Most people have recurring dreams and nightmares at some point in their lives.
This is normal, according to Dr. Bill Balzano, who holds a doctorate in psychology from the University of Alabama.
The president of Tennessee Christian Preparatory School explained normal sleep patterns and the meaning of common dreams to the Rotary Club of Cleveland Tuesday.
Common anxiety nightmares include where the person is naked, losing teeth, flying, falling or being chased. Balzano said these dreams occur in the sleep stage where the person is in paralysis. This is why in many dreams the dreamer is trying to move or run but is unsuccessful.
Many theorists believe dreaming about being naked indicates a feeling of vulnerability, fear, failure or shamefulness. Being chased may highlight a characteristic the person wants to change. For some, it simply demonstrates fear.
When worried about appearance or the opinion of others, it is common for a person to dream about their teeth falling out. Flying dreams can signify a person feels successful. Falling dreams could mean they feel unsafe or insecure.
Emotions from a dream can linger into the morning even after the person is awake.
Balzano said recurring dreams were what he was most interested in when he was a clinician.
“Recurring dreams indicate that there is some issue ... there is something that is concerning you,” Balzano said. “I very much suggest recurring dreams be looked into.”
Dreams can also affect a person’s life in a positive way. These are called epic dreams.
“It is in the dream phase that our mind, our emotions, our psyche organizes itself,” Balzano said.
He said this phase allows the body to sort out events and thoughts of the day.
Before his presentation, Balzano qualified that some of the information was merely factual and not what he personally believed.
“When one is asleep, one is not unconscious. It is an altered state of consciousness,” Balzano said.
Each night a person has several sleep cycles. Each sleep cycle can last 90 to 120 minutes. There are four stages of sleep. People can dream in any of these stages. Dreams are most common and creative in the REM sleep cycle.
The first stage of sleep lasts approximately five to 15 minutes.
Often during this phase people have slight hallucinations.
“Often you’ll get into bed and you’ll say, ‘Did you call me?’ — you think someone is calling you or you think you’re hearing a sound,” Balzano said.
Myoclonic jerks, suddenly jerking awake, are common in this stage of sleep. It is also in this stage of sleep that dreams about falling occur.
In the second stage, beta activity begins in the brain as it continues to relax.
Deep sleep is attained in stage three.
“The closer you get to morning the longer you spend in each cycle and dream,” Balzano said.
Balzano said he believes some dreams can be “spiritual in nature.”
“The Bible has a number of dreams contained within in its pages,” Balzano said. “There are dreams that I think may be God-ordained, but if not certainly have an impact on one’s spiritual life.”
Some theorists are concerned because busy schedules have many sleeping fewer hours a night, meaning less time spent in deep sleep.
Balzano said how you feel during and after a dream is more important to some theorists than the actual content of the dream.
“Sleep walking and certain kinds of nightmares occur in deep sleep,” he said.
There is actually no danger to waking a sleep walker, the presenter said.
Nightmares during deep sleep tend to be the most scary. Balzano said these frightful dreams, called incubus nightmares, often include a black, furry monster and the person feels like they are being smothered.
“Nothing unusual about it. Its not weird or demonic,” Balzano said.
Sometimes a person realizes that he or she is dreaming and can change the course of action in the dream. Balzano said these are called lucid dreams. Sometimes they are even aware of the dream’s setting, such as a recognizable room or other surroundings.
“There is nothing unusual about any of these dreams,” Balzano said.
Many of the things people think are unusual about their dreams or sleep habits, such as sleep talking, stem from anxiety.