Dreams About Falling Are Scary AF, But They Don't Necessarily Mean Your Life Is In Free-Fall, Too

by Caroline Burke

Dreaming about falling is one of the biggest dream clichés in the book. The surroundings and details may change slightly from person to person, but the crux of the dream is usually the same: a never-ending free fall. Dreaming about falling is very different than dreaming about flying, for one main reason: It is freaking scary. But sometimes tumbling out of a plane, even in your sub-conscious, can seem like it's totally coming out of left field. So what do dreams about falling even mean?

Most experts are actually in relative agreement about the interpretation of dreams that involve a inexplicable, but eerily feels-real free fall. If you're dreaming about plummeting through the sky, it usually equates to a feeling of being out of control in some aspect of your waking life.

In a conversation with Huffington Post, Cathleen O'Connor, Ph.D. stated that dreams about falling are the mind's way of coping with a situation in the dreamer's life that is going poorly, or is totally out of control. More specifically, she argued that the millennial generation might be more likely to have falling dreams related to financial stress. She explained,

Someone living in a modern industrial society holding a high value on monetary measures of success might experience a falling dream over worries about mismanaged finances or bad business investments.

But falling dreams don't always mean that something in your life is actually falling apart.

In fact, there's a scientific element to dreaming about falling, and it has to do with what happens to your body as you slowly descend into dream land.

Essentially, your body can often experience something called a hypnic jerk, which is that uncomfortable feeling when you're swaying between consciousness and unconsciousness, and your body twitches you awake. This bodily twitch can give you a sensation of an abrupt fall, especially if it happens while you're closer to unconsciousness than consciousness.

Scientists disagree on what exactly is happening in your body when you have a hypnic jerk, but this much is clear: The jerk reflects a slight disconnect between the mind and the body that, when reconnected, can jar you into a sensation of falling. This is why you might have a dream about free-falling through the sky, even if your life is pretty much going great.

In other words, don't feel the need to convince yourself that your life is falling apart just because you had a dream that implies it. It could just be the result of some muscle fibers jerking you awake.

Another way to interpret a falling dream is by studying the severity of the fall.

Everyone has heard of that famous myth that if you're falling in a dream and you actually hit the ground, you die in real life. This is obviously not true, although hitting the ground can certainly scare you into consciousness. But the severity of the falling, and the level of anxiety you're feeling in the dream, could be a direct barometer for the metric of real-life anxiety you're feeling. If you wake up routinely dripping with sweat and panting from the fear of a falling dream, there's a pretty strong chance it's not just a muscle twitch that's making you feel this way.

If you keep having falling dreams and don't know how to stop them, your first level of recourse should be to take some time and meditate on what, if anything, is going on in your life that might be causing this acute stress. Addressing a point of anxiety in your life while you're conscious might help how you address it in your unconscious state.

If you're dreaming the same thing again and again, it's likely to have some sort of psychological root. Kezia Vida, a New Orleans dream worker, spoke to Thrillist about analyzing recurring falling dreams:

If you have this kind of dream over and over, it means that feeling is alive in your daily life, and the dream is showing you how you're feeling on the inside. See where that feeling might come up [in everyday life].

Or you could always take Freud's opinion about falling dreams to heart, and simply give in to the sexual impulses that you're contemplating. Bow chicka wow.