Why you may not remember most of your dreams

March 26, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

If you remember most of your dreams when you first wake up in the morning, you could be a “high dream recaller” according to a recent study published in the journal of Neuropsychopharmacology (Neuropsychopharmacology advance online publication 19 February 2014 doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.6)

Researchers at Lyon Neuroscience Research Center studied two different groups of dreamers:

one group of 21 participants referred to as “high dream recallers” who recall dreams regularly, and 20 participants referred to as “low dream recallers” who recall dreams rarely.

The researchers studied brain activity to help understand why there is a difference in dream recall for different people.

Waking up at night and dream recall


Inserm researcher Perrine Ruby at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center made the following observations: “high dream recallers” have twice the amount of wakefulness times during sleep as “low dream recallers”.

The “high dream recallers” are more reactive to auditory stimuli during sleep and wakefulness.

This increased brain activity may promote awakenings during the night, and may thus facilitate memorization of dreams during brief periods of wakefulness.

 Using Positron Emission Tomography, the research team measured brain activity of all 41 volunteers.

High dream recallers showed stronger spontaneous brain activity while awake and during sleep in the medial prefrontal cortex and, in the temporo-parietal junction, the area of the brain that is involved in attention orienting toward external stimuli.

 “This may explain why high dream recallers are more reactive to environmental stimuli, awaken more during sleep, and thus better encode dreams in memory than low dream recallers. Indeed the sleeping brain is not capable of memorizing new information; it needs to awaken to be able to do that,” explains Perrine Ruby, Inserm Research Fellow.

 If you “sleep like a rock” then you probably will have little memory of the double feature that played in your dreams.