Anxiety Dreams: Causes, Types & How To Stop Them 2023

Reviewed by Alicia Ortega

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anxiety dreams
Learn how to stop anxiety dreams. Photo: Shutterstock

Can anxiety cause bad dreams? It certainly can. Though often not talked about, anxiety dreams and recurring nightmares are commonly experienced with anxiety. Anxiety dreams are dreams that create feelings of distress, fear, and dread in a person during the dream; the feelings may also linger upon or after waking.

Anxiety and dreams have similar roots in the unconscious–they are both emotional experiences that happen in the mind, often reflecting what a person may be facing in their daily life. So it’s no surprise that having anxiety can cause anxiety dreams, and it’s common for people to experience more anxiety at night. Fortunately, there are many ways to sleep better with anxiety.

Anxiety Dreams

  • Anxiety in everyday life can cause bad dreams known as anxiety dreams.
  • Anxiety dreams are similar to nightmares, however, anxiety dreams can create long-lasting negative feelings in the dreamer.
  • There are many different types or themes of anxiety dreams, including dreams of falling, natural disasters, being late to work, or forgetting things.
  • Anxiety dreams can resolve when anxiety is addressed in daily life.
  • Tools like meditation, therapy, deep breathing and supplementation can help reduce anxiety dreams.

What Are Anxiety Dreams?

anxiety dreams
Anxiety dreams can affect the rest of your day. Photo: Shutterstock

Anxiety dreams are similar to nightmares, in that they are dreams that can cause tremendous discomfort and feelings of unease in the dreamer. However, anxiety dreams can affect a person’s mood and mental health long after they wake, whereas nightmares don’t have as impactful and long-lasting an effect.

Common feelings anxiety dreams can trigger are sadness, anxiousness, fear, dread, anger, and grief.

There are numerous themes and specific situations which anxiety dreams can be based on. While some anxiety dream themes are more universal, such as dreaming about falling or being unprepared for a test, others will be specific to the individual. For example, if a particular person is anxious about food, they may have anxiety dreams about food.

Types Of Anxiety Dreams

There are many different types of anxiety dreams. Furthermore, the dreams can vary from person to person, and from night to night. One person may have anxiety dreams about relationships, while another person may have anxiety dreams about money.

Common types of anxiety dreams include:

  • Falling from heights.
  • Storms, fires, landslides, and other natural disasters. 
  • Violence, wars, or terrorist attacks.
  • Illness or death (Experiencing it yourself or seeing someone you love become ill or die).
  • Being threatened or chased by a person or animal.
  • Financial difficulties/money loss.
  • Being/feeling unprepared (Such as for a test or a stage performance).
  • Being late to school or work
  • Forgetting important things.
  • Being unable to find your destination/getting lost. 
  • Losing teeth or finding yourself naked in public.
  • Being abandoned or hurt by a loved one.
  • Pandemics[1] and other world news events.

Causes Of Anxiety Dreams

It’s thought that anxiety dreams are caused by unprocessed emotions or information that the brain attempts to process during sleep. Dreams are a reflection of our own thoughts, even if we’re not aware of these thoughts consciously. 

Anxiety dreams may also be caused by various stressors, either from the outside world or from within us. A stressful work deadline could just as easily cause anxiety dreams as a stressful or difficult emotion. Additionally, certain lifestyle habits that interfere with the body’s circadian rhythm,[2] such as consuming alcohol or coffee before bed, can cause anxiety dreams.

It’s thought that specific anxiety dreams have their own specific stress origins. For example, dreams about falling can be caused by feeling out of control in your life, and dreams about having to go back to school could be related to work pressures. 

How To Stop Anxiety Dreams

Experiencing anxiety dreams is an indicator that anxiety is present in your waking life. Even if we are not aware of daytime anxiety, having anxiety dreams may be a clue that reveals that there is something that needs to be addressed beneath the surface.

When anxiety makes appearances in our dreams, it’s essential to recognize the anxiety in everyday life and take steps to reduce it.


Meditation is the continual practice of bringing the mind out of the past and future, and instead, into the present moment. This is done over and over again each time the mind wanders.

When we meditate, we stimulate the nervous system in positive ways. Namely, we allow the nervous system to calm down. The nervous system connects the mind and physical body, so when the nervous system relaxes, our minds and bodies do, as well. Practicing regular meditation trains the mind and body to be more resilient to stress and anxiety.


Therapy can be beneficial for identifying and minimizing anxiety. There are many types of therapy, so speak with your doctor to determine which therapeutic method might be a good fit for you. You may prefer more somatic therapy while others may prefer talk therapy.

If you need assistance finding a therapeutic program, research some of the best online therapy programs, such as BetterHelp or TalkSpace.


Supplements can be useful to help calm anxiety, particularly adaptogen[3] herbs, which target stress in the body. Always consult with a practitioner who is familiar with adaptogens before taking them on your own.

Additionally, CBD can be effective for anxiety. CBD has calming effects[4] on the mind and is relatively safe for most individuals. Read the CBDfx reviews to learn more about one of the best CBD oils on the market.

