A Moment of Science

Why Is It So Difficult To Remember Our Dreams?

Lots of studies show dreaming is part of our natural brain activity. So, why can't we remember what happens in our dreams?

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Photo: Jake Bellucci (flickr)

It can be very difficult to remember your dreams in the morning.

There’s something really funny about dreams. Even though we all can remember certain kinds of dreams, it’s curious just how hard it is to remember your dreams in general.

“What Was That?”

Think about that. We might dream several times during the night. But yet by the time we’ve gotten up and stumbled into the bathroom, almost all of that dream material is gone.

It seemed so real a minute ago, we say. What was it…?

Well, although we understand much more about dreams than ever before, there’s no hard and fast answer to this question. But one reason probably has to do with our evolutionary history.

Why Can’t We Remember Dreams?

Think of it this way. Lots of studies show dreaming is part of our natural brain activity. We need to do it. The funny thing is, dreams seem like reality when we’re having them.

So which organism will survive longer, one that remembers dreams or one that forgets them?

Evolutionary Advantage

Probably one that forgets them, because otherwise we might confuse dreams with real experiences.

Not being able to tell them apart could lead to making mistakes in the real world, based on information we gathered from the dream world.

And in the wild, making mistakes means dying before you can reproduce. It’s frustrating sometimes how elusive our dreams are. But in the long run, that may be a good thing.

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