Dreams: Why We Remember Some Dreams And Not Others

Written by Shivani K • 

Dreams. This very word transports us to a wonderland that isn’t bound by any kind of rules or norms. All of us love dreaming. But have we ever thought that the dreams that we get while we’re asleep, are they really under our control or not? If it was under our control, all that we dreamt of, we would remember all of it when we woke up from our sleep, right? But the case is clearly the opposite, isn’t it? Most of us don’t remember all of our dreams when we wake up from our sleep the next morning. We remember only a few and that too in bits and pieces.

For the science world though, the dream is still a mysterious phenomenon. For years now, scientists have been trying to find out what is it that happens in our brain when we snooze. And how is it so essential to our life. Have you ever wondered that dreams help us solve some riddles, it soothes our emotional feelings of ups and downs, and it also helps certain people to put on the creative cap? This is exactly what Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist put forth. Most of Freud’s theories focused on the concept of repressed longing — this is the idea that helps us dream about repressed, unresolved wishes. So does being able to remember some dreams and not all have something to do with an individual’s health or is there any other reason to it? Let’s find out by reading on.

The REM Phase That We Are In Matters

So, what’s an REM phase now? We’ll explain in very simple words. We, humans, sleep in cycles that last for a rough ninety minutes. And this cycle breaks our sleep into different stages. In some, we are in a heavy (deep) sleep and in the others we are in a lighter sleep (1). And if you look at all the stages technically, we dream in every single stage!

But it is the REM phase (the deepest sleep cycle) which is considered as the most psychedelic sleep period of our brain where we have the most vivid, narrative, hallucinogenic, and memory-laden dreams. REM here stands for Rapid Eye Movement. The REM cycle forms twenty percent of our sleep cycle. We are in a deep sleep mode for the first half of our sleep time. And the second part of our sleep is the REM one. The REM stage of sleep is the longest and the last part of our sleep.


Fun Fact: When it comes to babies, the REM cycle forms at least fifty percent of their sleep.

What exactly happens in the REM phase? Well, although our body seems to be paralyzed, our brain is hyperactive. The movement and visual perception centers of our brain light up the hippocampus and amygdala (the emotion and memory centers inside our brain). These regions appear to be thirty percent more active during the REM sleeping phase when compared to waking hours. The REM phase as mentioned earlier is the last phase of our sleep, which is the early waking hours. And any dream that occurs during this time is remembered by our brain as these two regions are hyperactive.

The Emotional Dreams Are The Ones That Are Remembered Most

The Emotional Dreams Are The Ones That Are Remembered Most
Image: Shutterstock

Emotions are what make us dream, right? But they say that, during our sleep, the tendency to feel sensations and emotions are pretty strong. And if you’re dreaming about anything that has emotions attached to it, then, there is a very possibility that your brain retains the MRI images of the dream. And this is how you can recollect the dream even after waking up from sleep. The feeling of fear especially is retained for several hours even after the person is up. This is why the people who wake up from nightmare-like dreams tend to behave moody.

The Time You’re Awake In The Night

The Time You’re Awake In The Night
Image: Shutterstock

If you wake up in between your sleep, you’re more likely to remember your dreams. A person usually wakes up in between sleep as he/she is more reactive to stimuli, for example, sounds. And it is said that it’s more likely for a person to remember the dream if the person wakes up from a dream immediately (2). Therefore, a higher percentage of the people who were able to recall their dreams are the ones who had more amount of wake time during their sleep in the night.

Fun Fact: Recalling dreams is considered as a brain exercise.

Now, who knew so much study and facts goes into understanding, “I had such a sweet dream. But I cannot recollect it.” So, do you remember all your dreams or you too are one of those people who remember only a few of them? Also, do any of the above theories make sense to you? Let us know in the comments section below.

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