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Nothing derails a good night’s sleep faster than being jolted awake by a nightmare. When you keep having dreams about being chased by a shadowy figure with tentacles, it’s only natural to wake up feeling anxious, disoriented, and more than a little scared. Even though you might feel alone in the moment, take solace in knowing that you might just be experiencing one of the most common nightmares.
Nightmare #11 is very scary. Check it out...
Nightmares are so prevalent that nearly 50% to 85% of adults report experiencing them occasionally, typically in the later cycles of REM sleep. Despite being so commonplace, scientists aren’t entirely sure why nightmares occur, but they can be triggered by multiple factors, including stress, anxiety, and past trauma.
Here, we take a look at some of the most common nightmares and uncover their hidden meaning.
What Are Nightmares?
Nightmares are essentially a type of dream that elicit intense feelings of fear, anxiety, or distress. The main difference between a nightmare and a bad dream is that nightmares cause you to wake up from sleep. Nightmares can be extremely unpleasant and may manifest in different ways. We can break down nightmares into three types — namely:
Recurring nightmares. Put simply, recurring dreams are those types of dreams you have over and over again over a long period of time. Because of the repetitive nature of these dreams, they’re commonly believed to represent some unresolved conflict or repressed wishes.
Fever dreams. Fever dreams are intense and vivid nightmares that arise when you have a high body temperature. Though they can be unsettling, the dreams stop once the fever subsides.
Vivid dreams. While most people forget 95% of their dreams as soon as they wake up, vivid dreams and nightmares tend to have a more lasting impact. Vivid dreams are characterized by extreme emotion, and you may feel like you’re present in the dream, which can be particularly jarring if you’ve experienced a nightmare.
Why Do Nightmares Happen?
Common nightmares plague us all from time to time, and though one of the main causes is stress, they can also happen because of a few other surprising reasons.
Medications or supplements
Taking certain medications or supplements can trigger a variety of common nightmares. Medications, such as antidepressants, beta blockers, and sleep aids, affect brain activity and neurotransmitters, which can cause changes to the way we dream.
Heavy meals before bed
Eating right before bed is widely associated with weight gain, but another compelling reason not to do this is to keep the boogeyman at bay. Depending on what you eat, late-night snacking could be the culprit behind your spine-chilling dreams.
Eating a heavy meal right before bed can cause your brain to become more active, which results in restless sleep and increases your chances of having nightmares.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder involving irregular patterns of breathing. Those who suffer from this condition find that their breathing tends to stop and start abruptly when they’re sleeping.
One of the most common nightmares among patients with sleep apnea is dreaming about a lack of oxygen. This theme can manifest itself in the form of common dreams, such as drowning, being suffocated, or even a demonic creature sitting on your chest.
Most Searched Nightmares: What Do These Common Dreams Mean?
If you’ve had dreams about falling, your teeth falling out, failing an exam, or being chased, then you’ve experienced some of the most common nightmares.
To find out which themes people experience most often, we reviewed and ranked the top searched nightmares by comparing the monthly search volume for each. Here are the common dreams that ranked the highest.
1. Being chased
Being chased is one of the most common nightmares. If you dream that you’re being chased by something, whether it’s an 8-foot-tall rabbit or a shrouded figure, then it’s an indicator that you’re running away from something or someone in real life.
Being chased could also be a sign that you’re suppressing something within yourself, such as anger, jealousy, or resentment. If that’s the case, then the chaser in one of these common dreams might actually just be a manifestation of your repressed emotions.
2. Teeth falling out
Ever found yourself stuck in a dream where you’re brushing your teeth in the mirror, and one by one, your teeth start falling out?
Dreaming about your teeth falling out can mean multiple things. One interpretation indicates a change involving some form of loss in your life, whether that’s a breakup, losing a job, or even losing a significant amount of money.
3. Catching fire
Another one of the most common nightmares is dreaming about catching fire. Dreaming of something catching fire means that you should be aware of a change that could potentially cause problems.
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung believed fire signified transformation. So, if you dream about something catching fire, it could either mean that you’re about to deal with a situation that might pose problems or end up being beneficial in the long run.
