I like to study dream research and how it relates to human psychology, and I share my findings in this essay for you to learn with me.
We all know it's important to dream for our health and sanity. It’s our mind’s way of resolving issues while we sleep.
You probably wish you could remember your dreams to understand the meaning behind them. I'll explain how to do that to understand the significance of your dreams.
What Are the Benefits of Dreaming?
Let’s begin with four benefits of dreaming so you’ll appreciate why we need to dream. Then I’ll cover five possible ways to remember your dreams so you can analyze and understand them.
1. Your Dreams Can Help Rectify Outstanding Emotional Issues
We dream as a way of healing emotionally. Our brain is trying to work out a problem that has been troubling us. That could be a known issue or even something in the back of our minds. Something that we haven't been dealing with for reasons that might be too devastating.
Our brain tries to satisfy interrelationships among all the unresolved issues we have by randomly playing out representations of everyday actual and physical things in our lives. You might consider those random dreams weird, but it’s a way of restoring the brain’s ability to simplify daily occurrences.1
Outstanding issues are especially crucial to reconcile to have a healthy mind and live a productive life. When I need to resolve challenging matters, I sometimes take the time to sit and meditate on them. I try to think my way through it to develop a constructive solution.
However, that isn’t always easy to accomplish, and that’s when our brain takes over while we sleep. The trick it uses is to combine random and sometimes weird episodes, which can form a more natural connection of misguided thoughts that fulfill that constructive solution we need to achieve.
2. Your Dreams Can Provide Creative Inspiration
What is our brain trying to achieve as it pieces together a somewhat meaningless series of events? Is our mind trying to organize misplaced thoughts?
We might be struggling to complete a creative endeavor. A dream can occur while we sleep, providing the inspiration we need to piece together what we couldn't do during our waking hours.
When we recall the dream we just had, we might envision the precise result we were hoping to accomplish.
For example, Paul McCartney’s hit song “Yesterday” came to him in a dream.
3. Your Dreams Can Contribute to Emotional Well-Being
Dreams help us resolve issues when feeling confused, giving us peace of mind. The work is done subconsciously in REM sleep. That’s Rapid Eye Movement, and is the time when you are dreaming.
During REM sleep, the brain is free of stress and can process and resolve problematic issues to contribute to our well-being.2
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4. Your Dreams Can Prepare You for Future Events
How often have you had concerns about an upcoming event that you didn’t feel comfortable attending? Yet, you knew you had to be there and be involved with the occasion.
Well, those concerns were in your head, and you weren’t getting anywhere with all the worrying and troubling thoughts.
Then one morning, you realize you had dreamt about it as if it were happening already. But maybe the circumstances in that dream were a little weird and confusing.
In reality, your brain was working on preparing you for the event, so you performed better without the stress your daily thoughts were creating.3
How to Remember and Learn From Your Dreams
So, having discussed all that, how can we actually get what we need from our dreams? It may not always be necessary to remember them. That’s because our brain has been healing itself.
However, it’s often valuable to remember something that we might learn from a dream to solve problems we are dealing with in our daily lives. So here are five methods you can use to remember your dreams.
1. How to Save Dreams in Long-Term Memory
We tend to forget dreams quickly after waking up. But I discovered when I talk about my dream immediately upon waking, I tend to remember it. I’ll tell you why that happens.
Dreams occur and are stored in the neocortex. That's the part of the brain where our attention and planning are achieved. That's short-term memory.
When we speak about a dream we just had, our memory of it is moved to the hippocampus part of the brain. That's responsible for long-term memory.4
We can produce the same effect by writing about it before we forget.
2. How to Keep Track of Your Dreams
I decided to write down everything I remember from a dream the moment I woke up so I wouldn't forget it.
Sometimes I wake up immediately after a dream in the middle of the night, and I find that is the best opportunity to remember it. That's because it just occurred before awakening.
If we don’t wake up in the middle of the night but rather sleep through the entire night, then when we wake up in the morning, we usually don’t recall dreams we had through the night.
