…Remembering More Dreams

Greetings, dreamers, and thank you to those who wrote such kind comments!

Autumn is in the air, with the leaves beginning their bright wave across the trees. Today, I am sipping some coconut creme tea as I write. Millions of people are dreaming at the moment, and hundreds of thousands will remember a dream when they awaken. Will you remember your next dream?

SITUATIONS AFFECTING DREAM RECALL. Some situations increase or decrease dreaming. Of course, you have to sleep to dream! Fevers often produce more vivid dreams, as do some medications; check with your physician if you are concerned about that.  Depressants like alcohol suppress REM sleep (the stage of sleep in which we most often dream), so when we stop using them, we have a REM rebound, and more vivid and scary dreams.   Apart from all that, what kinds of people remember their dreams?

CHARACTERISTICS OF DREAM REMEMBERERS. At Berkeley, when I was working on my PhD, I launched a large study to help figure out what kinds of people do and don’t remember their dreams. Up until then, psychologists thought that maybe people who were unstable, introspective, or anxious were those who remembered their dreams most often.  That idea got into popular awareness through films and articles, and people began expressing wariness about their dream life. They wondered if they had strange dreams, did that make them strange people? Maybe even mentally ill? If so, wouldn’t it be better not to remember dreams at all, and instead, just sweep those strange things under the bed and get on with the day?

In order to find out what kinds of people remember their dreams, I measured dreamers’ introspectiveness, introversion, gender, anxiety, creativity, emotional stability, intuitiveness and other things and compared all that with how frequently the dreamers in my study recalled their dreams.

Here is what I found. Because other researchers have since found the same results, we can be pretty confident that people who remember their dreams once per week (the average!) or more have a positive attitude toward their dreams, and, to a lesser extent, are creative, and were fantasy prone as children. It turns out that wanting to remember your dreams as a result of feeling good about dreaming is the most important personality factor in whether or not you will remember your dreams, and people who remember them are no more or less crazy than anyone else!

TIPS FOR REMEMBERING DREAMS. Want to remember more dreams? Since you’re reading this, you probably have a positive attitude toward your dreams, which means you remember more of them. Beyond that, the most effective method is to (drum roll…) set your alarm clock for a random time during the night. When it goes off, voila! Another, much kinder way to recall dreams is to place a dream journal and favorite writing implement beside your bed before you fall asleep, date it with tomorrow morning’s date, and say to yourself (or your sleeping partner) “I will remember my dreams tomorrow morning!” Three nights of this tends to work for almost everyone.

Some people hate to wake up enough to write their dream down. If that’s you, you could try speaking into your smartphone or another hand-held recorder, or get a light pen so you don’t have to turn on the light to write.

You could also remind yourself during the day of your intention to remember. In the elevator, every time you pass a mirror, whenever you find yourself feeling calm, you could say, “Tonight, I’m going to remember my dreams!” Making a commitment to share your dreams with your partner, friend, pet, or housemate creates motivation. Sticky notes placed in surprising locations also help.

Congratulations! You’re about to remember more dreams!  Next time… a tidal wave dream interpreted…

About Veronica Tonay

International dream expert, Dr. Veronica Tonay, earned her masters and doctoral degrees in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley in the early 1990s. She has been a licensed psychologist in private practice since 1997 (CA PSY 15379), and has taught psychology courses to undergraduates at the University of California at Santa Cruz since 1989.  Her work has been featured for over 25 years in many media outlets, such as Psychology Today, NPR Public Radio, abcnews.com, and The Chicago Tribune. Dr. Tonay was featured dream expert on the Discovery Health TV Channel's 3-episode miniseries, Dream Decoders. She has organized several dream conferences for the International Association for the Study of Dreams, and has published journal articles and three books, including: "The Creative Dreamer, Revised: Using Your Dreams to Unlock Your Creativity" (Ten Speed Press/Celestial Arts) and "Every Dream Interpreted," published in London by Collins & Brown.  She lives with her husband, Steven, in Santa Cruz, California, gardening, painting, writing, dancing, and dreaming.
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