The group had expressed an interest in spending a meeting exploring dreams and what they may mean. We all dream, not everyone may remember their dreams, and we found that people also remembered some very vivid dreams even from childhood. People also experienced recurring dreams, and some sleepwalking and talking.
We talked about people’s shared experience of common dream themes, these included being chased, but not being able to run or scream (paralysis), flying, or sky surfing or running so fast you could take off. Being on high places or cliff faces and having to let go, looking at big waves, driving out of control or plane crashes. People dreamt their teeth fell out and others dreamt about people they’d not seen for years randomly popping up and being reassuring. People had dreams about being back at school or taking a test or starting a job and not being prepared. Most people had the dream, or is it a sensation (?) of falling. Some of discovering new rooms in the house, whilst some dreamt of sweeties (sweet dreams?).
The stuff of dreams is still much of a mystery, and whether it is the brain resting and restoring, or consolidating memories, or whether they convey important messages is all still up for debate. The meaning of each dream is really up to the individual dreamer, however some generalised meanings for common dreams are below:
- Being chased may signify anxiety or feeling pressured, what are we running away from or avoiding?
- Linked to this is feeling paralysed, but this is because when we dream, our spinal cord switches off (to stop us from getting up and acting out the dream). For some people this remains in place after waking and can be very frightening as the body literally cannot move for a couple of minutes; this is called sleep paralysis.
- Flying can often be a euphoric feeling in a dream, signifying achieving goals and potential unless you can’t quite get off the ground which is maybe more about blocked or frustrated goals.
- Losing teeth can represent different fears, and commonly that of getting older or being unattractive.
- Showing up naked for work may be about feeling exposed or vulnerable.
- Dreaming about other people may be showing us different aspects of ourselves.
- It may be that dreams about pregnancy, babies and dying are all about new starts and changes in life.
- Taking a test which you are not prepared for or being back at school is maybe about not feeling prepared, or anxious, or lessons we need to learn from the past.
- Falling might be about needed to let go of something, loosen control.
- Dreaming about food, well we just might be hungry! Or we are need of some other kind of nourishment or learning and hungry for that.
- Dreams of water can be a reflection of how we are managing emotions and may include therefore dreams about still waters or stormy waves or fast flowing rapids.
Looking after yourself after a bad dream
Dreams and the emotions they create can have a powerful impact and lingering effect on us. Sometimes if people have experienced trauma, they may have bad and disturbing dreams about the traumatic event and wake from these feeling re-traumatised. We talked about how to ground yourself if this happens by reminding yourself where you are now, what you can hear and see and how you are safe. Equally it may be that a nightmare does cause trauma even it is not related to real life events.
Some sleep and dreams stats and facts:
33% of dreams contain bizarre elements impossible in everyday life
7 to 9 hours of nightly shuteye is best for adults
5% of the population can function normally on 4 hours’ sleep
11 days The longest anyone has stayed awake
100,000 Number of annual car crashes in US related to fatigue
31% of drivers in the US report having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point in their lives
30% of US workers sleep less than 6 hours a night
Everybody dreams but mostly people forget
Some people dream in black and white
Animals dream…and cats and dogs sleep for about two thirds of the time
Some blind people have visual dreams
Lucid dreaming is being asleep but in a state of awareness about the dream and even being able to control it
Your body is paralysed during your dreams and you can’t read or tell the time as that part of the brain is also shut down during dreaming.