How often do you dream at night? Do you remember your dreams?

I recently read a book about how to write short stories and the author suggested keeping a dream journal for inspiration. I always keep a journal on my nightstand because sometimes ideas come to me at night but I had never actually kept a record of my dreams. I decided to give it a try and it’s been interesting. I’ve been doing it for about three weeks now. Writing down your dreams as soon as you wake up when you can still remember them is key. 

I typically go to bed at 10 pm and wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning to drink some water. (I take lithium and it causes excessive thirst.) Then I go back to bed and get up around 7 am. I almost always stick to this routine. What’s interesting is almost every time I get up at 3 or 4 I’m writing down dreams. Then again at 7. It seems like I actually dream quite a bit.

Tornados and sex (not at the same time) seem to be common themes in my dreams. Many of my dreams are filled with anxiety like I go somewhere and can’t find parking or I’m late to an appointment. I think the most interesting dream I’ve written down so far was that aliens invaded and I went outside and it was snowing, except the snowflakes were actually tracking devices that embed into your skin. Maybe that one could inspire a story.

I am on antipsychotic medication for schizoaffective disorder, and when my meds aren’t quite right, I have nightmares. Recently I ran out of one of my medications and didn’t have it for a few days. It was my fault. I was lazy and thought I’d be okay – I’d get to it later. My nightmares often involve being haunted by ghosts. I ended up having a really crazy nightmare – I was hit by a train and a soldier saved my life, but in the process, he lost his own life. He was angry about it and came back and haunted me. I was laying in bed and his ghost was at the foot of my bed crawling toward me. The next morning my husband said he could hear me whimpering in my sleep. Needless to say, I was at the pharmacy ASAP. 

Do you write down your dreams? Do you remember your dreams? If you’re an artist or writer, have your dreams ever inspired your work?


  1. Katydid says

    That’s a great idea to write down your dreams–already, you’ve made the connection with medication levels and nightmares. It seems to me that people whose sleep-wake cycles are strong, wake up remembering more dreams than people who stay asleep deeply throughout the night.

    Often my dreams are a mundane filing of events throughout the day, often creatively. Example that never happened but could: if I stopped at the grocery store and then picked up takeout for dinner, I might dream I was eating dinner in the grocery store. Pretty boring. Other dreams are more dynamic.

    Have you ever tried lucid dreaming? That’s when you’re aware you’re dreaming and can direct the events in the dream to some extent. I’ve done that a couple of times–for example, one time I was dreaming about work, and said, “I don’t want to be here, I’m going on vacation.” So I did.

  2. StevoR says

    Sometimes & sometimes.

    I do occassionally have really vivid dreams that turn into stories – often that make very much less sense when written down than they do at the time.

    I vivdily recall dreaming about time travelling and being sure on awaking that I really had seen actual dinosaurs and gone back in time whilst asleep.

    Love the dreams where I can fly – usually by running fast and then “swimming” in the air but paradoxically once aloft in dreams seem unable to land again. Which inspired at least one short story I wrote.(Unpublished.) Another dream that inspired a separate SF story had me putting explosives down toilets then being used as a human mine clearer. I used to do this much more often – write down and remember dreams that is not act as human mine clearer!

    Not sure that helps and I do sometimes struggle to recall what’s dream, half recalled movie scene and reality but yeah FWIW. Also I’m not neutrotypical if that’s of any use.

  3. Katydid says

    LOL, sometimes my dreams are a bit crazy, too. They make perfect sense while I’m dreaming, but if I try to write it down or tell someone, it just sounds unhinged.

    Have you ever dreamed of things (places, people, etc.) that you’ve dreamed before…and been aware of it? I once dreamed I went to a house that I’ve never been to in real life, thinking, “Here I am again”. When the person answered the door, it was the same person as before. Otherwise the dream was unremarkable.

  4. antaresrichard says

    From 1992 to 2002, I experimented with faithfully writing down my dreams, limiting the entries to those had about an infrequent subject matter. Over time however, the diary started to increase the rate and complexity of my musings, and went itself from an occasional jot to elaborately illustrated, almost daily affair. Of necessity, I had to stop.

    Now my dreams about that undisclosed topic are back down to once every few months.

    Funny that.

    To this day I still have the decade hundreds of pages, stored away among my keepsakes.

    Lucid dreams, I’ve had them too. Some dreams were so real, I had to later remind myself they weren’t actual memories. Other times I have acted out in my sleep.


  5. anat says

    My sleep tends to be shallow, I wake up multiple times each night, though at least in recent years I fall back asleep better (there were years when I spent much of the night awake waiting for morning). I rarely wake up with the sense that I dreamed before waking and actually remembering anything at all of the content of my dream is extremely rare (maybe once in several months). My husband, on the other hand, remembers several dreams each night. He discovered that increasing his intake of resistant starches in the evening makes his dreams more frequent and more vivid. (I tried, it had no effect on me).

  6. says

    I rarely remember my dreams, but I did turn one nightmare into a short story, “Loathsome Alyce,” which sold. ( Not the whole plot, but one vivid image which the story coalesced around.

    I’ve been trying to remember my dreams more, on and off, for decades, partly as a wonderful resource for a fiction writer, and partly as therapy when life gets tough. It helps to write down dreams whenever they do happen, but sometimes I don’t have time.

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