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You’re back at school, staring down at an algebra exam with the sinking realization that you forgot to study for it. The resulting anxiety of a failed grade, disappointed parents, and lack of college acceptances feel all too real until you wake up and realize you’re just having the same dream for the second time in a week. Recurring dreams are common, but when you find yourself dreaming about the same thing, you might wonder: Is your dream trying to tell you something?
Dreams are still a source of mystery, and scientists are somewhat split about their significance. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed dreams represented repressed wishes and provided insight into the inner workings of our minds.
But at the other end of the spectrum is the Activation Synthesis Hypothesis by John Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley, which states that dreams are electrical brain impulses that draw random thoughts and images from our memories. Beyond that, dreams don’t hold any meaning, according to the theory.
However, nearly 75 percent of adults experience recurring dreams. Though there’s no concrete evidence to understand why it happens, research has found that people from all over the world believe dreams provide meaningful insight into themselves and their lives.
Let’s dive deeper to understand why you have recurring dreams and decode some of the most common ones.
If you feel like your dreams are trying to tell you something about your life, you might not be far off. Dream researchers believe that recurring dreams occur because you’re dealing with unresolved issues that are causing you stress. The longer you avoid addressing the problem, the more likely you are to have the same dream over and over again.
Recurrent dreams may also occur if you’ve experienced a traumatic event in your life. In this case, you might stop having the dream once you’ve processed the trauma.
Because of the repetitive nature of these dreams, it’s natural to experience anxiety about the significance of these dreams. But the bottom line is that, no matter what’s triggering it, recurring dreams may persist until you address the underlying issue and come to terms with it.
To tap into the root of the dream and understand why you’re having it, consider jotting down the details of your dreams. Then, you can identify the trigger and start resolving the problem.
Recurring dreams often take common themes. Here are five of the most common dreams and their hidden meanings.
Dreaming about your teeth falling is one of the most unsettling nighttime experiences, and it comes with multiple meanings.
One interpretation of this dream is insecurity, particularly as it relates to major life changes, such as moving to a different country, starting a new job, or dealing with a breakup. Stress and anxiety about the future can manifest themselves in the form of a dream about teeth loss.
Though the dream itself might be scary, not all interpretations are negative. The dream could also represent a milestone in your journey. Psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that teeth are symbolic of growth and transformation. As a young kid, you lose all your baby teeth, but over time, adult teeth take their place. Similar to that progression, this dream could also mean that you’re about to transition into a positive phase of your life.
It might be safe to say that nearly everyone has woken up with a jolt after they dreamed about falling off a cliff and dropping into a sea of nothingness. Though disturbing, recurring dreams about falling are arguably one of the most common.
This dream is often associated with feeling vulnerable, helpless, or overwhelmed. In general, the dream is a symbol of fear and could mean that you’re feeling uncertain about some area in your life. Perhaps you’re concerned that you’re not doing well enough at work or you’re worried about something you have very little control over, such as the state of your finances or the future of your relationship.
Whatever the case, if you experience this dream night after night, try to identify the source of your fear and consider taking a new direction.
The anxiety of being unprepared for a test is something we’re all familiar with, and there are several variations of this dream. Either you forgot to study for the test, you arrive late, or you can’t complete the exam within the allocated time. No matter what the scenario is, this recurring dream usually means that you’re anxious about failing.
Typically, dreams about being back at school and taking a test are associated with work-related stresses. But the connection could be vaguer. You might also just be feeling unconfident about tackling something that’s challenging you, whether that’s in a personal or professional sense.
Whether you’re being chased by an animal, a three-legged monster, or an attacker, the meaning of this recurring dream is more or less the same.
If you’re being chased in your dreams, it means that you’re running away from something in your life instead of confronting it and dealing with it head-on. However, the interpretation of this dream isn’t limited to an external conflict.
Dreams about being chased could also mean that you’re suppressing a negative emotion, such as anger or jealousy. In that instance, the chaser in your dream could actually just be a manifestation of your repressed emotion.
At the height of the pandemic, many people reported experiencing increasingly vivid dreams and nightmares about bugs. The connection between the pandemic and recurring dreams about bugs, worms, and other creepy-crawlies is easy to understand.
In an interview with the Harvard Gazette, Harvard researcher Deirdre Barrett said, “When we say ‘I’ve got a bug,’ that means ‘I’m sick’ and often ‘I’ve got a virus.’ So I think it’s partly just that association. But then a little bit deeper than just the word, I think, is the idea that lots of little things that cumulatively can hurt or kill you is really a very good metaphor for the virus particles.”
Another interpretation is that minor irritations and worries that you’ve tried to repress are finally sneaking up on you. Conversely, it could also indicate that you’re fixating so much on one particular thing that it’s overwhelming you. Regardless of which interpretation applies to you, dreaming about bugs is a good indicator to change your outlook and try a different way of thinking.
Chances are that if you’re having recurring dreams, they’re likely unnerving in nature or causing you to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. However, there isn’t a quick fix for stopping these dreams altogether.
One way to reduce the frequency is by documenting these dreams in a journal and finding ways to interpret the meaning, whether that means consulting a professional dream analyst or looking it up online. Interpreting your dreams can effectively help you get to the root of the issue that might be bothering you so that you can take corrective action. Once you address the problem, the recurring dreams are likely to come to an end.
But if you’re having nightmares that are so intense that they’re interfering with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, practicing good sleep hygiene is the best way to keep the recurring dreams at bay. Here are some tips you can try to cultivate healthier sleep habits:
Recurring dreams typically have an underlying cause. Though they may be unpleasant, try not to take them too seriously. If they do bother you, consider doing some introspection to understand what your dreams are really trying to say. More often than not, resolving personal issues can help you put an end to the dreams that keep you up night after night.
Do you experience Recurring Dreams? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.