why do we not remember our dreams

Professor Mark Blagrove, Professor of Psychology at Swansea University, answered this question. People differ on whether or not they can remember their dreams. Some people have a great deal of interest in their dreams, have very vivid dreams or their level of anxiety or sleep quality results in people remembering dreams at different amounts each month, say. In general, for all of us, dreams are very easily forgotten once we wake up if we don't consolidate them or, in other words, if we don't transfer them from short-term to long term memory immediately upon waking. There's a few theories of why that happens to all of us. One possibility is that our brain neurochemicals, during sleep, are very different from during wake time and so they don't allow us to consolidate memory. The other thing that's quite possible is that we don't pay attention to our dreams or are unable to do so during sleep. We are unable to remember what occurs to us during sleep. Even people with sleep apnoea who wake up during the night don't know that that happens to them.


Similarly, when we have a dream, we're not consolidating it as it occurs. Indeed, if you have people having a long REM sleep period and you wake them up, once the REM sleep period gets over about 20 minutes you don't find that dreams increase in length very much. It's as if during the dream we forget what was happening. The same happens immediately we wake up: the dream just disappears.
Eight hours of sleep every night means we spend roughly a third of our life sleeping. With this in mind, it seems strange that we don t remember any of this time, even if we spent the whole night dreaming the most fantastic dreams. But why is this? Why do we forget our dreams when we try so hard to remember them? We formulate memories while we re sleeping, which is why making sure we re getting enough sleep is so important for learning. While we sleep we consolidate what we ve learnt that day into our long-term memories, but this process only occurs in a deep sleep.


We spend the night moving in and out of different sleep phases, meaning at some points in the night we are more awake or more asleep, depending on what point in the sleep cycle we are in. It is the REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, a phase of sleep where we tend to do the majority of our dreaming. At this point, our bodies are paralysed to prevent us from acting out our dreams, while our eyes move in reaction to what it is we re dreaming about. There still isn t a definitive answer as to why we forget what it is we dream about at night, though there are plenty of hypotheses. One of these is that we tend to filter out information that isn t important or doesn t grab our attention. This would mean that we tend to forget about our dreams because our unconsciousness registers them as irrelevant. Another hypothesis was the focus of a 2013 study. The aim of this study was to show that there is an existing neurological difference between those who can recall most of their dreams and those who fail in doing so.


Researchers used different levels and frequencies of sound, along with occasional and random first names, to encourage both excitability and wakefulness in the patients while they were sleeping. What they then found is that participants who were awake more often in the night had a high percentage of dream recall. They also found that those participants who had already displayed a strong ability to recall their dreams were able to more deeply process the first names they heard while awake, though no difference existed between the different sleepers once they were in REM sleep. What this then shows is that if you re eager to remember your dreams more often, the key lies in making sure you wake up regularly in the night. The study s conclusion was that time spent awake must be what allows the contents of our dreams to enter our long-term memory, meaning we then remember it once we wake up properly in the morning. If you re really eager to remember the content of your dreams perhaps making sure you wake up regularly in the night will be the answer you re looking for.


Here at The Sleep Matters Club, we like to encourage a good night s sleep to all our readers, but if you re looking for ways to wake up then simply employing some bad sleep habits should help you out in this endeavour. Drinking too much before bed, having a poor sleeping environment and drinking alcohol before sleeping can all promote a restless night. Though we would never usually recommend these steps before bed, if you re hoping to get a bad night of sleep, then doing things like this should make sure you have a better chance of remembering your dreams the next morning. You could also try making notes of your dreams as soon as you wake up, which could help you to piece together elements of your nighttime imaginations. Do you forget your dreams or are you able to recall everything in the morning? Let us know about your experiences in the comments.

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