remembering dreams

Hi Aaron -

The fact is that some people are much better recallers of their dreams than others. Despite the fact that we dream about 100 minutes per night, we probably all know at least one person who, every day, is able to relate last night's dreams in exacting detail. Meanwhile, some us awaken without any memory of dreams at all. What accounts for the difference?

Dr. Alan Hobson at Harvard University has suggested that memory for dreams is effected by the presence (or absence) of various neurotransmitters in our brains. In other words, brain chemistry affects dream recall, and the answer to differing abilities for memory most likely lies in the balance of these different chemicals.

All of this aforesaid, there are many ways to improve your recall for dreams.

The first trick is to learn how to "wake up slowly." When you first wake up in the morning, don't immediately start thinking and worrying about your day. Rather, lay in bed a while and concentrate your mind on whatever it was that you were just dreaming about - even if at first you can't remember dreaming about anything.

This recall process is half-intellectual, half-emotional. We want to think what we were dreaming about, but we also want to feel what we were dreaming about. We may be anxious or nervous if it was a nightmare, happy if it was a warm dream, perplexed if we were puzzled. If we can identify our emotional state, often we can work backwards from there, pulling together fragments of memory for the dream until, hopefully, our memory is "jogged" and we suddenly can remember much more of the dream.

Many dreamers who practice this "slow awakening" technique state that they don't move their bodies as they wake up - they feel that moving distracts their mind from being able to recall the last dream. Also, if you have a bed-partner, let him or her know that you need a few minutes of private time upon awakening. If you begin to talk about anything else, you most likely will lose your memory for your dream.

A second trick is to use a clock radio or an alarm clock with a snooze button on it to help your recall. On a morning when you can sleep in, hit the snooze button every ten minutes for the last bit of your sleep. Because we dream heavily in the morning, you will be awakening yourself, each time the alarm sounds, out of REM, or Dreaming sleep. And this is when you want to practice the dream recall techniques just discussed above.

Hit the snooze button, lay still in bed, and work back in your mind to what you were just dreaming about. Feel your feelings, feel your emotions, and hold on to whatever snippets of the dream you can, and then see if you can't gather more strings of events and activity, until you have in your possession at least an outline of the dream.

And then you want to write it down in your dream diary that you keep by your bedside.

Try this for a two weeks, and you will be amazed at all the dreams you will soon discover!

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