The 8 most common nightmares: what are the causes and what do they mean?

Nightmares can take over not only your nights but also your days. Understanding this phenomenon better, knowing what it means and what its causes are, is really the first step towards being able to live better with it.


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The nightmare is associated with negative situations and originates from the term "big", which means evil spirit. There are even those who say that the nightmare is a spirit that tries to harm the person during sleep. 

It's a harrowing dream that occurs in the REM phase of cycle do are — the one in which the eyes move quickly. Sometimes the nightmare can be associated with a tightness in the chest or a feeling of shortness of breath, and is usually accompanied by startle or agitation.

Nightmares can happen at any time of the night and are most common in the early morning hours, when you are less likely to wake up or return to other stages of sleep.


What goes on during the nightmare?

You probably already know this, but it's worth remembering so that you don't feel like an extraterrestrial.

After a nightmare, it is normal to lose track of what is real and what is part of our imagination. Sounds like an alternate reality, doesn't it? Don't worry, it's more common than you think. 

There are several symptoms that manifest with the nightmare. So, if you feel any of these, don't be surprised:

  • Accelerated heart rate
  • extreme anxiety
  • Fear
  • Irritation
  • Sadness
  • cold sweats


What causes nightmares?

No, nothing's wrong with you. We all have nightmares from time to time. And everything is fine!

That's why it's important that you know that nighttime nightmares can have a variety of causes. Don't think it's all random. That very strange and difficult to decipher nightmare has an origin:


When you are under stress due to everyday situations, if you received bad news, or went through a traumatic episode, such as the death of a friend or family, it is likely that you have constant nightmares that may or may not be related to it.


If you're going to have a big event that makes you anxious, like a wedding, the birth of a child or an important exam that could change your life, then anxiety comes up and the nightmare can happen.

 Mental disorder

Due to a traumatic event, various mental disorders can develop, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. 

If there was a serious accident, if you witnessed a crime or if someone close to you died unexpectedly and it traumatized you, it is common for nightmares to appear.

 sleep deprivation

When your sleep is irregular and you owe hours of sleep to bed, nightmares tend to happen more often.

If you work in rotating shifts or even if you traveled to a place with a totally different time zone from what you are used to and if the night nightmares visit you, don't be surprised. It's super normal.


Medicines for depression, blood pressure, Parkinson's and seizures can increase the chance of having constant nightmares.

Substance Consumption

Alcohol and drugs, especially those that cause hallucinations, can trigger constant nightmares. Even when weaning from these substances, nightmares may not let you go.


Serious injuries associated with traumatic events such as accidents, physical or sexual abuse can make the nightmare persist.

Horror movies

It's really true, watch horror movies before going to sleep can affect (a lot) your sleep. Constant nightmares with movie tickets you've already seen can take over your nights.


How to prevent nightmares?

There is no holy remedy to end night nightmares. However, there are ways to keep them from showing up as often:

  • Establish a fixed time to sleep and wake up
  • Avoid scary bedtime stories or movies
  • Do not drink coffee in the late afternoon or at night
  • Practice physical activity: endorphins are released during the exercise, what contributes to sleep
  • Do not drink large amounts of alcohol or use drugs, especially before bedtime
  • take a relaxing bath 
  • Read a book 
  • do not eat before bedtime
  • To hear songs or podcasts that help to calm
  • To hear white noise


Alert! If you've had a traumatic episode that doesn't get out of your head or anything, you should consult a health care professional (eg a psychologist) who can help you deal with this problem. 


What do nightmares mean?

As we've already seen, nightmares can have several explanations and are usually our mind's response to stress and anxiety.

However, it is important to know what the most common nightmares mean:


Natural disasters

Dreaming of a natural catastrophe like a tsunami or a big storm can mean that there is an imminent fear in the unconscious, always associated with anxiety.

It may mean that you are facing a situation that is out of your control, that you feel restless with a certain type of relationship in your life or that you have difficulty managing emotions.

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someone who has already died

The nightmare based on someone who has already died and who is very dear to you is very frequent. It has to do with the emotional struggle you go through when someone close to you leaves.

When this nightmare is constant, it means that you may be afraid of loneliness and feel insecure and anxiety. It can also be associated with a feeling of inferiority in relation to others.

In these types of nightmares, how you die is often the main object. If you have this nightmare, rest. It's a sign that you like this person very much.

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Missing an important event

When you dream that you missed an important event, such as a trip, a flight, a meeting or a wedding, it is a sign that you feel unable to complete a task or that you are afraid of failing.

This dream is directly linked to responsibility, pessimism and the feeling of not being good enough for something or someone.

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being undressed in public

This night nightmare is the classic one. Nudity is still a topic that not everyone finds it easy to approach. 

Dreaming about nudity means that you may be going through a less positive phase, where low self-esteem reveals itself and there are communication or relationship problems with someone. 

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teeth to fall out

This nightmare can also be related to problems of self-esteem, insecurity and personality disorders, very frequent in teenagers.

Fear of being judged by other people, anxiety and disquiet about physical appearance may be behind these nightmares.

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someone hurts you

When you dream that someone is hurting you, it usually feels so real that you can physically feel that pain. Our brain is really fascinating, isn't it?

Generally, when this nightmare happens, it can indicate that you feel vulnerable, and that your character and personality are still shaping.

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Not being able to leave a place

This nightmare is inappropriate for claustrophobics. It's just the worst nightmare we can have if we're terrified of tight quarters.

It can mean that you feel between the sword and the wall and you don't see any way out, or that you are stuck with work, money or a certain task.

If you've ever been through a kidnapping situation, this nightmare is likely to be part of your nights.

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How many times have you dreamed that you are falling and woke up with your body making a sudden movement? Yeah, this nightmare is quite common.

Its meaning can include an excess of stress and anxiety in daily life. It can also indicate that you feel unable to solve a problem that concerns you.

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These tips will help you understand more about your unconscious, promoting self-knowledge. 

However, it is important that you understand that they are not written in stone: it does not necessarily mean that you are going through these situations in your daily life. They are just clues that will teach you more about yourself.

If you want to know more about the meaning of dreams, find out more here. 

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