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If you asked a room full of people how often they have dreams in general, you would get a surprising amount of variance in the answers, with some claiming they rarely have dreams at all and perhaps a few reporting that they have vivid dreams every night. It turns out that the frequency of dreams varies from person to person, but the length and the ‘realness’ of dreams vary as well. In fact, this difference comes down not to the frequency and content of the dreams but to our ability to remember them: It is generally assumed we all dream at least two hours per day, especially during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of our sleep cycle, but we cannot consistently recall all of those dreams, or at least not to the same level of detail.
What does it mean when your dreams are very detailed?
If you are one of those who frequently remember dreams and can describe them in great detail, there is no reason to worry. Dr. Alex Dimitriu says this is not an indication of poor sleep quality or underlying mental health issues. Instead, several factors affect our ability to recall our dreams in detail. One key variable is in which phase of our sleep cycle we get to wake up: Laboratory tests have shown waking test participants during their REM sleep (in other words, right when they are dreaming) rather than non-REM sleep results in greater frequency and strength of dream recall. However, in a home environment achieving this is tricky.
Your ability to recall your dreams in detail may also come down to superficial differences in personality: Research indicates that the vividness and frequency of dreams are positively correlated with personality traits such as openness to experience, thin boundaries, and absorption. Having a solid imagination and visual memory is also associated with a more remarkable ability to recall dreams. Dream recall may also occur more frequently if you are stressed or tired. On the other hand, people struggling with depression report fewer and shorter dreams.
How can you have more vivid dreams?
If you wish to remember your dreams in even greater detail, there are several things you can do. In fact, simply having such motivation and going to sleep with the intention of remembering your dreams may help with this. In addition, having a positive attitude about experiencing dreams was also demonstrated to result in more vivid dreams in a 2002 study. However, perhaps the most effective thing you can do is keep a dream journal and note down the contents of your dreams as soon as possible after you wake up. When done consistently, such a habit is known to dream experts as a reliable way to increase the frequency and vividness of your dreams. Dreambook, an online dream journal app that enables you to record, track dreams, and interpret your dreams, can help you develop this habit and experience more detailed dreams.