Nightmares are the absolute worst. They jerk you awake, and they leave you feeling sweaty, terrified, and totally confused about why you just had a dream about a pack of wild hamburgers chasing you down the street. Nightmares can feel extremely personal, but in fact, yours might just be one of the most common nightmares that all people experience.
While each and every one of your dreams or nightmares may seem so detailed and distinct, you may be having the same type of nightmare again and again, rather than a variety of different ones. If you're someone who believes that dreams are a portal to the mind, then you're probably wondering what your nightmares mean exactly, and why you keep having them over and over again.
Nightmares might not have a proven, direct correlation to your conscious thoughts, but more and more scientists are finding compelling evidence to believe that dreams do have some sort of connection to your thoughts, even if that connection is tenuous at best. For that reason, it's always valuable to take a moment to process what you're dreaming about, and ask yourself if it has anything to do with your real life. Here are the six most common nightmares, and what they may mean for your life.
1Your Teeth Are Falling Out
Ever have a nightmare about your teeth falling out of your mouth, and you suddenly find yourself with weird, gummy chompers? Yeah, that's a very common nightmare, and it could have something to do with your fear of how others perceive you, or how you look.
Another alternative interpretation has to do with power: Since teeth are the tools you use to eat, losing your teeth in a dream might have to do with some fear of powerlessness that you're harboring.
2You're Being Chased By Someone Or Something
Dreams about being chased are super common and super scary; they get even worse when you seem to have trouble moving quickly in the dream, like you're frozen in place and can't escape from whatever's trying to get you.
Psychologist and dream specialist Ian Wallace told The Independent that a chasing nightmare might have something to do with a goal that you're pursuing in real life. If you're feeling frustrated about your progress or lack of movement toward this goal, it might lead to a nightmare like this one.
Ever have a dream where it feels like you're falling forever, and you don't ever hit the ground?
Falling is the most common nightmare of all, according to a 2016 survey by AmeriSleep, and it actually might have something to do with your nervous system. Nightmares about falling are apparently associated with your nervous system shutting down for the night: Your muscles begin to relax, and your body can often view this as a falling sensation.
4You're Naked In An Inappropriate Place
I'm sure you know this one: You're giving a speech to a crowded room, and suddenly, you look down and realize you're completely naked. It's a worst case scenario kind of situation, even for a dream.
When you think about it, the naked metaphor seems like a potentially obvious one: If you're dreaming about being naked in places you do not want to be naked in, it could have to do with deep-seated insecurities, a feeling of vulnerability in a group you're involved in in real life, or a feeling of anxiety about how someone views you.
5You're Late To Or Unprepared For Something
If you're having nightmares about showing up to an unexpected exam, or about being really late for an important interview, it might mean that you're feeling overwhelmed or frazzled in your real, everyday life. You might feel like you're just hanging on to everything by a thread, which is why you're dreaming about things slipping out of control.
6You, Or Someone You Love, Is Dying
If you're dreaming about death, it could mean a number of things. Nightmares about death could have something to do with a phase in your life coming to an end, or it may even indicate that something new is beginning. A nightmare about dying could also represent your efforts to overcome a bad habit or behavior, as well as the end of a romantic relationship.
Remember, there's no definitive, one-size-fits-all approach to dream analysis. If you're really curious about what your nightmares mean and how they're affecting you in real life, consider meeting with a sleep/dream therapist to sort it all out.