Dreams have always fascinated people. Long before Freud started interpreting dreams in the 1800s, people wanted to know what their dreams meant. There are references to dreams in many religious texts, including the Bible and the Quran.
It is natural to want explanations of what happens in our dreams and perhaps the most intriguing questions include: what does it mean if we or someone else die in a dream? Can you die in a dream? And is death in a dream a bad omen?
Read on to find the answers to these questions.
What are dreams?
It is easier to understand why we might dream of death if we first understand what dreams are. There are five phases in the sleep cycle and researchers believe dreams are most likely to happen during REM sleep.
The REM Phase
REM, which stands for rapid eye movement, is the fifth phase in our sleep cycle. This stage lasts for 20%-20% of the sleep cycle. During the REM phase, our breathing becomes more rapid and shallow, our heart rate increases and our eyes jerk in various directions.
If people wake up during this stage, they will often describe fantastical tales. Their dreams. Neuroscientists have explained that rapid eye movement is a likely cause of dreams.
What creates our dreams?
Researchers have come up with several theories about why we dream. These explanations include dreams as a representation of our unconscious desires, a way to process information gathered during the day, a response to random signals from the body and mind, a preparation for future threats, and a form of psychotherapy.
Study of dreams
When neuroscientists study dreams, they are interested in the structures involved in dream production. They are focused on how dreams are organized and their narration. Psychoanalysis is more interested in the meaning of dreams and their relationship with the history of the dreamer.
There is still a lot to be learned about our dreams. However, a dream state is a unique state of consciousness that incorporates experiences from the past and the present to prepare for the future. During sleep, our dreaming ego can produce overwhelming and unsettling dreams that leave us searching for an explanation.
To find out more about dreaming, we recommend this article from Medical News Today.
Interpretations of Death Dreams
If dreams are a way for our subconscious mind to process events and prepare us for the future, what can dreams of death mean?
A Dream Where You Die
When some people dream of their death, they report meetings with guardian spirits and a feeling of peace. Others have dreamt of painful deaths in harrowing situations. The best way to approach these dreams is to examine what is happening in your life.
For example, in a dream about drowning, as suggested in this article about death in a dream, you need to look for clues in the dream and your life. Could the drowning in the dream be symbolic of you feeling like you are drowning, e.g. under work, in relationship challenges, or money worries in real life?
Dreaming about yourself dying can also represent your readiness to face a major transitional phase. It could symbolize a goodbye to something you are leaving behind such as your job, your old home, or a relationship. It is symbolic of new beginnings and leaving behind parts of you that no longer serve you such as old beliefs or ways of doing things.
A dream where you die can also represent something in your life that you are trying to or would like to escape. Another message from the dream could be that you have been ignoring your own needs in favor of others. It is time to focus on yourself more. To read about these interpretations further, check this article.
A Dream About a Loved One Dying
Dreaming about the death of someone we love is certainly upsetting. It is common to wake up from such a dream wondering if it is a premonition. If you dreamt of the death of someone dear to you, ask yourself, are you afraid of losing that person, their friendship, or their love?
If you answer yes, then rather than a scary omen, the dream is most likely a reminder of how important that relationship is. It might also be telling you to put more effort into nurturing that relationship.
A Dream Where A Friend Dies
If you have a friend whose actions or health is causing concern, the dream could simply refer to your waking fears. However, the dream could also mean that your friendship is undergoing a change and you are not sure where it is going. It could also mean that you would prefer to distance yourself from this person.
Dreaming of a friend dying isn’t always about the friend or the friendship. Sometimes dreams communicate to us in more subtle ways and to interpret the dream accurately, you need to consider what that friend represents to you.
Dream of a Pet Dying
It is not uncommon to have a dream about your pet dying especially if they are old or sick. However, if your pet is young and healthy, the dream could be a metaphor for fearing the loss of comfort, security, or companionship.
Dreaming of Someone Who Has Passed Away in Real Life
According to this article from the Health Line, most people who dreamt about someone they have lost said the dreams were pleasant or both pleasant and disturbing. Only a few people said the dreams were just disturbing.
When you have a dream of someone who has died in real life, especially if the death is still recent, the dream is most likely helping you to process the loss. The dream could also be a visit to guide you if the person is talking to you or showing you something.
Dreams Where You Fall Into Your Death
These dreams are fairly common, and there are different symbolic meanings. What the dream is telling you depends on your life situation. Interpretations of these dreams include feeling insecure in life, feeling that you have no control over things, and that you are ready to let go of something or someone and set yourself free.
For many more death scenarios and interpretations, read this article from The Cut.
Why Do We Wake Up If We Die In A Dream
Dreams of dying in a dream are not uncommon. When most people dream of dying, they report remembering the whole story until the moment of death. And then waking up, just at that moment. Why do we wake up when we die in a dream?
The most likely explanation is linked to the sleep phase. REM sleep is not the phase when we are in deepest sleep, making it easier to wake up. Death in a dream is often stressful, and that causes the brain to release adrenaline. It is the adrenaline rush that wakes you up.
How You Felt Waking Up Matters
When you are interpreting a death dream, it is important to consider how you felt waking up. If you wake up feeling anxious and scared, it might be because you are feeling stressed about changes in your life or have a fear of the unknown.
Feeling good when waking up might be a sign that you have come to terms with something in your life ending. It could be, for example, the end of a relationship, moving from working life into retirement, or moving out of your childhood home. These dreams mean you are ready to embrace big changes in your life.
Can You Die In A Dream?
You have probably heard of the popular myth that if you die in a dream, you die in real life. That is simply not true. If it were, there would not be people alive to tell about dreams where they died. However, if someone has died after dreaming of their death, we would never know.
While most people wake up at the moment of their death in a dream, that is not always the case. However, as this article from Dreaming and Sleeping explains, it is not you who dies, but a character you are playing in your dream.
So if the character dies and you carry on sleeping, you are not dead in the dream, just the character has died. You are still present either as a spectator or as another character.
Dreams of death can be unsettling, but as we have seen, they should not be taken literally. Instead, dreams are a way for our subconscious to process things in our life, either in the present or in the past.
They are unlikely to be premonitions although they can represent fears we might have about the future. Dreams of death are more likely related to self-discovery and new beginnings or a symbol of the fear of the unknown.
We hope to have covered everything you wanted to know about death in dreams and if you can die in a dream. Should you have more questions about this topic, write them in the comments section.