Maybe you have struggled to remember some details of your dreams, perhaps a dream in particular that have made you question your thoughts. But the answer is not that simple, because it depends on the cycles of your sleep. Talking about our dreams can be a battle sometimes because there are days when we know that we have dreamt, but no details are remembered. Some people remember the dreams they have in the morning, but even those who remember then just after waking up will forget them quickly.
Why we have dreams and why we can’t remember them? Both answers are rooted in the biology of our bodies and subconscious mind. Sleep is not as easy as you thought it is. If our bodies are going in and out of sleep, our brains go through a rollercoaster of mental activity and mental states. The process of dreaming is associated with the sleep state called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and it’s known as desynchronized sleep. In REM the signs of being awake are mimicked through the eyes that are twitching rapidly, the changes in breathing, the changing in circulation, and the paralyzed state of the body called Atonia. In the REM state, our brains tend to dream, and the duration of it is around 90 minutes per wave.
What Is Happening During REM State?
During the REM state, the blood is flowing extra to parts of our brain, more precisely to the Cortex and the Limbic system. The Cortex is the one that gives the content of our dreams, and the Limbic system is the one that processes the emotional state. In the REM state, the electrical activity is high, and the frontal lobes are quiet. Psychology Professor and Author, Deidre Barrett says that when the dreams have a more precise structure, they are easy to remember, but when the dreams are disorganized, it’s harder for us to remember them.
However, this is not all, because a chemical component has some things to say too. Noradrenaline is the chemical component that is working to make sure we will remember the dreams. Unfortunately, even if this hormone is present in the body and mind, during deep sleep, its levels are low. Also, a sleep research doctor from Lausanne University Hospital, Francesca Siclari, says that it’s good to have a clear definition between the state of sleep and the waking life.
If we take, for example, the people suffering from sleep disorders, like the narcolepsy, these people have a difficult time telling the difference between their real life and sleeping life. Also, the dreams we remember the most are coming from the REM state when the Noradrenaline levels are low. Most of the times we dream right before we wake up, but some factors could cause us to forget everything, like the alarm clock, a telephone, or the morning routine. These factors are causing the Noradrenaline levels to spike, and it’s harder for us to remember then.
However, the routine we have for sleep time is the one that influences why we can or can’t remember our dreams. Most of us are falling asleep to fast, we sleep too soundly, and then we wake up with the alarm clock. When the mind is beginning to wander in and out from the sleep period, the process is called Hypnagogic Dreaming. This stage lasts between the first five to ten minutes after falling asleep, and if you fall asleep fast, you won’t remember a thing from the sleep cycle.
Can You Actively Remember Your Dreams?
What can you do to remember your dream is to lie still after you weak up and not to leap out of bed and start your daily activities. The key is to stay down and float and try to review your dreams in the waking state, and then you will see that you can remember them like any other memory. Finally, another advice is to repeat to yourself before drifting to sleep that you want to remember your dreams, and you’ll wake up remembering them.
Jeff Wilkinson is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.