Bad Dreams: The 10 Most Common Nightmares & Their Meanings

4 min read

Last Modified 24 June 2022 First Added 5 July 2016

By Brett Janes

We all have bad dreams and nightmares – whether it’s being chased, our teeth falling out, or finding ourselves naked in the middle of the high street. Just like dream meanings, most of us wonder what exactly our nightmares mean too. Experts have clarified that our nightmares echo patterns of human behaviour and are often linked to the experiences we’ve been through. They reflect who we are and what’s on our minds. However, plenty of us want to know the meaning of our own specific nightmares. So, while the decoding of bad dreams is not an exact science, here’s a guide to the most common nightmares and their meanings.

List of common nightmares

10 Common Nightmares & Their Meanings

Every night during sleep, each of us creates around 5 dream episodes. These dreams can last for between 15 and 40 minutes, so we all spend around two hours dreaming every night.

With 7 billion dreamers on planet Earth, that means we collectively create 35 billion dreams in any 24-hour period.

All of these dreams mirror fundamental patterns of human behaviour.

Some believe these dream patterns reflect who we actually are, what we really need and what we believe.


1. Teeth falling out

Dreams about your teeth falling out can reflect your anxieties about your appearance and how others perceive you. Such dreams may stem from a fear of rejection, embarrassment or feeling unattractive.As teeth are used to bite, tear, and chew, dreams about losing your teeth can stem from a sense of powerlessness which means you may be experiencing self-confidence issues.

2. Being chased

Being chased in a dream suggests you are running away from something that is causing you fear or anxiety in waking life.

It indicates that you have a tendency to run away or avoid a particular issue. The chaser can also represent an aspect of yourself e.g. your own feelings of anger, jealousy or fear can manifest itself as the threatening figure.


3. Unable to find a toilet

Having trouble finding a toilet means you may be finding it difficult to express your needs in a certain situation. It can represent feelings of your personal needs not being met by always putting others first.You may feel that you are lacking time for personal issues and need more privacy, self-care or self-expression.

4. Naked in public

Being naked in a dream symbolises not being able to find yourself, uncertainty, or being wrongly accused.

If you are not the naked person in your dream, but you see a nude person and you are sickened by it, it means you are worried about exposing that person.


5. Unprepared for an exam

Exam dreams can be so real that we actually wake up convinced we just failed an important test. At least 1 in every 5 people will experience an exam dream in their lives.Exam dreams are a reflection of your lack of confidence and inability to advance to the next stage in life.

6. Flying

A tough time flying in your dreams suggests that someone (or something) is stopping you from moving to the next step in life.

Being afraid to fly proposes that you might be having trouble keeping up with the high goals you set for yourself.  If you were alone and struggling to fly, it implies that you are lacking confidence within yourself.

7. Falling

If you fall in your dream and are overcome by fear, it signifies insecurity and anxiety about a situation.Enjoying the feeling of falling suggest that you are not afraid of changes.

8. Out of control vehicle

Dreams of cars represent our drive in life and the direction we are taking.

At this stage of your life you may feel that you are off track and need to get back on the road to keep going.

9. Finding an unused room

If you learn of a new room in your dreams, it denotes new outlooks and abilities that you have realised about yourself.If the room is white it means you are ready to make a new beginning in your life.

10. Being late

Dreaming that you are late represents your worry and anxiety about taking a different direction in your life, or that you are trying to get things done but you feel that you are running out of time.

Remember, when you are trying to figure out what your common nightmares mean, your unconscious will not spell it out for you; this is a job for your conscious to figure out.

Dream symbols are presented in a metaphoric fashion for you to decode.

Struggling with bad dreams & nightmares? Learn how to stop them with our guide on How To Stop Nightmares.

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