Sleep Habits

It can seem like a catch-22 to try to sleep better when you have anxiety dreams–a person may feel scared to go to sleep at night if they expect to have unsettling dreams. However, being sleep deprived is only going to worsen anxiety.[5]

Do your best to develop a nightly routine that can prepare you for bed. Wind down, shut off electronics, and relax. Reserve your bedroom for sleep and pleasurable activities, but do not bring your work into the bedroom. People with sleep disorders may need extra help establishing a regular sleep routine.

Additionally, consider using a weighted blanket, or sleep in a position that can help ease anxiety, such as on your side or back.

Deep Breathing

The breath is a powerful tool to help bring us into the present moment and release tension from the body. Deep breathing in particular can help calm the nervous system which then relaxes the mind and body.

Consider the many breathing exercises to choose from that can help reduce anxious dreams, and practice these exercises in the morning upon waking, as well as in the evening before bed.

Can Anxiety Dreams Affect Your Mental Health?

It goes without saying that if you are having anxiety dreams, you have some unaddressed anxiety in your life. However, does having anxiety dreams worsen pre-existing mental health issues? Having one anxiety dream may not make an impact on your mental health, but having anxiety dreams every night can. If nothing else, it can create more fear around bedtime.

A hallmark of anxiety dreams is a lingering feeling of unease or disorientation throughout the day, long after the dream ends and the person has been awake. Over time, repeated occurrences can heighten anxiety, day and night, cause sleep deprivation, and alter mood.

If you are already suffering from a mental health condition, such as post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or clinical depression, having anxiety dreams can worsen symptoms.


Anxiety dreams are bad dreams that cause feelings of discomfort, unease, disorientation, and dread in the dreamer. Unlike nightmares, anxiety dreams leave a long-lasting impression, causing the dreamer to feel unpleasant feelings even after waking. Having anxiety dreams is an indicator that anxiety is present in everyday life.

Recurring anxiety dreams may worsen existing mental health issues or mental health symptoms. Always let your doctor know if you are having anxious dreams.

Addressing anxiety is the first step in reducing the intensity and frequency of anxiety dreams. There are many natural ways to reduce anxiety in everyday life, such as therapy and deep breathing, that can help not only minimize anxiety dreams, but improve sleep quality and overall mental health.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to resolve anxiety dreams?

Anxiety dreams tend to stem from some form of anxiety, so you’ll need to address that anxiety. You may need to try different anxiety-reducing modalities to find one (or several) that work best for you. These include meditation, deep breathing, therapy, sleep, and supplementation.

Is it normal to have anxiety dreams every night?

It is expected that if you’re dealing with a stressful situation in your daily life, or that if you have a mental health condition such as generalized anxiety disorder, that you will have regular anxiety dreams. But they can still be reduced.

Can any doctor help me cure my anxiety dreams?

The best doctor to help you reduce anxiety dreams is a licensed mental health professional. They may offer therapy and/or medication, depending on the person.

What does it mean if I have repeated dreams about being naked in public?

The meaning of dreams has not been scientifically established, however, some experts believe that dreams about being naked in public are tied to feelings of embarrassment, inferiority, or fear of how others will see you.

+ 5 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. Elizaveta Solomonova, Picard-Deland, C., Rapoport, I.L., Marie-Hélène Pennestri, Saad, M., Tetyana Kendzerska, Samuel, Godbout, R., Edwards, J.D., Quilty, L.C. and Robillard, R. (2021). Stuck in a lockdown: Dreams, bad dreams, nightmares, and their relationship to stress, depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLOS ONE, [online] 16(11), pp.e0259040–e0259040. doi:
  2. National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). (2019). National Institute of General Medical Sciences. [online] Available at:,the%20study%20of%20circadian%20rhythms.
  3. Panossian, A. and Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals, [online] 3(1), pp.188–224. doi:
  4. Blessing, E., Steenkamp, M.M., Manzanares, J. and Marmar, C.R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics, [online] 12(4), pp.825–836. doi:
  5. Kalmbach, D.A., Abelson, J.L., J. Todd Arnedt, Zhuo, Z., Schubert, J.R. and Sen, S. (2019). Insomnia symptoms and short sleep predict anxiety and worry in response to stress exposure: a prospective cohort study of medical interns. Sleep Medicine, [online] 55, pp.40–47. doi:


Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Wellness Writer with a holistic and functional medicine/root cause mindset. My writing style is engaging, relatable, and educational, designed to help readers digest and relate to complex topics in nutrition, gut health, hormone health, mental health, and spiritual health, then inspire them to take action.


Alicia is an experienced writer, editor, and former marriage and family therapist. During her time as a clinician, Alicia worked with at-risk youth and families in the Greater Cleveland and Atlanta areas. She received special training under the OWEP intiative to help families struggling with opioid abuse. Alicia's clinical and professional style include using authenicity and emotional vulnerability to promote impactful and lasting change. In her current work, Alicia continues to use her clinical training to create relevant, people-focused content that helps brands connect to their audiences.

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