To improve your memory of dreams, you could have a friend
awaken you during REM sleep, preferably in the early morning when
dreams are more vivid and emotional. Also, just having someone call
you about 1 1/2 hours after you go to sleep, would help you recall the
first dream which usually sets the theme for the night. It is more
convenient, however, just to learn to record each of your dreams. How
can you do this? Before going to sleep, tell yourself: "I will wake up at
the end of each dream and remember the dream." When you are
aware a dream is ending, try to remain partly asleep and "pull the
dream together," remembering the dream's content and your feelings.
In this half-awake state, it may help to make up a one-sentence
summary of the dream. Then, record it. Garfield (1975) recommends
keeping pencil and paper (or voice-activated tape recorder) at your
bedside and taking brief notes (summary sentence or key words)
during the night. By reviewing your notes and reconstructing your
dreams as soon as you wake up, you will be able to write down more
of your feelings as well as more about the characters and events in
your dreams. It is important to note what is happening in your dreams
when you are feeling most intensely. Give each dream a title. If only
fragments of a dream are remembered, but it seems important parts
are lost, try to think about the dream fragments before falling to sleep
the next night. Often the key ingredients of the dream will be clarified
the next night.
Cartwright and Lamberg have found that all 4 to 6 dreams during
one night often deal with the same topic but have a different time
perspective, one might deal with the present, the next might focus on
a similar or related problem in the past, another might play out the
problem in the future. Each dream is like a chapter in a book about
this problem and sets the stage for the next dream. All the dreams in
the nightly series need to be recorded in a dream journal or on tape.
Furthermore, it is important to keep a record of your dreams over a
period of days or weeks. One dream is not enough. Do not record just
the juicier dreams; seemingly dull dreams may be significant. Most
people have re-occurring dreams. They may be of special significance.
Some people have serial dreams spread out over weeks or months
that continue a story. All become part of a dream journal.
STEP TWO: Before "analyzing" your dreams, carefully observe
how you feel--physically and your mood.
Since remembering and giving serious thought to your dream(s)
may change your feelings or attitudes, it is important to
conscientiously note your feelings prior to the analysis of a dream.
Take a quick look around inside you... how does each part of you feel?
What is your mood? Later, check to see if your feelings have changed.
If so, try to discover what "made you" tense or gave you a headache
or a knot in your stomach.