Hi Anonymous -
Thanks for writing in with a great question!
Believe it or not, the average person spends over an hour and a half per night dreaming! That’s as long as any movie we see on TV or at a movie theater, but the curious thing is, we can just as easily awaken from sleep remembering our dreams... as not.
The trick to remembering dreams, though, is to wake up slowly - which apparently is an art you haven’t perfected yet. In order to improve your memory for dreams, try practicing the following techniques.
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.
The dream recall process is half brain-work, half emotions-work. We want to think about what it was we just were dreaming of, but we also want to feel what it was that we were dreaming about. For example, often when we first awaken we don’t have any specific memory for a dream. But we can feel the emotions the dream left behind.
If it was a nightmare, we may feel anxious or nervous. If it was a happy dream, we will feel good. If it was a frustrating dream, we will feel tense. 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. Also, many dreamers who practice this “slow awakening” technique don’t move their bodies as they wake up. They feel that moving distracts their mind from being able to recall the last dream.
Now for technique #2. If you have a clock radio or an alarm clock with a snooze button on it - you are in for some fun. Set the alarm for forty-five minutes earlier than normal. Then hit the snooze button every ten minutes for the last bit of your sleep. Because we dream so heavily in the morning, chances are very good that 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 we 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 memory, until you have at least an outline of the dream.
Give these techniques a try for the next two weeks, then please write back and let us know your results. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at all the dreams you will soon discover! :-)
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