I have been dreaming so much lately, and what a ride it can be! Why is it we can go months without remembering one single dream or even remember if we dream, and then suddenly we remember dreams incessantly? Why do we dream? I have remembered most of my dreams, most of my life. Merri almost never remembers her dreams. Why me and not her? I can lucid dream most of the time if I try, but not all the time. Why is that? One of my daughters use to have nightmares quite often when she was little. My other daughter, almost never. Why do most very young children have nightmares? Are nightmares all bad and dreams all good? How does one learn to lucid dream? How do we remember our dreams? Are dreams or nightmares important at all?
I still remember a few tidbits from my psychology classes in college, and I recall children have more nightmares than adults as they have more trouble processing their experiences as they have had less of them. The reasons we all dream are processing information, retaining memories and working through our emotions. Undoubtedly children are going to be frightened more within their dreams. They are still building places in their brains to put the monsters (or figure out what "monsters" are real, or not). Sometimes monsters still visit us in dreams as adults, but if we can remember where they come from, most of the time we can put them back in their caves. Persons with mental disorders have more difficulty putting the "monsters" back in their caves and therefore suffer from more nightmares. What's worse is medications that can help them function better during the day, make them twice as likely to have nightmares. Nightmares are difficult for all of us but if we can try and work with them instead of trying to eliminate them, we may gain more insight. The key to working with them is remembering them, and that takes a bit of work and courage.
Remembering dreams or nightmares takes patience as well. Many have extreme schedules and getting up from sleep is not a slow event. There are obnoxious alarms going off, street noise or kids and others talking from the moment we begin our waking. All these distractions make remembering dreams very difficult. There are things one can do to help. One thing I do is just remember one moment, or element, to a dream or nightmare and write it down immediately! Do not even give your brain the chance to wake up enough to remember where to find paper and pen, have it ready next to your bed in the same spot all the time. Some people put sleep journals next to their beds to write down the entire dreams, but often that does not happen as they forget them due to distractions. When we jot down just one moment from our dream, most of us can recall more and more of the dream through that one moment, or word, or color. Whatever you can remember before losing it is beneficial as you will most likely write down the one thing you need the most. Be patient with yourself, it takes a bit of practice to remember.
According to studies done by several sleep clinics (including the Mayo Clinic), dreams can change, get more vivid, or even tire us out due to stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation and pregnancy. Some studies also indicate that some food choices and exercise at certain times of the day can make dreams occur or change frequency. The theory is that changing up the way we relax before bed or handle our stress during the day can help us with our dreaming and the important processing it allows.
I mentioned that I lucid dream. I have read a few things in books about different methods to begin lucid dreaming, but I learned how as a very young child because of a recurring nightmare, and my mother's advice. This is how I began my journey into lucid dreaming or changing my nightmares while asleep and began programming what I would dream about. I had a recurring dream about a monster that chased me every night over and over and I was frightened to fall asleep at around the age of 5 or 6. One night just before bed my mother talked to me about my nightmare. She said that I was in control of my monster, because I made the monster. This was not convincing me at all by the way. She persisted in telling me; therefore, I was the strong one and could do what I wanted with my monster. Still not convinced. Then she said something that totally changed things for me. Instead of just telling me it wasn't real or that I shouldn't be scared, she said she knew I would be afraid when my monster showed up but being frightened was okay because everyone was afraid sometimes. Then she said no matter how afraid, instead of running from the monster I needed to stand my ground, turn around, and stare right into its eyes. I went to bed completely freaked out. That night changed my whole dream world. I saw the monster coming. I ran at first, but I heard my mom say "stop, you are in control". I turned around and did what she told me. The monster came closer and then it was so close we could have touched noses. I was completely petrified but did not turn away. I stared and it stared. Just like that, my monster went away. I don't remember if I woke up, or how it went away. All I remember is I was in control of my dreams and nightmares and from then on. I had nearly complete control of my dream world. There are other ways to learn to lucid dream, but that was my way. Very rarely a nightmare type dream might come up, but I am not afraid at all anymore. I am in control. And if there is something to learn, I am a full participant in my dreamscape and ready to learn. They are not always fun, but I can make them that way now if I want to. Most of the time, I leave them be. I know how important they are, and I am ready to remember and learn from them.
Listen to your dream world. My dream world changed the day I decided to listen to my mother and use the courage I had inside to change what was making me run away all night. The courage I found in my nightmare was probably the same courage I counted on to help me with my daytime fears. Dreams and nightmares are important for us all, in big ways and small. Change the things you need to in your day to day. Whether it be exercise, your diet, stress reducing or journaling, so that you too can work with and possibly enjoy your dreamscape. It is yours to do with what you choose. It is the one world you do have control of. Isn't that a nice feeling?
Sweet dreams to all!