? Share it in a comment below.

Written by
Claudiu Pop from Unfold Today, face portrait.
Claudiu Pop is a nutritionist, medical writer, journalist and the founder of Unfold Today. He also has Master level studies in social psychology, which have helped him cover mental health topics.
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