I'm interested if there's a term for spontaneous dream recall. I will try to define the phenomenon I'm talking about.

Over 10 years ago, I started to notice that I can spontaneously recall dreams, and clearly label them as dreams. I may recall 3 dreams from the past night, then more dreams from weeks or months ago. Some of these dreams I have written down, others were "forgotten" upon awakening, only to be recalled much later. That's a lot of dreams. When in this state of spontaneous recall, I can consciously guide the recall process once the original dream is recalled and recall a number of additional dreams that may or may not be loosely connected to that one.

Just to clarify, these are not fantasies and neither waking memories. I can clearly distinguish a waking memory from a dream memory. The entire dream memory is recalled in a flash with all the details: place, action, characters present. All of this over a second or so, similar in duration to the Deja-vu.

I've looked up and found Cryptomnesia, which is defined as:

Cryptomnesia occurs when a forgotten memory returns without it being recognised as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original.

What I'm describing is similar to Cryptomnesia, except that the memory is immediately recognized as a previously seen dream.

This phenomenon makes me believe that I do not really "forget" dreams. Normally, such memories are "blocked" from ordinary awareness, but can be recalled at random times of the day, or when laying in bed and preparing for sleep. Just to clarify: I calculated that I potentially see up to 1600 dreams in a year, and can recall many of them this way.

Is there a search term I can use to look at scientific literature that deals with the phenomenon of unbidden, spontaneous (dream)memory recall? Maybe there's something that deals with real memory recall that sounds similar?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm currently researching this subject too, as I have found in the passing months that I've had dreams come back to me as vivid as memories. I remember them as dreams, not events that have happened in my life when I have been awake. There doesn't seem to be any specific stimulus for a dream memory to be triggered. I do suffer from depression and have recently undergone over a year of severe trauma, I began thinking this dreams memory occurrence was just my mind breaking down, with an inability to deal with all that is going on. I would be interested to hear if you found out more. $\endgroup$
    – user3533
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 10:04
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    $\begingroup$ (continuation of user3533's answer converted to comment) .. "From what I can tell people who can usually recall memories, facts, etc at whim are very intelligent, but this is not what I'm experiencing. I've been looking specifically at hypermnesia." $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ Over the past couple years I've noticed that this kind of phenomenon happens with random real life events too, like recalling a street or place in a childhood town. Unlike events listed in the involuntary memory article (eating cake triggering childhood memories of eating cake), there's absolutely nothing I can think of that can be considered a trigger for this kind of memory recall phenomenon $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ Since last time I saw this question, I've discovered that my brain/mind occasionally recalls a childhood rhyme or saying in my native language related to what I'm perceiving in the real world. For example, seeing a muscular avatar in a videogame, I can recall a childhood rhyme about a muscular man. It took me some time to notice this, as these rhymes have been forgotten for over 20 years, and I don't try to recall them, they just arise. Similar things happen with real life memories, although I have not found a definitive cue that triggers them $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ I haven't experienced this per se, but have noticed that when I meditate, memories that I haven't been aware of for a long time just pop up out of nowhere - I usually associate it with a relaxing/release of the physical body - that might be a trigger. $\endgroup$
    – user10728
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 10:30

1 Answer 1


This could be an example of what is termed "involuntary memory" or "involuntary autobiographical memory". Mainly it is due to subtle and obvious prompts.


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