My air conditioner induces nightmares. I'm serious. If I don't sleep with it on, I wake up in the middle of the night sweating, but if I do sleep with it on, I wake up in the middle of the night convinced I'm being stalked by anti-choicers who secretly implanted a dead baby inside of my womb that I'm forced to carry to term. Although I'm the only creative genius I know to conjure that particular scenario up (#jezebelnightmares), I've noticed that most of my friends struggle with the same five types of stress dreams.
The Bizarre Medical Emergency Stress Dream
Six years ago, I had a dream that half the hair on the right side of my head fell out while I was asleep. SIX YEARS AGO, and yet I'm still half-convinced that I have less hair over there than I should. I've been known to ask friends if the left side of my head looks...fuller than the other side. ("Yeah, because you have a side part," is not an acceptable answer; the only one is, "No, Katie, you're not going bald.")
According to the highly scientific website Dream Moods ("You are entering the mysterious and fascinating world of dreams, where the rules of reality do not apply"), dreams about your teeth falling out are most common: they imply that you feel ugly, embarrassed, or a general lack of agency. I had this dream at least once a week after I graduated from college. The state of my dream-teeth reflected my psyche so transparently that I would actually roll my eyes at my obvious anxieties when I woke up in the morning. Couldn't I at least be insecure and original? If I was really feeling crappy, I'd dream that I had a dream my teeth were falling out but then I'd wake up and they actually did! A meta double-nightmare. If I was feeling better, I'd dream that my teeth fell out but that was supposed to happen when you were an adult, so it was okay. It was all very tiring.
Weird pregnancy dreams also fall under this umbrella; my implanted dead baby nightmare, for example. Or maybe you're regular-pregnant but you can't abort it or even give it up for adoption. Or maybe it's a pregnancy urban legend: you poop your baby out into the toilet. It could also be an alien!
According to Dream Moods, dreaming about balding "suggests a lack of self-esteem or worries about getting older." If you dream that you are giving birth to a monster, "then it implies that your inner creative energy has yet to blossom and grow into expression. You may have some hesitation in releasing this 'monster' for fear that others will judge you or that they will not accept your ideals." Deep.
The Test Stress Dream
This is by far my most common recurring dream (it also ranks high on Dream Mood's "Most Common Dreams" list), and it's always exactly the same: I'm at UC Berkeley (where I went to college), and for some reason I signed up for a geometry class. I never went, and now it's finals time and I don't even know what a trapezoid is. The professor is my super empathetic ninth grade geometry teacher, which means I have a slim chance of talking my way out of the final — the dream always ends as I walk into his office, prepared to argue my case. I wake up overjoyed that it's okay if I forget which shapes have parallel sides/will never have to go through the shitshow that is registering for classes at a massive public university ever again.
Dream Moods says this dream "indicates that you are being put to the test or being scrutinized in some way." OH REALLY? "These dreams usually have to do with your self-esteem and confidence or the lack of….test dreams are also an indication that you are being judged." I'm sensing a theme here.
Errand Stress Dreams
These are the least traumatizing stress dreams but definitely the most annoying. Sometimes I'll spend the entire night going to the DMV, taking stained dresses to the dry cleaners, and deciphering my taxes. Usually, to add insult to injury, I'm running around doing the same errands in my dreams that I'm putting off in real life, which means I wake up feeling guilty.
Dream Moods says "To dream that you are running errands indicates that you are stuck in a rut. Your daily life is too much of a routine." OR, "Alternatively, the dream signifies harmony and mutual understanding in your domestic sphere." Mmk, I'm going with the latter!
The Ex/Enemy Sex Stress Dream
A certain Jezebel staffer often has sex dreams involving people she hates: "And sometimes I orgasm and wake up during the orgasm and I'm always like, YOU WHORE."
Dream Mood's analysis: "Enemies may also represent the enemies within yourself and the inner conflict you have with yourself. Consider the phrase 'I am my own worst enemy.'" She is currently considering that.
Mine are different: I have recurring dreams that I'm back together with an ex-boyfriend, even though I don't want to be with him in real life. These dreams are painful to wake up from because they're always a montage of the best moments of our relationship: everything is so perfect that I feel a huge sense of loss when I realize it's not for real, especially since I'm always like, "is this really happening?" during the dream. Nope!
Let us consult Dream Moods! "If you dream that you want your ex-boyfriend back, then the dream may reflect waking feelings of actually wanting him back." Thanks for nothing, Dream Moods.
The Orange Is the New Black-Inspired Stress Dream
I've had three dreams that I inadvertently did something illegal since I finished binge-watching Orange is the New Black. Last night, I was an accessory to murder, I think? The crime itself is always vague, but the crippling paranoia and the knowledge that I'll have to be on the lam for the rest of my life, living under the threat of wrongful incarceration, is very visceral. Luckily, I never have to marry Jason Biggs.
"You may be experiencing a loss of freedom in some area of your life," Dream Moods tells me. "Alternatively, the dream represents your feelings of shame and guilt. This dream image is trying to tell you to stop punishing yourself."
Maybe I should get a fan?
Image via Shutterstock/Ozgur Coskun.