I Started a Dream Diary and Here’s what I Did (Or Didn’t) Learn

So, quite some time ago, I had this grand idea of starting a dream diary. The reason, I’d like to think, was rather simple. In a busy life, I often found myself unwilling to go to bed simply because I wanted to relax more and spend time on my hobbies rather than just going to sleep when the next thing you realize is that it’s already the next day of things to be done. In a worst case scenario, I had dreams about missing the plane, bus, important exam; losing luggage, keys, shoes – you name it! Instead of actually sleeping, I thus wanted to re-charge my batteries while awake, doing my favorite things. The obvious downside of that is not getting enough sleep and thus feeling strained and unprepared for the demands the next day or week will bring. Then I read about people who can always control their dreams or choose what they dream about. I thought that, hey, this could be a solution to my problem! To see nice and inspirational dreams instead of some kind of stressed-out fuss could motivate me to go to bed on time! I searched for tips on how to achieve lucid dreams and most of them turned out to be non-sensical, impossible or plain crazy. The only one that seemed to me like it could work was a dream diary, and I thought it would at least help me to remember my dreams better, if nothing else.

We talk about a lucid dream, when the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming and they can, at least up to some extent affect the events in the dream. Lucid dreams have been researched for centuries and they have applications in sleep therapy, for instance.

I started off simple: just writing down the date and what I could remember immediately upon waking up. There were times when I was too busy to write anything down, but I resumed back to taking notes when I could. After many nights, however, I had come to several conclusions, none of them quite what I was waiting for…

1. Writing down them down can affect your dreams – in a negative way?!

Especially on days when I had lot of things to do, I started to think about how I should write the dreams down the first thing upon waking up, so that I wouldn’t forget about them, and I started to have short morning dreams about writing down my dreams just to stir immediately afterwards to realize that I still haven’t actually written anything down. I had officially begun to have stress dreams about writing a dream diary.

2. My dreams are mostly boring?

I had read interviews of different researchers or dream buffs of other sort, and they often claimed that dreams can be used for learning. I am well aware that many artists use dreams as a source of inspiration, and thus I too was quite intrigued to pay more attention to that what my dreams had to say. Turns out – not that much. When I scan my diary, I realize quite quickly why I got so bored with it: the prevalent themes are being late, talking with people who don’t have anything nice to say and general illogicality. There are some good laughs here and there, but mostly it’s something like: “I am someplace I don’t know but someone says that we are in Helsinki and I am with some people I don’t recognize but one of them might be my grandma although she looks like my primary school crafts teacher. We also change places and roles every three seconds.”

3. I do remember the dreams I write down, but…

There hasn’t been a single sign of me actually being able to control what is happening, and although most dreams haven’t been horrible and there have been some nice moments, they are not exactly what I would like to dream about. For example, last fall I started dreaming a lot about my exchange period in Kyoto a that took place year ago. The dreams made me a bit sad, because instead of being a remedy for the yearning back, they were more like bizarre travelogues were everything went wrong from the very beginning.

4. I keep on having fights in my dreams..?

Maybe this is something that happens to other people too? I keep on having heated arguments with both “real” and made up people in my dreams, and things like that are not especially funny to write down. Maybe a psychoanalyst would get some fodder for their theories out of this, but I don’t feel good or refreshed at all after having had these dreams.

5. Seeing the results probably takes a whole lot of time and patience.

Few people these days must have that, since I started the diary during what I think was a not-so-busy-time or at least only moderately busy time, and I still struggled with keeping up. And I do think that I am a rather patient type of person. However, there are probably better ways of practicing this – if you have had same kind of experiences, maybe try and start a dream-discuss-club with your friend(s), try meditation before sleeping or some of the other tricks that can affect your dreaming. Remember that if you have more serious problems like insomnia and/or constant nightmares that prevent you from sleeping, seek professional assistance!

As a somewhat skeptical person, I might be too anxiously waiting for results as a proof that this actually works or even makes any sense in the first place. But obviously there are no shortcuts for these things, and maybe I am already making a good progress when I am making perceptions concerning my dreams and writing them down.