I’ve had vivid dreams for a long time, and at some point in high school I got interested in remembering them. Here are my experiences.
Why I’m interested in this
Dreams are a great way to get to know yourself better. Plus, they are a good way to solve problems. Your subconscious mind works in an environment with different constraints than reality, often providing valuable insights. You may know something that you cannot apprehend consciously. I think that it makes you more creative because you get better at listening to different parts of your brain. Plus, you’re sleeping anyway, so you might as well make the best of it. :)
Dream recall is, appropriately enough, the ability to remember dreams, their details, and storyline. Think of this something like physical strength–it is something you can improve with practice or training. Most people only naturally recall dreams that are especially vivid or when they are woken up at irregular times. But know that pretty much everyone has dreams almost every night.
The very most important thing you can do to improve your recall is to keep a dream journal. This might sound corny. However, most dreams are only memorable when you are first waking up. Again, it’s like a muscle that you can build up, and this is training. As you get better at recalling, you will see more details and remember them for longer. Upon waking from a dream or in the morning, you should turn on a minimum of lights and start writing in a notebook that you have dedicated to this purpose. Just write whatever you can remember, even small fragments, and the act of writing will solidify them somewhat. Colors, places, people, and feelings are good starting points.
I usually write in the past tense (I had a dream that… or I dreamt that…) This seems most natural based on the fact that it indeed happened in the past. As a result, every night I write down tomorrow’s date. This serves to prepare me for sleep and gives closure to the day. When lying in bed, thinking about writing something down the next day usually helps. Mentally rehearsing writing or acting it out during the evening can help you train to write in the morning. The writing doesn’t have to be very legible, as long as you can somewhat read it. You can clean it up later.
Sometimes you cannot remember any dreams. It’s OK. Just keep trying. No big deal. Any detail you remember can help strengthen your recall, so just be persistent. Also, sometimes when I get into bed the next night, I will have a glimmer of a dream from the night before.
If you can recall multiple dreams, write a quick trigger for each of them, like “tarantulas + Bruce Willis” or “high school locker” so that you don’t forget a whole dream when writing down the others. Sometimes a dream will be right on the brink of your mind, just try to find the trigger and most of it will come flooding back.
Interpretation can be useful or misleading. Usually the meaning of a dream is pretty clear if it reminds you of something you have been thinking or worrying about. Other times your brain is just simulating different experiences for practice or synthesizing existing experiences.