On Dreams and Dreaming

Remembering Dreams

What can people do to remember dreams better?

Dr. Garfield: Dream recall is a learned skill, and like any memory skill, if you practice it, if you use it, it gets better. You can do such simple things as putting the notepad and pen by your bed, setting the intention — saying to yourself, "okay, tonight I'm going to remember a dream." For most people who have structured lives and need to be to work and so forth, it works better to pick a weekend or vacation to let yourself wake up naturally from a dream.

And one of the things that people find particularly helpful, and people don't always believe in it at first, is that the dream is very much connected with the body position in which you've had the dream. So if you sleep on your right side or on your left side and you wake up on your left side and have no dream recall, if you have the time to very gently roll into the other sleep position and lie there for a moment, very often dream recall will come fluttering back. It's almost weird. It's true. It works.

Pick a time a period of time during which you want to focus on your dreams, get ready to dream, put a pad and pen by your bed that you can easily reach without effort, and arrange times where you can wake up naturally and then test out other sleep positions that you use.

Sometimes if you wake up with just the tiniest wisp of a thought, and you train yourself to write something down, when you're doing that your mind often brings back the former scene. It's almost like pulling the dream back in reverse. It's all there, but you have to catch hold if you're not used to doing it.

Catch hold of that last little scene. Sometimes you can begin with what you were thinking about when you woke up, and that will lead you to the dream content that was before. If you make a habit of writing down the smallest bit of dream and treating it with respect, as valuable, as something I need to understand, your recall of dreams will improve.

Not everyone will want to do this, but I have a special dream notebook in which I copy over my dream notes during the day. It also helps, before you go sleep, to jot down the just main events of the day in this book. . . . It's really helpful to know what's actually going on in the waking stage. And if you pay attention to both of them they work to nourish each other.