Nightmare meanings: What your terrifying dreams mean, and why you should never ignore them

Nightmare meanings: What your terrifying dreams mean, and why you should never ignore them

August 9, 2021

WHEN we're awake we dream of winning the Lottery or getting a promotion, but when we attempt to get some shut eye at night some frightening things are on our minds.

We often dream of falling, being suffocated or even being naked in public – all nightmares we dread.

And some dreams can be so terrifying they wake us up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night.

But once you’ve got over the initial fright, many of us are left scratching our heads, questioning what the scary ordeal really means.

Dreams, or nightmares, happen when our dreaming brain processes the things we've experienced in the past few days, dream analyst Jane Teresa Anderson told The Sun Online.

She said: "The story line of the dream is symbolic, which is why it’s important to understand what they mean.

"But there are techniques you can learn to interpret your own unique dreams and nightmares."

Here she reveals what the top ten most terrifying dreams really mean…

1. Dying or becoming ill

Enduring an agonising dream where you see yourself dying is incredibly distressing.

But rest assured it is not a premonition, Jane said.

“Nightmares featuring death have many causes, ranging from processing your fears of death and beliefs about mortality, to more positive themes of letting old attitudes and behaviours die to make room for the birth of new and better ways," she says.

“Change is always scary, even when we invite it.

“These nightmares may help us to understand our fears and feelings about letting our old ways die so that we can grow and change.

“The challenge in understanding death dreams is that we tend to be so convinced that they’re about actual death that we find it hard to get perspective.”

2. Natural disasters

Dreams based around environmental crises indicate that you are anxious about something happening in the future.

Natural phenomena are unpredictable, suggesting that you may feel out of control.

Jane says: "This common nightmare theme can reflect fears and feelings of being totally overwhelmed by an inevitable onslaught, like a tsunami.

“Each dream is unique, but some people might relate to being unable to cope with an emotional or mental deluge, while others might relate to feeling that life’s demands are increasing to giant, insurmountable proportions.

"Most people relate to water in dreams as being emotional – it flows like emotions.

"From a health perspective this nightmare might invite you to look at creating healthy limits to what you take on, or to take time out – or therapy – to come to terms with overwhelming emotional matters.

"Since the body often follows the mind, it might be worth checking on fluid retention."

3. Suffocating

Jane said: “Occasionally you can have this nightmare when your nose is blocked, or you’re suffering asthma, but you would already be aware of this.

“More commonly this nightmare is about feeling restricted, physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, or feeling suffocated by someone’s attention or your life situation.

“For your health and wellbeing, you need to understand the fears that are holding you back from taking up your personal space in the world, fears that are limiting how you express yourself, fears that cause you to shrink back.

“Understanding those fears is the first step in overcoming them.”

4. Falling

Chances are most people have endured this one – you're falling and all of a sudden you jolt awake before you hit the ground.

While it may get the heart racing and leave you in a bit of a panic, there's not as much to worry about as you might think, explained Jane.

She said: "Be guided by what happened to cause the fall."

If you let go of a cliff edge, you should look at what you are letting go of in your life; if the ground crumbled beneath your feet, look at what is shifting in your life.

If you were climbing and lost your grip it could indicate that you've lost sight of your goals, while falling into a black hole could indicate depression.

Jane added: "These are not precise interpretations, they’re examples of how to question your dream and find the connection in your life.

"Explore your dream – is it time to let go and face your fears, to firm your ground, to fall trustingly into the unknown, to change your goals, to explore your sadness, or to fall in love with life?"

5. Being naked in public

Finding yourself in public completely naked is something we all dread, dream or no dream.

Dreaming of wandering about in your birthday suit, though potentially a funny tale to tell pals, is actually a sign of something deeper.

It can mean you're not feeling comfortable in your own skin, and may be struggling with confidence and self-esteem.

Jane said: "Do you feel or fear being seen for what you are?

"Not in the flesh, but being seen for what’s in your heart and mind and soul? Is public image important to you, and why?

