Your brain doesn’t exactly fall asleep at night the way your body does; it takes your mind to new places. Some research suggests that dreams can help improve memory, boost creativity, and even make you smarter. Whether you’re looking for a thrill in your REM cycle or just interested in exploring your own dreamscape, here are some tips (admittedly unscientific, so far) for how to recall and expand your dream life.
- Hang a bundle of Mugwort by your bed. This herb has long been believed to help induce vivid and memorable dreams, though it’s unclear how it helps the brain or senses.
- Avoid TV and computer work before bed. Unless you’d like to dream about your favorite shows, put your mind at ease at least an hour before bed so your mind can be relatively clear.
- Cut back on or avoid marijuana. Evidence suggests that marijuana can interfere with REM sleep, the Rapid Eye Movement sleep cycle where dreams happen. Although it has been shown to support creativity and divergent thinking, pot can put a damper on your dream life.
- Recall your day chronologically before going to sleep. This is as much a memory trick as it is a dream cue; recalling your day can give you ideas of what you’d like to dream about, or reveal a pattern of how dreams integrate your waking life into subconscious.
- Take a problem to your dreamscape. REM sleep helps you combine ideas and draw from past experiences in new ways; seeing new connections among seemingly unrelated things could unlock an insight or creative solution to a nagging problem.
- Tap into hypnagogic imagery. Hypnagogia is the land of random imagery that starts just minutes into the sleep cycle. The brain eases the boundaries of perception and goes into a “pre-logical form of thinking that trades in images and symbols.” Salvador Dali was said to intentionally wake himself up from hypnagogia to capture some of his most surreal associations.
- Keep a dream journal. It only has to make sense to you. The act of recording your dream is an interpretation in itself that can create a loop; waking interpretations feed into dreams, and back into the world of conscious thought with every journal entry.
- Share with a friend. Dream talk isn’t always invited around the water cooler, but articulating your dreams to a like-minded friend makes it a social, co-creative endeavor and also bridges the gap between sub-conscious and waking life.
- Stay in bed for a couple minutes after waking up and soak in whatever mood or place you’re emerging from. Skip the alarm or keep it close so you can turn it off in bed, and relax with your eyes closed before letting thoughts swirl into your mind.
- Interpret dreams freely. Look up a dream dictionary or come up with your own meaning. Conscious interpretation of symbols and images is another way to engage your waking creativity in metaphor; remember it’s not a science, just a language!
- Try lucid dreaming. A lucid dream is one in which you are aware that you’re dreaming, and can affect the course of your dream. While many people have lucid dreams without trying, there are practices and even eyewear to help you find your way into lucidity while asleep.
- Check your reality in waking life. This relates to lucid dreaming, and is another sort of mental cue that calls forth the dream state. Ask yourself during the day or before sleep onset, am I dreaming? Eventually you may ask yourself if you’re dreaming in a dream, and that’s the start of a lucid dream experience.
- Daydream. A recent study found that daydreaming (like regular dreaming) activates multiple sections of the brain associated with “memory, imagination and interaction... functions that are necessary to building social interactions and relationships.” If you’re looking for a more imaginative way to get in touch with yourself and others, try making friends with the Sand Man.
Follow Erin on Twitter: @ErinPie