Dreams are finicky things. Some mornings you recall every detail of your trip to the surface of the Sun, down to the hairs on J.D. Salinger's head as he pilots your rainbow-striped spacecraft, but other days, you're left with nothing but a fuzzy conviction that something important happened while you were asleep. People have spent centuries collecting tips for remembering your dreams; there's evidence that the idea of lucid dreaming — dreams in which you're aware of being asleep — dates all the way back to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, and dreams themselves have long been a source of fascination around the world. Even if you don't put stock in the psychological interpretations, dreams are interesting by virtue of their freedom from the laws of reality. Where else are you going to achieve your aspiration of saving the galaxy in a Step Up-style dance battle against Darth Vader?
Unfortunately, not all dreamers are created equal. Although everyone dreams, research has shown that some people are naturally better at remembering them than others. According to a 2014 study, this may have something to do with blood flow in the brain; people who reported remembering their dreams frequently were found to have more activity in the temporo-parietal junction of the brain while they were asleep.
But even if you have a hard time remembering your dreams, there are some techniques you can try out to improve your recall. Take a look at five tips below.
1. Keep A Journal
Whether you remember them or not, research has established that everyone dreams. Last year, a study found that if you wake up someone in the middle of REM sleep, even supposed non-dreamers will describe things that sound a lot like dreams. You've probably noticed yourself that you remember a dream right after you wake up, but the content quickly slips away from you once you're out of bed.
With that in mind, it stands to reason that many people keep journals to remember what they dream about each night. Keep paper and a pen by your bed, and start making a habit of writing down your dreams right after you wake up.
2. Tell Someone
In the same way that keeping a journal gives you something to refer to later, dream expert Lauri Loewenberg told Everyday Health that telling another person about your dream can help you both remember it later on. "If you don’t write your dreams down or tell your partner, they’ll likely be gone after breakfast," she said, according to Everyday Health. (Whether they'll enjoy hearing about the minute details of your dream is another matter entirely.)
3. Stay In The Same Position
Loewenberg also told Everyday Health that if you're trying to remember a dream right after waking up, staying in the same position in which you woke up can boost your recall. If you've ever taken a psychology class, you've probably heard of state-dependent memory — it's easier to remember something when you're in the same context as when you experienced it. Staying in the same position while you think about your dream doesn't guarantee it'll stick, but it can't hurt.
4. Try Lucid Dreaming
If you're still obsessed with Inception, you can always give lucid dreaming a try. Research has shown that with practice, some people are able to control their dreams, or at least become aware that they're dreaming. As Harvard dream researcher Deirdre Barrett explained to Scientific American, one of the easiest ways to start is by simply paying attention to your surroundings.
"If you check on whether you're actually awake in a systematic way during the day, you'll eventually find yourself doing this in a dream, and that can make it likelier that you will have lucid dreams," she said. Another tip? Actually getting enough sleep to reach the REM stage of sleep, which is associated with dreaming.
5. Hit The Snooze Button
In a study published late last year, researchers found a correlation between the snooze button and your ability to lucid dream. According to their findings, going back to sleep for a brief time just after waking up may increase your chances of overall dream recall frequency as well as the chance of having a lucid dream. It's worth noting that the snooze button itself isn't the best way to get restful sleep, but it's an option.
Good luck, and sweet dreams!
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