Lucid Dreaming/Dream Recall
It is essential to improve your dream recall. There are at least two reasons for this:
- While it is very rare, it is possible to forget about a lucid dream. It would be meaningless to invest so much effort into lucid dreaming, only to forget about it upon waking.
- Recording your dreams will eventually allow you to start recognizing recurring patterns, characters, and scenarios. Having these details will be invaluable once you begin practicing lucid dream induction techniques.
While asleep, we experience a period of REM sleep approximately every 90 minutes. It is during this time that we typically dream. These periods are initially very brief – only around 10 minutes. But as the night progresses, these periods become increasingly longer - often stretching to over 45 minutes at a time. Waking up in the midst of dreaming dramatically increases your ability to remember the details of the dream. Therefore, try setting an alarm clock to 4½, 6, or 7½ hours after you normally fall asleep. This should awaken you directly from a dream.
The most important part of improving your dream recall is keeping a dream journal (or a dream diary). Virtually any medium will do; an office notebook, artist’s sketchpad, an online journal, a sheet of paper, or even a Dictaphone — whatever is easiest for you. Here are some guidelines for keeping your journal:
- Write all your dreams and only your dreams
- Write down everything you can possibly remember about the dream. Phrases, colors, feelings...everything. Record them as soon as you wake up.
- Sketch pictures into your notebook to help you remember symbols, places, faces, and other visual dream elements.
- If you wake in the night and have trouble waking up enough to record a dream you can use the mnemonic technique recommended in Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas's "The Memory Book" of changing something in your room, for example, knocking something onto the floor, and associating that with an image from your dream. On waking the displaced object should trigger your memory of the image and so make it easier for you to remember the dream.
- Ritualise your diary
- Using a dedicated pen in a special color helps to make keeping your journal more of a ritual.
- You might want to copy out rough notes into a neater dream diary later on in the day. This helps ingrain the dream in your mind.
- Recall as much as you can while still lying in bed
- Go to bed early to ensure that you wake a while before you start your day. In this free time, mull over any dreams you had and do a reality check.
- You may want to keep your eyes closed for as long as possible, particularly if you wake up near the sunrise. Try to use a notebook which holds a pen and scribble down whatever you can with your eyes still closed.
- Stay in the same position and run your dreams over in your head a few times before arising from bed. After you have remembered your dream, move to a different position (with your eyes still closed) that you normally sleep in, then recall your dream. The position that you are in may help your brain remember what dream you had while sleeping in that position.
- If you are still unable to remember anything, allow your mind to wander through events of yesterday or through any issues you have been thinking about. These may help to trigger details of your dreams.
- If you share a bed with a partner, make a habit of exchanging dreams upon waking before talking about anything else.
- Be prepared to record dreams throughout the day
- Keep a small dream diary notebook with you all the time. It is quite easy to remember a dream in the day and then forget it by the time you get home.
- Even if you only get a fleeting feeling of some dream during the day, note down as much as you can remember about the dream and what triggered the memory.
- Think about your dream or dreams throughout the day, and ask yourself “What did I dream?” several times. Often, you only get a good answer to this an hour after you woke up.
- You can try to remember your dream by “back-tracking” — start from the moment when you wake up, and try to remember what you were doing before that. You may even be able to reconstruct your dream to the beginning.
- If you find that many of your dreams are about certain items, such as cars and painting, then, if you cannot remember your dream in the morning, think about whether it contained your specific dream signs, in this case, cars and painting. You can even make a “dream lexicon” — a piece of paper with common dream items written on it, so you can read it every time you wake up.
Also, use the autosuggestion technique to improve your dream recall (see the full description of the autosuggestion technique in the next chapter).
Once you have a lot of dreams in your diary, you can start looking through it for dream signs. Some dream signs are commonly experienced by many people. These include things like flying, being chased, chasing something, or being in an old house. However, a number of signs will be unique to you. These unique signs may involve meeting with significant people (from your life), being at your job, or talking with passed away relatives.
Stay alert to any of your dream signs appearing within in real life. And when they happen, always perform a reality check to determine if you are dreaming.
I sometimes remember more dreams than the time I was asleep could allow. How is this possible?
You may have had several dream scenes within a single dream period or some memories could be from past nights.
It is also possible that dream time doesn't strictly correspond to real time. Days may pass in a dream during a single night's sleep. Dreams which seem to last for hours while you have them have sometimes been found to actually have a duration of only a few minutes. There have been accounts of people having lucid dreams lasting years: Robert Monroe reported having a lucid dream that lasted a hundred years.
You might also be having a memory that was not an actual dream, but rather a waking memory mistakenly related with dream memories instead of being properly related with waking memories. Thus, these memories might not be dreams from the past, but rather ongoing subconscious experiences.
In what order should I write my dreams?
It is usually very hard to tell if the dreams you dreamt happened in the order you recalled them. Generally they are written in the order remembered, though others may prefer to write them in a completely random order. Find what works for you. If you dream that you told somebody about a previous dream that happened the same night, then that previous dream probably came before the other one (though the “previous dream” could have been a false memory). The important thing is to write the dream down. Later, if you can recall the order of the dreams, just go back into your diary and rearrange them.