Tips for Remembering Dreams

Everyone dreams, but for most people recalling dreams is difficult unless the dream is especially powerful. Here are some suggestions which may aid you in remembering. Most of these ideas are techniques used by someone I know or that I have used myself. I suggest trying whatever you think will work, or using a combination of techniques if you like. Experiment!

  • Place a notepad by your bed and write as soon as you wake. Describe as much detail as you can including the images, sounds, feelings, other sensations, etc. Typically the dreams that are easiest to remember are the ones that occur right before waking in the morning, but we experience dreams during several light sleep stages (called REM sleep) during the night. Sometimes dreams are written down in the middle of the night and then after going back to sleep and waking in the morning what was written down makes no sense.  To reduce the chance of this happening it is good to wake up fully and replay the dream in your mind.
  • Alternately, Place a audio recorder by the bed.
  • Before going to sleep consciously request a dream or recite a mantra like “I am open to whatever dream may come and I will remember it.”
  • Practice remaining in “twilight.”  There is a state between being awake and asleep that many call twilight. It is a state where you are kind of awake but not fully conscious or in full control. It is a kind of transition stage. As you are coming out of the dream, if you can (this takes some practice because it just as much a ‘not-doing’ as a ‘doing’) allow the images of the dream to be there and without making sense of them gently go back through the dream, replaying/reliving the images as your consciousness becomes more active. This is a way of allowing the dream to be transported into the conscious mind where it can be more easily remembered then as you gain full consciousness go through your regular process of recording/writing down the dream.
  • Find a “hook.” As you awake and the dream is fading try to snag one aspect of the dream. perhaps it is something like an image of ‘an elephant in a tree’ or the sound of a ‘knife slicing bread’.  Holding onto a ‘hook’ can then aid in reconstructing the dream around it. As you reconstruct the dream you may end up going both forward and backward or even lose track of the sequence of events, or not recall anything but a single image. But even so, it can be valuable to explore even a single image.
  • When you record/write down the dream use the present tense. The language of dreams is symbolic and for reasons I’ll elaborate on elsewhere, this language exists outside of the normal experience of time where there is a past and a future.  Recording dreams in the present moment can aid in recalling them, and also seems to be a more accurate accounting of the dream.
  • Persistence and Attitude. Over time what seems most important in being able to recall dreams is one’s attitude and continued interest. If one is open to the possibility that dreams have something to offer then it is more likely that one will encounter dreams that have something to offer. I have found tremendous benefit in recording and exploring dreams for several decades and this interest has also led me into a deeper understanding of how the mind works and the interaction between mind and brain, psychology and biology, inner world and outer world, the universal and the individual, and in general dreams have helped me to adopt a more integrated way of living.

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