Stress Dreams: A Guide To Avoiding Them

May 19, 2021
01:00 P.M.
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What's the difference between a stress dream and a nightmare? Here's everything you need to know about stress dreams and how to avoid them.


Life challenges and anxiety can creep into one's dream and become what once was a restful night's sleep into an unpleasant experience. Stress dreams do not only disrupt sleep, but they can also add anxiety and stress to the morning and the rest of the day.

But what causes stress dreams (also called anxiety dreams)? And what's the difference between a nightmare and a stress dream? We've decided to write this guide to help you avoid them.

What's a Stress Dream?

Photo by Bruce Christianson on Unsplash

Photo by Bruce Christianson on Unsplash


An anxiety or stress dream, in a nutshell, is a dream that is uncomfortable enough to cause distress. The person who is having such a dream might feel uncomfortable or nervous during the dream, and this feeling of uneasiness follows them throughout the day.

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

On the other hand, nightmares are more frightening, and they can cause some sort of panic. According to the website Mind Body Green, "a stress dream can be about anything remotely bothersome and even ordinary, whereas a nightmare tends to be "gruesome or life-threatening, and are frequently related to trauma."


Common Causes of Stress Dreams

Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash

Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash

Dreams are mostly our subconscious mind's interpretation of certain situations we're dealing with in our waking life. The leading causes of stress dreams could be:

  • Traumatic events
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Recent life change
  • Uncertainty
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Alcohol and drug use

Common Types of Stress Dreams


Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

According to the dream expert Leslie Ellis, Ph.D. who shared with Mind Body Green, some common stress dreams could look like this:

  • Being late for something important
  • Natural disasters like tornadoes or floods
  • Lose something important (like money, wallet, documents)
  • Trying really hard repeatedly to do something and not being able to

How To Stop Stress Dreams

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash


There are a few things you can try to stop stress dreams from happening and some of these techniques might help you to deal with problems you're having in your waking life as well.

  • Try Meditation. Meditate just right before going to bed or when you wake up after a stressful dream.
  • Journaling. We've extensively shared here the benefits of journaling. This technique, applied before going to bed will help you ease and declutter your mind.
  • Avoid alcohol before bedtime.
  • Sip on a calming tea before going to bed. Such as camomile or lavender.
  • Try Yoga. Restorative or Yin yoga are good options.

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