A dream journal can be an important tool for keeping track of a person’s dreams. When someone is interested in the content or meaning of their dreams, starting a dream journal is one way to capture details that might otherwise be forgotten or remembered inaccurately. 

Dreaming is universal, and cultures as far back as the ancient Egyptians have dedicated time to recording their dreams. We review the benefits of keeping a dream journal, tips for recording dreams, and ways to put a dream journal to use.

Benefits of Keeping a Dream Journal

Keeping track of dreams on a regular basis may increase a person’s ability to remember their dreams. Remembering dreams and recording them in a dream journal or diary can also help people find links between dreams and their waking lives

Tap Into Creativity

From artists and authors to scientists and songwriters, many people attribute their creative accomplishments to their dreams. In fact, people who are good at remembering their dreams tend to be more creative in general. When researchers in one study taught subjects to keep track of their dreams daily, the subjects scored higher on tests that measure creativity. 

Solve Problems

When a person keeps a dream journal, they can look back at their dreams to find information that might help solve real-world problems. “Dream incubation” is the idea that if someone focuses on a problem before they go to sleep, their dreams may help them find a solution.  

In one study, researchers instructed people to think about a problem for 15 minutes before going to bed every night and record their dreams each morning. After ten days, the participants had made progress in finding a solution or felt that the problem was not as bothersome.

Recognize and Process Emotions

Researchers believe that dreams may show what is going on in a person’s life, especially regarding highly emotional experiences. Keeping a dream journal may help a person become aware of anxiety and other emotions that need to be addressed in their life. 

A dream journal can also help someone keep track of whether their dreams involve more negative or more positive emotions. This may be useful in helping people track their mental and emotional states. Research suggests that people who have more peace of mind tend to dream about more positive emotions.

Notice Recurring Dreams

When a person keeps a dream journal, they may notice that they are having the same dream over and over. Some common recurring dreams involve being attacked or chased, feeling like one is falling, and being immobilized by fear. These types of dreams may indicate that a person is experiencing challenges in their life that need to be addressed. 

Increase Personal Insight

Keeping a record of dreams may help people understand themselves better . When dream analysis occurs in therapy and research settings, it can help people view themselves differently, make connections between things happening in their lives, and learn new things about themselves.  

Help With Nightmares

When a person’s nightmares are so frequent and disturbing as to interfere with their daily life, they may have nightmare disorder. Treatment for nightmare disorder can involve keeping track of the nightmares in a dream journal. 

How to Keep a Dream Journal

There are many ways to keep a dream journal. Some people write or draw in a notebook, while others prefer typing on a laptop. Other options include using a voice recorder or a smartphone app. 

Anyone can start a dream journal. A person may find it especially helpful when they are facing a change in their life, such as getting divorced, going away to college, or grieving the death of a loved one. 

Regardless of how or when a person decides to keep track of their dreams, experts suggest several ways to get the most out of dream journaling.

  • Set an intention: At bedtime, remind yourself that you want to remember your dreams. If you want to try to solve a problem, focus on it now to facilitate dream incubation.
  • Journal first thing in the morning: Before sitting up or getting out of bed, think about your dreams and record them in your dream journal right away. If you do not remember dreaming, take time to assess how you feel and what is going on in your mind. This may trigger a memory of your dreams.
  • Record all of the details: Write down or record everything you remember , including emotions and their intensity, and whether the dream felt positive or negative.
  • Journal during nighttime awakenings: If you wake in the middle of the night remembering a dream and feel like recording it, go ahead. But if you cannot write it down, reviewing it in your mind may help you remember enough to record it in the morning.
  • Find your style of journaling: If you want to keep track of your dreams but find it too time-consuming, choose certain aspects of dreams to record. When researchers look at dreams, they consider things such as the main characters, emotions, actions, and objects that appear in the dream .
  • Get adequate sleep: Following sleep recommendations can help ensure that you have as much time as possible to dream. Adults need at least seven hours of sleep per day.

What Can You Do With the Writings in Your Dream Diary?

What a person does with their dream diary entries depends on what they hope to get out of keeping track of their dreams. They may prefer to keep their writings private or share them with others. 

Use Your Dream Diary to Gauge Your Mental Health

Reviewing a record of recent dreams may help a person recognize when they are having trouble dealing with things in their life. Negative dreams or nightmares may be a sign of increased stress, depression, or anxiety.

Take Your Dream Journal to Therapy

Therapists can use dream interpretation to treat mental health conditions, relieve nightmares, and facilitate lucid dreaming. Dream interpretation during therapy may help people deal with life experiences and learn more about themselves.

Use Your Dream Diary to Solve Problems

To find creative solutions to challenges, a person can use the dream incubation technique by setting an intention before bedtime as to what problem or issue they want to address in their dreams. Reviewing the dream journal entries may provide clues to solving the problem.

Interpret Your Dreams On Your Own

Some people may not need a therapist to interpret their dreams. In one research study, subjects learned to lead themselves through a series of questions or prompts to analyze their dreams after writing them down. Some of the steps included: 

  • Highlighting the most meaningful parts of the dream and writing more about these parts 
  • Considering what thoughts, emotions, feelings, and memories are brought about by these parts of the dream
  • Asking yourself whether the dream is related to something in your current life, something that happened in the past, or something about yourself as a person
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9 Sources

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  3. Sikka, P., Pesonen, H., & Revonsuo, A. (2018). Peace of mind and anxiety in the waking state are related to the affective content of dreams. Scientific reports, 8(1), 12762.

  4. Weinstein, N., Campbell, R., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2018). Linking psychological need experiences to daily and recurring dreams. Motivation and Emotion, 42(1), 50–63.

  5. Edwards, C. L., Ruby, P. M., Malinowski, J. E., Bennett, P. D., & Blagrove, M. T. (2013). Dreaming and insight. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 979.

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  7. Schredl, M. (2002). Questionnaires and diaries as research instruments in dream research: Methodological issues. Dreaming, 12(1), 17–26.

  8. Mangiaruga, A., Scarpelli, S., Bartolacci, C., & De Gennaro, L. (2018). Spotlight on dream recall: the ages of dreams. Nature and science of sleep, 10, 1–12.

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