Tranquil Hearts Yoga

How to Dream: Keep a Sleep Journal

woman in bed with eye mask, sleep journal and pen in hand

What will I dream tonight?

Dreaming at night is a mysterious and fascinating aspect of our lives that has intrigued people for centuries. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what you dreamt of the night before, wishing you could remember your dreams more clearly, or wanting clear instructions on how to dream, you may benefit from keeping a sleep journal.

Every night before going to sleep, take a few moments to pick up your dream journal, which should be lying on your pillow. The top of the page should have today’s date and the word “Questions” with the bottom reading “What will I dream tonight?” This sets the tone for the last thought you have before drifting off to sleep.

The top of the page in my sleep journal has today’s date and the word “Questions” and at the bottom it reads “what will I dream tonight?”That’s the last thought on my mind before I lay down.

On the next page is the same date and the word “Dreams.” When I wake up to my gentle alarm, I immediately reach for the journal to write my overnight experiences.

Learning to dream

This is the way I learned how to dream: Keeping a consistent wind-down and wake-up routine. The journal is the last thing I hold before bed and the first thing when I wake up. I’d hardly call it the most important thing in my life, but it certainly sets the tone for my waking life, and more importantly for my sleep.

Whether you see dreams as a mix of events and faces from your day, a doorway to another reality, or just random ideas strung together, they can be useful for taking on your next day. Consistent use of a dream journal is the best way to remember those events and faces more vividly, as well as have a more lucid dream experience.


How to dream more and remember them

Think about your own dreaming experience. 

Do you recall the dreams you had the night before when you wake up? Have you ever felt the feeling of a dream slipping through your fingers as soon as you remember a detail?

The basic principle behind this: dreams can take up a lot of mental space. Events in our waking life take up our memory space, if we remembered all our dreams it would be like remembering an entirely separate life from your own.

Believe it or not but just like any other mental skill, dreaming can be improved and with it dream recollection. 

dream catchers in sunset for focusing on lucid dream

What do dreams mean?

I’ll be honest, after a few days I don’t remember my dreams any more than I remember what I ate for breakfast last week. The dream recall is about finding answers to my questions from the night before in the form of symbols.

People often say “follow your dreams” and to take this too literally might mean that you had to catch a kitten to play with so you can make its mother happy. The mother cat scratches you but you give it a bowl of milk and the cat tells you it wants a bedtime story as well. After that the cat turns into a college student and suddenly you’re surrounded by snow and losing your temper telling the student to train harder and come back tomorrow.

Sometimes dreams aren’t useful as literal interpretations. But the symbols within them can be vital based on your own experiences with the subject matter. A kitten might be a placeholder for a student you teach, the snow might be a representation of the season of life you are in right now. There is no one-size-fits-all interpretation.

Practice makes perfect

When you practice dream journaling and writing down questions for yourself at night, you start to find emerging patterns. Over time the questions and the dream start to feel more relevant. Your waking life and your dreaming life inform each other in synchronizing ways. 

The learning process isn’t immediate. At the beginning of your journey you might only remember one part of your dream. Maybe you remember being in your bedroom but something wasn’t quite the same, or a carton of almond milk, or a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. 

Make it a habit

As with every skill, your recall will improve over time. The ability to recall what you dreamt will get better only if you stick with it every day.

When you wake up, be sure to immediately reach for your dream journal and jot down any details you can remember from the night before. Consistent use of a dream journal will help you remember your dreams more vividly and experience a more lucid dream state.

So find yourself a journal and start writing! I would recommend having a physical journal and not using your phone. The notifications from overnight may prove a distracting obstacle which brings you from dreaming to waking too quickly. A journal and pencil with a little light goes a long way in keeping your dreams confined to this special space.


How to lucid dream

Because of how exciting dreams can be, it’s often desired to learn how to control them to your own will. This practice is called having a lucid dream, or one in which you have a certain degree of control in the content of the dream.

One thing to consider before diving into practice is your intention. If dreams are meant to be an escape for you, then you might consider looking deeper into your waking life. When we want to escape reality through dreams, we may find ourselves experiencing less rest and more anxiety.

This concept is appealing to me for one reason only: you begin to see dreams as extensions of life and vice versa. When I had the goal to learn lucid dreaming, it was due to the idea that I could do whatever I wanted in a dream without consequences. As I improved with the skill of dream recall, I started to learn something from them. The content I intended to fill my dreams with was the same content I wanted to fill my life with. 

To dream that I was flying and going where I pleased expressed and then manifested itself as the desire to travel. I grew that dream in my waking life as well, and began to start living in a way that enabled me to experience that dream with the consequences of real life. 

In short, to lucid dream you must first have a dream. I mean a dream in the form of a desire backed by hope and faith that it will come to you. In the night time before bed, this is a strong visualization practice and clear intention-setting in a sleep journal. In waking life, this is faith that helps to expand your ability to live a life worth living.

Other uses for a sleep journal

Furthermore, a dream journal can also be used as a tool to track your sleep habits. Along with recording your dreams, you can write down what time you went to bed, how long it took you to fall asleep, and how many times you woke up during the night. Additionally, you can keep track of your caffeine intake, exercise habits, and more.

Along with writing down the qualitative factors of what you dreamt, how you felt, and what words or phrases you recall in your dream, you can consider the following prompts for your sleep journal:
  • What time did you get into bed?
  • What time did you try to go to sleep?
  • How long did it take you to go to sleep?
Regarding your wake-up routine you can add these questions:
  • What time was your final awakening?
  • Was this earlier or later than you intended?
  • What time did you get out of bed for the day?
And lastly, some questions to consider for your quality of sleep:
  • Did you wake up in the night? How many times? For how long total?
  • How much time did you spend in bed total?
  • How much time did you spend sleeping total?
  • Did you exercise today?
  • How much caffeine did you drink?

Dreams can be a doorway to new insights and experiences, and keeping a dream journal can help you unlock this realm of your mind. So grab a journal and a pen and start exploring the possibilities of your dreams!

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