One barrier to dream recall (and to lucid dreaming) is memory. Waking memory and dreaming memory are not necessarily connected in the same way. But with greater intention, practice and focus, one can increase the connection between the waking and dreaming memory, along with improved dream recall, more vivid and long lasting dreams as well as easier induction of lucid dreams.
Dream recall is actually a natural human ability. Young children are more in touch with their dreams, as well as many indigenous cultures who share a belief in the value and importance of dreams. As we move into adulthood we often lose the ability for vivid dream recall due to the many distractions we encounter in our day to day waking world.
To develop better dream recall it's important to get a good plenty of restful sleep and to try and maintain a regular sleep schedule. Longer sleep can be beneficial for dream recall because the dreaming phases of sleep (REM) get longer and closer together as the night proceeds. The first dream of the night is the shortest, usually lasting around 10 minutes, while after 8 hours of continuous sleep, dream periods can last 45 to an hour long.
You may have more than one dream during a REM(dream) period and this may be separated by short awakenings that are also mostly forgotten. We dream each and every night, about one dream approximately every 90 minutes. Anyone that says that they never or rarely dream simply do not remember their dreams. When one awakens during the dreaming (REM) stage of sleep, it is easier to remember the dreams because the details are more recently fresh and vivid.
Making a consistent effort to remember and record your dreams will help your waking mind to connect itself more closely with your sleeping dream experience. It's also an excellent way to increase your imagination, creativity, and intuitive capabilities which are all intimately connected with the dream process. Recording your dreams in a Dream Journal or Diary will help you get into the habit of recalling more specific details of your dreams, which can improve overall dream memory.
You have to have a genuinely strong desire and intention to want to recall your dreams. Understanding how useful and beneficial dream recall can be is often enough to fuel that intention.
It's necessary to develop strong focus and attention in order to improve dream recall. Dream recall is a but like a mental muscle--the more you use or exercise it, the more it grows and the stronger it will become. Without exercise or regular use, it may shrink and become weak again until you decide to work with it again. So if you dream recall is poor, trust that it will become stronger over time with practice and patience. Remember, that just desire/intention and positive expectation alone can improve dream recall significantly.
Bedtime practices are also important when it comes to dream recall. Before sleep, you can go over a few dreams that you recall having from previous nights (or re-read them from your dream journal). This allows you to begin to connect with your natural dream memory; this also provides the opportunity to interpret your dreams based on any of the day's events.
While you are in bed and before getting ready to fall asleep, clearly and gently suggest to yourself that you will 'remember your dreams when you awaken in the morning or during the night' (or that you will become lucid during a dream if you are trying to induce lucidity). Repeat and concentrate on your desired statement out loud or silently to yourself. As you set this strong intention, remind yourself that dream recall is a natural process. Just the simple method of repeating your desire aloud or silently to yourself, while holding your intention faithfully, can dramatically improve dream recall through auto-suggestion and training the mind before sleep.
Waking up naturally improves dream recall as opposed to be awakened suddenly by a distraction, such as an alarm clock.
Any time that you awaken from sleep, keep your eyes closed and remain as motionless as possible (slight movement is okay). If we move around or even open our eyes for too long after awakening, dreams will tend to fade and recall becomes more difficult; most dreams will be forgotten within 5 minutes upon awakening. By remaining completely still after you initially awaken more of your dreams will be recalled. If you had already shifted positions after waking, try to move back into the original position you were in when you first woke up.
After awakening from dreams, make sure to keep your mind focused on the dream imagery and allow it to unfold naturally, gathering as many images, feelings and impressions as you can, then rise immediately and record the information in your dream journal or with a tape recorder. It is very important to record anything that you recalled no matter how brief or vague it may seem at first. Draw sketches or diagrams if you want as well. Describe all of the major and minor details you can recall, including colors, face descriptions, objects, and even smells, sounds, sensations and feelings---or even any thoughts that you recall having during the dream. Often more dream details will come to you as you write or speak.
Recording your dreams will eventually allow you to start recognizing recurring patterns, characters, and scenarios. Having these details will also be beneficial for lucid dreaming preparation and practice.
Upon awakening from a dream, you can also replay it in your mind, visualizing the details and focusing on the intention to go back into the dream. As you lay still and relax, hold this intention and recall and imagine the dream unfolding, and you will most likely fall back asleep and continue right back into the previous dream.
Drinking more water before going to bed is one way to get your body to automatically awaken during the night to use the bathroom, and this awakening can often occur during or after the dream (rem) cycle. This can allow for better dream recall and can allow you to re-enter sleep in order to continue to previous dream or to induce lucidity. With enough dedicated practice, this method can help give your waking and dreaming states of consciousness an opportunity to overlap, which triggers better dream recall.
