Annie, 10, once had a dream where she was running and two guys were following her.
Sarah, 8, remembers a scary dream where she was in a cave all by herself, and there were bats and writing on the walls.
Rachel, 11, told us: "I dreamed that I was sitting at the kitchen table when I asked for a glass of water, and when I drank it I just fell over and died."
Everyone has nightmares; they're totally normal. Sometimes they don't bother us and we forget them pretty quickly. Other times, though, they happen over and over, and can be very upsetting (no matter how old you are!).
Nightmares can represent general fears and anxieties, or specific things that are troubling you. Studies show that nightmares are most common in childhood, and most people eventually grow out of them. Among both kids and grown-ups, though, nightmares may increase during times of uncertainty or stress. If you're nervous about starting in a new school, or you're worried that your folks are fighting too much, these issues could show up in your nightmares in some obvious or non-obvious way.
Nightmares do two things to us: first, the bad dreams themselves can make us scared or nervous. Secondly, they might point to problems in our real life, and can be a sign that we should work on these problems. Nightmares about math class, for example, might mean you should work a little harder to do better in that subject. But other times, nightmares are about things we can't easily change or control in real life, and then we should try to deal with the nightmares rather than what might be causing them. Here's how:
- Seek Comfort. If a nightmare has you really shaken up, get some reassurance. A parent hugging you and telling you everything is all right can help you get back to sleep. Talking about your nightmare with your family can also be helpful, since nightmares are much less frightening in the light of day.
- Do Some "Re-Writing." Another way to get some power over your bad dreams is to pretend it's not a dream but a picture, story, or movie. Change the characters, events, or ending in the nightmare so that it doesn't seem scary anymore. If you concentrate hard enough, you might find that even when the nightmare comes back in your sleep, it's been changed to fit your new version.
While we're on the subject of nightmares, let's put a rumor to rest. You may have heard friends say that if you die in your dream (like if you fall off a cliff and don't wake up before hitting the ground), then you will die in real life. This is totally untrue. Lots of scary things happen in nightmares, but they can't hurt you in the real world!
In the next section, we look at whether Controlling Dreams is possible.