Whether you remember it or not, you’re probably dreaming every night. In fact, most people have several in each sleep cycle. That endless dream you have about running in slow motion down a hallway probably only lasts about five to twenty minutes in real-time, science says. Despite each session being relatively short, it’s estimated that people will spend about a month dreaming each year.
Given how much of our lives we spend snoozing, it’s no surprise the significance that has been attributed to dreams throughout history. Ancient Egyptians believed gods communicated omens to us while we slept, and Ancient Greeks believed the god Hypnos waved a fan to send people into deep, dreaming slumber.
Why we really see things when we fall asleep is something scientists are still trying to figure out. Many believe that dreams give our brains time to process and store the day’s events in long term memory, allowing your mind to make connections among disparate ideas and themes. This ability to connect and synthesize new ideas is why many people believe dreams can help creativity. Multiple studies that have shown people who make an effort to remember their dreams are more creative.
So will making an effort to remember your dreams give you that creative boost you’ve been searching for? It’s certainly helped many creatives in the past. Paul McCartney first heard the tune of the Beatles’ iconic “Yesterday” in a his sleep. Dr. James Watson was studying DNA when he dreamed of two spiraling snakes and realized DNA might be shaped like a helix as well. Even nightmares have their uses — Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein began as a bad dream.
So, whether you’re a painter, a writer, or just trying to solve a problem, journaling your nighttime fantasies can help you.
Why Your Dreams Can Help Your Creativity
Science knows that paying attention to your dreams can make you more creative, but why? Well, just like doing Sudoku puzzles and riddles can help your practice logical problem-solving, dreaming is like creativity exercises for your brain. They can help improve your memory and get you through mental blocks.
Imagination is essential to creativity. Very often when you imagine something, you are recombining past experience in a new way. Many think that what you see when asleep are just your recent experiences combined in new ways. This makes dreaming one of the best ways for your brain to practice imagination and come up with innovative ideas.
For many writers, artists, and other creatives that struggle with a creative slump, delving into their emotions can help jog new ideas. Maybe you’re too stressed about an upcoming test to focus much on creating, or perhaps you’re anxious to try your hand at a new story idea because you’re worried it will turn out badly. Instead of letting fear hold you back, recording what you're dreaming can help you connect with your emotions, work through them, and leverage them to your advantage.
Simple Hacks To Dream More
If you’re not a prolific dreamer just yet, don’t worry. Here are some quick ways to focus your thoughts and encourage more memorable dreaming.
Tell yourself to dream. It might sound crazy, but it’s true. Saying to yourself, “I will dream tonight” will increase your chances of dreaming.
Get more rest. Spending a few more hours asleep means more time for dreaming, and will also give your body more opportunity to enter the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase, where dreaming occurs.
Interrupt your sleep. If getting more rest isn’t your thing, you could also try waking up early. Rather than waking naturally, try setting an alarm for four to five hours after you fall asleep. This should cause you to wake in the middle of your REM cycle, and remember what you dreamed more clearly. Once you record everything you remember, you could go back to sleep for the rest of your night.
You may lose out on sleep quality, but this works because the processes that allow us to create memories are usually inactive during sleep. By waking up in the middle of a REM cycle, your brain has a chance to store the memories of what you dreamed.
Increase your melatonin. The light from a phone screen or TV can throw off your body’s natural production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Avoid any light sources before bed to get your deepest sleep. Some people with circadian rhythm disorders or a melatonin deficiency take melatonin supplements to help regulate their body’s clock and get more rest.
How to Keep a Dream Journal
- Keep it By Your Bed
The moment you wake up your memories will start fading, so make it as easy as possible for you to record what you remember immediately by keeping your journal next to your bed. If you can’t remember all of your what happened, that’s okay. Try focusing on the details you do remember and asking yourself questions like, “who was I with?” or “what did I feel?” to jog your memory further.
- Record Every Day
Consistently recording your dreams will strengthen the mental processes that help you remember them. Even if you can only remember fragments, or you are traveling, getting in the habit of recording what you experienced will make it easier for you to write what happened down as soon as you wake up.
- Go Into Detail
The more you write down about your nighttime visions in your journal, the easier it will be to recall. Plus, you may not realize the significance of something until you look back on your journal and see recurring themes or symbols. Being thorough doesn’t mean you have to write in complete sentences, or make your entry read like a story. You want to write enough detail to jog your memory in the future. Include the details that were the most striking to you, what you were feeling, and any people you may have been with.
- Interpret Your Dreams
You may choose to rely on a dictionary that can tell you commonly accepted meanings for dreams about teeth, falling, and more. Alternatively, you may want to spend more time reflecting on how your imaginings connect to in your current life.
To do this, ask yourself how different elements of your dream made you feel, and identify anything in your life that makes you feel similarly. If you’re worried about an upcoming event like a doctor’s appointment or a big meeting, you may find yourself dreaming about stressful things, too.
If you don't feel any strong emotion while dreaming, try to understand the symbolic meaning of what you dreamed about. When was the last time you saw or experienced something similar? For example, maybe you dreamed of a lawn mower because something you’re going through reminds you of the summer you first learned to use one.
- Look Back For Patterns and Inspiration
The more you record in your journal, the more likely you are to discover valuable insights and inspiration for your work. At the end of a week, month, or year of journaling, read back over what you've recorded. Try to identify some common themes or symbols. There may be details that take on a new meaning, or are more interesting on the second read-through. Take time to collect your thoughts on what’s most intriguing to you and why.
How to Interpret Your Dreams to Manifest Success
Some dreams will be easy to understand. An upcoming family vacation may conjure maze-like airports and endless packing fantasies. Others will be less straightforward. A talking asparagus on a trampoline? Only you can really know what that one’s about. Since what you see at while asleep is meant to help you process your everyday experience, as well as emotions under the surface, you may have to do some reflecting to get to the bottom of your dreams.
A good place to start is with your feelings during the dream. Were you stressed or anxious? Did you feel excited or in awe? Were you feeling free? Identifying what you have been experiencing lately that makes you feel the same way can uncover the true meaning behind the dream.
Another way to interpret the scenes of flying or falling teeth is to understand the meaning as symbols. Dreaming about falling is a very common dream that almost everyone will experience at some point. Because of this, we can make assumptions about what this symbolizes for most people. As everyone is different, your dream about flying may mean something slightly different to you than others.
How to Use These Templates
Print these templates out and keep them by your bed. Consider adding the pages to a binder to keep your recordings in one place. Write down what you remember on the first template, noting the day and type of dream. Whether you have nightmares or lucid dreams frequently will help you to identify any patterns in your sleep long-term.
Then write out your interpretation on the next page. If you aren’t sure what your dream means, include things going on in your life, even if they don’t seem related. You may realize looking back that your vision of a castle in the clouds was highly informed by those experiences. Also use these moments to let the dream inspire any quick creative reactions in any form you choose.
Included are additional worksheets designed to help you discover any creative ideas hidden in your slumber, and work towards success in your everyday life. You could fill one out every morning if you so choose, or only use the prompts weekly for your most interesting imaginings. Use the Manifest Your Dreams Template to help you solve any problems you’re currently working towards, focus your intentions, get to know yourself better, and achieve success.