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Why don’t I dream?

A woman wide awake has trouble remembering her dreams

We all sleep, but not everyone dreams – or at least remembers their dreams. Dreams have been a source of intrigue throughout history. Yet many question themselves: Why don’t I dream.

If you are struggling to remember your dreams, you’re in good company. Many people wake up with blank spaces where colorful dreams should’ve been. But why does this happen? And more importantly, what can you do about it?

This article is crafted for individuals who find themselves frequently questioning why they can’t remember their dreams. In it, we will explore the nature of dreams, the science behind remembering them, and provide concrete tips and strategies to improve your dream recall ability.

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Understanding Dreams

Defining dreams can be a challenging task due to their complex, enigmatic nature.

Generally, dreams are sequences of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in our minds during various stages of sleep. They can range from the mundane to fantastical and bizarre.

A dreamlike horizon with mountains a moon and someone flying

However, it’s not as simple as just REM = dreams. Dreaming is far more complicated and multi-faceted than usually believed. So, it’s important to understand why we may not remember our dreams, especially when they are such an inherent part of our sleep cycle.

The next sections will delve into the biological, psychological, and lifestyle factors that affect our ability to remember our dreams.

Why Some People Don’t Remember Their Dreams

Dream Amnesia

One main reason behind not remembering dreams is a phenomenon known as dream amnesia.

A woman that just woke up has forgotten her dreams.

As the name suggests, this involves forgetting dreams shortly after waking up.

The Nature of Dream Amnesia

Factors Influencing Dream Recall

Dream recall can also be influenced by several factors, such as the time of night and whether or not the person was awoken during a REM phase.

People tend to remember dreams better if they wake up during the REM phase of sleep, where dreams are more vivid.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea also play a significant role in dream recall.

A woman suffering from insomnia or apnea wide awake in the night


People suffering from insomnia may struggle to remember their dreams due to the disorder’s impact on sleep stages. Insomnia frequently causes sufferers to miss out on REM sleep, resulting in fewer or less vivid dreams.

Sleep Apnea

Similarly, individuals with sleep apnea can also experience challenges with dream recall. This sleep disorder often interrupts the sleep cycle, potentially reducing the amount of time spent in the REM stage.

Medications and Substances

Your daily habits involving medication and substances might also impact dream recall.

Alcohol and Drug Use

Alcohol and drugs can alter or disrupt sleep patterns3, preventing you from reaching or staying in the REM stage of sleep.

Drink glasses on a bar about to be filled with alcoholic drinks

This often results in fewer dreams and, subsequently, less dream recall.

Prescription Medications

Certain types of medication, especially ones affecting the brain’s neurotransmitters, can impact your ability to remember dreams.

Perscription medication pills that may hav an adverse affect on dreaming

These medications often suppress REM sleep, leading to fewer dream experiences.

Psychological Factors

Our mental and emotional states also influence our ability to remember dreams. Let’s take a closer look:

Stress and Anxiety

Stress can significantly impact your ability to remember dreams. When you’re stressed or anxious, your sleep may be disrupted, reducing your time spent in the REM stage, leading to fewer dreams.

A woman sitting on her bed looking stressed

Additionally, stress hormones can also interfere with memory, making it harder to recall dreams.


Depression can also affect dream recall.

A depressing scene of a woman sitting on her bed.

Studies have suggested that people with depression may enter REM sleep faster4 than those without the disorder, resulting in more intense dreaming experiences. However, waking up from non-REM sleep tends to impair dream recall. Plus, with depression’s strong link with insomnia, dream recall becomes even harder.


As we can see, our emotional wellbeing heavily impacts our dream recall. In the next section, we’ll discuss more controllable aspects – our lifestyle and habits, impacting our ability to remember dreams.

Lifestyle and Habits

Your daily routines and personal habits can also play a significant role in dream recall.

Poor Sleep Hygiene

Poor sleep hygiene can easily interfere with your ability to remember dreams.

Irregular Sleep Patterns

Inconsistent sleep patterns can disrupt your natural sleep cycle, reducing your REM sleep and, therefore, the chance to dream.

A made bed in a dark room, signifying a restful and good sleep environment

Maintaining a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule can support more consistent dreaming and thus enhance dream recall.

Electronic Devices Before Bed

The light emitted by electronic devices is known to disrupt melatonin levels – the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle.

A woman using her phone in bed which is bad for sleep due to the light emitted

Overexposure to such light before sleep can interfere with your sleep quality and disrupt the natural sleep cycle, consequently affecting your ability to recall dreams.

Dietary Factors

A healthy and mixed plate of food

Food and Beverages Affecting Sleep

Certain foods and beverages, especially those containing caffeine or high sugar levels, can disrupt your sleep, reducing REM sleep’s dream-friendly stage.

Avoiding these items closer to bedtime can improve your sleep quality—and potentially your dream recall.

Overeating Before Bedtime

Going to bed on an overly full stomach can lead to discomfort and indigestion, which can in turn affect your sleep quality. Ensuring you eat appropriately (not too little, not too much) before bedtime can help maintain a healthy sleep cycle, so necessary for good dream recall.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, surprisingly, can be a big step towards remembering your dreams. In the next section, we’ll explore some specific techniques you could try if you’re keen on remembering your dreams.

Techniques to Improve Dream Recall

Keeping a Dream Journal

Practicing Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, can help you remember your dreams. They help train your mind to recall experiences better, including dreams.

Getting Enough Sleep

Being well-rested can significantly increase your chances of remembering dreams. Prioritize maintaining a regular sleep schedule and ensuring you get enough sleep each night, ideally between seven to nine hours.

Limiting Alcohol and Drug Use


Understanding your dreams can be a fascinating endeavor. However, it’s not uncommon for various biological, psychological, and lifestyle factors to affect your dream frequency and recall ability.

Fortunately, there are practical steps you can take to improve dream recall, from maintaining a consistent sleep schedule to adopting relaxation techniques and dream journaling. But remember, if your difficulties persist or are accompanied by other troubling symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

Importantly, taking active measures to increase dream recall isn’t just about remembering dreams. It’s about enhancing sleep quality, which plays a critical role in our overall health and quality of life.

At the end of the day, whether you remember your dreams or not, maintaining good sleep hygiene and health habits is where the real treasure lies. So, here’s to good sleep and potentially, better dream recall. Happy dreaming!


  1. Jasper, Herbert H., and Jacques Tessier. “Acetylcholine liberation from cerebral cortex during paradoxical (REM) sleep.” Science 172.3983 (1971): 601-602. ↩︎
  2. Dodt, Christoph, et al. “Plasma epinephrine and norepinephrine concentrations of healthy humans associated with nighttime sleep and morning arousal.” Hypertension 30.1 (1997): 71-76.
    APA ↩︎
  3. Ebrahim, Irshaad O., et al. “Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 37.4 (2013): 539-549. ↩︎
  4. Palagini, Laura, et al. “REM sleep dysregulation in depression: state of the art.” Sleep medicine reviews 17.5 (2013): 377-390. ↩︎
  5. Ebrahim, Irshaad O., et al. “Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 37.4 (2013): 539-549. ↩︎

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