More threads by cswhitchurch

I just scanned previous threads here, but there are a lot and so if I missed one that has already covered this topic, please let me know.

My questions is this: Why do some people almost always remember their dreams very vividly (such as myself), while others almost never do?

I have heard from various sources that everybody dreams, but most of the time we just don't remember.

I always remember. I always have! As a child, I tried to figure out if there was a pattern in my dreams. I think I was going through a weeklong series of bad dreams, so I wanted to figure out what was triggering these dreams in order to try to prevent them. At that point, I recall coming to the conclusion that the major themes of my dreams tended to be topics that came up during my day EVER so briefly-- the things that I might think about for 5 seconds and then completely forget. The minute details.

But that's not really my question-- I was just trying to explain how I have always remembered my dreams very vividly. But so many other people don't! Or if they do, it's only occasionally. For me, sometimes I feel like it's exhausting to dream like I do and remember them so well. The dreams stay with me throughout my day, and often feel like memories of actual events. Sometimes they are incredibly imaginative, and sometimes they'll be ridiculously monotonous. But it makes me feel like I'm not even sleeping because they are so vivid, I wake up feeling like I actually experienced whatever I had been dreaming about!

I think I heard something about it relating to the amount of time that passes before you wake up after dreaming, or after the REM cycle... but it's a little confusing to me. Anybody have any insight on this subject?

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Dreaming is part of the memory process, reviewing material in short-term memory (recent experiences) and moving those memories into the more permanent form in long-term memory. The brain is essentially examining new memories and comparing them to old memories, looking for semantic similarities. When it finds a match, it adds the tag for that match to the new memory for later retrieval, rather like the way a database tags entries for later retrieval. If not, it moves on to the next "file" or "filing cabinet". This is why dreams often contain bizarre or even impossible juxtapositions of events or people or things.

The primary variable affecting whether a dream is recalled is, as you note, depth of sleep at the time or proximity to awakening. Some people are naturally lighter sleepers and they tend to recall more dreams than others. Medical conditions, stress, and similar factors can also affect this.

Other factors include how vivid or disturbing a dream is to the specific individual. For example, starting an SSRI often results in dreams feeling more vivid for a time, so that clients will report they are "dreaming more" or "having weird dreams". But there's no evidence that frequency or content of dreams is affected by SSRIs, although the increase in available serotonin may certainly make them more intense or vivid.
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