Ever wondered why we dream in the first place?
It’s actually been surprisingly tricky for researchers to explain exactly why we do dream at night.
‘They could also be an outlet for making sense of emotions we suppress and need to deal with.’
And while Dr Nerina points out that the meaning of dreams vary from person to person, there are some common scenarios that most of us will find our minds will conjure up at some point while we sleep.
1. Dreams about: Falling
Whether it’s off a cliff or just free-falling through the air, it’s a very common scenario that a lot of us dream about.
‘With my clients, this usually stems from anxiety and not being able to let go,’ Dr Nerina says.
‘It can mean you’re trying to regain control of a situation, but can’t quite.’
This type of dream isn’t the same thing as that falling sensation that causes you to jerk suddenly and wake up.
That’s caused by your muscles going from tense to relaxed too quickly.
2. Dreams about: Being naked
‘This stems from vulnerability, and the fear of being exposed or not being good enough.
‘You may be stressed about people seeing you as you really are,’ says Dr Nerina.
‘Or it could be anxiety about an upcoming situation – for example, public speaking.’
3. Dreams about: Infidelity
This doesn’t necessarily mean you want to cheat, but it is a signal that you may want to explore something that’s missing in your relationship.
‘These dreams are often related to something you feel is lacking or a need that isn’t quite being met,’ Dr Nerina says.
4. Dreams about: Losing teeth
Your gnashers dropping out is another common dream, and Dr Nerina says it can be related to change and a fear of loss or losing something.
‘For other people, it can mean there’s something they need to say but they’re holding back,’ she adds.
5. Dreams about: Being unprepared
Have you dreamt about not being ready for an interview?
Of going on holiday but not having anything packed in your case?
‘This is a popular one and it’s often pure and simple anxiety about something going wrong or getting something wrong.
‘It usually happens to those who lean towards perfectionism,’ explains Dr Nerina.
Why we get recurring dreams
Ever feel like you’ve got dream déjà vu?
It’s probably because you did have the same one before.
‘When we harbour subconscious fears and worries that we don’t work through or process in our waking hours, it can force the subconscious mind to keep playing them at night,’ Dr Nerina says.
‘You should take it as a sign to address whatever problem it is you may be avoiding.’
What to do about bad dreams
The more we can rationalise our dreams, the less worrying they become. Here’s some advice:
1. Write things down.
If something is bothering you, or you’re worried you’ll forget about a chore the next morning, write it down before you go to sleep to stop that fear creeping into your dreams.
2. Don’t overload your system with stimulants.
This means cutting down on caffeine and sugar before bed, as well as TV shows that encourage an active mind.
Avoid blue light from your phone too. All these make nightmares more likely, as bad dreams are linked to over-stimulation of the nervous system.
3. Make space for creativity.
If you have a job where you aren’t able to express yourself, find activities or ways you can do it in your free time instead of suppressing your creative side.
4. Seek help for trauma.
If you’ve experienced a painful event or a loss, getting counselling is usually the healthiest way to move forward.
Did you know?
Bad dreams can be a sign of a good brain.
‘It’s thought those with very creative minds have more nightmares, as they can experience events at a deeper emotional level,’ says Dr Nerina.
True or false?
Dr Nerina weighs in on the old wives’ tales we’ve been told about dreaming…
Q: Dreams only last a few seconds
A: False – ‘Dreams can last a few seconds, but they can also go on for 20-30 mins.
It all depends on how deep your sleep is.’
Q: Eating cheese before bed gives us nightmares
A: False – ‘But certain foods can affect your dreams.
Stimulating ingredients found in Chinese food, for example, can cause them to be more vivid or strange.
So can drinking a lot of alcohol.’
Q: We can’t dream of faces we’ve never seen in real life
A: False – But if you don’t know the person, it is likely to be someone you’ve glimpsed in the real world.