Falling dreams are an extremely common experience that most people will have at some point in their lives. These vivid sensations of falling while asleep can be unsettling but they can also provide insight into your subconscious mind. Dreams of falling can feel similar to dreaming about flying – but the meaning of falling in a dream is usually quite different to that of flying in a dream.
In this comprehensive article, I will explore the various psychological, spiritual, and physical interpretations of your falling dreams. I’ll examine how they relate to your life circumstances and provide tips to manage recurring falling nightmares.
Spritual and Psychological Interpretations of Falling in Dreams
Psychologists widely agree falling dreams signify a sense of insecurity and lack of control in your waking life. This can arise from a variety of lifestyle events going on for you at the moment and clues to what the dream means can be taken in combination of things in your waking life with how the dream itself pans out.
Falling From Heights Dream Meaning
Falling from heights, or from the sky itself symbolizes a fear of failure. This dream often stems from your work stress uncertainty surrounding the future or sometimes performance anxiety. It is however, a common dream scenario experienced by many people, so you’re not alone.
Whilst floating through the open sky (such as when flying in a dream) initially provides a feeling of euphoria and freedom, the sudden plunge towards the ground indicates that you worry about not living up to expectations. We believe this falling sensation signifies difficulties in maintaining ambitions, relationships or a grounded sense of self during confusing times of limbo.
These falling dreams can also occur when you’re experiencing the joy of flying in a dream but then something distracts or derails you, abruptly turning your fanciful flight into a terrified falling.
When you wake up before impact you still feel uneasy which reflects your subconscious fears about losing control or feeling unsupported in your aspirations.
In summary, while sky falling dreams first provide elation, the abrupt plunge points to self-doubt, difficulty finding stability when facing uncertainty, and fear of failure instead of flying high.
Examining these issues through self-reflection can help transform the symbolism from fear to empowerment and can help your life itself take quite a new trajectory.
Falling or Being Pushed from a Cliff
Plunging off a cliff in a dream scenario is another common falling dream experience. Finding yourself suddenly tumbling down a steep cliff face or being shoved forcefully over the edge tends to symbolize a fear of failure or a sense of having disappointed yourself or others. As opposed to dreaming of a quick plunge from the sky, the sensation of grappling to hang on as the cliff crumbles away points to feelings of slowly losing control over a situation in waking life, one which you’re struggling to regain control over.
Being unable to cling to the edge of a cliff could represent your anxieties about losing a grip on relationships, previous beliefs or professional stability that once provided a sense of security. Additionally, cliffside falling dreams often manifest when one has made a risky decision or impulsive choice in real life which reflects your subconscious doubts and second guesses about the judgment call.
Waking up before hitting the ground spares the dreamer from imagined impact. However, lingering unease after a cliff falling dream reveals deep-seated insecurities around managing complex life situations and relationships. It also signals a need for rebuilding firmer foundations.
In summary, plunging from a crumbling cliffside indicates failing support systems, uncontrolled descent once stability is lost and underlying lack of confidence in confronting difficult decisions or transitions. However, examining the contributing real-life factors can help transform cliff falling symbolism from paralyzing fear into cautious awareness.
Dreams of Tripping Before Falling
Dreaming that you trip and fall symbolizes a lack of confidence and fear of making mistakes. In these falling dreams you may catch your foot on something, stumble on stairs or simply lose balance before plunging downwards. Unlike falling from heights or a cliffside, the sensation of tripping represents anxieties around factors you feel are more within your control rather than outside of it.
Dreams of tripping and falling can also reveal a fear of underperforming or embarrassing yourself in work situations and social relationships. They indicate you may be worrying excessively about how potential blunders, flaws and clumsiness may make you appear incompetent or damage people’s perceptions of you. This, of course, can ultimately become a self fulfilling prophecy, because the more you worry about these things the more you’re likely to exhibit them! These dreams also suggest a tendency for self-doubt, risk aversion and a reluctance to put yourself out there in case you make a mistake. But remember, the best lessons are the ones we learn from mistakes – and if you don’t put yourself out there and try things, then you’ve already not succeeded to accomplish them.
Waking up startled after tripping in a dream reflects deeper insecurities beneath the surface. It points to feelings of imposter syndrome, lack of inner confidence despite outward appearances and concerns about revealing perceived inadequacies. However, confronting the reasons for this self-doubt can help overcome fears of judgment and transform clumsy falling in dreams into gracefully walking ahead. With self-assurance, these visions foreshadow how standing tall will steady your steps moving forward.
