Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Why can’t we remember our dreams?

We spend, on average, about one third of our lives asleep. At some point in
your life, you have probably remembered having a dream. They can range from
something you had done that day, to something beyond any imagination.
However, most people report that they are unable to remember all of their
dreams. Why is that?

According to a study done in 2011 by Journal Neuron, “When we fall asleep,
not all of the regions of the brain go offline at the same time. Researchers
have found one of the last regions to go to sleep is the hippocampus…
critical for moving information from short-term memory into long-term
memory. If the hippocampus is the last to go to sleep, it could very well
be the last to wake up.” After waking up from a dream, the dream may reside
in a person’s short term memory for a little while. But if the hippocampus
is still asleep at that moment, the memories of that dream will not be able
to move into the person’s long term memory, and therefore the brain will
forget that dream.

Another study done in 2017 that was published by Journal Frontiers in Human
Neuroscience explores people’s sleep patterns in comparison to their
ability to retain knowledge of their dreams. They monitored 18 people who
were able to remember their dreams every night, and 18 people who rarely
remembered. The research team discovered that people who had high dream
recalls woke up more frequently throughout the night for longer periods of
time than those who were unable to remember.

In conclusion, the main contributors to a person’s ability to remember
their dreams are the number of times that a person wakes up, and the amount
of time that they are awake for. People are unable to remember their dreams
easily because their hippocampus has not fully activated when they first
wake up.

Charissa Yu (6)


  1. Hi Charissa,
    Great post! I have always wondered why some people remember their dreams, while others do not. It is interesting that those who wake up more tend to remember their dreams. I thought that it would be the opposite. Again, great post!
    Sarah Conant

  2. Super interesting topic! I have always wondered why I forget my dreams so quickly. Immediately after waking up I am able to recall bits and pieces of what happened, but after only a couple minutes I have completely forgotten. Now I know the memories are forgotten because my hippocampus is still asleep!

    1. Thanks for your response! I agree, its super interesting that you can only recall little parts of dreams, if anything at all. Your hippocampus is the culprit of that!

  3. This is a very interesting topic! I always wondered why I was able to remember my dreams more than others. It makes sense though that disturbing the REM cycle would l lead to the memory of your dream.

    1. Yes- actually I never even thought about that. I wonder how the REM cycle plays into remembering your dreams, thats super interesting.

  4. Hi Charissa, this post is so interesting because I have always been interested in dreams and sleep and their relationship. So potentially if people were to set alarms to wake up frequently throughout the night, they could have a better dream recall?
    -Kristina Baldeo

    1. They probably would be able to remember more than if they had slept the whole night, but they would have to be awake for 2 minutes to allow the hippocampus some time to wake up fully.

  5. This blog post is very well written and informative. I never knew that the hippocampus was the last region of the brain to go to sleep and the last to wake up. This makes a lot of sense now thinking about it.

    -David Miropolsky

  6. This article was so interesting and it's something that I'm also fascinated by. I get very frustrated when I can't remember a dream after waking up, especially if it was a good dream
    -Hannah K

  7. This blog post is very interesting because I never knew that dreams had to go into our long term memory for us to remember them. I always thought we remembered our dreams based off of how interesting or scary they were

  8. I am someone who very rarely remembers their dreams. I feel like I usually remember my dreams most when I first wake up, which must be from my hippocampus being most active after I wake up from a dream!

  9. Hello,
    Very interesting topic that had most of us wondering. It was enlightening to learn why I forgot my dreams since I always forced myself to remember the good ones, but I can give my brain the break it needs knowing the hippocampus is asleep.
    - Tugba Kahveci