10 common nightmares and what they mean

Could these common nightmares really be a warning sign?

illustration of woman in bed with nightmares
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Common nightmares or recurring bad dreams can be really frustrating and distressing. We all have that one recurring nightmare that comes back to haunt us in our sleep, but what does it really mean? Could your common nightmares actually be warning signs? Or are they just bad dreams?

Research by US sleep brand Amerisleep found that women actually have more nightmares than men. 

The study revealed women dream about falling or about being cheated on by their partner more than anything else. Whereas, men are more likely to dream and flying or finding money—total bliss! 

Experts suggested this may be because women are more prone to anxiety than men, and nightmares are essentially subconscious anxieties playing out.

So, you mind find yourself worrying about something your partner said before your head hits the pillow and then fall into a nightmare where they cheat on you. Or, your anxieties might manifest in unusual ways, and your work stress could lead you to have nightmares about being chased. 

Here, we share the most common nightmares and help you decipher the meaning of dreams, so you can put your mind at ease... 

The most common nightmares 

1. Being chased

Being chased is one of the most common nightmares around the world, according to the research. This dream could suggest you're in pursuit of a goal but are perhaps encountering a frustration or a challenge in obtaining it. It may be that you're unsure of how to actually reach your goal or that you feel like it might be threatened in some way.

2. Falling

Another common nightmare, this dream can often relate to a feeling that you're not in control of something going on in your life. This may be down to work, relationships, money, or a fear of letting something go.

3. A partner leaving or cheating

A nightmare in which your partner leaves or cheats often reflects feelings of insecurity in your relationship. This may be a fear of not being good enough for your partner or another underlying anxiety you haven't addressed. It could also relate to a personal fear of losing touch with your fundamental needs, which may be making you feel less attractive and less confident than usual.

4. Teeth falling out

In your dreams, your teeth often represent power and confidence, therefore teeth falling out in a dream can symbolize a loss of confidence or a knock to your self-esteem. A nightmare in which your teeth fall out could also depict a fear of aging or a fear of being less productive in something.

5. Being naked in front of people

Realizing that you're standing in front of a crowd of people completely naked is a common nightmare often played out in TV shows and films. This kind of nightmare relates to feeling vulnerable and exposed in some areas of your life. It could also be that you're ashamed of yourself or something you may have done or said and you're worried about what other people will think of you.

6. Drowning

A nightmare where you're drowning in water may relate to a situation in your life where you're becoming deeply involved with something emotionally and immersing yourself in these feelings of commitment. A drowning nightmare whereby your head slips under the water could mean that you are overwhelmed by something and feel out of your depth. Likewise, a dream where you are unable to breathe might relate to you not being able to put your feelings into words.

7. Missing an important event or being late

Whether it's a work meeting, a doctor's appointment or meeting up with a friend, a dream where you're late for an event or even miss it entirely can relate to losing the opportunity to experience fulfillment. In the dream you may feel rushed and flustered, this could symbolize you feeling like time is running out for you to accomplish a certain goal you have set for yourself.

8. Injury

A nightmare involving an accident or injury can often represent feelings of weakness in your personal life, this dream could relate to an emotional wounding or embarrassment you've faced.

9. Your house being on fire or flooding

A nightmare in which your house catches fire or floods could reflect a creative transformation taking place in your life, or highlight the need for you to take creative action in order to transform your life. This nightmare could also relate to a feeling that your individuality and security are under threat.

10. Feeling trapped

A feeling of claustrophobia in a dream can reflect an inability to get out of a bad situation—one with no possibility of escaping. This could relate to an underlying feeling that you're unable to reach your full potential.