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Have you ever had the same dream over and over? Experiences of you falling off a cliff, being chased by a frightening being, or even being back at school? Recurring dreams are when the dreamer repeatedly has the same dream over time.
Recurring dreams are common, but when you frequently dream about the same thing, you might wonder: Is your mind trying to tell you something?
Amerisleep surveyed 2,007 U.S. residents and asked them questions about the nature of their recurring dreams. The surveyors were 49.9% male and 50.1% female, aged 18 to 74. Across the surveyors, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia were represented.
When Do Recurring Dreams Start
To better understand recurring dreams and their origin, the surveyors were asked when they had their first recurring dream. The research found that there is no exact time for recurring dreams, and it seems they can start at any stage of one’s life. Amerisleep’s survey found that 39% had recurring dreams in the early years of their lives, 21% indicated that their recurring dreams began in adolescence, and 15% said their dreams started in adulthood.
Interestingly, 25% of the surveyors admitted that they never had a recurring dream suggesting that recurring dreams are not universal and only affect certain people. So, what causes recurring dreams, and how did the 25% of surveyors get so lucky not to have experienced one?
What Causes Recurring Dreams
Many scientists have researched the cause of recurring dreams, and there has been no conclusive answer. A scientific study showed that ⅔ of recurring dreams were negatively toned, while only ¼ of recurring dreams were positively toned1. Scientists have linked the source of recurring dreams to events and disorders in the dreamer’s waking life, such as psychological needs, stress, anxiety disorders, and trauma1,2. These events tend to surface while the individual is asleep, resulting in uncomfortable recurring dreams.
What Do Recurring Dreams Mean
Throughout history, dreams have been a mystery. Some consider dreams a source of power or even a portal to another world, while others believe dreams are a way to communicate with the dead or supernatural beings such as angels.
Scientists have not been able to prove if dreams truly have a meaning or if they are simply a collection of images simulated by the brain’s overactivity during sleep. Unfortunately, dreams are challenging to study, and very little is known about them.
The Most Common Recurring Dreams
Recurring dreams often have common themes, and multiple dreamers experience similar dreams. According to the survey by Amerisleep, the most common type of recurring dream is falling, accounting for 53.5% of those surveyed. The second most common dream was being chased, with being back in school trailing close behind.
Other common recurring dreams include: flying, being paralyzed or unable to speak, seeing spiders, snakes, or other creatures, traveling to a beautiful place, losing teeth, driving an out-of-control vehicle, and being unable to find the restroom.
Certified Sleep Science Coach McKenzie Hyde said: “If you’ve been dreaming for years about falling off a cliff, running from a faceless stranger, or moving in slow motion, you’re definitely not alone. Recurring dreams, especially of the anxiety-inducing sort, are common throughout the U.S.”
In the study by Amerisleep, men and women reported a difference in the types of dreams they had. Interestingly, women are more likely to have uncomfortable recurring dreams about being chased or losing teeth, whereas men are more likely to have positive recurring dreams such as flying or getting rich. This data collected by Amerisleep indicates that while there is a common occurrence of recurring dreams, sex is a contributing factor to the type of dream.
How To Stop Recurring Dreams
Many people have reported having uncomfortable recurring dreams and have longed for them to stop prompting research exploring how to decrease or even eliminate the occurrence of these dreams. Many scientists have credited meditation3, improvement of sleep conditions4, exercise5, and calming activities6 to reducing the occurrence of recurring dreams.
Certified sleep science coach McKenzie Hyde, the most promising ways to minimize recurring dreams is to reduce day-to-day stress, get a comfortable mattress, and optimize contributing factors such as diet, room temperature when you sleep, and the overuse of technology before bed. While there is no exact documented method to eliminate recurring dreams, scientists are continually researching the topic.
The Bottom Line
If you have recurring dreams, you are not alone. While there is no definite cure, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising may offer relief from your recurring dreams. If the dreams begin to impact your quality of life, reach out to a mental health expert that can give you professional advice.
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This article was produced by Motherhood Life Balance and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
1. Schredl, M., Germann, L., & Rauthmann, J. (2022). Recurrent dream themes: Frequency, emotional tone, and associated factors. Dreaming, 32(3), 235–248. https://doi.org/10.1037/drm0000221
2. Weinstein, N., Campbell, R. & Vansteenkiste, M. Linking psychological need experiences to daily and recurring dreams. Motiv Emot 42, 50–63 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-017-9656-0
3. Sharma, H. (2015). Meditation: Process and effects. Ayu, 36(3), 233–237. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27313408/
4. Kline, C. E. (2014). The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8(6), 375–379. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25729341/
5. Childs, E., & de Wit, H. (2014). Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults. Frontiers in Physiology, 5, 161. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24822048/
6. Nguyen, J., & Brymer, E. (2018). Nature-based guided imagery as an intervention for state anxiety. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1858. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30333777/