Having the same dream over and over again is a fairly common human experience. And while they can be pleasant, most recurring dreams lean toward the negative.
Even if they aren’t nightmares, recurring dreams can often put people in stressful situations, like getting trapped, losing control of a vehicle or showing up late to an important event. Many theories agree that this is more than our brains torturing us—instead, the repeating themes are symbolically related to some kind of unresolved challenge or unmet need in our waking life. Sort of like wringing out the residue of our subconscious.
Whether or not there’s evidence backing this theory, it’s probably still a good idea to take recurring dreams seriously. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults who experience frequent recurring dreams tend to have worse psychological health than those who do not.
Recurring dreams can also be a symptom of PTSD or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). If this is the case, the Sleep Foundation suggests that it might be helpful to find professional support through therapy or counseling. That said, there are other lifestyle changes that can help alleviate recurring dreams, such as exercise, breathing exercises or meditation, as well as developing a solid sleep routine.
Reddit user u/Direct_Conclusion_40 asked the online community to share their own recurring dreams. As odd as they were, many people shared similar images and themes. And while each individual might have their own reason behind those dreams, it’s still cool to think that we all have this imaginary thread connecting us through imaginary experiences. Or at the very least, it’s fun to balk at how weird the human brain is.
Below are 13 odd dreams that people said they repeatedly have:
1. “Having to take an exam and realize I forgot to attend class all semester.”
This is so popular it got its own Washington Post article. The experts interviewed suggested that the dream represents being tested in some way, and there’s anxiety about not being prepared or measuring up. It’s coupled with the strong emotional memories tied to high school. Makes sense.
2. “Frustration. I can never dial the phone, or read the book, or arrive where I’m trying to go, or find what I’m looking for. It doesn’t matter what the scenario of the dream is, if I pursue it, it will be unobtainable.”
3. “Losing my teeth.”
Ah, another classic. I was personally interested in this one, as this dream haunts me. Turns out there are several potential reasons—everything from dealing with loss, to concerns about well-being, to a fear of being criticized. Oh, and death. It could mean that.
4. “Finding a new room, or sometimes a whole wing, of my apartment that has somehow been there the whole time without me noticing. Sometimes it has incredible things inside (like an amazing bathtub, or a beautiful mirror, or a carousel horse). It’s never exactly the same dream but the theme has been reoccurring for over 30 years.”
5. “Not finding a bathroom. The location changes (a mall, or school, or whatever) but I cannot find the bathroom. I’ve been told it’s anxiety.”
6. “Being chased.”
“Before my grandma died when I was younger (12ish), I had a dream about wolves chasing a girl up a mountain. I had this dream all the time, and the day they finally caught her… we got the phone call that my grandma died. It was crazy. I haven’t had that dream since.”
7. “Trying to dial 911 and touching only the wrong numbers over and over. While some emergency is going on.”
8. “For months I would build this monolith and while I’m dreaming I know it’s purpose, what it is. When I awake it’s gone, just memories of the labor. The next night I’d return to a clean slate.”
9. “So many of my dreams take place in a sad, dreary shore town somewhere east coast USA. Maybe Jersey/Delaware/Maryland/Virginia. Somewhere there. Always grey outside, chilly, not shore weather. Sad old row homes, a crappy boardwalk with broken rides and crappy shops that sell overpriced souvenirs, a weird airstrip for small private planes, one large building with an Italian restaurant on the top floor. And a giant wave that destroys it sometimes. Not weird at all.”
10. “Elevators that won’t stop going way up really really fast.”
11. “Tornadoes…I’m trying to not get sucked up by one and run but it always catches up. then it gets really hard to see it’s pitch black. I see nothing but i hear the loud wind and everything. As i feel debris crashing into me tearing me to shreds till only my consciousness is left of my life before i wake up entirely.”
12. “Traveling. Not like going on vacation, but I’m on a train/bus/plane and something stressful happens. Miss my stop, I’m late, forgot my passport etc. One time I dreamed my bags were so heavy I couldn’t move them.”
13. “The same for 30 years. There is a hole in the sky. I know what it is, and tell my family not to look at it. We organize and go about prepping the house for the impending doom. Sometimes looters come to my house and I have to kill them, I normally shoot them. Most of the time my wife gets shot. Sometimes I get shot.”