Ever wished you could vividly and easily remember your dreams? Here's a step by step process that will help you train yourself to remember your dreams clearly, so they no longer just slip away.

Recalling dreams is a complex process that relies on different structures of the brain as well as the co-operation of its left and right hemispheres. After all, the conscious brain is attempting to recall an unconscious process. Here are some tips that ensure you are able to recall your dreams.

Intend to Recall

Your first dream recall task is to intend to dream. Intention might involve beginning a dream journal and placing a torch by the bed to be able to record it if the dream wakes you (and this is sure to happen!) at some stage of sleep.

You might also choose to be awakened during REM (Rapid eye movement sleep) stages. Catching the REM cycle is therefore an important aspect of dream recall, and these cycles occur at 90-minute intervals, gradually increasing as our sleep goes on.

However, it would be easier if you occasionally allowed yourself the opportunity to sleep in later, as the best REM sleep usually occurs before waking after a good night’s sleep.

Prepare for Better Sleep

It is important that your sleeping environment is conducive to good sleep. For example, your room should be at a moderate temperature. Conditioning yourself for better sleep is important as our brain likes habits and conditioning.

Create some rituals around going to sleep that become consistent. For example, you might read some of the dreams you have already recorded and then conclude by writing a statement about your intent to dream that night.

If you haven’t as yet recalled a dream, write your thoughts or feelings about your day and then complete this with a statement about your intention to recall a dream.

When You Wake Up...

In ideal situations, if you can wake at your own natural pace (without an alarm clock waking you) you move through what is called the hypnopompic phase. This is equivalent to the hypnagogic phase (the alpha/theta border).

If you have the luxury of time on your side, this is the best time to practise your dream recall skills, because you still have a foot in your unconscious world while having an awareness of your external world. However, it’s important that you try not to move or open your eyes.

In this relaxed, half-asleep state, try not to think of the day ahead, but allow your mind to drift gently to a dream you may have had or the possibility of a dream you may have had. Keep your mind open and fluid.

Train your Memory

Because remembering dreams requires that we access consciously what resides in the unconscious, our memory system needs to be activated or strengthened. Stress, anxiety, depression and illness can affect our ability to remember.

Processing and accessing memories is a complex procedure that requires several brain functions, including the role played by the hippocampus in the limbic system, the visual cortex, and so on. Stress can impact on these functions and thus your ability to process and retrieve memories.

You should also train your visual memory by looking at objects and then closing your eyes as you attempt to remember everything you can about them. Find a quiet time in the day when you can close your eyes and attempt to recall some key items selected during the day.

Record your Dreams

Permission to recall is but one step in the process. You can clearly state your intention to recall your dreams before going to sleep. Writing down your dreams will engage the support of the analytical side of your brain thus supporting your dream recall muscle.

Writing in a journal also secures the dream experience and will give you the opportunity to explore your own symbols, dream patterns and themes. The analytical and intuitive hemispheres of the brain will then learn to co-operate with each other instead of being divided.

Even if you cannot remember your dreams at the beginning of this task, you can still record in your journal any feelings you experience on wakening. For example, you may wake up feeling exhilarated or uneasy, but have no idea why.

Simply accepting that these feelings might be related to your dream life may help you. It is a good idea to record your dreams as soon as possible and, if you cannot do this, make a conscious note to remember your dreams later.

Start with a few trigger words and record them spontaneously, without any censorship of your grammar and content. This allows the memory to flow creatively without the brain getting in its way.

With practise your dreams will become more vivid and you'll be comfortable understanding their message and meaning.

By Therese E. Duckett, author of Dreams Speak - But What Are They Saying?