Dreams of Falling Into a Hole
Dreaming of plummeting into a hole in the ground can symbolize feelings of depression, emptiness or being stuck in a situation (sometimes called being stuck in a rut). In these dreams you may accidentally fall into a pre-existing hole which represents your fears of being unable to escape problems or emotions that feel inescapable in your waking life. Alternatively though, the hole might open up directly underneath you without any warning. This can help give you clues to your anxieties about losing stable ground without warning and having the floor give way to a dark deep abyss.
In either scenario though, being trapped in a deep hole reflects a sense of isolation and helplessness. It suggests that you feel an inability to find solutions to your depression, grief, financial loss or other emotional voids. As you desperately try to claw your way out in the dream, this mirrors the struggle to resurface from feelings of sadness and despair in real life. Waking up before escaping the hole mirrors lingering feelings of being pulled down by forces beyond your control.
However, realizing the hole symbolizes your emotional struggles is the first step toward finding light. Understanding this dark hollow sensation provides opportunities to address issues like depression through counseling, opening up to loved ones, perhaps making lifestyle changes and definitely refusing to lose hope. With time and support (whether that be from friends, loved-ones or professional help), the hole from dreams can transform into a passageway leading you to healthier perspectives.
If you find yourself regularly having this dream and it starts to affect your daily life, we strenuously recommend you seek help either from your doctor or from a counsellor / professional therapist who can help you unpack all that is going on.
Falling in an Elevator or Lift Shaft
Dreaming of plunging down an elevator shaft represents feelings of having lost control over a situation in your waking life. In this dream, you may be stepping into an elevator only to have the floor give out beneath you, causing you to drop deeply and perhaps quickly into the empty shaft.
Unlike falling off a cliff outside, the enclosed space of the elevator shaft signals anxieties about losing control in professional settings, structured environments or appointment-based tasks. This dream reveals worries about delivering on responsibilities like work projects, school assignments, financial plans or even social engagements. As you freefall down the shaft, you are unable to stop or redirect yourself, just as you feel powerless to properly manage stresses in real life.
Waking up before hitting the bottom of the shaft provides momentary relief. However, lingering unease signifies lingering fears of failure regarding duties or lacking structure and support. It also indicates feeling confined or trapped by expectations. Exploring this symbolism can empower you to take back control. By making adjustments, you can transform plummeting anxiety into stepping confidently into elevators again.
Dreaming of Someone Else Falling
When you dream about another person falling it often represents worries that you are projecting onto them. You may see a loved one slip and tumble down stairs, a colleague get pushed off a ledge or a stranger lose their footing on the sidewalk. This dream symbolizes anxieties you feel towards people in your waking life and your desire to keep them from harm.
Witnessing others fall in your dream reveals your protective instincts and subconscious fears for their safety and well-being. You may feel powerless to prevent bad things happening to them which gives you feelings of helplessness as you watch them fall continuously. Dreams of others falling can also relate to concerns about their loss of control, stability or reputation.
Waking up alarmed from these dreams may indicate you need to communicate caring support for those you envisioned falling. However, the dream likely reflects personal anxieties being projected outward so do explore this possibility first before approaching the other person. Exploring the root issues may help calm your fears of others stumbling and transforms these visions into reminders to offer steadying guidance. With care and wisdom imparted your dream symbolizes their uplifting rise rather than the concerning fall.
Falling Into Water
Dreaming of plunging into water represents being immersed in overwhelming emotions or the unconscious mind. In these dreams, you may unexpectedly fall into the ocean, a pool or other body of water. This symbolizes feelings of being drowned (or overwhelmed) by sadness, grief, desire or other powerful psychological states in waking life.
Water evokes the chaotic nature of emotions and the vast depths of the unconscious and falling unexpectedly into water reflects a sense of helplessness against currents of anxiety, stress or repetitive thoughts. Being submerged suggests you feel unable to handle or cope with the intense pressures in real life. Struggling to swim or being afraid of sinking makes you feel that you are unable to gain control as the water envelops you.
Waking up startled from these dreams implies a need to come up for air – to address issues creating turbulence through counseling, self-care or improved work-life balance. By learning to navigate choppy waters instead of being tossed about you can transform dreams of drowning anxiety into floating tranquilly above the depths.
