The Ultimate Dream Guide: How it Works & How to Remember


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Everyone dreams, even if you don’t think you do. A study published in the scientific journal The Journal of Sleep found that those who reported they didn’t dream showed the same indications of dreaming as those who did remember theirs.

Science confirms that you dream, whether you remember or not. However, it’s not uncommon to wake up in the morning forgetting your dream.

Sometimes, you may feel you dreamed but can’t remember what happened. We’ll explore some of the reasons why you don’t remember your dreams and what you can do to improve your dream memory.

How do dreams work?

Dreams are one of the most fascinating parts of sleep. They can say so much about ourselves and what’s happening inside our minds. That’s why they’re so much fun to remember. However, they can seem mysterious at times with how they work.

Dreams occur in our fifth stage of sleep: the REM (rapid eye movement) stage. Your brain is the most active during this stage of sleep. It begins about 90 minutes after you fall asleep and, at first, lasts for about 10 minutes. Then, each subsequent period lasts a bit longer throughout the night.

Scientists have numerous theories about why we dream. One theory shared by Mark Blagrove, PhD, in a podcast episode about dreaming with the American Psychology Association, states that dreams are another way our brain connects past and current memories.

It’s also another way we overcome existing or feared threats and process emotions. Some of the more common dreams include teeth falling out, the death of a loved one, falling, being late, flying, being chased, and being naked in public.

Why don’t I remember my dreams?

Your brain is one of the biggest reasons why you don’t remember your dreams. You spend about two hours a night dreaming, but your mind doesn’t store those dreams as part of your memory.

“If you don’t wake up while you’re actively dreaming, it’s unlikely you’ll remember the dream unless it was extremely emotionally charged or stressful,” says Chelsie Rohrscheib, PhD, head sleep expert and neuroscientist at Wesper.

However, there are other factors at play:

Sleep disorders

Sleep disorders can play a part in remembering your dreams. Sleep apnea, for example, can often lead to an increase in nightmares. However, more severe versions of the disorder may lead to a reduced ability to remember dreams.

A study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealed that those with severe sleep apnea had less dream recall upon waking. Insomnia and other disorders that interrupt your REM cycle can also lead to you forgetting your dreams.


“Taking certain drugs or medications that suppress REM sleep, such as certain antidepressants and cannabis…[can impact your ability to remember dreams],” says Rohrscheib.

A recent study published in Frontiers in Neurology showed that in addition to antidepressants, psychotropic drugs can also cause you to forget your dreams.


Your age can play a part in what causes you to forget your dreams. The elderly tend to have less dream recall. A recent study published by Frontiers in Neurology revealed that women tend to have better memory of their dreams for longer as they age than men.

Sleep quality

Rohrscheib says you may not remember your dreams if your sleep is poor quality or light. Sleep deprivation can lead your brain to prioritize non-REM sleep, where you experience fewer dreams.

Waking up outside of REM

If you wake up during any other stage of sleep than REM, then you may not remember your dreams.

“The reason some people don’t remember their dreams is because they are likely waking up during a sleep stage other than REM sleep when dreaming typically occurs,” explains Rohrscheib.

If you wake up during REM sleep, then you’re far more likely to remember your dreams. A study published in Acta Biomedica indicated that 80% of patients remembered their dreams if woken up during REM sleep.

How do I remember my dreams?

If you want to improve your dream recall, remember a few tips:

  • Keep a dream journal. Keeping a dream journal is one of the best places to start. It is where you’ll record everything you can remember about your dreams upon waking. Consider purchasing a physical notebook dedicated purely to this activity. Or, if you tend to grab your phone right away in the morning, create a place in a digital notebook app where you can record your dreams. An audio journal can also work. Give yourself a few minutes to write down or record what you remember every morning. Maintaining this habit can lead to improved dream recall.
  • Improve sleep quality. Getting sufficient rest gives you enough time to enter REM sleep, which happens later in the sleep cycle. Optimize your bedroom to ensure you have good sleep hygiene.
  • Acknowledge the desire. Studies have shown the mere desire to remember your dreams can improve recall. Recognize before you go to sleep that you want to retain the memory of what happened during your dreams.


What does it mean if you can’t remember your dreams?

You typically only remember the dreams that happen right before you wake up. Forgetting dreams is also quite common. That’s why writing them down or thinking about them right when you wake up can improve dream recall.

How rare is it to not remember your dreams?

Not remembering your dreams is very common. Even those who claim never to dream still dream. It may be a sign of an underlying issue if you don’t remember any dreams. Seek the advice of your physician. Dreams are a healthy—and fascinating— part of your sleep you don’t want to miss out on.

Should you be able to remember your dreams?

It’s common not to remember every one of your dreams. Most people tend to remember brief snippets or images from a dream. However, as you focus on recalling your dreams, over time you’ll realize that you can recollect them far more easily and vividly.

Do you dream every night even if you don’t remember?

Yes, dreams are a natural part of the sleep cycle. They typically occur during the REM stage of sleep. However, not all of us will remember every one of those dreams.

This article originally appeared on Saatva and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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