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What your bad dreams might be trying to tell you

What your bad dreams might be trying to tell you

Are you plagued by bad dreams? Have you ever woken in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, heart-pounding, jolted awake by a nightmare? We all wish for a restful sleep, yet there are nights when your mind may have other plans. 

Bad dreams can be upsetting and the negative feelings they stir up can linger. A nightmare pulls you out of sleep, usually in a distressed state, because they strike when you’re sleeping deepest. For most people, bad dreams and nightmares are rare, but when they do occur, they’re usually trying to tell you something.  

Nobody knows for certain why we dream. Among experts, there are many different beliefs. While nightmares can be the result of a sleep disorder or other health issue, they are also thought to help us sort through emotions and prepare us for what lies ahead. 

Here are some common bad dreams and what they mean:

It’s not uncommon to have an unpleasant dream about your teeth falling out or being removed. This generally points to an underlying insecurity. Perhaps you’re nervous about an upcoming change or feel inferior in some way. Losing teeth can also point to an insecurity about your physical appearance. What has shaken your confidence lately?

While we sleep, our minds are capable of conjuring up all sorts of horrific scenarios in which we may be wounded. But whether it’s a fight, fire or accident, dreaming about sustaining an injury usually suggests a feeling of powerlessness. You can’t prevent the injury and it’s left you in a weakened state. You’re feeling vulnerable. Consider the cause of this helplessness to get to the root of these nightmares.

If you’re claustrophobia, being trapped or confined in a small space feels truly terrifying. Even if you don’t have a full-blown phobia, the thought of being trapped really is the stuff of nightmares. Yet, if you’re trapped somewhere in your dream, it can reflect the feelings of being trapped in your life, either physically or mentally. Maybe you’re stuck in a place you want to leave or feel bound to an unhappy relationship. This is a sign to change your situation, or at least your perspective on it. 

Many of us have experienced the sensation of falling in our dreams only to wake up, terrified, just before we hit the ground. It’s a common nightmare that often means you’re feeling out of control. You can see the inevitable outcome of a situation and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Even if you can’t control what’s about to happen, think about what you do have control over. Look to focus on or improve other areas of your life. Don’t waste energy on the things you can’t control — take the reins on the things you do have agency over.

You’re on the run with someone — or something — in hot pursuit. Maybe it’s a menacing stranger, a wild animal, a monster, or your boss. Whoever is after you, being chased tends to reflect the fear you’re feeling in your waking life. You’re trying to escape confrontation or conflict with someone important but a part of you knows it’s not something you can run from forever. It’s time to stand your ground and confront this person on your own terms.

For a lot of people, those stressful dreams of going back to high school are made worse by the realization that you’re not wearing any clothes. Or maybe you dream you’re giving a big speech somewhere and you look down to see that you’re naked. In any case, bad dreams about public nudity evoke feelings of fear and vulnerability, which you’re likely feeling in some area of life. What are you insecure about it? It may be related to other people’s opinions of you. 

You’ve got a big exam or an important meeting but, no matter what you do, you can’t make it there on time. Or, if you do get there, you find yourself completely unprepared. This may be your subconscious is trying to tell you to slow down. Are you feeling overwhelmed lately? There’s likely too much on your plate right now. Figure out a way to give yourself a break so you can feel less frazzled day to day and at night.  

If you’re not sure how to interpret your bad dreams, consult a spiritual advisor who can help you gain a better insight into your subconscious mind. Bad dreams and nightmares can also be brought on by stress and anxiety, trauma, medication, drugs and alcohol, sleep apnea, and even eating before bedtime. To get a better sleep, try reducing caffeine and alcohol, getting exercise during the day, and finding methods of relaxation that work for you. If it becomes an regular, ongoing problem, consult a medical expert.