How often do you remember your dreams? And if you are a lucid dreamer, is your memory of lucid dreams better than it is for your non-lucid dreams?
In this article we’re going to cover the fundamentals of dream recall including: lucid vs non-lucid dream recall, how to improve memory of lucid dreams, and a certain type of memory involved with these subjects.
Many people think they don’t dream or that they hardly ever dream. At the level of personal experience, if one has zero recollection of dreaming, why would one assume any dreaming took place at all? Of course it’s understandable that people assume they don’t dream, but it just isn’t true.
Every night when we go into REM sleep, we have high resolution dreams for an average total of 2 hours per night. When it comes to remembering dreams upon awakening, think of it simply as a skill. Like all skills, for some people it comes easily, with little effort, and for others it takes varying degrees of practice, patience, and perseverance.
To put it simply, prospective memory is purposefully remembering to do something in the future. With some conscious effort, we have the ability to set internal reminders – yes, just like we can set reminders on our phones…
Prospective memory works almost like a code or a script; you assign an IF, THEN script to your own mind – for example, “IF I see something weird, unusual, or inexplicable (a dreamsign), THEN do a reality test to see if I am dreaming”… or “IF I wake up in the morning, THEN focus on what I was just dreaming about, and THEN write it down in the journal”.
Ever wake up a minute or two before your alarm goes off? If so, that probably occurred when you had something really important going on that day. This is a very common phenomenon and given this occurs during sleep, it’s a subconscious ability. Our subconscious mind helps us make sure we don’t oversleep when we have something urgent ahead of us.
But the reason this is so useful for lucid dreamers is: WE decide what’s important enough for that subconscious mechanism to work. ‘Important’ is subjective, specific to the individual. The more urgent we deem attaining lucidity during a dream or recall dreams upon awakening, the more likely our it is that our prospective memory will fulfill the request.
Improving Memory of Lucid Dreams
What’s the point of having a lucid dream if you don’t remember it? Typically, because of the excitement and thrill associated with becoming lucid, we tend to remember lucid dreams more so than non-lucid dreams.
But for those of us who get lucid rather often, say a few times a week, chances are we’re having more lucid dreams than we remember and simply sleeping through them and forgetting them!
Here are our top tips and exercises for improving memory of lucid dreams… These tips also apply to non-lucid dreams as well.
6 Tips for Improving Memory of Lucid Dreams
1. Get Healthy Sleep
There are tons of reasons to prioritize sleep, one of which is that sleeping 7-9 hours will help you remember dreams. During sleep, we have one REM period every 90 minutes. During EVERY REM period, we are dreaming vividly. And, the longer we sleep, the longer each REM segment gets so our 4th or 5th dream period can last as long as around 45 minutes.
Longer dreams offer more opportunity for our prospective memory to kick in and remind us that we are dreaming. But if you’re only getting 5 or 6 hours of sleep, you’re preventing your longest dream period from happening.
2. Keep a Dream Journal
Really, if you’re interested in remembering your dreams and getting familiar with your dream content, starting a dream journal is absolutely the way to go. If you’re concerned you won’t have have anything to write down because you don’t remember ANYTHING when you wake up, here’s what to do:
- When you first wake up, just write something – anything that comes to mind. Even if you just write that you’re frustrated you can’t remember your dream, that’s perfect; write it down.
- Write down… and I mean write it, don’t just think it – your intention to remember MORE dream content tomorrow.
- The next day, write more. It doesn’t matter if you remember more dream content or not; write more on day two, and repeat step 2.
- When you do start to recall increasingly more dream content, ride the wave! Use that momentum and keep writing more every day.
- Rinse and repeat… give it a week and before you know it, you’ll be remembering more content than you have time to write down!
3. Set Intentions
If your goal is to remember dreams, set your intention before bed to do so in the morning. If your goal is to become lucid during dreams, set your intention to do so just before going to sleep.
It helps to really want it; again, associating a sense of importance or urgency with your goals gets those subconscious juices flowing. Make the effort to work with your prospective memory in this specific way and you’ll notice improvement in just a short time.
4. Exercise Your Memory
In your everyday life, try scheduling tasks, remembering birthdays, and organizing meetings by heart. Remind yourself to do something nice for a loved one when you see them later… or set your intention to do something good for yourself.
If you live waking life more intentionally, with more purpose in mind, this will be reflected subconsciously – it’s the same mind while awake and asleep. This skillset can help you remember dreams AND remember to get lucid during dreams.
5. Strategically Disrupt Sleep
Ok, so in order for this one to NOT contradict #1, you have to interrupt your sleep in a specific way, with a specific purpose in mind… and only try this if you already get sufficient sleep and feel well rested in the mornings.
Dreams are recalled most vividly upon awakening in the middle of, or immediately after a REM period. And remember, REM periods end every 90 minutes after sleep onset.
There are two approaches here; one is called the Wake Back to Bed Method during which you set an alarm an hour before you usually wake up, then get out of bed and stay awake for around 45 minutes (during which time you meditate or visualize having a lucid dream), and then go back to sleep with high likelihood you’ll rapidly enter REM sleep and become lucid. Then wake up and write the lucid dream down.
The other method is aiming to wake up immediately AFTER a REM period. Set an alarm for around 4.5 to 5 hours after you fall asleep (So if you think you’re going to fall asleep at 11pm, set an alarm to wake you at around 3:30-4:00am).
And when you wake up, lay still, replay the dream over in your mind, and immediately write down everything you can remember. Don’t just simply set alarms throughout the night randomly, that won’t help you get lucid, it might just make you miserable!
6. Try Galantamine
Galantamine is a memory enhancement supplement used to slow the progression of symptoms in Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. It is an over the counter supplement, but it is not regulated by the FDA and can have some side effects – learn more about Galantamine here.
Taking this supplement during the ‘wake’ period of the Wake Back to Bed method can dramatically increase your chances of becoming lucid (It works around 80% of the time for me personally), and thus making it more likely you’ll remember your dream upon final awakening in the morning.
Lucid dreams tend to be recalled more clearly than non-lucid dreams, but you still might be sleeping through lucid dreams that occur in the earlier REM stages in the night. Memory of lucid dreams can be easily improved with a little understanding and implementation of the simple techniques listed above.
It’s just like any old skill – learn it, practice, and keep at it for a few weeks. Of course, you can get creative, experiment with these techniques, and find out what works best for you.
We go into much more detail and we tie these practices into the Mindfulness Based course in the app. Download for FREE and dive in!
Which steps are you excited to take? Let us know in the comments!