4. Getting shot
Nightmares about getting shot are quite common and can arise for multiple reasons. For instance, if you watched a disturbing movie where someone got shot, you’re likely to have this dream.
But dreaming about getting shot could also mean that you’re fighting for survival in your day-to-day life. This could indicate that you’re struggling to achieve your goals or are stuck in an uncomfortable situation.
Dreaming about tornadoes might mean your worries and anxieties are mounting. Tornadoes could also be symbolic of a challenging situation that you can’t escape.
Whether you dream about a white, red, or black tornado, they’re all symbols of extreme emotion and a loss of control.
Almost everyone has woken up after dreaming about suddenly falling into a sea of nothingness, making it one of the most common nightmares.
Nightmares about falling are often associated with a loss of control over a situation in your life.
It can also represent helplessness, vulnerability, and the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Drowning in dreams can be a sign that you’re feeling overwhelmed in some area of your life. Perhaps you’re bogged down by endless assignments and tasks at work, or you’re struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Whatever the case, if you dream about drowning, you might want to take a step back from your responsibilities and give yourself some time to decompress.
8. Being attacked
There are few things scarier than dreaming about being attacked by a stranger or animal. This dream can arise if you have an intense fear of a specific situation.
The attacker in the dream could represent something in your real life that you may be apprehensive of.
9. Bug infestation
Bug infestations became a common nightmare at the height of the pandemic. Dreaming about a bug infestation can have two interpretations. One is symbolic of feelings of guilt, minor irritations, or worries that are sneaking up on you.
On the other hand, dreams about bugs are also associated with health problems, which is why many people reported having increasingly common nightmares about bugs during the pandemic.
10. Being naked in public
Dreaming about being naked in public is a sign that you’re feeling vulnerable and exposed. Perhaps a secret was revealed, and you’re feeling embarrassed and shameful about the information that came to light. Like other common nightmares, dreaming about being naked also has many other interpretations.
It could also mean that you’ve been dishonest about something and are struggling to keep it hidden.
11. Trapped in a dream
Though it might sound unusual, dreaming about being trapped in a dream is a common nightmare. This dream might mean you’re trying hard to evade something that needs to be confronted, whether that’s a person or an emotion.
Dreaming about being stuck in a dream could also be a sign that you’re feeling trapped in a real-life situation. Perhaps you’re worried about not advancing in a career or feeling like your personal relationships are going nowhere.
Dreaming about earthquakes can be indicative of some instability in your life. Perhaps something at work or in your personal life is falling apart, and you’re unsure of how to deal with the change.
A dream about an earthquake could also be reflective of a change in routine or structure. For instance, if you’ve recently moved to a new city or country, you might find yourself missing the stability of your old life because you’re struggling to acclimate to your new environment.
13. Getting lost
Nightmares about getting lost could be a sign that you’re feeling frustrated about a situation you’re navigating through. Essentially, it might mean that you’re feeling unsettled because the problem you’re in is new, unpredictable, and scary.
Not knowing where you’re going is indicative of the lack of direction you feel in your real life.
14. Being late
Being late is one of the most common nightmares among those who work or go to school. Dreams about being late could mean that you’re feeling some kind of pressure in your life.
Conversely, it could also be a subconscious expression of regret or frustration at a missed opportunity. Perhaps you were unprepared for a meeting, which caused you to lose out on a major promotion, resulting in feelings of anger toward yourself.
Similar to tornados, nightmares about hurricanes are representative of intense emotions surrounding certain events in your life.
Dreaming about a hurricane could also be your subconscious’ way of warning you that you need to be wary of destructive behaviors or conflicts. If you dream of a hurricane destroying something, it could indicate that you’re dealing with a conflict at work or home and you’re feeling scared to address it.
Most of us can’t escape common nightmares, but they’re usually not a sign of anything serious. Understanding what they mean can help you introspect and resolve matters that are bothering you.
If you’re wondering how to stop nightmares altogether, a good starting point is to practice healthy sleep hygiene habits and optimize your space for comfort with the best-rated memory foam mattress. However, it’s also worth noting that the frequency of common nightmares also tends to subside when you adopt healthy sleep habits. If your nightmares persist and you’re unable to get a good night’s sleep, consider seeking professional support.
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