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Science Explains Why We Easily Forget Our Dreams


Have you ever experienced that feeling of having an awesome dream yet being unable to remember any of it? According to scientists, it’s not because you have a weak memory – it’s just how your brain works.

Thomas Andrillon, a neuroscientist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia says that:

“We have a tendency to immediately forget dreams, and it’s likely that people who rarely report dreams are just forgetting them more easily.”

This exactly means that you do dream even during seemingly dreamless slumbers – you just forget you did. But how does this happens?

According to scientists one of the reasons for this had something to do with how your hippocampus works. This curve structure of your brain plays a significant role. Along with the likes of the hypothalamus, the hippocampus is one of the several structures that help you feel and react to your environment as well as converts short-term into long-term memory.

Hippocampus is the last part of the brain to fall asleep; therefore it is also the last to wake up, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Neuron.

Andrillon further explained that:

“So, you could have this window where you wake up with a dream in your short-term memory, but since the hippocampus is not fully awake yet, your brain is not able to keep that memory.”

This is the reason why sometimes you wake with a vivid memory of a dream only to forget it within minutes. According to French researchers, it is because your brain needs approximately two minutes to normally function and regain it ability in storing long-term memories.

This finding came from a study that compared the sleeping patterns of people who infrequently recalled their dreams and those recalled their dreams on a daily basis The researchers found that people in the latter group woke up more frequently during the night than those in the former category. These moments of being awake lasted for two minutes on average for high-recallers and about one minute for low-recallers.

On the other hand, a 2017 study offers a different, albeit related, explanation. Researchers looked into the activities of neurotransmitters in the brain during sleep hey have found that there is a drop in acetylcholine and noradrenaline, also called norepinephrine. These two are both vital to storing memory.

Once a person enters the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, the point during sleep when you have the most vivid dreams, acetylcholine surges back to normal levels while noradrenaline remains low. This shift in acetylcholine cause the cortex to woke up, yet the reduced levels of noradrenaline, a chemical that’s also linked to your ability to concentrate, prevents you from remembering your dreams.

Another explanation is that – your dreams are just not interesting enough. Dreams about showering or brushing your teeth don’t make it to your long-term memory; unmemorable dreams are dismissed by your brain. That is why no matter how nonsensical they may seem, you often remember only those dreams that have the most dramatic and compelling content

Experts say that if you don’t want to forget your dreams what you have to do is to remind yourself to remember your dreams every time you sleep. This can give you a good chance of remembering your dreams more and more as you go.

Another way is to keep a dream journal, which in other words, is a diary of your dreams. Try to hold on to the fragment of the dream you can still remember once you wake up. Try to describe the dream in your journal in as detailed a manner as you can. Through this, you’ll be able to train your brain to be better at remembering dreams in the morning.


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