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What is a dream journal?
A dream journal is a place for you to record your dreams. Some people think they don't dream, but that is not correct. They just do not remember their dreams. Everyone can train to remember them. This is what we call training your dream recall. A dream journal serves several purposes, which we handle in depth today.
The best way to train your dream recall is to write them down. You do this in a dream journal. Everyday, as soon as you wake up, you think as hard as you can about what you dreamed about. If you normally don't remember your dreams you will probably don't remember any dreams the first days, that is perfectly normal. Just keep at it and you will definitely make progress.
So why is remembering your dreams necessary for lucid dreaming? There are two big reasons. The first is that if you don't remember your dreams, you could have a lucid dream but not even remember it!
Now for the second reason. Everyones dreams are unique. They are yours. Now for you to become lucid you have to know that you are dreaming. To do this you have to recognize that you are in a dream. To do this you have to be familiar with them. You have to be so familiar it that you know what is dreamlike about them and what makes them different from the waking reality.
A lot of people skip the crucial step of logging their dreams and end up wasting a lot of time doing reality checks 24/7. This is a waste of effort. Learning to lucid dream doesn't have to be hard, as long as we practice effectively.
A good rule of thumb is to at least remember one dream each night. At that point you are ready to go all in on the reality checks.
The steps to effective dream recall
The first step to have good sleep is getting plenty of sleep. As we sleep longer the periods of REM sleep, the state in which we dream, gets longer. You cycle through different stages, and as the night proceeds REM sleeps get longer. This causes your first dream to be short, taking maybe around ten minutes, but after the night proceeds they get longer, making your last dreams of the night take 45 up to 60 minutes long.
Another very important step is your sleep hygiene. This is a collection of the habits you have that determine the quality of sleep you have. Just as we can't measure productivity only in time, we can't measure the quality of sleep solely in time spent asleep. You can sleep eight hours and it can be the best sleep possible, or you can sleep eight hours with very little deep sleep, waking up several times a night, resulting in waking up feeling groggy and unrested.
If you are interested in the reasons why we sleep and the effect it has on you I recommend reading the book 'Why we sleep' by Matthew Walker. It is a deep dive into all the latest scientific research explained in a clear and concisely way.
Matthew is an expert on the topic and he recommends the following five tips for good sleep hygiene:
- Stick to a sleeping schedule
It is important to go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday. People think sleeping in on the weekends can make up for lost sleep during the week, but that is untrue. We often set an alarm to wake up in the morning, but why don't we set an alarm to go to sleep at night? Matthew recommends this as the most important step in getting good quality sleep.
- Do not exercise too late in the day
Exercise is very important for your health, but exercising too late in the day can make your body and mind too active to get a good quality of sleep. A good rule of thumb is to not exercise two to three hours before you go to bed.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine
Everyone knows that caffeine keeps you awake, but not many people know that it can take eight to ten hours to wear off fully. Drinking a cup of coffee in the morning is no problem, but one in the late afternoon can give you problems falling asleep and can cause lighter sleep. Nicotine is also a stimulant, that cause smokers to often sleep lightly.
- Avoid alcohol before going to sleep
Although it can help you relax, alcohol suppresses your REM sleep and this is exactly what we need as much of as possible to get a lucid dream.
- Avoid large meals and beverages before going to bed
Having a light snack is perfectly fine, but eating a lot can cause indigestion, disrupting your sleep. If you drink too much before bed it can cause you too wake up often with the need to go to the toilet, disrupting your precious sleep.
Now these are just guidelines and you definitely do not have to become a disciplined sleep monk. But knowledge is power and your quality of sleep is important. Just being conscious of the above tips and your own sleep hygiene can be of great help.
Logging your dreams
As soon as you wake up, think of what you dreamed about. Try to not move upon awakening, as any body movement can make it harder to remember them. Ask yourself how you are feeling? What were you thinking about when you woke up? Even if you just remember a feeling, write it down in your journal.
Now you don't have to be a skilled writer. Your dream journal is yours and nobody but you will read it. In your log you can write down keywords of your dream and the overall feeling of the dream. You can build upon these further and go into detail. Try to log the details that are dreamlike, the things you would not see in your waking reality.
As with any skill, the progress of training your dream recall can be slow. Do not worry, this is perfectly normal. As long as you keep at it, stay motivated and put in the effort you will eventually see results. At the point you recall at least one dream a night you are ready to lucid dream. At this stage there is a big chance you are already having lucid dreams.
Reality checks and your personal Dream Signs
Another very important reason to keep a dream journal are your dream signs. As we said, dreams are very personal and everyone dreams will be unique. To become lucid we have to recognize that we are dreaming. Dream signs can make this easier.
Dream signs are details that recur in your dreams. Details that can make it very obvious that you are dreaming. Your dream journal is a rich source of these potential signs. After collecting enough dreams it will become obvious what your dream signs are. At that point you can incorporate these dream signs in your reality checks, to make them much more effective.