Remembering Your Dreams

07 July 2008
Presented by Diana O'Carroll.

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Why are dreams so hard to remember? In this Question of the Week, we find out why your night time imagination slips away as you wake and is gone before your first coffee! Plus, we ask how certain frogs can breathe without lungs, and can anything truly live forever?

In this episode

00:00 - Why can't we remember our dreams?

Why do we find it so difficult to remember even our most vivid dreams when we wake up?

Why can't we remember our dreams?

Professor Mark Blagrove, Professor of Psychology at Swansea University, answered this question...

People differ on whether or not they can remember their dreams. Some people have a great deal of interest in their dreams, have very vivid dreams or their level of anxiety or sleep quality results in people remembering dreams at different amounts each month, say.

In general, for all of us, dreams are very easily forgotten once we wake up if we don't consolidate them or, in other words, if we don't transfer them from short-term to long term memory immediately upon waking.

There's a few theories of why that happens to all of us. One possibility is that our brain neurochemicals, during sleep, are very different from during wake time and so they don't allow us to consolidate memory.

The other thing that's quite possible is that we don't pay attention to our dreams or are unable to do so during sleep. We are unable to remember what occurs to us during sleep. Even people with sleep apnoea who wake up during the night don't know that that happens to them.

Similarly, when we have a dream, we're not consolidating it as it occurs. Indeed, if you have people having a long REM sleep period and you wake them up, once the REM sleep period gets over about 20 minutes you don't find that dreams increase in length very much. It's as if during the dream we forget what was happening. The same happens immediately we wake up: the dream just disappears.

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