5 reasons we forget our dreams after waking up | Health - Hindustan Times

5 reasons we forget our dreams after waking up

By, New Delhi
Oct 07, 2023 05:44 PM IST

As much as we cherish dreaming, most of the times, we are unable to recollect what we dreamt about once we are awake. Here's why it happens.

Dreams have a magical quality to it and while some of them are unpleasant, many others are pleasurable, joyful and full of adventure. According to Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud, dreams represent unconscious desires, thoughts, wish fulfilment, and motivations. Dreaming has an important role in our mental well-being as they have been associated with consolidation of memory, problem solving and emotional regulation. Sleep is divided into various stages that have both REM and NREM phases.

Our minds are incredibly active during the dream state, but the transition from sleep to wakefulness can be abrupt. (Unsplash)
Our minds are incredibly active during the dream state, but the transition from sleep to wakefulness can be abrupt. (Unsplash)

Dreaming happens during rapid eye movement stage of sleep cycle. The reason why we forget most of our dreams is explained in a study. As per a 2019 study, our ability to make memories is impaired during REM sleep. In total we may dream 4-5 times a night, however we tend to remember only our most recent dreams. (Also read: 5 reasons why you are having too many dreams; expert decodes)

"As much as we cherish dreaming, it's quite vexing when we can't recollect what we dreamt about once we awake. It's as if the memory of it evaporates instantly, leaving us baffled and disgruntled. From the impact of our sleep rhythms to the activities we engage in before bed, there are diverse dynamics that sway our faculty to retain our dreams," says Dr Chandni Tugnait is M.D. (Alternative Medicines), Psychotherapist, Life Coach, Business Coach, NLP Expert, Healer, Founder & Director - Gateway of Healing.

Dr Chandni shares five reasons why we often forget our dreams:

1. Lack of immediate attention

Our minds are incredibly active during the dream state, but the transition from sleep to wakefulness can be abrupt. Often, we fail to pay immediate attention to our dreams as our focus shifts to the demands of the day. It's like trying to catch a fleeting butterfly; if we don't grasp it in the moment, it may flutter away from our conscious memory.

2. Rapid evanescence of dream memories

Dreams are primarily stored in our short-term memory, which is highly volatile. Unlike long-term memories that are more stable, dream memories tend to dissipate swiftly. This is due to the brain's need to expunge the slate for new information.

3. Dream amnesia mechanism

Some researchers believe that forgetting dreams may serve a protective purpose. Dreams often involve intense emotions and scenarios that can be disturbing or unsettling. The brain may engage a mechanism to shield us from remembering these vivid experiences to maintain emotional equilibrium.

4. Absence of narrative structure

Dreams don't always follow a linear narrative like our waking experiences. They can be a kaleidoscope of images, emotions, and sensations. This lack of coherent structure can make it challenging to remember and recount them.

5. Mismatch between dream and waking reality

Dreams frequently defy the laws of physics and logic. When we wake, our rational mind reasserts itself, and these dream elements often appear nonsensical or bizarre. This stark contrast between the dream world and reality can make it challenging to retain dream memories.

"Though the ephemeral nature of dreams can be mystifying, exploring the underlying causes can unveil insights. The rapid dissipation of dream memories is largely attributed to their storage in precarious short-term memory, unlike our ingrained long-term recollections. Dreams also often follow illogical narratives that our rational waking minds struggle to parse. But dream logging in a journal and pre-bedtime mindfulness can help strengthen recall like a muscle over time," concludes Dr Chandni.

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