It’s the first day of final exams, and you show up unprepared. Worse, you’re naked. At least until the alarm rouses you from sleep, that is.
What are stress dreams? Why do they always seem to strike when you need sleep the most? What do they mean, and how can you stop these frustrating night visions?
Each night, your brain runs through several sleep cycles consisting of REM and non-REM periods. REM sleep produces vivid dreams that increase in length as you approach morning. Researchers remain unsure why the human brain does this, but healthy sleep cycles are imperative to concentration and functioning.
For many people, dreams contain snippets of real life, such as themselves cast into impossible or improbable scenarios. For example, one pleasant dream is that you can fly.
Unfortunately, others contain scenarios like the naked final exam. Where do these frustrating dreams come from and how do you stop them?
Some researchers hypothesize that they occur due to biochemical changes in your brain. For example, you might experience intensely haunting and evocative dreams as your brain’s neurotransmitters struggle to regain balance after a night of heavy drinking. Alcohol upsets the balance of several, particularly GABA and glutamate. Glutamate can produce anxiety in excess, which explains why this emotion presides in such night terrors.
Other researchers theorize that dreams help you process emotions repressed during the day. Still more say they represent your struggle to integrate new information into your existing mental schema.
All of these ideas have merit. However, these nocturnal visions also offer valuable insight into your psyche. After all, they arise from your mind.
Dream interpretation is an art, but you ultimately hold the brush. Your heart will know when a particular interpretation rings true. However, you might find wisdom in what dream symbolism researchers find as common meanings:
Dreams about being naked: Dreams about appearing nude in public often strike when you feel like a phony or afraid of someone else finding out about something you did. Search your conscience — if you’re not feeling guilty about anything.
Dreams about taking a test: Dreams about taking a test show how prepared you feel to deal with everyday life. If you don’t do well, you might be overwhelmed.
Dreams about being chased: Dreams about being chased can symbolize hiding something from yourself — such as anger — or a response to childhood trauma.
Dreams about infidelity: Dreaming about your partner cheating on you reveals underlying insecurity. Examine if there’s a reason for it. Dreams about you cheating on your partner can mean you feel unfulfilled in your relationship.
Dreams about death: Dreams about death can seem terrifying, whether they involve your demise or that of someone you love. However, much like the tarot card of the same name, these dreams symbolize pending change, not physical death.
How can you stop frustrating dreams? First, examine if there’s an underlying physical cause. For example, eating too much ice cream or cheese before bed can disrupt sleep. So can alcohol — while it may help put you under, it will wake you up partway through the night. Skip the nightcap.
If there’s no discernable physical reason for your nocturnal disruption, ask yourself what your stress dreams are trying to tell you. For example, it wouldn’t be unusual to have the dream about appearing for your final exam naked the night after a big job interview or even landing the position of your dreams.
Then, set the stage for relaxing sleep. Create a wind-down ritual that consists of a relaxing routine — perhaps brushing your teeth, washing your face, then settling in for a few gentle yoga stretches in bed before closing your eyes. If you find sleep difficult, get up and do something that won’t disrupt your sleep further. Try reading a book or sipping chamomile tea over pouring a nightcap while scrolling social media.
What are stress dreams? Sometimes, they occur in response to physical stimuli. Other times, they manifest from your daily worries and cares. They always carry a hidden message from your psyche.
Finding out the underlying meaning is how to stop frustrating dreams. Discover the hidden message your psyche holds in store and get the sound night's sleep you deserve.
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