Why do some people not remember their dreams?

I wish I could. For the last few (maybe ten) years, I’ve been trying to keep a log of all the dreams I can remember (with the possible exception of uselessly vague fragmented dreams). Sometimes, I’ll wake up and remember a dream (sometimes two or three dreams), and I’ll concentrate hard to try to remember these dreams so that I can record them. I run through the events of the dreams over and over, hoping that repetition will burn them into my brain. I also try to identify key aspects of the dream that I can remember instead of the entire dream; for example, if I have a common dream about finding another cat who looks just like one of my cats, and then not being able to tell them apart, but not really wanting to have a strange cat in my home… I’ll try just to remember “cat”, and then I should be able to remember the rest of the dream.

And sometimes after all these tricks, I finally get to the computer where I keep logs of my dreams… and the dream’s gone. Like smoke on the wind, all memory of the dream has dissipated. Argh.

So, as someone who has tried hard to remember dreams and failed, it doesn’t surprise me that someone who doesnt’ try to remember their dreams wouldn’t recall them. I theorize that such a person might actually remember the dreams briefly but then allow themselves to forget the dream so well that they forget even remembering the dream.

Oh, and anybody interested in dreams should check out:


where submitted dreams are illustrated as four-panel cartoons.

Up until a few weeks ago, I would have said I rarely remember my dreams. Then I was given a blank journal as a present, and decided to use it to record my dreams…

Well, the next morning I woke up with a vivid memory of a dream and wrote it down.

Ditto the next day.

And the day after that.

And then I woke up in the middle of the night with a vivid dream. And another later on when my alarm went off.

And so on, day after day. Now, the dreams themselves were the usual mixture of strange and mundane, dramatic and erotic – what had changed was that I was remembering them in great detail.
It was tied so exactly to my starting the dream journal I can only think that my desire to remember dreams was all it took for them to reach/stay in my conscious mind. Which, come to think of it, isn’t all that strange. Don’t we mostly remember what we want to? I met about a dozen new people at a party last night. Today I only remember the names of the five who I found compatible, the others are blurring away…
BTW, SimonMoon5, a tip: notebook and pen on the bedside table. Primitive, but no waiting for a computer to book so you can jot down key phrases before the images evaporate.

I can even write in my journal in the dark: my pen lights up. :wink:

I have the same experience but I draw a very different conclusion. If I rememeber a fragment, I assume that’s all there was to remember. No plot? Just a bunch a characters milling around? Well, then I simply had a dream like a seinfeld episode or something. You seem to be assuming that all dreams are stories with a complete plot. I assume that some of my dreams are very lame…after all I am asleep while I’m creating them.

I know that a sudden spike in memorable, vivid dreams is, for me, a sign that I am coming out of an episode of depression. Other than that, I got nothing.

I seem to remember that when studying psychology, one of the theories for why we dream is that it serves the purpose of ridding the overcrowded brain of all the irrelevant, worthless mental material it accumulates in the waking day - if there’s any truth in that, then all those folks keeping ‘dreambooks’ are doing the equivalent of keeping a notebook next to the toilet to record the appearance of their stools. (Though I’m sure some nutritionists would claim stool-monitoring is also worthwhile…)

I doubt it. At least, it’s not true in my case. If I remember only a fragment, and tries hard enough to remember the rest immediatly, I generally can remember most of the plot.

By the way, to give an example, I slept late this morning, awakening briefly and going back to sleep several times. As a result, I remembered three different dreams when I woke up for good. However, I didn’t pay much attention to them, and half an hour after, I already had completely forgotten two of them. I just remember that I briefly thought about the two others right after awakening. The third one I remember though not in detail (once again, I didn’t try to) because it included an element I found weird and funny. The memory of dreams seems to be unstable and short-lived, so you apparently have to think about them to plant them for good in your memory.

The very, very few dreams I’ve had any dreams that I have any recollection of whatsoever were times when I was awakened suddenly and after an insufficient amount of sleep (presumably during REM sleep). This is maybe a dozen occurences in my lifetime. Other than that, I couldn’t swear that I dream at all.

This is something that I have often noticed. It is not at all uncommon for me to completely forget a dream, not one image of it remains, but to remember all of the details of it because I will remember remembering it.

For example: I wake up and remember a dream about flying, say. I will think to myself, “That was cool how I was flying, and the little people I saw below and…” Later in the day I will only remember the specific thoughts I had about the dream, not the dream itself.