There are many ways you can increase the number of dreams you remember in detail, including by keeping a dream journal and practicing lucid dreaming techniques. However, sometimes people experience an increase in dreams without actively trying to recall them. It’s normal to go through cycles of dream frequency and latency throughout life, and what might seem like an increase in dreams may just mean that you’re getting better at remembering them. After all, we dream every night, whether or not we remember those dreams in the morning. Especially during life transitions, it’s common to experience an increase in memorable and vivid dreams, and these kinds of dreams can often offer you insight into your waking life in times of change.
There are many causes of increased dreams. Most simply, an increase in dreams may be a sign that your dream recall practices are paying off! Active dream recall techniques like keeping a dream journal, noting dream signs, and forming an intention to remember your dreams can all result in an increase in the number of dreams you remember. People who practice lucid dreaming techniques also generally remember more dreams on average than people who do not.
Of course, not all increases in dreams are intentional or even welcome: often, people who suffer from depression also experience an increase in intense dreams as they work through challenges and difficulties in their waking lives. Unfortunately for people living with depression, these dreams can often take the form of nightmares. Even worse, sufferers often have suppressed stage 3 and 4 sleep, the deep stage of sleep that leaves you feeling rested and refreshed the next day. An increase in nightmares can be devastating to restful sleep for the people who need it most, especially if they don’t have the tools to confront the emotions and themes they encounter in their dreams. However, there are integrative therapies combining visualization techniques and dream work that can help you get to the bottom of frequent bad dreams.
Your diet, health habits, and any medications or herbs you’re taking also effect your incidence of vivid dreams as well as the quality of your sleep. Research has shown that eating spicy or fatty foods before bed may interfere with achieving a restful sleep, as can drinking alcohol shortly before bed. Furthermore, taking alcohol, narcotics, or barbiturates (found in some prescription sleep aids) can cause strange or unpleasant dreams due to their effect on brain chemistry. Also, there’s some anecdotal evidence that SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) taken to treat depression may cause an increase in dreams, often with bizarre content, even though a common effect of SSRIs is to suppress REM sleep!
Supplements that support brain health and function can also increase dreams as a neutral or welcome side effect. For instance, the common sleep aid melatonin (a naturally-occurring brain hormone) can spawn an increase in vivid dreams and is gaining a reputation as an under-the-radar dream supplement. Herbs and supplements that increase your brain’s supply of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in memory and learning as well as dreaming, can also have this effect. For instance, people wishing to increase their incidence of vivid and lucid dreams sometimes take choline (an acetylcholine precursor) and galantamine (a cholinergic) in combination. Tonic herbs like celastrus seed and Ashwaganda can also be effective dream enhancers when taken over time alongside more dramatic dream herbs like mugwort and Calea zacatechichi.
Finally, major changes and transitions in your life are likely to cause an increase in dreams. If it seems like you’ve been remembering more or more vivid dreams than usual, ask yourself if there’s something going on in your life that might be the cause: are you moving to a new home? Starting a new job? About to get married? Whenever we make a big change in our lives, we enter into a period of uncertainty that often compels our subconscious to prepare for the shift by working through the associated issues and fears in dreams. To use an obvious example, women often experience intense and frequent dreams during pregnancy, usually with content that is symbolically related to the woman’s concerns and feelings about her pregnancy.
If your dreams seem to have been increasing, you can also examine them for common themes. For instance, you might be having multiple dreams about snakes, blood, oceans or other water symbols, or a person you know might be appearing in many of your dreams. Increased dreams that accompany life changes often contain these kinds of highly symbolic and memorable symbols, and repeating dream signs can point the way to the issues your subconscious is working through. Let’s say you’ve been having a lot of dreams about snakes, or where snakes make an appearance. In classic dream interpretation, snakes tend to symbolize change and growth because they must periodically shed their skins. You could ask yourself if you’re going through a comparable period of change or personal growth; this might be what your dreams of snakes are trying to tell you, especially if you’re going through a difficult adjustment period.
Likewise, if you feel you’ve experienced a decrease in the number of dreams you can remember, it might be a sign you’re currently in a latent period of life where not much is changing for you. In this case, you can always increase your dreams if you so desire by using the dream recall techniques I’ve written about elsewhere on this blog!