Dreaming has informed creative work for a long time: The Beatles wrote much of their songs about dreams, Christopher Nolan wrote the first draft of “Inception” after a lucid dream, and Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” is based on a dreamscape.
All humans dream, and dream researcher, J. Allan Hobson, who studied dreaming for decades concluded that about 80 to 95% of dreams are forgotten. Humans are either considered high frequency dreamers, or low frequency dreamers – with high being able to recall dreams at least once per night 5.2 times a week, and low frequency dreamers recalling on average 2 dreams per month. Dreaming can also be an awesome way to bring new motifs, symbols and fresh life to your creative work.
Below we’ve compiled a few solid tips that are easy to implement and fun to try.
Off to bed we go.
1. If you wake up often, embrace it
If there’s any one piece of information to come out of a too-legit-to-quit scientific study, it’s that if you wake up often in the night time, in between dreams, you are literally giving your brain time to remember the dreams. Here it is in science-speak from Neuropsychopharmacology journal:
“Some people recall a dream every morning, whereas others rarely recall one. In a new study, research shows that the temporo-parietal junction, an information-processing hub in the brain, is more active in high dream recallers. Increased activity in this brain region might facilitate attention orienting toward external stimuli and promote intrasleep wakefulness, thereby facilitating the encoding of dreams in memory.”
So if you’ve always been restless, and wake up (some people wake up as often as every 90 minutes in a cycle), don’t stress about it, it’s probably helping your dream recall.
2. Keep a journal beside your bed
This tip is a classic, keep a journal and a pen next to your bed so you can write down your dreams as soon as you wake up (even in the middle of the night). It’s a good habit to get into if you want to encourage yourself to remember, and makes for some interesting reading to look back on. Another idea you could try is leaving a tape recorder next to your bed. From what I’ve read about this strategy, it’s more about the habit forming ritual than the importance of the content, but it’s a fun and harmless way to remember dreams over a long period.
3. Tell yourself you will remember
When I read about this tip, it kind of sounded like the time I was trying to teach my dog to wee outside, but I’m okay with learning through positive affirmations. Basically the idea is that people who said to themselves (out loud or inside their heads) a short, positive statement affirming their ability to remember dreams recalled more than those who did not. Choose a short, encouraging phrase and just as you’re falling asleep, say it to yourself. Something like, “I have the ability to remember my dreams,” or, “I am choosing to recall my dreams tonight,” goes a long way to increasing your dream recall.
4. Focus on remembering as soon as you wake
The flip side of the step before, as soon as you wake up, make a conscious effort to mentally check off your dreams and remember each moment from them. Studies have shown people who didn’t move from the sleeping position they woke up in and spent time recounting their dreams as soon as they woke remembered dreams better than those who didn’t. So take a few seconds to lay nice and still and nut through your dreams.
Do you remember your dreams? Do your dreams inspire your creative work? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.