What Common Recurring Dreams Mean and How to Change Them

Written by: Bethany Gemmell


Time to read 6 min

Almost all of us have had these recurring dreams. You appear to be going about your day as normal - and then - all of your teeth fall out! You then wake up and quickly realise that you had been dreaming. These types of instances of teeth falling out, falling, or forgetting to put your clothes on, are highly common amongst the population. These often repeat themselves to the point of annoyance or distress.

It is thought amongst many experts that recurring dreams have psychological meaning. Some theorise that your dreams are your brain's way of clearing thoughts from the day - known as "dreaming to forget". Others believe it is a way of processing perceived threats in our waking environment. Either way, recurring dreams could well mean that there's a problem weighing on your mind, whether you realise it or not. For peace of mind and a peaceful night's sleep, it is better to identify these dream clichés and address them once and for all.

Common Recurring Dreams

Teeth Falling Out

Your teeth falling out of may be the most common dream cliché of all, with 39% of the population having that dream at some point. There are many different theories about what it means, due to its vast frequency. Many, however, believe it to be about loss. This can be the loss in terms of grief, or maybe the end of a relationship or friendship.

Having this dream may mean you have unprocessed grief that you need to deal with, and have been bottling up your emotions over the loss. It may be a sign you should get in contact with someone you lost touch with, as it is having an effect on your emotional wellbeing.


Others believe it may mean a loss in a more abstract sense - more of a loss of control. This could be stemming from "feelings of inadequacy or vulnerability", according to experts. Major life changes, or feeling of being stuck in a rut, can cause the feelings of stress or unhappiness that make you feel like you lack control.

Experts at The Sleep Foundation believe there is a link between teeth dreams and grinding your teeth while you sleep. Many people grind their teeth in their sleep without even realising they're doing it. It may be worth chatting to your dentist next time you have an appointment to check for grinding damage. You can also ask for grinding prevention tips, or read medical advice online.


Dreaming of falling can be the scariest dream of all. The sensation of falling can feel incredibly realistic, causing us to wake up feeling frightened. It may cause you to stay awake and create an interrupted sleep. Similarly to your teeth, any feeling of falling is thought to represent feelings of loss of control or inadequacy.

There are also specific scientific reason that this sensation is so realistic. When your body is transitioning from waking to sleeping, your heart rate changes. This is when your body sets into sleep paralysis mode, and the sudden jolt is known as a hypnic jerk. Psychologist Tom Stafford describes hypnic jerks as "the last gasp of daytime motor control".


Hypnic jerks are typically harmless, and are the root cause of dreaming of falling. They actually serve biological purpose to help protect us while we sleep. These jerks are thought to protect our ancestors by waking them up should they fall from a tree or another height while sleeping.

The Big Exam

There's nothing quite like stressing in your sleep about an important test you've got coming up, only to wake up and realise you're not at school anymore. The most basic conclusion to come to is that you're dreaming this because you're stressed about making the grade in certain aspects of your life. Perhaps you want to impress other people, either socially or in terms of work. This could be recurring due to a crisis in confidence.


Others theorise that this recurring dream is due to the issue of making decisions. We often feel reluctant to make decisions in case they lead to failure or regret, as demonstrated by exams. This could also be awaiting a decision from someone else, and you also feel a lack of control. Perhaps a new change, such as in your social/family life or in work, you are anxious about whether you will pass or fail to measure up.

Forgetting Your Clothes

You may find yourself going about your fictional day in your dream, and then you realise - oops! You've been naked this whole time. You forgot to put your clothes on, and now you have to prevent anyone catching you - if they aren't laughing already. This often seems to happen to us in places with large audiences, such as schools. It's a pretty silly dream, but can be quite stressful when your sleep is meant to be peaceful.


Failing to remember to get changed can represent a change in your real life. For most of us, the idea of people seeing us without our clothes on provokes fear due to our vulnerability. We may feel vulnerable upon transitioning into a new job or role in our lives, or want to try something new but lack the confidence. This dream recurring for you should perhaps prompt a look within.

Running Late

Your alarm hasn't gone off and you're late for your appointment, and now you must scramble for your clothes and get to your destination in time. You just can't seem to catch up, no matter what you do. Then, you realise - you were in bed the whole time and you've not missed anything.


Dream psychologists believe the cause of this dream could be a feeling of inadequacy. Perhaps you feel like you're failing to catch up to other people, or you've missed a golden opportunity. You could also feel inadequacy in a new role or task you have in the waking world, thus the need to "catch up". It is worth reflecting on your feelings as of late should this dream be recurring.


Despite urban myths, dreaming of being pregnant is not a biological pregnancy symptom. Despite urban myths, dreaming of being pregnant is not a biological pregnancy symptom. The most common explanation is one of "expecting" something, or of a new life as a whole. This could be any major new life change - a new job, relationship, project, and more. The most common explanation is one of "expecting" something, or of a new life as a whole. This could be any major new life change - a new job, relationship, project, and more.


It could also mean that you're about to take on a new responsibility, much like a new baby is. Much like the dream of running late, you may be feeling unprepared about what's to come. If this dream is frequent for you, and is a stressful experience, there may be greater anxieties at hand that you need to deal with. Stressing about your responsibilities will only continue to interrupt your sleep.

Preventing Recurring Dreams

Recurring dreams, especially when they're distressing, can make you dread falling asleep. It is important to tackle any mental health issues that could be causing them. See, for example, our guide to dealing with bedtime anxiety to identify any factors that could be causing distress. These factors can include, but are not limited to, excess caffeine, irregular sleeping patterns, and overstimulation from electronics.

Using a dream journal to track your dreams may prove helpful for many sufferers. This can be done on paper or via your phone on various apps. Taking note of when dreams occur can help you keep track of patterns and what waking thoughts or events seem to cause these dreams. When you keep track of what happens in your dreams on a regular basis, you can begin to resolve their meaning.


Certain mental health conditions, such as PTSD, make nightmares much more likely. These conditions are unlikely to resolve themselves on their own. It is important to seek medical attention if at-home remedies fail to help, as it may indicate a deeper mental health issue. Your dreams may only stop recurring once resolved as part of a larger issue, often by therapy or medication.