"Is it time to be more transparent and honest, or to feel good about your natural authentic self rather than try to hide behind an image? Or are you feeling vulnerable, and in need of protection?

"Explore these questions and you’ll know what to do."

6. Out of control car

Cars in dreams represent your path in life.

An out of control or speeding car means you might be heading in the wrong direction or moving faster than you should.

Jane said: “Interpretation might help you to see where you feel out of control, or where you fear being out of control.

“If you fear being out of control in some area of your life – if you’re a control freak – your nightmare might picture this fear as trying, and failing, to drive an out of control car.

“A car without brakes in a nightmare might help you to understand the pressure you put on yourself to keep going.

“From a health point of view, if you relate to this possible meaning for your unique nightmare, ask how you can ease up, or take more breaks, otherwise you may be headed for a physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual crash – or all of these.”

7. Being chased

People that commonly experience dreams where they are chased are often those that are afraid of confrontation.

It suggests that you want to run away from your problems instead of facing them.

“This scary nightmare may help you to understand that you are running away from facing something,” according to Jane.

“The more we run from what we fear, the more that fear chases us in life.

“For example, if you run from sorting out a financial problem, it will get worse. It will haunt you as if it’s chasing you.

“You might be running from any issue; aging, health, decision-making, your negative thoughts, a medical diagnosis, or an aspect of yourself or your life that you’re trying to escape.

“Interpreting your dream helps you to identify what you’re running from – what you feel is chasing you down.

“Then you can turn around, face it, and resolve it.

“This action will help restore your health and wellbeing on every level, and improve your life dramatically.”

8. Not being able to move

“This dream sometimes occurs when your mind begins to wake up but your body lags behind in dreaming mode,” explained Jane.

“This is known as sleep paralysis.

“When we dream, our muscles are incapable of moving much.

“This is nature’s way of preventing us from getting up, acting out our dreams, and getting hurt.

“When the mind and body are out of sync for a few seconds, we can dream that we’re paralysed.

“If this happens, just breathe calmly knowing it will pass, and it will.

“At other times, this can be a fully symbolic nightmare that may come up when you’re feeling restricted in life, or paralysed – emotionally or mentally – from taking action.

“Interpreting your nightmare helps you to identify what is holding you back.

“Our dreams reveal our unconscious fears and blocks, and it’s powerful to discover what these are.

“In health terms, your emotional or mental wellbeing is compromised.

“Since physical disease can follow mental or emotional stress, take steps to mobilise your body and enhance your flexibility.”

9. Teeth falling out

According to Jane dreams of teeth falling out can suggest a lack of confidence or vulnerability.

It can also represent anxiety about ageing or losing something or someone crucial to your emotional survival.

She told The Sun Online: "Be guided by how you felt in the dream.

"Were you embarrassed, shocked, vulnerable, hesitant to open your mouth, or devastated that you couldn’t put them back in?

"Do you fear what comes out of your mouth or feel embarrassed or regretful about something you’ve said?

"This is probably about communication and confidence. Visualise yourself with sparkling strong teeth speaking sparkling confident words."

In Chinese tradition teeth crumbling or falling out is associated with telling lies or not being true to your values.

10. Unable to find a toilet

The land of nod aside, most people can relate to the sheer terror of needing a pee but not knowing where the nearest toilet is.

But when that frantic fear enters your sleepy mind, what does it mean?

On a practical level, it may just be your body's way of telling you to wake up and get to the bathroom pronto.

But it could also mean you are struggling to let something go.

Jane said: "Do you feel you can’t find any privacy to let go emotionally at some level? Are you carrying some sh*t and can’t find a way to let it go?

"This dream can come up when you have a full bladder or bowel, but when you wake up and don’t need a toilet you know it’s symbolic.

"What is blocking you from finding privacy and letting go?

"Perhaps book a massage or some time to yourself to relax and release what’s blocking you in your life."

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