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Dreams play out our deepest fears and our wildest fantasies—the stuff great fiction is made of. Approximately four times each night, our minds take creative journeys. Sometimes mystifying, sometimes delightful, dreams are stories, poems, settings and scenes waiting to be expressed. The trick, of course, is capturing them.
I’m not a fan of gimmicks some “experts” recommend to remember more dreams, like drinking lots of water before bed so you’ll wake up more often (and most likely just after a dream). I am a huge fan of sleep, and the importance of getting enough of it is about the only thing health researchers seem to agree on these days. So I’ll offer three harmless ways to make to most of a good sleep.
The first way to remember more dreams is to focus on doing it just before going to sleep. Sound too simple? It works for many people, including me. If it doesn’t help you, a few minutes of creative contemplation before going to sleep certainly won’t hurt. (Doesn’t it beat dropping off to the babble of late-night TV?)
And speaking of staying up too late, a great way to remember your last dream is to wake up naturally. Blaring alarms and radio banter blast us into wakefulness so quickly that fragile dream memories stand little chance of surfacing. Of course, to wake up naturally you need enough sleep. So play with this for a week or two. Try using your alarm as a “backup” until you find the right balance of waking up alarm-free and making it to work on time.
The final harmless trick is: whenever you wake up with a dream still simmering, don’t get up, don’t even open your eyes. For a few minutes, try to recall as many details as possible. Bring images and events and emotions to waking memory where they will stick for longer—long enough, hopefully, to log them into a journal while the morning java brews.
Dreams are fascinating creative resources, and it may take little more than focus to remember more of them. But if these tips don’t work for you, don’t lose any sleep over it! The worst that’s likely to happen by trying is that you’ll finally get enough rest to wake up totally refreshed and ready to write.