"All of our dreams are just mash-ups of our previous experiences, whether good or bad," Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach and head of the National Sleep Foundation, tells Bustle. "Our brains never shut down per se; when we are sleeping, they are flushing our thoughts and experiences through our dreams." Stress dreams, he says, are often just a reflection of stuff that stressed you out that day. A study published in PNAS in 2019 found that when people are stressed, their bodies start to spend more time in REM sleep, leading to more extensive, vivid dreams.
While it's pretty easy to see that worry in your waking life can led to stressful dreams at night, it can be really hard to understand what they mean. Why are you dreaming that your teeth are falling out? Who's responsible for your fourth-grade teacher showing up to dream-yell at you for forgetting your pencil?
"The truth is dreams are very difficult to study scientifically," Steve Joordens, professor of psychology at University of Toronto and creator of a course on mental health during COVID-19, tells Bustle. But certain cues can give you an idea of what's really going on. Here are eight stress dreams and what they might mean for your life.
Dr. Steve Joordens
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