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Five Ways How to Remember and Understand Dreams More Clearly

Updated on March 3, 2017
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok has studied fields of science, physics and philosophy, for over 40 years, since his college days with a Master of Science degree.


We all know it's important to dream, but many of us wish we could remember those dreams and understand what the meaning is behind them. I'll explain how to do that by journaling. This will also help understand our dreams more clearly.

Understanding why we dream is the first step to knowing what they mean. We dream as a way of healing emotionally. Our brain is trying to work out a problem. It uses representations of everyday real things in our lives as it tries to satisfy interrelationships among all the unresolved issues we have.

Unresolved issues tend to leave disconnections in our brain cells. We dream in order to help those loose connections mend.

What do the events in our dreams mean? What is our brain trying too achieve as it pieces together a somewhat meaningless series of events? Is our mind trying to organize misplaced thoughts?

Dreams help us resolve issues when feeling confused, giving us peace of mind. Dreaming is the time when the brain is working on problems and trying to make sense out of misunderstood issues. The work is done subconsciously in REM sleep and we usually don't even know anything that took place when we wake up.

We know from sleep research that dreams are important for our sanity too.

1. How to Keep Track of Our Dreams

I decided to write down everything I remembered from a dream the moment I woke up, so I wouldn't forget it.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night. I find this to be the best time of the night to remember a dream, since I had the last one just before waking.

If we don’t wake up in the middle of the night, but rather sleep through the entire night, then when we wake up in the morning we usually don’t have a recollection of any dreams. This might be because one usually dreams in the middle of the night, the time when REM sleep is at its peak. This period of our dream cycle usually ends long before we wake up. But this may vary with each individual.

We have a better chance of remembering dreams if we are fortunate enough to wake up during the dream, or soon afterwards.

However, two things make it difficult:

  1. We tend to forget our dream soon after waking.
  2. Active dreaming usually occurs long before we wake up.

By quickly writing down everything we remember from the last dream before we forget it, and doing so every time we wake up from a dream, we will create a journal of our dreams.

This journal will provide a story of our dreams that we can analyze at a later time. This can help to get a clue of what our dreams mean.

2. How to Grasp the Full Story of a Dream

Take advantage of those precious times when you wake up in the middle of the night.
Take advantage of those precious times when you wake up in the middle of the night. | Source

Wait for those precious times when you wake up in the middle of the night. As I mentioned before, this is the time period where we are in our active dream cycle.

You may discover that you have a clearer memory of the last dream at this time. I think it’s because the dream was just happening. So it has a better chance of being available at a conscious level.

In order to remember the full extent of the dream, you need to lie there for awhile in the same position you were in when you woke up. While in this position, think about the dream you just had. If you move or shift your body, you will soon forget it.

If we remember any of our dreams, much of it may seem weird, or not connected with reality.

You might say that things are so off the wall in our dream experiences that we'd know we're in a dream. But the thing is: While we are dreaming and while we are the character in the scene, it all makes sense to us.

It's only when we awaken that we consider it to be total nonsense. But it's not. There is more meaning in all of it than we may ever know.

3. How to Create a Dream Journal

Your mind has been working on a problem, or on an issue that has been troubling you. A dream journal may provide answers, or enlighten you to things that you didn’t even know were on your mind.

It can provide an enormous awareness of concerns that you may subconsciously have had. Now you can give mindful attention to these issues, and maybe even resolve matters that were previously hidden from your conscious mind.

You may use a different routine that works for you, but I like to use my iPad. I leave my iPad next to my bed for this purpose.

Sometimes I wake up around 4 AM. And that is the time I usually come out of my sleep with a full recollection of the dream that was just occurring. So I lay there for a minute recalling the dream in as much detail as I can. Then I quickly take my iPad and type as much of it as I can remember.

I have three specific rules I made for this process:

  1. Try not to leave anything out.
  2. Don’t censor your dream.
  3. Don’t include analysis, just facts.

When you create a journal in this fashion, you can later review it. It is at that time when you can give thought to it and find hidden clues about what’s going on for you in your life.

Note that a journal does not include any form of interpretation. It’s just a storyline of a dream in linear sequence of how the dream occurred.

Your dream story may seem fragmented without any meaningful flow. That’s the way many dreams occur and must not be judged.

Interpretation can be done later when you review your journal. Maybe some connection will materialize over time as you add to it.

Hopefully you'll discover something you didn't realize was troubling you, something your mind was trying to work out in your dream state.

4. How Dreams Can Contribute to Problem Solving

Brain Neurons Synapse
Brain Neurons Synapse | Source

Sometimes something completely knew comes from a dream. Have you ever woken up from a good sleep; only to realize you have the solution to a problem you went to bed with?

Somehow our brain was working on that problem in our sleep. Neurons readjusted to form new connections in our brain that made the awareness of the solution clear when we awoke.

All this is manifested via dreams. We usually don't remember our dreams. But I can assure you that you do dream.

Psychologists say we would go insane if we don't dream. And tests have been done to prove that -- by waking a sleeping person each time they begin to display REM sleep. REM is Rapid Eye Movement that happens when we are dreaming.

5. Is Our Existence In The Universe Just a Dream?

I might just be dreaming.
I might just be dreaming. | Source

I can’t resist considering the philosophical idea that everything is a dream, that nothing is real.

That would account for a lot of unanswered questions and mysteries of the Universe. It would leave an open door for anything to occur, since it’s all a dream anyway.

I once had a dream that I woke up and started my day. I got dressed, ate breakfast, and went to work. But then suddenly I woke up again and realized that I had only been dreaming that entire day.

Who’s to say that the second time waking was also just another dream within a dream?