REM sleep is at its peak long before we wake up in the morning. But this may vary with each individual.
We have a better chance of remembering a dream if we are fortunate enough to wake up during it or soon afterward. So, it’s crucial to quickly write down everything you remember from the last dream before you forget it.
If you do that every time you wake up from a dream, you’ll be creating a journal so you can track related stories.
3. How to Create a Dream Journal
You may use a different routine that works for you, but I like to use my mobile phone. I leave my phone near my bed for this purpose.
When I wake up with a full recollection of a dream that was just occurring, I lay there for a minute, recalling it with as much detail as I could.
Then I quickly take my phone and record the details with my phone's voice memo app. I don't type it. The middle of the night, while still feeling groggy, is the worst time to try to type. I know I can transcribe it another time.
However, sometimes I use Apple's Siri, and I dictate the information. But that messes us sometimes, and when I read what it typed for me, some words are entirely different from what I said, and I can't recall what I actually spoke.
But I’m getting off the topic. Use whatever method works best for you.
I have three specific rules I made for this process:
- Try not to leave anything out.
- Don’t censor your dream.
- Don’t include analysis, just facts.
In order to remember the full extent of the dream so you can enter the entire episode in your journal, you need to lie there for a while in the same position you were in when you woke up. While in this position, think about the dream you just had. If you get out of bed, you might soon forget it.
Note that a journal does not include any form of interpretation. It’s just a storyline of a dream in a linear sequence of how it occurred.
Your dream story may seem fragmented without any meaningful flow. That’s the way many dreams occur. Don’t try to make sense of it while adding the information to your journal. That comes later when you review your journal.
4. How to Interpret the Meaning of Your Dreams
Your dream journal will provide a narrative that you can analyze to get a clue of what your dreams mean. There might be a common theme among them.
A journal referencing several dreams could provide answers or enlighten you about things you didn't even know were on your mind. For example, you might see a pattern of concerns that you have had subconsciously.
You might think certain things were so absurd that they can’t have anything to do with reality. But while you’re dreaming, it all made perfect sense. It's when you awaken that you consider it to be total nonsense. But it's not.
Your brain is trying to piece together psychological activities, emotion responses, subjective experiences, external stimuli of recent life events, and possible childhood trauma.5
Now you can give mindful attention to issues presented in your dreams and maybe even resolve matters that were previously hidden from your conscious mind.
5. How Dreams Can Contribute to Problem Solving
Sometimes a thoroughly new idea comes to mind from a dream. For example, have you ever woken up from a good night's sleep, realizing you have the solution to a problem you went to bed with unresolved?
Your brain was working on that problem in your sleep. Neurons readjusted to form new connections that make the awareness of the solution clear when you wake up.
We often don't remember our dreams. But I assure you that you do dream. And when you remember those dreams, that's when you have the advantage of applying their wisdom to problem-solving.
Is Our Life Just a Dream?
I once dreamt that I woke up and started my day. I got dressed, ate breakfast, and went to work. But then suddenly I woke up again and realized that I had only been dreaming about that entire day.
Who’s to say that the second time waking was also just another dream within a dream?
Dreams have a funny way of expressing reality at times. But there is usually a message there if you pay attention and think about it.
The methods I discussed will help you make sense out of it as long as you retain the information your brain is attempting to piece together for you.
You never know. You might just be dreaming.
- James Kingsland. (May 14, 2021). “Does the weirdness of dreams help keep the brain flexible?” – Medical News Today
- Matthew Walker, (October 1, 2017). “Why Your Brain Needs to Dream” - Berkeley University
- Elizabeth Millard. (June 16, 2021). “How Dreams Might Prepare You for What's Next“ – WebMD
- Anne Trafton. (April 6, 2017). “Neuroscientists identify brain circuit necessary for memory formation” - Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Wei Zhang and Benyu Guo. (August 23, 2018). “Freud's Dream Interpretation: A Different Perspective Based on the Self-Organization Theory of Dreaming” - US National Library of Medicine
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Glenn Stok