4 Reasons You’re Forgetting A Whole Lot Of Dream Details Quickly

There’s the old saying, “The devil is in the details.”

When it comes to dream interpretation and dream journaling, however, the saying should be, “The angel is in the details.”

The value of dreams is magnified by the richness of the details you can remember.

People who ascribe little worth to dreams often don’t remember much from them.

When you consider their experience, their viewpoint makes sense. If many details are lost between sleep and wakefulness, it’s hard to tell what the subconscious is saying. It’s not very different from talking to someone who’s bound and gagged and has had some kind of paralytic applied to their facial muscles. It would be a wonder if that captive could communicate a single thing! The facial paralytic would prevent them from even expressing emotion.

When it comes to those who discount the power of dreams, there often isn’t much worth to their dreams because there isn’t much to their dreams.

That doesn’t mean the details weren’t there in the first place.

They’ve simply forgotten them.

The dream world is hidden.

Even people who see the value in remembering and interpreting their dreams can forget many of the details sometimes.

Capturing the premise of the dreams themselves takes a little organization.

Upon waking, most people usually forget they even had a dream. Many people can go years without remembering a single dream. Sometimes it takes being woken up at just the right time before they realize they have dreams.

Science doesn’t know exactly why this happens. There are theories about the default operating modes of the brain, but these processes can be overridden by intention, at least some nights.

Some days are productive for remembering dreams. Those days usually run consecutively.

Others, not so much. Those days, too, usually run consecutively.

So aren’t you remembering your dreams? Here are four possible reasons.

1. You’re not following the basics of the Dream Recovery System

Maybe you need to focus on the basics of the Dream Recovery System. Perhaps you need to use PACTREPS, the acronym that helps you remember the dream’s details. Maybe you’ve forgotten to wear a memory device on your non-dominant hand. Perhaps you haven’t been keeping a pad of paper or your dream journal handy.

The Dream Recovery System isn’t magic. What it does do, however, is “prime the pump.” It gets you ready to remember.

2. You’re overtired

You’ve been going to bed exhausted and then not sleeping enough. When it comes to sleep, your body is not fully recovered and healed. Maybe it’s because you’re not sleeping deeply enough.

Even if you’re not injured in an obvious way, day-to-day living can cause you to need healing. There are microbes to fight mild inflammation. Your body is always silently repairing itself.

In this case, your body might be struggling to get all of the time it can in the deepest REM cycles. There are no in-between stages.

If you’re tired throughout much of the day, this may be the case. If you’re not getting seven to eight hours of sleep, this might be the case.

You’re overtired.

It’s usually painfully obvious when you’re not getting enough sleep; Not always, but usually. There are a lot of first-line symptoms that become apparent sooner than forgetting your dreams. If there’s any question, you can consult your primary care doctor. He or she may order a sleep study.

3. You never wake up naturally

A small child is waking you up every morning. Or a pet. Or an alarm clock. Or the ring of a telephone. Maybe it’s a knock at the door. Something. You never wake up naturally. When you wake up like this morning after morning, your thoughts are always getting scrambled the moment you wake up.

If you’re not waking up naturally, you’re probably not sleeping enough.

Ideally, you want to wake up on your own every morning. Setting an alarm is not natural, though it may be necessary in your case as a sort of insurance policy to not be late for work or appointments.

With enough adjustments, you can get to the point where you wake up before the alarm every morning, naturally.

Can it change? It may be a phase of life you’re going through right now, a trial that requires a bit of an adjustment. It may be that you’re not placing enough emphasis on letting yourself rest, recover, and heal. Try to eliminate these morning distractions.

If you can, sometimes you can go back to bed and remember what you were dreaming about. Ask your subconscious to help you remember what you were dreaming about. The sooner you do this after you wake up, the more effective it will be.

4. You’re stuck in a rut

When you’re stuck in a rut, your subconscious is tired. It’s not interested in its own thoughts. This is not a natural state.

“Ho-hum” is the operative word here. Your subconscious is ready to move on to another stage, another set of preoccupations, other daily activities.

Dream journaling is not the same thing as meditation, though it’s an alternative.

In meditation, you’re clearing your mind. You’re pausing somewhere during your day and clearing your mind or pondering something. You’re focusing on being mindful.

In dream journaling, mindfulness is more of a byproduct of sleep. You’re focused on the act of remembering your dreams. You’ve cleared your mind by falling asleep. Mindfulness comes about by a passive process.

Being stuck in a rut is a serious problem. It can lead to depression and despair. Take non-drastic, non-self-destructive steps to get unstuck.

Do something that interests you!

Put a priority on remembering your dreams.

Whether or not you remember an individual dream isn’t as important as if you ever remember your dreams.

If that sounds confusing, take a moment to read that line again, slowly.

You’re supposed to remember your dreams at least sometimes. The existence of dreams forms part of a feedback loop and a resource to you. If you’re not dreaming, something is wrong with your sleep system. Try to identify what it is and make adjustments.

Further reading:

The dream vitamin

The disrespected power of distraction

How to wring more details out of a poorly remembered dream



James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 

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