When you dream of falling together with another person it indicates a shared sense of losing control or needing mutual support. In these dreams, you and someone close – a partner, friend or family member – may both tumble helplessly through the air or plunge into an abyss. This symbolizes a bond with this person and emotions you associate with the relationship.
Specifically, falling together represents fears of letting each other down or failing to meet shared responsibilities. You feel unable to prevent the fall just as you feel powerless to single-handedly get the relationship or collaborative project back on track in waking life. However, sharing the descent also reveals you still feel a comforting attachment amidst the chaos.
This dream reminds you that you ultimately rise or fall together based on shared goals. Though the plunge feels frightening, you are not falling alone. Waking up alarmed reflects anxieties about stabilizing the relationship. But with unity, you possess strength to transform freefall into soaring as one.
Physical Factors Contributing to Falling Dreams
Falling in a dream waking you up: Hypnic jerks and sensations of falling as you transition from wakefulness to sleep can lead to vivid falling dreams.
Sleep disorders: Conditions like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy can disrupt normal REM cycles and trigger falling nightmares.
Caffeine consumption: Drinking caffeine too close to bedtime can interfere with quality sleep and lead to intense, realistic falling dreams.
Hypnagogic state: Vivid dreamlike hallucinations in the transition from wakefulness to sleep often include falling sensations.
Sleep deprivation: Lack of sufficient sleep can make dreams more frequent, vivid, and frightening, including those involving falling.
In the following sections, we will explore the science and research behind each of these physical triggers of falling dreams in greater detail. Understanding the bodily conditions and sleep disruptions that contribute to falling nightmares can help point the way to strategies for reducing their occurrence.
Falling in a Dream Waking You Up
Have you ever startled awake right as you were drifting off to sleep and felt like you were plummeting through the air or falling out of bed? My partner tells me I do this a lot (and it really annoys her because it wakes her up!)
These sudden jerks are called hypnic jerks – involuntary muscle spasms that occur as your body transitions from wakefulness to sleep. During this changeover, your muscles relax while your mind remains active, which can create a sensation of freefalling.
Hypnic jerks cause you to suddenly jolt or twitch as you’re falling asleep. This gives the illusion that you’re endlessly tumbling into an abyss. Though they’re harmless, these falling sensations trigger a startle reaction that wakes you back up and is often accompanied by surges of adrenaline. This will cause your heart rate to speed up (among other things) which your brain in it’s sleepiness state might interpret as you having fallen and then create memories around that fact to explain itself.
As you fall back asleep, the lingering sensations often morph into vivid falling dreams. The emotions and anxieties experienced along with the involuntary spasm carry over into your dreams, crafting scenarios where you plunge from heights or desperately try to cling onto ledges. While hypnic jerks themselves are no cause for concern they can lead to exhausting and realistic nightmares of falling that impact your quality of sleep. If this is the case it’s worth consulting your doctor or a counsellor to see if there’s anything else you can do to help reduce them. For me, I take a magnesium supplement which does seem to help, but always check these sorts of things with your doctor first (I did).
Various sleep disorders can increase the likelihood of disturbing falling nightmares. These conditions disrupt the normal sleep cycle which leads to changes in REM sleep that affects dream content and vividness.
Some examples of disorders tied to falling dreams:
Sleep apnea – This condition causes breathing interruptions during sleep, depriving the brain of oxygen. As the body startles itself awake to resume breathing, it can trigger sensations of falling that carry into dreams.
Restless leg syndrome – Uncontrollable urges to move the legs during sleep leads to micro-awakenings that can spark falling-themed dreams.
Narcolepsy – People with narcolepsy transition quickly into REM sleep, often dreaming immediately. Hypnagogic hallucinations of falling are common.
Insomnia – Difficulty falling and staying asleep can lead to amplified, vivid dream content as the mind remains active. Falling dreams are common.
Sleep behavior disorder – This disorder causes people to act out dramatic dreams by moving, shouting or jumping from bed. Vivid falling nightmares may induce jumping.
If you suffer from any of these disorders then the disturbances and fragmentation of normal sleep patterns can cause exhausting falling dreams. Treating the condition itself is key to reducing their frequency and intensity and for this you are going to need to speak to your doctor. The doctor will likely refer you to a specialist and you might find yourself needing a ‘sleep study’ to help them determine what’s going on. Some of these conditions come with some potentially significant health problems down the line (such as sleep apnoea for example) so do get yourself checked by a medical professional if you think this might be occuring for you.
