How to remember and decipher the meaning of your nightly adventures
by Colleen Crivello
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An ongoing series in partnership with Dirty Lemon in which we look at all things sleep, rem, slumber, trance, bedtime, interpreting dreams, dozing, zzzzzzs, snoozing, shut eye, rest and of course, the sandman.
Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, professional dream analyst, is living in a dream, literally. She’s spent her entire life analyzing and interpreting dreams from the time she was 4 years old when she would draw what she had dreamt the previous night each morning through until she received her PHD in Dream Psychology and has since made a career of helping people analyze their sleeping thoughts. We touch base with her on the common misconception with dreams plus how practical dreams can be as a conversation with yourself. www.lauriloewenberg.com
What’s a dream and why do we dream? Simply put, we dream because we think. It’s a continuation of our waking thoughts and inner dialogue that’s always flowing through our minds as we drift into sleep. As you’re falling asleep and you’re mind is racing you begin to enter into REM and that thought process starts to work differently as certain parts of your brain start to shut off and other parts begin to become highly active. Basically, you’re still thinking but you’ve changed languages and now instead of thinking in words you’re thinking in metaphors and emotions which appear as visual imagery throughout the night. If you think about all the metaphors in conversation that we use throughout the day such as, “I’ll cross that bridge when we get there” or“It’s raining cats and dogs” they’re very visual. We speak this way naturally in order to get a point across so our dreams work in the same way except they bring the metaphor to life and you’re actually in the metaphor.
How does good sleep affect our dreams?: The more sleep you get, basically means you’ll have more dreams. We dream about every 90 min, so within about 8 hours of sleep you’ll have close to 5 or more dreams. However, interestingly enough, if it’s short or interrupted sleep you’ll actually be able to remember your dreams a bit easier as you generally keep waking up after each dream session. Heavier sleep makes it harder to remember your dreams from the middle of the night because you sleep through them, whereas a light sleeping is actually beneficial to dream recall. Therefore if you’re a sound sleeper, the best you can do is to capture your last dream before you wake up in the morning which also tends to the longest of them all. The way the brain works when we sleep is that each time we enter REM – which is when we dream – the cycle gets longer and longer as the night goes on, therefore the first dream of the night is about 5-7 min and the last could be as long as 45min – which is often the one you remember. Good news is, it tends to be the dream with the big message!
Trick to remembering dreams: Dreams are so important and can be so valuable BUT they’re so slippery! Practice THIS procedure every morning – as soon as you wake up, DON’T MOVE(!!!). You have to stay in the exact position that you woke up in, because that’s the position that you were dreaming in. If you roll over or move then you disconnect/unplug yourself from the dream that you were just in! Whether we realize it or not, all throughout the night, we reach a wakeful state after each cycle of dreaming – so stay put. Quiet your mind and let the dream come back to you. Then, capture that dream by writing down or recording it immediately, otherwise it will be gone by breakfast. Even if it’s the middle of the night, at least try to jot down a quick note that will help you remember as best you can. The more you do this, as with any exercise, the stronger this ability will get.
Benefits of remembering your dreams: The benefit of recording your dreams night after night in a dream journal is essentially like documenting the other side of your mind – by doing this, you allow yourself the possibility to make a connection between your subconscious mind and conscious mind. Your dreams are kind of like a second brain that’s smarter, more insightful and more honest than your waking life brain. By writing down your dreams you’re giving voice to that wiser part of yourself and hopefully you’re able to connect the dots between what’s going on in your dreams and what’s going on in your waking life. In addition to a dream journal, I always ask that people keep a day journal too so that you see how your dreams correlate with what’s happening in your life. For example, if you had a fight with your mother during the day and then you had a dream about being attacked by a bear, you could translate your dream to give you better insight into your relationship with your mother, i.e. ‘My mother is always attacking me. I get it now, that’s our relationship.’ It basically presents a brutally honest perspective into your life.
Should we encourage children to record their dreams? Yes, absolutely. Make it a lifelong practice and encourage your children to draw their dreams and discuss it over breakfast – it’s a fun way to stay connected to your kids and you can decipher what their dreams mean together. As your children grow and become adults they’ll have all of this documentation to look back on plus, it’s a mental exercise so it’ll become easier for them to uncover their dreams as an adult. Not to mention all of the great ideas that come from dreams, such as song lyrics or invention ideas – you know google came from a dream that Larry Page had, so your dreams can make you millions!!!
How to enhance your dreams from inside of them? Begin bymaking your dream life part of your waking life and working with them in the morning via a dream journal. As your dream recall gets stronger, your dreams will actually become more vivid and you’ll begin to notice certain recurring symbols. Eventually you’ll get to the point where you can start controlling your dreams from within them which is called LUCID dreaming!
Wait! What is that?? Tell me more… This is the coolest experience on earth! It’s better than sex! That’s how cool it is. When you have a lucid dream, it means that when you’re inside a dream, you actually realize that you’re there – at that point there are absolutely zero limitations as to what you can do. You can fly, make your favorite celebrity appear before you, walk through walls, anything really. What I like to do when I lucid dream is ask questions of a character in my dream because they will always answer you. You can ask, what’s the meaning of life or what should I do about this situation at work and you’ll get a a very insightful answer. It’s a direct line to your subconscious mind. The more you get into dreamwork the easier it will become to tap into this through lucid dreaming. There’s a little trick you can do to make it easier – if you typically set your alarm every morning at 6:30, start to set it for 6am and then set your snooze so you have 30 min to fall back asleep. Within that period of time you’ll doze off but you won’t go deep enough into deep delta and instead will linger in some of the lighter stages where you’ll retain some of your consciousness. As you start to dream again you’re raising your odds tremendouslyto retain consciousness as well and are far more likely to become lucid within that period in the morning. Be ready for it!
Remember…. Your dreams are symbolic, so don’t look at them literally – remember this when interpreting dreams. A death dream is not literal, it doesn’t mean that person is going to die but rather it’s symbolic of something changing or ending in your life. The most common dream that women report to me is that their mate is cheating on them. With these dreams – if there’s no real reason to suspect cheating – it doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she is cheating on you, so don’t automatically go into panic mode. What it could mean however, as symbolism goes, is that there’s a third wheel in the relationship, which is not necessarily a person. Instead this 3rd wheel could be something like work, golfing or even fantasy football that you feel your mate is giving too much of their time and attention to rather than you – essentially making you feel cheated. Your brutally honest mind might be bringing your feelings about this to the surface in order for you to correct what’s bothering you.
Also the more disturbing or scary the dream, the more important the message. A disturbing or scary dream is going to be connected to a disturbing or scary issue in your real life that needs to be taken care of – so look at your nightmares as a slap in your face from your subconscious that there’s an issue that needs to be taken care – wake up and handle it!
If you’re getting disturbing dreams, than you have to ask yourself… ‘what in my life needs to be resolved?’ Never dismiss a dream as just a dream, it’s not just that. It’s an important communication from yourself, to yourself, about yourself and can help you align with your life goals. I think that is why they call them dreams, because our dreams help us reach our dreams.