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 they mean and what their 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 "mare", which means evil spirit. There are even those who say that a nightmare is a spirit that tries to harm a person during their sleep. 

It is a distressing dream that occurs in the REM phase of sleep cycle — one in which rapid eye movement occurs. Sometimes, the nightmare can be associated with tightness in the chest or a feeling of shortness of breath, and is usually accompanied by startling or agitation.

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


What happens during the nightmare?

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

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 nightmares. So, if you feel any of these, don’t be surprised:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Fear
  • Irritation
  • Sadness
  • Cold sweats


What are the causes of nightmares?

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

Therefore, it is important that you know that night nightmares can have different causes. Don't think it's all random. That strange and difficult to decipher nightmare has an origin:


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


If you are having a big event that makes you anxious, such as a wedding, the birth of a child or an important exam that could change your life, anxiety comes to the surface 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 has been a serious accident, if you have witnessed a crime or if someone close to you has died unexpectedly and this has traumatized you, it is common for nightmares to appear.

Sleep Deprivation

When your sleep is irregular and you spend hours in bed, nightmares tend to happen more frequently.

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


Medications for depression, blood pressure, parkinson's and seizures can increase the likelihood of having constant nightmares.

Substance Consumption

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


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

Horror movies

It's really true, watch horror movies before bed can greatly affect your sleep. Constant nightmares about scenes from films you've already seen can take over your nights.


How to prevent nightmares?

There is no holy remedy to end nighttime nightmares. However, there are ways to prevent them from appearing so often:

  • Establish a fixed time to sleep and wake up
  • Avoid scary stories or movies before bed
  • Do not drink coffee in the late afternoon or at night
  • Practicing physical activity: endorphins are released during exercise, what contributes to sleep
  • Do not drink large amounts of alcohol or consume drugs, especially before bed
  • Take a relaxing bath 
  • Read a book 
  • Don't eat before bed
  • To hear music or podcasts that help to calm down
  • To hear white noise


Alert! If you've been through a traumatic episode that doesn't get out of your head, you should consult a healthcare professional (e.g. a psychologist) who can help you deal with this problem. 


What do nightmares mean?

As we have 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 about a natural catastrophe, such as 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 faced with a situation that is beyond your control, that you feel uneasy about a certain type of relationship in your life or that you have difficulty managing your emotions.

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Someone who has already died

The nightmare that is based on someone who has already died and who is very dear to you is very common. It has to do with the emotional struggle you experience 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 may also be associated with a feeling of inferiority in relation to others.

In these types of nightmares, the way one dies is often the main object. If you have this nightmare, rest. It's a sign that you really like that person.

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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 that classic. 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 is revealed and there are problems in communicating or relating to someone. 

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Teeth falling out

This nightmare may also be related to self-esteem problems, insecurity and personality disorders, which are very common in teenagers.

The fear of being judged by other people, anxiety and concern about physical appearance may be behind these nightmares.

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Someone hurts you

When you dream that someone is hurting you, it often seems so real that you can even physically feel the 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 being formed.

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Not being able to leave a place

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

It could mean that you feel like you're between a rock and a hard place and don't see any way out, or that you're stuck with work, money or a certain task.

If you have ever been through a kidnapping situation, it is very likely that this nightmare is part of your nights.

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

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


At Colmol, our priority is the satisfaction of those looking to improve their night's rest through effective and quality products. Our team of Sleep Specialists provide personalized advice on a daily basis, adapted to the needs of each client who comes to us. 

If you are looking for this specialized help, you can contact us directly at::

  • telephone the number (+351) 300 600 110
  • or Send us your questions to

We are always available to help you… and your sleep 🧡


And thou? Do you often dream about strange things? Tell us everything! ⬇️💬

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