Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I Never Remember My Dreams

Dear Peregrin,

I never remember my dreams. Is there anything I can do?

More Dreamers Than I Can Count

Good morning, Dreamers.

I get letters like the one above so frequently that I thought I should address all the memory techniques at once. Rest assured, one and all, that you do indeed dream every night - several times!

The average Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycle is about 90 minutes. What this means is, every 90 minutes of sleep your brain goes into overdrive. Voluntary muscle control is effectively blocked everywhere except for the eyes, which have a much more direct nerve path into your brain. This is when you have the most vivid dreams - current research is showing that you can dream at other times, too, but you are much more likely to remember dreams during the REM phase.

So, if you dream so much, why can't you remember any of them?

One possible answer is simply that your timing is off. If you finish the REM phase before you wake up, you're just out of luck - that dream is gone. Try setting your alarm a few minutes earlier than usual - or later than usual if you can spare the time for it.

If this doesn't work, then don't despair. Since the REM phase can be as short as 5 minutes, you can easily miss it. So if you wake up and still don't remember any dreams, hit the snooze button and just lie there, drifting. If you're like most people, in those 10 minutes of snooze you should enter what is called a hypnagogic state...you know: snoozing. Dreams often occur during this time, even though you never fully fall asleep. In fact, you can have this type of dream while fully awake: it's called a daydream.

Suppose, though, that you don't snooze well and you still can't hit that REM window. Well, if you have a devoted partner who doesn't mind watching you closely while you sleep for a couple of hours, then this extremely loving individual could watch for your eyes to start moving under their lids and wake you after a couple of minutes of this. However, expect this person to agree to this dull activity no more than once before rebelling.

Of course, you could get a kitten. I love this story: One person with this exact problem was awakened during REM phase by her new pet kitten. The feline could not resist batting at the slightly moving eyelids of her sleeping mistress. Instant dreamer! But I do hope the kitten's claws were sheathed.

You also need to make sure that you're getting your vitamins. You could be walking around with a vitamin B6 deficiency. If this vitamin sounds familiar, it should: B6 enhances memory. According to Dr. Atkin's Nutritional Breakthrough , you should slowly increase your intake of B6 until you are remembering your dreams four times a week - any less and you may not be feeding your brain right. Start with a 5mg supplement, and if this doesn't help after a week then add 5mg. If, after taking this supplement for a while, you start to notice a persistent tingling in your fingers and toes, then decrease your intake and consult your doctor. There's a lot of controversy over just exactly how much B6 is too much - my doctor says that it shouldn't be dangerous at any level - but in any case we don't want anyone hurt. If you do experience a toxic effect, it should be compeletely reversible. Fair enough?

I also want to stress that you shouldn't ignore your other health needs - a daily multivitamin supplement isn't a bad idea for nearly anyone.

We can also take a page from Creative Dreaming , by Dr. Patricia Garfield.

Before sleeping, tell yourself - firmly - "I will have a dream tonight." This method requires some patience. While some people see results immediately, others can take as long as a month.
Once you discover that you are indeed a full-time dreamer, keep a journal of your dreams. Put a notebook and a pen right out where you can get to them without getting out of bed. If you can, get a light-up pen so you don't have to turn on a light. As soon as you awake with any memory of a dream, write it down. Do this before you arise, even before you move around very much. As you progress, you will find that you will remember dreams more and more often, and in greater detail. Then, if you like, you can begin to explore this new world that you have found. Many people have found that they can exercise a level of control over their dreams...but that's a topic for a different day.

Pleasant dreams,

Peregrin

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