A wild thought would be that we are just some sort of electric or chemical existence in the Universe and those electrical impulses or chemical reactions are forming the thought patterns that we experience as daily existence.

I may not be serious, but I do enjoy letting my mind entertain these far out thoughts. You never know, I might be on to something. Or maybe not. I might just be dreaming. After all, I’m human.

© 2014 Glenn Stok


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    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 20 months ago from Long Island, NY

      gerimcclym - Thanks for the feedback and positive comments.

    • gerimcclym profile image

      Geri McClymont 20 months ago

      This is a great hub for helping us tap into unresolved issues from our past. I like how you shared your dream sequence as an example of how to journal our dreams, and I also like the layout of your hub.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      MDavisatTIERS - That makes perfect sense Marilyn. Our brain uses dreams to try to resolve unresolved issues. So those messages we missed (or didn't hear - as you say) may very well cause our brain to try to put the missing pieces together by composing a dream. Your grandmother was very smart. Thanks for sharing that information.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      vocalcoach - When you start keeping your dream journal, report back and let me know what you discover from your dreams. Thank you, Audrey, for the votes and for sharing.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, Glenn; my grandmother always called dreams, "the messages we didn't hear during the day." She firmly believed that keeping a journal opened her up to receiving guidance. This piece certainly reinforced those concepts. Thank you for that. ~Marilyn

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Fascinating and informative piece about dreams. I've long wondered why we dream and what our dreams are trying to tell us. I'm taking your advice Glenn and starting my dream journal right away.

      Voted up and across (not funny) and will share.


    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Dr Bill Tollefson - That's a very interesting idea. Maybe something can indeed be discovered by comparing a daytime journal to a dream journal. It would be interesting to discover a common theme between the two. Thanks for your input on this.

    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile image

      Bill Tollefson 2 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Thanks for the HUB. A dream journal is very good idea. I am a big supporter of keeping a daily journal. So if you kept both you could then compare the two and find your problems and hopefully solutions.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      That was a very interesting comment of yours, Audrey. I assume that experience with laughing and joking with your dentist was a dream. I actually kid around with my dentist in reality. I've used the same dentist for 30 years and we get each other's humor. As for being in a state of calm... far from it. I'm always doing 1000 things at one time. LOL.

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 2 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      That is such a good idea to keep a dream journal, Glenn. I don't remember much about my dreams, but remember one at my dentist's office where we were laughing and joking. I soon will have some dreaded dental work. You come up with the greatest ideas for hubs which seem to appear from just thinking. Your brain must be in a state of calm. Great hub. Sharing, Blessings, Audrey

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Dolores Monet - Yes, I agree that many dreams are ridiculous. But that's what's so interesting about them. Right? I think it's a useful source of information about our inner psyche.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

      A dream journal is such a cool idea. I remember trying this years ago and though I just jotted down some messy notes, did not even turn on the light, those brief notes brought the whole dream back. So many of my dreams are ridiculous. But I love that, it's a great way to start the day, laughing about your unconscious.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Peggy - That sounds like you have pleasant memories and they come back in your dreams. That's nice. I used to dream of flying too, a long time ago. My flying dreams were extreme, I dreamt of flying between planets of the solar system. When I look back on that now I think it was pretty weird. Thanks for saying this was awesome and thanks for sharing this.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I usually enjoy my dreams because many of them include family members who are already in the next life. Generally it has something to do with traveling or sometimes buildings like houses. My dad was a home builder. My mother and I enjoyed our travels together. Going way back, I used to have recurring dreams of flying. I loved that! I have never considered keeping a journal. It might be interesting! Sharing this with my followers and pinning to Awesome HubPages.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      AliciaC - I know exactly what you mean. When I mistype on my iPad, especially when only half awake after waking from a dream, the iPad tends to try to correct the spelling. It ends up changing words to something totally different from what I meant. Then when I read it back, I wonder what I was actually typing. Pen and paper is best for the task of recording dreams, at least with just a few notes as memory tickers. Glad you found this article interesting. Thanks for your feedback.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting article. I try to record my dreams as soon as I wake up, too, even in the middle of the night. I have to use pen and paper, though. I don't type well enough on my iPad to write anything intelligible when I'm half asleep!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      MsDora - Interesting observation. I never thought about that. I always assume my weird dreams are simply my mind trying to work on a problem. Wen I read my journal weeks later, sometimes months later, I don't see anything differently. The dreams that are not weird, on the other hand, make some sense right away. I'm going to reevaluate older dreams so see if I can decipher something more from them. At least that's the advantage of having the journals.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      You give very good advice. Sometimes the dream does not make sense until days or weeks later, and if we do not write them down, we forget and miss out on the meaning. Interesting series!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Nadine - That is so true. A journal of previous dreams from a long time ago can bring back visions of prior experiences that were not understood at the time. Even dreams can reestablish old thoughts. Sometimes I find I have dreams that are staged years earlier.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Great hub. Dream journals are a very good practice to learn the patterns of your dreams. Very powerful when you read previous pages from weeks back.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Oh now wouldn't that be good? lol!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Hi Nell - That must really surprise you when that happens. It's almost like sleepwalking. Only, it's sleep writing. Imagine if you wake up one day and find a completed novel next to your bed.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      tirelesstraveler - That works for me too. Many times when I can't seem to solve a technical problem, I leave it for the next day. I usually wake up with the solution on my mind. I guess that means our mind is working on it in our sleep. Thanks for your comment.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi, I used to do this, I always had a pen and paper next to my bed. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and not even realise that I had actually written anything! lol! great idea Glenn, nell

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      Discovered the best way to deal with a problem is to sleep on it. Never thought of keeping a sleep journal. Interesting hub.