Lots of people (perhaps even, most people!) reach for a cup of coffee or tea to help them wake up and feel energized in the morning. However, caffeine’s stimulating effects can come back to disrupt your sleep and dreams if it’s consumed too late in the day.
Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant that activates the central nervous system. It blocks adenosine receptors in the brain, which promotes alertness. It also constricts blood vessels, raises cortisol levels (also known as the ‘stress hormone’ levels) and interferes with the circadian rhythm that regulates sleep.
When you consume caffeine within 4-6 hours of your bedtime (or even earlier for some people), it can negatively impact sleep quality and REM sleep stages where vivid dreams occur. As caffeine blocks deep restorative sleep you’re more likely to experience “rebound” REM sleep when the caffeine wears off. This surge in REM often triggers extremely vivid and intense falling dreams.
Caffeine also interferes with the paralysis that normally immobilizes your body during REM sleep to prevent acting out dreams. This can reinforce realistic sensations of thrashing and falling as you sleep. Studies show caffeine consumption significantly increases dream recalls of falling and related nightmares.
So avoiding that evening cup of coffee, tea or energy drink (especially the energy drink!) can help reduce disrupted sleep and intense falling dreams that leave you feeling unrested by morning.
The hypnagogic state refers to the transitional period between wakefulness and sleep. During this phase you may experience vivid dream-like hallucinations as your mind drifts in and out of sleep.
It’s common to perceive sensations of floating, flying, falling or sinking when in the hypnagogic state. These perceptions of movement arise from changes in your brain waves and body signals as your muscles relax. Your brain tries to make sense of these signals and sometimes interprets them as plummeting through space.
These brief hypnagogic hallucinations of falling then often carry over into full blown falling dreams as you transition into REM sleep. So the visions and sensations from the wake-sleep boundary get elaborated into detailed scary falling nightmares.
The hypnagogic state is a major contributor to falling dreams based on its inherent perceptions of floating and falling as sleep sets in.
Not getting enough quality sleep can make you more likely to experience vivid falling nightmares. Sleep deprivation disrupts your normal sleep cycles and alters REM sleep in ways that affect dream content.
When you’re sleep deprived you build up what’s known as a REM sleep debt. Your body tries to compensate by spending more time in REM stages when you finally do sleep. This compensation causes intense, vivid dreaming, often with bizarre content – falling dreams being one of the very common bizzare themes.
Sleep deprivation also decreases muscle paralysis during REM which can allow you to physically act out aspects of dreams like flailing your arms as you “fall.” The physical mimicking reinforces the realistic sensations. It’s also highly annoying for any partner in your bed when it happens!
Reduced slow wave and deep sleep from sleep deprivation also means you don’t get restorative respites between REM cycles. This leaves you feeling unrested and anxious which further amplifies emotional dream content like frightening nightmares of falling uncontrollably.
Making sleep a priority by keeping a consistent schedule, limiting blue light exposure at night and avoiding caffeine close to bedtime can help minimize sleep deprivation. This will lessen the chances of exhausting falling dreams when you finally do get rest.
Falling Dreams and Life Circumstances
The anxieties, stresses, and transitions you experience in your waking life can often manifest in dreams of falling at night. Some common life circumstances that may trigger these unsettling plummeting nightmares include:
Your Career and Stability: If you are going through a rocky transition in your job or dealing with financial insecurity, you may find yourself having frequent falling dreams. These reflect worries about losing your footing professionally.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Those suffering from PTSD commonly experience falling nightmares as part of reliving past traumas. The lack of control mirrors the disorder’s effects.
Depression: Feeling depressed, hopeless or trapped in life can lead to increased falling dreams. They mirror the depths of your despair and sense of freefall.
School: Starting at a new school or college is a major life transition that can manifest in dreams of failing exams and falling into abyss-like campuses.
We will explore the connections between each of these life situations and falling dreams in greater detail. Understanding your personal circumstances that are triggering these unsettling nightmares can help you take steps to transform them.
Career and Stability
Instability or uncertainty in your career can commonly trigger falling nightmares. If you’ve lost your job, are stressed by a toxic work environment or feel your financial footing crumbling then those issues are likely to invade your dream life.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, falling from great heights in dreams often symbolizes a fear of failure. If you’re worried about an impending layoff then these dreams may represent anxieties about your career freefalling. Stress about a high stakes project at work can also manifest as falling off a cliff in dreams.
