Insight: Why can’t some people remember their dreams?

Why can’t some people remember their dreams?

I am standing outside my childhood primary school, near the front gates and the teachers’ car park. It is a bright sunny day and I am surrounded by my classmates. There must be more than a hundred of us.

Francesca Siclari, a sleep research doctor at the Lausanne University Hospital, says there are clear definitions between our states of wake and sleep – and that is no accident. “It’s probably a good thing that the dream life and the waking life are completely different,” she says.

“I think if you remembered every detail like you can do in waking life, you would start to confuse things with what’s actually happening in your real life.”

So what if you actively want to remember your dreams? Obviously, each sleeper is different, but there are some general tips which might help you to hold on to your dreams.

1. When you wake up, try to lie still – don’t even open your eyes. Try to ‘float’ and at the same time try to remember what was in your dream. What you’re doing is you’re reviewing dreams as you enter your waking state and you’ll remember them just like any other memory.

2. Drink three big glasses of water before they go to bed. Not three glasses of beer, because alcohol is an REM suppressant, but water. You’ll wake up three or four times in the night and you’ll tend to wake up at the end of an REM cycle of sleep which is natural.

3. Simply repeating to yourself as you drift towards sleep that you want to remember your dreams means you wake remembering them. It actually helps.

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