Recurring Dreams: What Do They Mean?

Ever find yourself at a party and suddenly realize you are wearing nothing but your underwear or, worse yet, standing there stark naked? Such is the stuff of recurring dreams. But what does it mean?

The purpose and meaning of dreams is debatable; no one really knows for sure. But sleep researchers seem to agree that recurring dreams—which often begin after or in anticipation of a traumatic or stressful event and are usually scary or, at the very least, disturbing—can ultimately help identify anxiety.

By paying attention to the frequency of recurring dreams, and working through the feelings they provoke, you may be able to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety in the long-term, and function better during waking hours, says Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist specializing in sleep disorders, and author of Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep.

Like nightmares, recurring dreams generally begin during times of stress and during adolescence. Only rarely do they begin in adulthood, though they may continue on from childhood into your later years. When an adult does report a new, recurring dream, it usually has to do with a current emotional problem.

When there are similar patterns and themes in your dreams, they may reflect a persistent theme or issue in your waking life. There may be something you are not taking care of, be it a feeling or a situation or a responsibility. It is also interesting to look tat the differences in recurring dreams. They, too, may reflect your changing thoughts and behavior with respect to an ongoing issue.

Not all recurring dreams are the same; for instance, some people have frequent nightmares but the nightmare itself changes from dream to dream. Psychologists who work with recurring dreams hear similar themes from their patients, however, so they know that the feelings behind by these dreams are universal. Common themes include a school setting, being attacked or chased and nakedness or some other representation of vulnerability. For you, each component of a recurring dream-the people, the location, the colors, the mood-represents something important to you and may represent inner thoughts and feelings that you haven't resolved or may not have even recognized.



Michael Breus, PhD

Schneider, A and Domhoff, GW. Finding Meaning in Dreams: The Repetition Dimension in Dreams and Waking Cognition (Chapter 9). University of California, Santa Cruz 17 Oct 10. Web. 20 Jan 11