Recording your dreams each day is essential to better dream recall. Just the act of writing down or recording your dreams each day will improve dream recall tremendously--even while you are in the process of recording them. It's important to document each and every detail, drawing pictures if you need to, no matter how vague, incoherent or insignificant it may be. Even a few words or sketches is enough if that's all you can remember. [Dream Journals & Dream Diaries]
With the regular practice of recording your dreams after each and every sleep session, whether in a dream journal or with a tape recorder, you will develop better dream recall over time; Itt will become easier to record more details. You will notice your dreams becoming more vivid and detailed over time and you recall more dreams per night as well. Getting into the ritual of dream recording will also set the stage for better induction of lucid dreams. Sharing your dreams with others is another great way to remember your dreams and exercise your dreaming memory.
When you first awaken from sleep, try to remain to make as little movement as possible. Laying still after awakening, and remaining in the exact same position, will help more dream imagery come to your mind. Dreams tend to fade away quickly and details are lost if you move around too much or open your eyes for too long of a time after first awakening. Keep your eyes closed as well, as this will help you to focus on the dream details as they come to you.
The REM cycle (dreaming phase) of sleep occurs about every 90 minutes. One technique for immediate dream recall is to set an alarm (on a quieter setting preferably) to awaken you during the time when you know you will most likely be dreaming during the REM stage of sleep.
Waking up in the midst of dreaming dramatically increases your ability to remember more details of the dream, and more dreams as well. Setting the alarm clock to 4 1/2, 6, or 7 1/2 hours after you normally would fall asleep will allow you to awaken directly from the REM/dreaming phase of sleep.
If one has been deprived of sleep for a period of time then they will usually go straight into a dream or they will enter the REM cycle of sleep more quickly. Short naps in the day can often trigger more dreams recall as well.
Avoid alcohol, drugs, any other stimulants like caffeine or sugar, and eating heavy before bedtime. These things can inhibit the dream process or alter the dream cycles which will prevent dream recall upon waking. It can also suppress the REM sleep itself and decrease dreaming durations. Prescription medications can have a negative effect as well. However, if you sleep long enough, the effect of the medication or substance will eventually wear off and you may experience a REM rebound. This is when you finally have a long deep sleep and experience significantly longer REM phases, even giving way to more intense dreams and even nightmares.
Stay in the same position and run through your dreams in your head before arising from bed. After you have remembered your dream, move to a different position then one you would normally sleep in (with your eyes still closed) and then try to recall your dream again. The position that you are in may help your brain remember what dream you had while sleeping in that position earlier.
If you are unable to remember anything at all about your dreams after awakening, then you can try to just allow your mind to wander through the events of your previous day or any recent issues that you have been thinking about lately. This can trigger vague sensations about the dream or small details. Imagine yourself repeating an action in your dream that you recall, or re-play the dream scene in your mind a few times to see if more comes to you. If any more details about your dreams pop into your mind throughout the day, remember to write to record them right away
As you remember and record your dreams on a regular basis, sometimes you may recall many dreams at once. You may have had several dream scenes within a single dream period or some memories could be from previous nights.
It is also possible that dream time doesn't strictly correspond to real time. Days may pass in a dream during a single night's sleep. Dreams which seem to last for hours while you have them have sometimes been found to actually have a duration of only a few minutes. There have been accounts of people having lucid dreams lasting years: Robert Monroe reported having a lucid dream that lasted a hundred years.
You might also be having a memory that was not an actual dream, but rather a waking memory mistakenly related with dream memories instead of being properly related with waking memories. Thus, these memories might not be dreams from the past, but rather ongoing subconscious experiences.
Remember to record the date along with each dream entry.each day/night. If you recall several dreams from one sleep session you can number them in sequence or in any random order. Whatever feels right for you. Keeping track of the month/day/year is important and also provides for an interesting read in the future--sometimes you may end up having repeated dreams showing up or a dream symbol that keep re-appearing, and all of this is beneficial for dream interpretation as well.
Reading anything about dreams before bedtime can also be a way to auto-suggest or influence the subconscious mind and can aid in more vivid dreams, possibly lucid dreams, and better dream recall the next morning. [Free Ebooks About Dreams]
Developing the practice of meditation and relaxation techniques on a regular basis will also aid in more quality sleep and more dream detail recall as well. Meditation practice can help one reach deeper levels of consciousness while awake, and more so while they are sleeping and dreaming. It will also improve the quality of your dreams and you will discover that they become more vivid, unique or meaningful.
Work with crystals. Sleeping with crystals like amethyst, clear quartz, blue calcite and others is said to increase dream recall. Intuitively choose crystals that work with the throat, third eye (brow), and the crown chakras.
Sleep with minimal or no electronic devices around you. Electronics run off of extra low frequencies (ELF) and disrupt the natural rhythms of your body (your electromagnetic fields and your subtle energy level). This can disrupt the dreaming cycle, the content of dreams, and dream recall.
Lucid Dream Induction Methods Common techniques used to help induce a lucid dream.