Survey reveals the worst nightmares of Americans

There is the misconception that adults outgrow nightmares. While these vividly realistic and disturbing dreams are more common among children, they also haunt adults, and there is no way to get rid of them. Nightmares can stem from obvious triggers such as watching scary movies, switching to a new antidepressant or taking nicotine replacement medication, and can also be a side effect of increased stress or a recent traumatic event.

With so many possible causes, what are the most common nightmares experienced by Americans? Our team at SlotsMove conducted a survey which gives the answer, and reveals whether there are any notable distinctions between men and women. In order to conduct this survey we used the platform of MarketsChain.

Between May 1 and May 10, SlotsMove surveyed 1,310 residents of the US by giving them a list of 15 nightmare themes with no limit on the number of answers. As we also aimed to assess the distinction between men and women, the ratio between male and female respondents was 50/50. In order to give our data analysis a solid foundation, we consulted the National Library of Medicine. In order to conduct this survey we used the platform of

Which Dreams Haunt Americans the Most?

As multiple scientific studies have confirmed, waking experiences often have continuity in sleep. Personal concerns, thoughts, and emotions easily skip over into our dreams, but there is no clear-cut answer as to which nightmare theme appears most often. In order to reveal what disturbs the dreams of Americans, we polled 1,310 respondents (655 women and 655 men). Their responses allowed our team of analysts to shed some light on the matter. Here are the Top 5 nightmare themes quoted:

  1. Being chased – 65.3%
  2. Falling down – 64.7%
  3. Getting shot – 54.8%
  4. Tornadoes/Hurricanes – 51.4%
  5. Feeling lost – 46.1%

According to our survey, the most common recurring nightmare is being chased and unable to escape (65.3%). This is a theme that often relates to a behavior of avoidance, and which occurs when the dreamer cannot handle certain circumstances right away or feels trapped in an unpleasant situation. One example could be increased workload, or dependency on and/or fear of a spouse.

Almost an equal share (64.7%) of our respondents confirmed they have had nightmares about falling. This type of disturbing dream can be caused by great disappointment, especially by things we had high hopes for. Another possible cause is lack of emotional or financial support. Unlike most other nightmare themes, this particular one can have a physical explanation. At the point of falling asleep, the heart rate slows down, muscles relax, and the brain may read it as an actual fall.

Getting shot is the third most frequent nightmare confirmed by the polled audience (54.8%). As dreams, whether good or bad, are messages from our subconscious, such a shocking pattern is definitely worth interpretation. This nightmare might follow receiving bitter criticism or unexpected emotionally hurtful words. Nor can we ignore the gunshot incidents that appear in the news almost daily, and invariably enter the subconscious of the population.

With 51.4%, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters come next in our survey of the most common nightmare themes. Dreaming of cataclysmic events is usually considered a representation of emotional or physical turmoil. In dream interpretation, disasters are sometimes seen as a sign that a change in one’s life is necessary, and the dreamer needs a shake-up to realize it.

Although with a lower percentage (46.1%), nightmares about being lost are still very common among the American population. Not being able to find your way home might suggest that you have lost security in some aspect of your life, or that you are searching for something without attaining your goals. More often than not, these dreams appear at times when you have to make a decision about what career path to take.

Most Common Nightmares
Being chased 65.30%
Falling down 64.70%
Getting shot 54.80%
Tornadoes/Hurricanes 51.40%
Feeling lost 46.10%
Death of a loved one 44.70%
Drowning 39.40%
Sustaining a physical injury 38.00%
Catching fire 32.80%
Attending an exam unprepared 30.40%
Trapped in a dream 28.20%
Abnormality of one’s body 19.20%
Bug and beetle infestation 13.30%
Car trouble 8.50%
Monsters 6.80%

Is Gender a Crucial Factor

As a vast range of emotions is played out in dreams, including fear, sadness, anger, and guilt, we thought it would be interesting to study whether certain nightmare themes are more common for women than for men. Despite the relatively fluid nature of this issue, some studies, as well as the thorough analysis of the responses within our survey, reveal that in certain areas, women are more likely to have bad dreams than men.

In order to assess the gender distinction factor, we asked our respondents whether they had experienced nightmares related to 5 specific issues. Here are the results.

Women Men
Spiders, ants, bugs, and other creatures 60.40% 39.60%
Being ridiculed for ugliness/weight 59.20% 40.80%
Being attacked 56.70% 43.30%
Death of a loved one 52.90% 47.10%
Technology bugs 34.50% 65.50%

While most insects are completely harmless, millions of people are afraid of spiders, ants, and all kinds of bugs and occasionally have nightmares about them. These bad dreams are usually a sign of negative emotions in waking life still bothering you. This is the nightmare theme with the greatest disparity between women and men – 60.4% vs 39.6%.

Although much has been done regarding gender equality issues, the obsession with one’s physical appearance still seems to prevail among women. They tend to easily give way to body image complexes and this inevitably affects their dreams. Out of all the respondents who gave a positive answer when queried about a nightmare concerning ugliness or high weight, 59% were women.

As evidenced by police statistics, women are victims of domestic abuse more often than men, and this does not only apply in the US, which is why it comes as no surprise that a higher percentage of the respondents who have had nightmares of being attacked are female – 56.7%.

Needless to say, mourning affects us all, and consequently, the death of a loved one is the only nightmare theme where the difference between women and men is not that great – 52.9% vs 47.1%. As we allowed additional comments within the survey, many respondents shared they had recently gone through the loss of a partner, a parent, or a friend.

Bad dreams about technology malfunctions are more common for men (65.5%) which suggests that dealing with computers, smartphones, and other gadgets seems to be a topic women are not that concerned about. This nightmare theme has several variations – car out of gas, no connection to the Internet, shattered smartphone display, and the like.