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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Lutheran chapter.

Every year at the same time (finals), I have a dream that the brakes on my car don’t work. The next night, I’ll have a dream that my teeth start falling out, an elevator that I’m on detaches from its cable, or I’m going on a trip in five minutes but haven’t packed a bag yet. Believe it or not, the stresses and anxieties of our day have a profound impact on the unconscious mind. You won’t just toss and turn at night; you’ll also be plagued by stress dreams that come in a variety of forms. This can actually have an effect on your daytime activities, so it’s important that you know where these dreams come from and how to stop them.

            Anxiety dreams can happen at nearly any time, but if you are having reoccurring dreams of being late, there may be something bigger in your life that you aren’t addressing. Often, dreams about the world ending, impending doom, natural disasters, falling, or running out of time during a test indicate an important opportunity and/or challenge that demands your attention. It might be eating away at your energy all day, then returning to the forefront of your mind at night.

            Another common theme in stress dreams is a lack of control. For example, falling, drowning, losing teeth, trying to run but staying in place, being chased, or not being able to steer a car can mean that you feel like your life is out of your hands at the moment. This is common during finals, because not only are you stressed, but your professors have the last say on your grade. If you have an A already, there’s no big sweat, but if you’re on the brink of an A and a B, you might not sleep so easy.

            There are many more types of dreams that are common when someone is stressed (find some at Dream Moods), and if you find yourself questioning the purpose of them, it may be as simple as addressing a deadline. However, continuous stressors may not be so easy to pinpoint, which makes it harder to get a good night’s sleep. There are a few things you can do to ease your body and mind before bed in order to nip these dreams in the bud.

Girl covering face with book
Photo by Siora Photography from Unsplash

            A great method is eliminating caffeine, but that isn’t always doable. If it doesn’t seem feasible to cut out coffee entirely, then set a certain limit or stop drinking about 6-7 hours before you plan to sleep. You should also have a routine before bed that includes some sort of mindfulness activity, whether it’s a skincare routine, yoga, or meditation. You can also keep a journal or a note page to jot down reoccurring themes in your dreams, which may help identify the source of your anxiety.  

            Sleep is very important for your health, and stress and anxiety make it hard to get a good night’s rest. You won’t just have dreams about being chased, being trapped in a room full of snakes, or rotting teeth, you’ll also be tired and unfocused during the day. Getting rid of the source of your stress will be the answer to all problems. But, until you are able to do that, limit your caffeine, practice mindfulness before bed, and create habits that allow you to reduce your anxiety at night so that you can be more productive during the day.

Sweet dreams!

Alea Lehr

Cal Lutheran '21

A Biology major with a love for anything and everything in the ocean! Any time away from examining coral structures, wading through streams, looking at cells, or grappling immunohistofluorescence is spent reading, writing, and baking. (She has the best banana bread recipe) Though she mostly composes scientific papers, creative writing is her true passion, and when she isn't coming up with an article, she's jotting down ideas for novels. During a bad case of writer's block, she tries to find inspiration by talking to her best friend, and dog, Bear.
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