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9 Common Nightmares and Their Meanings

Are you haunted by your dreams?

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Everyone has nightmares from time to time. Most people are fortunate enough to have them only a couple times a year, but an unlucky few experience nightmares on a weekly, or even nightly, basis. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, nightmares tend to have similar elements. Believe it or not, these elements, like falling or losing teeth, can provide insight into what the dreamer has been worried about while conscious.

Enduring bad dreams lately? The best way to cope is to understand the symbolism in your nightmares and how your anxiety is shaping your dreams.

1. Falling

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Many people complain that their common nightmares include the sensation of falling, whether from the sky or a tall building. Some people even experience the feeling of falling down an elevator shaft. Falling dreams can be caused by both physical and emotional means. Typically, falling dreams tend to occur during the first phase of an individual’s sleep cycle. 

Sleep specialists theorize that as a person slips into unconsciousness, the body undergoes multiple physical reactions, including a drop in blood pressure and shifts in inner-ear fluid. Sometimes, these changes manifest themselves in dreamland, providing the sensation of tripping or falling.

Other times, dreaming about falling represent a person’s fear of losing control over something in their day-to-day lives or their experience of feeling imbalanced. Perhaps you just got a promotion and feel you are suddenly not spending enough time with your family. Or your relationship with a friend or partner has turned tumultuous, and you fear there is nothing you can do to rectify the situation. Falling not only represents lack of control; it also represents fear of failure. In order to rid yourself of nightmares about falling, you must first understand what is making you feel off kilter. 

2. Losing Teeth

Many people have experienced dreams where one or more of their teeth fall out. While it may seem a bit alarming upon awakening, rest assured that it is typically not your subconscious hinting at a health issue.

Most of the time losing teeth in a dream represents one of two possibilities: One, a person is feeling insecure about their physical appearance or their age. Two, a person is concerned about losing something, such as their financial prosperity, their job, or their sense of security. 

In short, losing teeth in a dream represents the uncontrollable loss of something real and important to the dreamer. Nobody is comfortable with the thought of losing their teeth, but try not to fret if it happens while you’re dreaming. It simply means that you are in some form of transitional period. The teeth leaving your body is a symbol of losing one thing while gaining another.

Related: Nightmare Fuel: 10 Books That Will Haunt Your Dreams 

3. Naked in Public

We’ve all been there: Everything seems to be going just fine when, all of a sudden, you look down at your body and realize you’re in nothing but your birthday suit. Typically, these naked dreams can be interpreted in one of two ways: the simplest explanation is that one is experiencing a fear of being called out or exposed about a particular issue.

Hiding your smoking habit from a new partner? Cheating on the diet pact you made with your friends? You might have a dream or two about being naked in public because there is something you are trying to hide from others. 

Another explanation of dream-nudity is feeling inferior to those around you. Being naked represents your fear of others seeing through your feigned exterior to the insecurities underneath. There is good news, though. If nobody in your dream seems to even notice you’re naked, it’s your subconscious telling you that your fears are unfounded.

4. Trapped 

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Maybe you’re stuck in a room without any doors, or maybe you can’t seem to get out of a car that’s about to crash. Even in dream world, feeling trapped is not a pleasant experience.

Luckily, nightmares about being trapped are pretty easy to interpret. You feel stuck in a real life scenario, be it a job you hate, or the inability to make an important decision. Whatever that has you in limbo may metaphorically appear in your dreams. If this is happening to you, it’s important to examine your life and try to determine what has you feeling trapped. Once you take action, these types of nightmares are bound to cease.

 5. Chased

Have you been avoiding something important lately? Feeling some nagging unresolved guilt over a past action or transgression? Well, don’t be surprised if these feelings manifest themselves as a monster or enemy chasing you in your nightmares.

Most sleep specialists agree that being chased in your dreams is often a sign that you are avoiding a negative circumstance in your life. This issue could be trouble with your boss or arguments with your children.

However, some researchers believe this issue of avoidance stems even further. They speculate that whatever is chasing you, whether it's a criminal, a hideous creature, or a famous monster, is, in fact, a representation of the dreamer themselves. They believe that whatever is chasing you shares characteristics with you that you have yet to accept about yourself. 

Related: 15 Creepy Historical Photos That Will Haunt Your Nightmares 

6. Betrayal

Try not to rush to any hasty conclusions if you have a dream about your significant other cheating on you. It’s not always what you think.

Sleep specialists actually believe that dreams about infidelity reflect your feelings about how much quality time you’re spending with loved ones, romantic or otherwise. If your partner or best friend are spending more time working or doing other things, then you might feel cheated by their lack of attention, causing these kinds of dreams.

Of course, dream affairs can sometimes have a literal meaning but it does not necessarily mean that your significant other is cheating on you. It could simply be your brain’s way of dealing with the stress you’ve put upon yourself by thinking about the possibility. 

7. Lost

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Like nightmares about being trapped, nightmares about being lost are fairly straightforward and easy to interpret. Being lost in a dream typically means that you’re feeling a little lost in real life.

As simple as these nightmares may seem, it’s important to discern how you got lost. Did you suddenly find yourself in completely unfamiliar territory? Or did you choose a fork in the road and then become unsure of how to make your way back? If the former, chances are your subconscious is trying to tell you that you’re in a rut, and it’s time for a drastic change. If the latter, it could mean that you’re on the brink of making a change, but are unsure about the final outcome. 

Occasionally, people will have dreams where they know where they are, but they have lost something valuable to them, such as a cherished heirloom. If you’ve experienced this kind of dream, it’s important to examine the goals and path you have set for yourself. Losing something of value can sometimes mean that you’ve lost your motivation, and need to find it again. 

8. Injured

Sustaining injuries in a nightmare can be quite jarring. Nevertheless, it’s important to study how your dream self became injured.

Did you wound yourself? Chances are, you’re worried about sabotaging yourself when attempting to reach a specific goal or milestone. Were you wounded by someone else? It could be that you don’t feel like you’re in control over your own life. Regardless of how your dream self became injured, another important thing to discern is how you handle your wounds in the dream.

Say a robber stabbed you, but you still found the strength to fight back. That is your subconscious way of telling yourself that no matter what you’re currently struggling with, you are strong enough to handle it. If you are attacked in a nightmare and can’t seem to recuperate, then you are in need of some confidence to find your way back in real life. 

Related: 19 True Stories That Could Ruin Your Sleep Tonight 

 9. Dying 

The last thing any of us want to experience when we go to sleep is a dream about being on the brink of death. Thankfully, dreams about death shouldn’t typically be interpreted as signs or omens. Instead, a death in your dreams usually represents the death of something old in order to make way for a new beginning.

Are you about to start a new job? Is your family thinking about moving into a new house? You may dream about death because you are symbolically closing one chapter of your life and starting another. These types of dreams can occur even when you’re happy about the upcoming changes going on.

Dreaming about others who have already died rather than your own death means very different things. Many spiritual mediums believe that we are more closely linked to the “other side” while we are unconscious. If this is the case, then you might be visited by loved ones who have already passed on while you sleep.

Dream meanings are often open to interpretation, but they aren’t as difficult to understand as one may think. Many things that occur in dreams are a direct reflection on our thoughts and feelings about what is happening in our day-to-day lives. So, the next time you dream about a murderer chasing you or that you’re trapped in a car at the bottom of the lake, try not to worry. Instead, look for the symbolism in your dream and interpret what your subconscious is telling you. It may help you become a happier person.