Regular readers will recall that I haven’t had much hypnagogic luck with my blinking LEDs. I theorized first that the lights weren’t bright enough, and second that I wasn’t remembering my dreams no matter how fantastic they were turning out to be.
Theory #1: LEDs too dim
I found some better bulbs: water-clear and quite a bit brighter. These are now so bright that they sometimes wake me up. I’m going to try putting some masking tape over them to diffuse the light.
Theory #2: Remembering nothing
This is likely the real problem. I just don’t remember dreams very well. This is probably because I’m very alarm-driven in the morning and because my kids deeply enjoy asking me questions like “Dad, when’s breakfast?” while they know perfectly well that I’m still asleep. My dream consciousness is quickly shoved into oblivion every morning.
Oneirologists (yes, they are a thing) recommend keeping a dream journal to improve dream memory. Like most who fail at this endeavor, I first rejected that idea the same way I reject all diaries (girl stuff, not my style). After a few nights, though, I developed a sneaking suspicion that the lights were affecting my dreams, just that I couldn’t remember it. I admitted that memory was a deal-breaker. So I started describing my dreams each morning to my wife. A few days ago I put a real pen and paper by the bed and have since written down three detailed dreams.
Now that I have gone through the exercise, I see the value. The problem I had with keeping a dream journal was that I thought the purpose was dream analysis, which I honestly didn’t care about. But in fact, that’s not the purpose at all. Rather, by training your mind to recall dreams and to place dream events into your real, normal long-term memory, you gain the ability to classify dream experiences as dream experiences. This is different from how your mind normally experiences dreams: “Here I am in a small boat in the middle of the ocean, with nothing but a toy and a cat from my childhood. Seems legit!”
By recalling dreams while awake and conscious, you can train yourself to recognize dreams as dreams after the fact: “New rule: when I’m inexplicably in the middle of the ocean, it’s probably a dream.” Presumably, soon my unconscious self will use the same skills to distinguish dreams from reality, but at the time the dream is happening. If that alone isn’t enough to bring myself into dream awareness, then the blinking lights ought to give me the kick I need to do it.