What are the Most Common Nightmares?

No one loves experiencing a terrifying nightmare, yet almost everyone has had one.

To find out what wakes us up in the middle of the night and causes our heart to beat out of our chest, we surveyed 2,000 people about their anxiety-fueled nightmares. It turns out we tend to be scared or anxious about the same things. We then broke down the data further by gender and relationship status. Continue reading to see what we discovered.

When You Fall Asleep, and Keep Falling

Many of our respondents’ nightmares were shrouded in fear, which is no surprise considering the word “nightmare” is defined as a dream full of extreme anxiety or sorrow. Nearly 65 percent of our survey takers experienced falling most frequently in their nightmares. While this type of nightmare is nearly universal, experts don’t quite know what causes people to dream this way. One theory suggests that when your muscles relax as you enter sleep, your brain interprets it as an actual fall. Another theory suggests that dreams about falling are a result of your nervous system gearing down for the night.

Nightmares about falling were followed closely by dreams about being chased (more than 63 percent). Other distressing nightmares included death (roughly 55 percent), feeling lost (almost 54 percent), feeling trapped (52 percent), and being attacked (nearly 50 percent).

While not as common, dreams focusing on poor performance – whether at school or in the bedroom – sustaining an injury, seeing dead people, and drowning also made an appearance on the list.

Relationship Nightmares


Our survey concluded that nightmares about abandonment aren’t uncommon, but the data also suggest that infidelity is a major concern for both men and women, especially in their nightmares. According to NPR, 1 out of every 5 Americans has been unfaithful while in a committed relationship. Other polls suggest that 41 percent of marriages feature at least one partner who has admitted to infidelity, and 57 percent of men have admitted to cheating on their partner in one relationship or another.

Interestingly enough, single men were more than twice as likely as single women to report nightmares about being abandoned or cheated on by a significant other. Women who were in committed relationships, however, had slightly more abandonment and infidelity dreams than men in relationships. The percentages only continued to rise once wedding vows were exchanged – around 50 percent of married women reported having distressing nightmares about abandonment and infidelity.



Teasing the data out a bit further showed that more than 65 percent of women surveyed tended to have nightmares about their significant other cheating on them compared to almost 35 percent of men.

Other significant divergences between men and women included nightmares about a loved one dying. More specifically, nearly 61 percent of women dreamed about this unfortunate event, while roughly 39 percent of men have experienced the same. This may possibly have something to do with gender stereotypes and the expectation that women are the caregivers of the family.

Additionally, nightmares about technology malfunctions tended to occur more commonly in men (almost 66 percent), while about 60 percent of women reported having dreams about bugs crawling on them. This isn’t surprising considering that the Zika virus has become a major concern in recent months, especially for pregnant women. Women are also more apt to have nightmares about fires or their house burning down (about 62 percent).

The Fears in Our Dreams


A wide variety of things can cause nightmares, including daily stress. Major life changes – such as a move, a new job, or a death in the family – are particularly stressful, as are traumatic incidents, such as an accident, attack, or injury.

In our survey, we asked people to tell us what fears they most frequently experienced in their nightmares, and we found that the majority of respondents (nearly 53 percent) had nightmares that focused on dangers to their well-being. Work-related fears accounted for almost 17 percent of recurring nightmares, followed by family and relationship issues (both 12.5 percent). Nightmares about friendships and health were each mentioned by fewer than 4 percent of respondents.

Bringing It Home With You


Nightmares can and do follow us home from work. According to our survey, broadcasters and journalists were often plagued by nightmares about missing a deadline, probably because their daytime hours can be filled with the same horrors that dreamland has in store for them. Those in the arts, entertainment, or recreation industries seemed to be haunted by dreams about being naked at work, while respondents in almost every industry had frequent nightmares about being late to work.


Nightmares are an unfortunate reality for most of us, but they can be a way to subconsciously work out normal and excessive stresses in our lives. Whittling down the data, we found that engaged couples dreamed about abandonment and infidelity the least. At the same time, it came as no surprise that nightmares about dangers to our well-being were pretty common, while work-related terrors followed directly behind.

To help you get a more restful night of sleep and put those anxiety-filled nightmares behind you, check out Amerisleep.com and their impressive line of eco-friendly, high-quality mattresses.

Tips for Healthier Sleep

Getting quality sleep doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Below are simple steps you can take to fall asleep fast stay asleep longer.

  • Limit the use of technology before bed. This isn’t necessarily only an issue with blue lights but how stimulated we are making our senses. Watching an engaging movie or working a late-night project for work keeps the mind active and is counterproductive to a good night’s rest.
  • Eat a healthy diet. What you eat (and when you eat it) plays a significant factor in how your body falls asleep. Eating too close to bedtime can lead to digestive issues that are not conducive to quality sleep. Stick to eating at least one hour before sleeping and avoid red meats, spicy foods, and caffeinated snacks.
  • Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. There is plenty of literature about the benefits of daily exercise. Sleep experts are starting to see how exercise also promotes better sleep.

Another thing to consider? Your mattress. The best mattresses are ones that support your body’s natural sleep posture while reducing pressure points. Reducing pressure points helps to keep you from tossing and turning.

Sleeping on a comfortable mattress and following the steps above play a significant role in getting refreshing sleep each night.


We surveyed more than 2,000 people regarding their nightmares and dreams. To make the data easier to read on the infographics, we rounded percentages to the nearest tenth. This may cause some figures to only add up to ninety-nine percent.


Fair Use Statement

There’s no reason that using the above images as you wish should cause anxiety that may manifest later as a nightmare. We welcome you to share and use them! All we ask is for you to please link back to this page so the designers and authors of it get credit for the work they put in.

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McKenzie Hyde

McKenzie Hyde is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and a full-time writer focused on sleep health and the mattress industry. McKenzie’s writing focuses on the sleep health industry. She currently writes articles on a variety of topics, ranging from sleep hygiene to the newest trends in the mattress and bedding industry. Just some of the topics she has covered include best sleep practices for students, the consequences of going without sleep, and choosing the right bed if you suffer from back pain. McKenzie Hyde has her Master of Arts degree from Utah State University where she studied literature and writing. While there, she taught argumentative writing and wrote a variety of articles and analyses for literary and academic journals.