Ask the Sleepio Expert: Why do we forget our dreams so quickly after we wake up?

21st June 2012 by Peter Hames

Ask the Sleepio Expert

Dreams are an interesting phenomena which tend to occur during a form of sleep called ‘rapid eye movement’ or ‘REM sleep’ for short, so-called because of the visible eye movements which take place during this stage of sleep. During REM sleep our minds are actually very active but our bodies are effectively paralysed, to prevent us acting out our dreams. Dreams can provide a window into the importance of the mental events which occur as we sleep – information is processed and memories are consolidated, for example. It may even be said that the brain operates more efficiently and effectively when we are asleep than it does when we are awake.

Whether we remember our dreams, or not, we are dreaming! We only remember our dreams however, if we awaken as the dream is taking place, meaning that not being able to remember our dreams is not a sign that these mental events aren’t occuring. Once we wake up, our dreams may be forgotten very quickly as they are not laid down in a memory store. Unlike information or events experienced when we are awake, dreamed events are not ‘rehearsed’, and often hold no intrinsic importance to our waking lives. A combination of factors therfore result in the memories of dreams fading very quickly once we wake from sleep.

Got a question about sleep? Post a comment on the Sleepio YouTube channel and each month sleep expert Prof Colin Espie will answer a selection.

Sleepio Expert articles:
What is REM sleep?
Is there a link between “dream-time” and sleep length?

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