This Is The Best Way To Record Your Dreams

Question: What do news reports, professional reports, certain types of poems, lyrics, and short stories all have in common?

Answer: Frameworks. 

Sometimes referred to as formats or templates, frameworks are essential to taming a flow of information. Dreams are a type of information. A framework helps organize the information so you can understand it and use it.

Using a framework also helps you organize your recollections. Without one, it’s easy to get distracted by the bizarre ideas and seemingly nonsensical placement of objects your subconscious needs to communicate.

Compared to the framework for a book or report, the framework for recording a dream is simple. There are only three points. Compare that to the typical non-fiction book with around 15 chapters with multiple points under each chapter. Yet even though it’s simple, a dream journal practitioner who uses a framework will find it to be an invaluable aid.

Without them, you can have the kind of dream journal entry that emphasizes one area and completely ignores others. This makes your efforts less valuable. This is how some come to believe that dreams aren’t useful. A fantasy thought where you sat on a toadstool under the stars and spoke with a pony wearing a suit might be amusing. Though what does that mean to you? That’s the bigger and better question.

One simple rule for writing a dream down:

Make the framework serve you and not vice-versa.

As time goes on, adapt your framework to what you find essential. That can vary between people.

Are you on the road a lot? Make a note in your dream journal of where you slept that night. Some features of our environment can influence our dreams. Some people even believe the direction we put our heads in at night can influence our dreams. Maybe this might be worthwhile for you to note.

Are you bothered by allergies? Maybe make a note of what pollens are high on a particular night.

You are in control. It’s your dream and your dream journal.

Before the advent of computer charting, nurses, doctors, and other professionals utilized SOAP and PIO charting to organize their charting. Like in dreams, real-life subjects us to a wide-ranging flow of information, and you need to record what’s pertinent.

SOAP stands for Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan. PIO is Problem, Intervention, and Outcome (of the intervention). 

The most significant advantage to the framework that SOAP, PIO, or any of them provide is that they provide a prompt for the report writer as to what they should include in their note.

Most doctors and nurses no longer use SOAP or other charting frameworks. Instead, they use computer charting systems with their frameworks for charting. The framework has to serve you, not the other way around.

A dream journal entry framework: SOM

When writing down a dream, think SOM, as in SOMnulent, and SOMambulisim. It’s the Latin root word that means “sleep.”

S ﹘ Story

O ﹘ Objects

M ﹘ Meaning

“Som” is the Latin root word for sleep.


Dreams can be chaotic affairs. The rules of logic don’t always apply, and putting them in a sequence helps to supply organization to them. 

First, this happened, then that happened.

You don’t have to worry too much about making them dramatic or even interesting to other people unless your objective is to entertain others with the stories. If that’s the case, you’re not recording a dream as much as telling a story that was inspired by a dream. 

Distilling the dream in this way helps you get to the real answer about what’s on your mind.


To do an excellent job of understanding your dream, you have to think about what every single object in the dream means to you.

This is a place where most would-be dream interpreters fall short.

For example, a user on Reddit had a dream of a huge, imposing horse with a riding blanket in a corral munching the heads of rabbits. 

The user focused on the horse and what it meant. He missed the significance of the riding blanket and the fact that the rabbits were scurrying around trying to avoid getting their heads munched.

It’s an easy mistake for the dreamer to make. In the dream, the horse appeared to be so large and imposing. It’s a case of the would-be dream interpreter missing the forest for the trees.


For best results, you will want to try to interpret the dream as you write it down. The last step in the framework is ‘M’ for meaning.

As time goes by, you’ll lose touch with the events and thoughts that inspired the dream. You might be worried about something at some point in the past. As time goes by, those worries will either be shown to be foolish or moot, or very real. Either way, there’s an excellent chance you’ll lose the moorings that cause the dream in the first place.

An example

S: The bottle of whiskey was floating, spinning about. It was highlighted by a cartoonish aura of different colors like red and yellow over a black background. I was looking at this bottle of whiskey, feeling indifferent.

O: Whiskey, highlights, me.

M: Whiskey is more powerful than I’ve appreciated. It can kill germs, help people celebrate, has been a cornerstone of old-time medicine for coughs, and can poison those predisposed to alcoholism. It’s highlighted in our culture in a loose cartoonish way. Shouldn’t it be more respected for what its power and what it’s capable of?

Do you have your own way of charting your dreams? Did you find the SOM framework useful? Let us know in the comments below.


Further reading:

One-offs, period pieces, and theme dreams

Also on the blog:

Dreams Without Symbols: A Slice Of Life

Does Simply Paying Attention To Your Dreams Make You a Mystic?

How a Piece Of Tape Can Help You Remember Your Dreams

Is It Better To Voice Record Your Dream Or Write It Down?


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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