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This Is Why You Forget Your Dreams When You Wake Up

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Do you ever find yourself waking up with the feeling that you just ran an entire marathon, but can’t make sense of it? This is most likely because you just had a night full of dreams that you can’t remember. Why do we remember some dreams while forgetting others? Are some dreams more important than others? Or are they all the same? 

We Dream Every Night

Just because we don’t remember our dreams doesn’t mean we don’t have them. It is said we experience six to seven dreams per night. It’s all based on the cycles of rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Dreams occur in the REM cycle of sleep. However, there are some instances where REM sleep wouldn’t occur due to specific medications, alcohol consumption, etc… These factors could be a reason why you forget your dreams.

Why You Forget Your Dreams

A Look Into Sleep Cycles

Each sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes. In that time we move through five stages of sleep. The first wave of REM typically occurs during the first 90 minutes. Each stage of REM that follows gets deeper and deeper. This is where intense dreams are more likely to occur since the brain is more active. 

NREM is made up of four cycles where there is little to no muscle movement. The lightest REM sleep occurs during the first stage of this cycle. Typically lasting just 10 minutes, it is very easy to wake from. Stage two is where the heart rate slows and body temperature drops. The body is preparing to enter a deeper state of rest. Stage three and four of the cycle are our deepest states of sleep. It is harder to wake during this part. 

It is said that babies spend up to 50 percent of their sleep in REM as compared to adults who spend up to 20 percent in REM. This could have to do with the stressors adults typically face as well as the notion that babies are a lot closer to the other side—energetically speaking.

Why Do You Forget Your Dreams?

There are many factors at play when it comes to recalling dreams. Medication, stress, and alcohol can affect how we remember dreams. A thin veil exists between dream realms and reality. 

Dreams can slip from our memory in just 6-10 minutes upon waking up. Other variables include disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea which can prevent NREM and REM cycles to function properly.

The dreams we tend to remember are the ones that occur toward the end of our sleep cycle. This has to do with the fact that the first REM cycle gets layered with other dreams throughout the night. The closer we are to the end of a dream’s REM cycle, the more we remember from that dream. 

Other theories suggest our subconscious may be trying to protect us. If you’re dreaming of a very violent or frightful experience, it is not always necessary that you remember. However, it may have still served its purpose as you were able to move through the experience and learn from it.

Still not happy about forgetting your dreams when you wake up? There are some exercises you can do to increase dream retention. While the function of dreaming varies amongst different analytics, the symbols certainly provide hints to our perception of reality.  

Tips for Better Dream Memory

The more we remember our dreams, the better we can work with the symbols presented to us. It’s just another tool out of the many in the fabric of our minds. Symbols are everywhere. How they present themselves in dreams is just another opportunity to better understand our fears, desires, hopes, and aspirations. 

A great way to remember dreams is to reflect upon them when you wake up. You can share your dream experiences with your partner upon waking up, send a text to a friend, or record it in your dream journal. By solidifying the dream in this reality you also enhance your skills to remember future dreams. 

There may also be instances throughout the day that cause bits of your dreams to present themselves. This could be through conversation, a song, or a store you pass on the way to work. If this happens, be sure to write it down. There may be a connection here.

The dreams we experience in our sleep are not so different from the dreams we experience in the waking world. Without providing them with attention or nourishment, they are sure to drift away. Paying attention to the dreams we experience throughout the night can have tremendous effects on how to approach the dreams we have in mind for our lives. It’s all connected. It’s just one of the many tools we can work with to reach our highest potential. 


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