These are the top 10 most common nightmares, according to science

In 2018, Michael Schredl and his research team analysed more than 1,200 dreams to make a list of the 10 most common nightmares. Keep reading to see if your nightmares are normal!

These are the top 10 most common nightmares, according to science
© Kinga Howard / Unsplash
These are the top 10 most common nightmares, according to science

Although REM sleep is still somewhat of a mystery, its usefulness is recognised: whether pleasant or not, a dream or nightmare is an expression of the unconscious. One of its main functions is to help us assimilate the information and emotions we have absorbed during the day. So, even if our dreams are unique to each of us and are fomented by our subjectivity, certain fears are universal... These are the most common nightmares: finding yourself naked in a public place, falling off a building, being chased...

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In a study published in 2018, Michael Schredl and his colleagues analysed more than 1,200 dreams, asking test subjects to recall their most recent nightmares. They then categorised them into different themes.

Here are their top 10.

10. Infestations

What are infestations? Dreaming of an invasion of parasites or other charming creatures in your home or in a familiar place.

What does it mean? According to Schredl, an infestation could represent a fear of disease or dirt, or anything else you personally associate with mice, cockroaches or rats. It could also be an example of feeling insecure or unsafe in your home.

9. An evil presence

What is an evil presence? It's feeling a malevolent and/or supernatural presence not far from you. A particularly recurrent nightmare for people suffering from sleep paralysis.

What does it mean? These imaginary characters worthy of a horror film are in fact the result of a trick played by your brain, which uses familiar cultural symbols to depict your fear, according to Baland Jalal, a Harvard neuroscientist.

8. Worst-case scenarios

What are they? Tsunami, earthquake, fire... These uncontrollable disasters are a very common subject of universal anxiety in 'real life'... and they come out during the night.

What does this mean? According to Stanford's Corelli, it signals apprehension about the future, or a fear of change.

Read more:This is what it means to dream you're naked at work

7. Feelings of anxiety

What's that? You know the feeling where you KNOW you've forgotten something important, but you can't put your finger on it? In Schredl's study, many individuals testified that they knew something was wrong but didn't know why, hence the feeling of unease.

What does it mean? It's more an unpleasant emotion than the subject of a nightmare. However, if you are having this nightmare, it is possible that you experienced this feeling during the day.

6. Disagreement

What is a disagreement? In this type of scenario, the dreamer witnesses or takes part in a non-violent argument.

What does it mean? These dreams may be emblematic of social anxiety, or reflect frustration/regret at not having had the opportunity to know what to say during an argument, or with a third party.

5. Death and illness

What are they? Unsurprisingly, death and illness are in the top 5 of this ranking. 11.6% of the test subjects said they had recurring nightmares about them. In this type of nightmare, the dreamer explains that they are powerless to witness the illness or death of someone close to them, or themselves.

What does it mean? These dreams are complex and depend very much on what you are going through at the moment. Generally speaking, they reflect a fear of death and the randomness of illness.

4. Being chased

What does this mean? In these dreams, you may be chased by a human, an evil presence, a creature, or even by a presence you cannot see.

What does this mean? According to Schredl, these dreams are generally the response of anxiety to a deadline that you would like to avoid.

Read more:This is what your sex dreams are trying to tell you

3. Accidents

What are accidents? Present in 15% of reports, this theme encompasses falls, transport accidents, drowning, etc.

What does it mean? These dreams may simply represent fear of driving, swimming or a sudden dramatic event. But they can also be the result of a feeling of loss of control, fear of death or abandonment.

2. Physical aggression

What is physical aggression? The logical continuation of number 6 in this top, this is the theme of nightmares, which includes attacks, fights, etc.

What does it mean? This type of nightmare represents social anxiety, a fear and rejection of violence, where you may feel vulnerable to criticism.

1. Failure

What is failure? A recurring theme in more than 18% of the reports. Failure, and therefore the fear of failure, is at the top of Schredl's list. This theme includes everything that comes close to failure in the face of a very important event, or something for which there has been a great deal of investment.

What does it mean? There are many possible interpretations of these types of nightmare. Dreams of failing exams, for example, show a lack of confidence in your abilities, or in what others think of your performance.

Read more:Sleeping in this position could lower the risk of nightmares, according to expert

This article has been translated from Gentside FR.

Sources used:

Harvard University: Baland Jalal

National Library of Medicine: Nightmare Themes: An Online Study of Most Recent Nightmares and Childhood Nightmares

Science Alert: The 10 Most Common Nightmares, According to Science

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