[From NIGHTLIGHT 1(1), 1989, Copyright, The Lucidity Institute.]
How To Remember Your Dreams
Remembering your dreams is the starting place for learning to have lucid dreams. If you don't recall your dreams, even if you do have a lucid dream, you won't remember it! And, in order to be able to recognize your dreams as dreams while they are happening, you have to be familiar with the way your own dreams work. Before it will be worth your time to work on lucid dream induction methods, you should be able to recall at least one dream every night.
Getting plenty of sleep is the first step to good dream recall. If you are rested it will be easier to focus on your goal of recalling dreams, and you won't mind so much taking the time during the night to record your dreams. Another benefit of getting plenty of sleep is that dream periods get longer and closer together as the night proceeds. The first dream of the night is the shortest, perhaps 10 minutes in length, while after 8 hours of sleep, dream periods can be 45 minutes to an hour long. We all dream every night, about one dream period every 90 minutes. People who say they never dream simply never remember their dreams. You may have more than one dream during a REM (dream) period, separated by short arousals that are most often forgotten. It is generally accepted among sleep researchers that dreams are not recalled unless the sleeper awakens directly from the dream, rather than after going on to other stages of sleep.
It can be useful while you are developing your dream recall to keep a complete dream journal. Keep the journal handy by your bed and record every dream you remember, no matter how fragmentary. Start by writing down all your dreams, not just the complete, coherent, or interesting ones--even if all you remember is a face or a room, write it down.
When you awaken in the night and recall what you were dreaming, record the dream right away. If you don't, in the morning you may find you remember nothing about the dream, and you will certainly have forgotten many interesting details. We seem to have built-in dream erasers in our minds, which make dream experiences more difficult to recall than waking ones. So, whenever you remember a dream, write it down. If you don't feel like writing out a long dream story at 3 AM, note down key points of the plot. Also write down the precise content of any dialogue from the dream, because words will almost inevitably be forgotten in a very short time.
Possibly, all you will need to do to increase your dream recall is to remind yourself as you are falling asleep that you wish to awaken fully from your dreams and remember them. This works in a similar manner to remembering to awaken at a certain time in the morning. Additionally, it may help to tell yourself you will have interesting, meaningful dreams. A major cause of dream forgetting is interference from other thoughts competing for your attention. Therefore, let your first thought upon awakening be, "What was I just dreaming?" Before attempting to write down the dream, go over the dream in your mind, re-telling the dream story to yourself. DO NOT MOVE from the position in which you awaken, and do not think of the day's concerns. Cling to any clues of what you might have been experiencing--moods, feelings, fragments of images, and try to rebuild a story from them. When you recall a scene, try to recall what happened before that, and before that, reliving the dream in reverse. If after a few minutes, all you remember is a mood, describe it in a journal. If you can recall nothing, try imagining a dream you might have had--note your present feelings, list your current concerns to yourself, and ask yourself, "Did I dream about that?" Even if you can't recall anything in bed, events or scenes of the day may remind you of something you dreamed the night before. Be ready to notice this when it happens, and record whatever you remember.
If you find that you sleep too deeply to awaken from your dreams, try setting an alarm clock to wake you at a time when you are likely to be dreaming. Since our REM periods occur at approximately 90 minute intervals, good times will be multiples of 90 minutes after you go to sleep. Aim for the later REM periods by setting the alarm to go off at 4.5, 6, or 7.5 hours after you go to sleep. Once again, when you wake up, don't move and think first of what you were just dreaming before writing.
To remind yourself of your intentions and get yourself into the spirit of your dreams, read through your dream journal at bedtime. Learning to remember your dreams may seem difficult at first, but if you persist, you will almost certainly succeed--and may find yourself remembering four or more dreams per night. Of course, once you reach this level, you probably won't want to write them all down--just the significant or compelling ones. And, the more familiar you become with the style of your own dreams, the easier it will be to remember you are dreaming while you are dreaming--and explore the world of your dreams while still on the scene.