Why Do We Dream? Why Do We Only Remember Some Dreams?

We all have those self realization moments when our dreams collide with the reality of what’s happening in our daily life. It’s scary at some points but also relieving to know, it was all just a dream. As we know, the human brain is a mysterious, complex ball of matter that we have yet to understand completely. Behavior science researchers still do not understand why or how we dream. But one thing is for sure, we all always dream whether we remember the dreams or not.

There are many theories as to why we dream, why we remember our dreams and what role they play in our sleep cycles. The first theory as to why we dream is, the mental housekeeping theory. During sleep, the brain needs to process all the information from that day. This theory states that dreams are a result of the sorting, scanning and searching through memories. Dreams may actually refine or improve memories, making them more useful for the future, or remove unwanted information from the brain. Another theory states that, dreams make work as a problem solving technique. This theory believes that dreams reflect emotional preoccupations of our life and help us resolve such problems. Recent studies have found that sleepers tend to report more negative dreams when woken during REM sleep opposed to during Non-REM sleep. The amygdala, which specializes in dealing with unpleasant emotions, is very active during REM sleep. It is also suggested that during sleep the brain suppresses rational activity which is controlled by the pre front cortex to allow the brain to run riot. By unleashing this emotional side (associated with the amygdala) it allows us to “go crazy” during sleep in order to stay sane during waking hours.

Very few people can actually remember their dreams during the day. According to various scientific studies, “within the first five minutes of waking up, we manage to forget almost 50% of the dream, and the remaining 50% fades out gradually as we go about our routine activities.” If you do remember your dream it could simply be because you woke up during your dream. Shelby Harris, PsyD, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center, stated, “People are more likely to remember their dreams when they’re anxious or depressed, perhaps because they also tend to wake up more when they’re worried, perhaps in the middle of various dreams.” In order to better remember your dreams, you can practice recalling your dreams in the first 90 seconds of being awake or write them down. 

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7 thoughts on “Why Do We Dream? Why Do We Only Remember Some Dreams?

  1. Maddie Panzeri

    I believe that both theories in the article could be correct. The brain uses dreams as a way of sorting through our experiences and as a way of dealing with our emotions. Many people have shared a similar dream regarding their teeth falling out, crumbling, or decaying. I have heard that this is a classic “anxiety” dream, so if you’re dreaming about your teeth falling out you are probably dealing with something that is causing you anxiety. Now I know why I tend to forget my dreams because your post explains that most dreams are forgotten as your day goes on.

  2. Philip Littleton

    Your post really peaked my interest me on the subject of dreams. I’ve always been fascinated about how we dream; yet, never known what caused it. What particularly interest me, though, is Lucid Dreaming – how cool does that sound?!

  3. Montana Telman

    I’ve always been curious about dreams, what they mean and etc. I don’t think I’ve ever had a night when I haven’t dreamed and even if I don’t fully remember the dream I still remember bit and pieces of them. I found the mental housekeeping point the most interesting because I believe that is the most common thing for me anyway because my dreams always seem to be related to something I’ve seen, heard or done. Great blog post!

  4. Rana Mohamed

    I found your blog to be very interesting because you focused on remembering dreams and their hidden meanings. Your blog made me curious in knowing why we remember those dreams and what they really mean. This article shows how to understand your dream and what Sigmund Freud believes about dreams being the road to the unconscious.

  5. Erin Ann Alessandroni

    Gwenyth, I found this post to be very interesting. During my last year of high school I was enrolled in AP Psychology and had the opportunity to spend a lot of time learning about the sleep cycle and researching different dream theories. The quote you included stated by Ms. Shelby Harris acknowledges an intriguing correlation which I have never heard before. Upon reading your post and doing some research of my own on the relationship between mood and dreams , I found that depressed people not only remember more of their dreams, they also may dream 3 or 4 times as much.

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