Solve Your Memory Problems One Nap At A Time

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Learn how to dream your way to data recovery mode and discover what you’ve been mentally missing. 

Overall, I would say my memory is pretty darn good. It seemed to be naturally decent when I was a young kid, and then at age 8 or so, I started pushing to develop it even further through Jerry Lucas & Harry Lorayne’s The Memory Book

While I’m generally quite good at memorizing facts, recalling details from conversations, etc., one area where my memory constantly fails me is the misplaced items department. I’m constantly losing everyday items, completely forgetting where I temporarily set them down. This is especially bad when I’m working on a project that requires a handful of tools. 

Just recently, I redid my kitchen and had to assemble a bunch of cabinets and appliances. There was a lot of measuring, drilling, screwing, allen wrenching, etc. – enough to take a full 8 hour day if one was truly focused. For me, however, it was more like 8 hours of actual work + 4 additional hours of walking around saying “come on, I just had it in my hand!” while I tried to find my measuring tape, drill, etc. 

While most of those misplaced items were found in a few minutes, sometimes I’ll misplace something that I just can’t find no matter how hard I search. That’s where my slick sleep hack comes into play: I sleep on it.  

Your Brain Is A Vacuum

Our brains take in a lot of information – way more than we even realize. Don’t believe me? Think about a time you saw a crazy, split second situation occur. Now try to write down or explain as many details as you can about that split second event. Chances are, it’s going to take at least a couple of minutes to explain what you saw and mentally processed in the blink of an eye. And even if you think your description is super thorough, chances are that if you give it some more thought over the next few minutes, you’ll pull out even more details that you previously glossed over. 

Our consciousness is very efficient. We’re taking in an outrageous amount of information every second of the day, from colors to shapes to sounds to words, to feelings to smells, and more, but we generally filter out all the “unnecessary” details to focus on what pieces seem to matter most. 

This is where dreaming comes in. 

Leverage Your Brainpower 

I remember sitting in a science class in highschool, where my teacher simplistically reduced dreams to our brains making sense of the parts of our day we weren’t paying attention to. Because I’m a contrarian, I immediately began thinking of dreams I’ve had that disproved her reduction, but I do believe she was at least partially right. 

“Oh, that thing the whale told me in my dream was actually a line from the Phil Collins song I heard driving home from work”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a weird dream, gotten to thinking about it, and realized “oh, that thing the whale told me in my dream was actually a line from the Phil Collins song I heard driving home from work,” or something of that nature. 

So if my dreams could sometimes recycle random, unhelpful details from my day that I would have otherwise forgotten or not even noticed, why couldn’t dreams also be harnessed to revive helpful context? Surely, my brain took in the details of where I absent mindedly set my wallet that I now can’t find – I just need to learn how to recover that data. 

Dreaming Your Way To Data Recovery

Over the years, I’ve put this theory into practice with decent results. Has it been foolproof? No, but I would say it works a good 30% of the time, conservatively. Here’s how I do it: 

You know that super unhelpful question people love to ask when you lose something? Where’s the last place you put it? Well, that’s pretty close to where I start: where’s the last place I know I had it? Once I’ve got a pretty good read on those details, I relive as much as possible about that time frame while mentally cheering myself on to “find it,” or “remember, damn it!” as I drift off to sleep. About a 3rd of the time, I wake up and find my lost item. 

Now this is where it gets weird.

When it does work, it’s not a consistent experience for me by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes I’ll see the item where it is (ex. My wallet on the ground beneath the bench I sometimes toss it on when I come home from the office), sometimes I’ll be told by some creature in my dream (ex. I’ve had multiple occurrences of my former, now-deceased dog telling me in a calm voice to look in a specific location), or on a few occasions, I’ll just jolt awake with the location firmly imprinted on my mind.  

Sound too crazy to work? Maybe it is. But if you’re one of the 65% of individuals who believe they are only using 10% of their brain to begin with, there’s a whole lot of brain out there that you haven’t started using yet. Maybe those uncharted portions contain more capability than you think.