DreamingEveryone dreams. No exception. You may not remember your dreams, but you are having them. And learning to remember them is easier than you might think.

Every night, we pass through several iterations of what’s known as the REM stage. REM stands for “rapid eye movement,” and it refers to the period of sleep during which the sleeper’s eyes dart about underneath the eyelids. This is when our most vivid and memorable dreams take place. (Some dreams do occur during non-REM sleep, but memory of these dreams tends to be more hazy.)

We typically enter our first five-minute-long REM cycle some 90 minutes after falling asleep. As the night wears on, REM cycles become gradually longer and more frequent. In all, we enter REM sleep at least four or five times a night. And each time we do, we dream.

What’s more, studies have found that people who truly do not dream experience curious problems. When REM sleep is reduced or suppressed through insomnia, sleep apnea, alcohol or certain other drugs, hallucinations can occur. When the REM suppressant is removed, we then tend to enter a rebound period during which REM cycles appear more frequently and last longer, as though to make up for lost time. Our brains need dreams, and they’ll dream them by any means necessary.

So if you’re not dreaming while you’re awake, you must be dreaming while asleep!

What You Can Do…

The closer to an REM cycle our awakening occurs, the more likely we are to remember dreams. You stand a better chance of bringing back a dream memory if you wake up during the REM stage (or if the dream itself wakes you up, as nightmares often do) than you do if the dream ends peacefully and you wake up a half-hour later.

It would be ideal to have a friend sitting beside you all night long, watching your eyes for the telltale twitches of REM, ready to wake you up as soon as the cycle ebbs. But outside of a sleep laboratory, that scenario isn’t likely. So if you want to improve your dream recall, the next best thing is to try adjusting your alarm clock.

Set your alarm clock for about an hour or a half-hour earlier than the time you are accustomed to waking and see if that doesn’t result in an interrupted REM cycle. Or try sleeping as late as you possibly can, allowing yourself to return to REM sleep repeatedly. Because of the high frequency and duration of REM sleep towards the final hours of a night’s sleep, the longer you stay in bed, the more dreams you’re likely to remember.  By Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little