Why Do We Forget Our Dreams?

People differ in their ability to remember dreams. However, if we translate them from short-term to long term memory immediately upon walking, chances are we can really put these dreams to better perspective. In other words, let us try to consolidate the things we remember right after waking up, may be by writing them down, to make sense of these dreams. Accordingly, half of our dreams are forgotten within five minutes of walking, and within ten minutes, 90% is gone.

In the middle of a good night’s sleep, you dream of beautiful things. But sometimes, it would be of terrible things and tragic events. And when you wake up, you find yourself remembering only glimpses of what you have dreamed of….

This scenario is common to everyone. We wake up forgetting most of our dreams but knowing we have dreamed about this and that and more. No matter how much we push our brain cells, they can only revive fewl clips of those dreams. So why do we mostly forget our dreams? Is this common?

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According to Scientific American (as cited by care2.com), we have five dreams each night on average, totaling 1,825 dreams per year. Of these figure, we forget most of them. For Mark Balgrove, professor of psychology at Swansea University, people differ in their ability to remember dreams. However, if we translate them from short-term to long term memory immediately upon walking, chances are we can really put these dreams to better perspective. In other words, let us try to consolidate the things we remember right after waking up, may be by writing them down, to make sense of these dreams. Accordingly, half of our dreams are forgotten within five minutes of walking, and within ten minutes, 90% is gone.

As to why we forget dreams, there are several theories about this.

  1. Freud’s Theory of Repression. In his book The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud contends that “all dream content is a product of wish fulfillment”. It is the work of our brain. It erases certain contents from our dreams because it is its way of blocking out wishes or longings we are not emotionally prepared to handle. Likewise, certain aspects of our dreams symbolize traumatic events that the brain also represses them.
  2. Salience theory. Accordingly, some dreams are not interesting or remarkable enough to be remembered when we wake up.
  3. L. Strumpell theory. Most contents of our dreams are vague and unorganized. There are no real good details that remembering them becomes hard.
  4. A more scientifically-based theory is that our brain neuro-chemicals during sleep are very different from during wake time. Because of this difference, we are not also able to remember the events during our sleep.
  5. Another possibility is that we are not paying enough attention or are not able to do so during sleep. This way, we cannot consolidate our dreams as they occur. It is as if during the dream, we also forget what was happening. The same thing also happens once we wake up.

References: care2.com, TheNakedScientist.com, BoredPanda.com

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