Money worries from job loss or instability also breeds falling dreams. Finding yourself plunging into a dark abyss or hole reflects helplessness about improving your financial stability. Failed professional relationships may come across as ex-colleagues pushing you off ledges.
Your subconscious is expressing your loss of control regarding your career through these terrifying plunges.
But realizing the source can help you take steps to regain your footing. Whether you’re searching for a new job or seeking help for work stress, addressing these issues head-on can turn the dreams of falls into empowering flights instead.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
It is very common for those suffering from PTSD to experience frequent falling nightmares as part of the disorder. This stems from the loss of control and helplessness associated with reliving a traumatic event through flashbacks and intrusive memories.
In PTSD falling dreams the person may endlessly plunge back into the setting or situation of their trauma. For example, a combat veteran may dream of falling from a helicopter under fire, or a car accident survivor may find themselves plunging off an overpass repeatedly.
The abrupt startle reaction upon landing in these dreams mirrors the hypervigilance and panic symptoms of PTSD. The lack of escape mirrors emotional numbness. Those with PTSD often share feelings of freefalling through life after trauma and this manifests literally in dreams.
While PTSD falling dreams are deeply disturbing, recognizing the link to trauma reminds survivors they are not alone in this experience. With this in mind, if you are struggling with PTSD and having these disturbing dreams please do reach out to your counsellor or medical professional for help in dealing with them. You are not alone!
Falling nightmares are very common for those struggling with depression. The uncontrolled descent mirrors the depths of despair, hopelessness and lack of energy frequently described by depressed individuals.
Depressive falling dreams often involve plunging into dark pits, holes or abysses. This represents the void of sadness enveloping the dreamer in waking life. The inability to stop falling reflects perceived powerlessness to improve mood and motivation.
If you have depression you may also dream of others ignoring your cries for help as you fall infinitely. This symbolizes the isolation and loneliness you may be feeling with depression. The landing never comes, just as an end to the depressive episode feels out of reach.
While these depressing falling dreams are difficult to endure, recognizing the connection to your mental state is validating. Through counseling and lifestyle changes you can begin to regain solid ground. So do reach out to your counsellor or medical professional if you experience these types of dreams while you’re depressed.
Being a student comes with a lot of stress and uncertainty which often manifests in falling nightmares. Starting at a new school or college represents a major life transition that can breed anxiety, after all, everything is new and uncertain when you start at a new school.
You may dream of showing up late for an exam and then fall through the classroom floor. This reflects your worries about failing and being unprepared for the academic challenges ahead. For me, this was the time when I first met my spirit guides – as they helped me realise I knew more than I thought I did. I think they also helped me with some of the answers and helped me understand things I didn’t think I would be able to.
Falling down endless stairwells and ramps in school dreams represents concern about navigating complex campus or lifestyle environments. Plunging off the roof of your dorm symbolizes feeling unease in your new living space.
Classmates laughing as you fall helps externalize the pressure of judgment and social evaluation at school. But graduating to open sky rather than the concrete below signifies hope.
Addressing time management and seeking support from professors, advisors and mental health services can help stabilize the ground beneath your feet. With this backing the fear of the unknown transitions into confidently climbing the ladder ahead and you will soar through your school time with more ease. Don’t feel scared and alone, but do reach out to those who are there to help you through this.
How To Stop Dreaming of Falling
If you find yourself having lots of unsettling dreams about falling here are some steps you can take that may help reduce or even eliminate those nightmares. Remember that these dreams are really quite common, so you are not alone in experiencing them. If the tips below don’t work for you, do reach out to your counsellor or medical professional for additional help.
Address Anxiety and Stress
Falling dreams often stem from feelings of anxiety and lack of control in your waking life. Try to identify sources of stress and apprehend them directly. Talk to a therapist if anxiety is disrupting your daily functioning. Implement relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to calm your mind before bed. Getting anxiety and stress under control can have a profoundly positive impact on your quality of sleep and dreams.
Improve Sleep Habits
Make sure you are allowing enough time for quality sleep each night. Follow a consistent sleep schedule and limit blue light exposure in the evenings. Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, or heavy foods before bedtime. Get on a relaxing sleep routine to help send signals to your brain that it’s time for rest, not stress. Improving sleep hygiene reduces the likelihood of disturbed REM cycles that can contribute to falling dreams.
Keep a Dream Journal
Record your falling dreams when they occur and look for any patterns or recurring themes. Trying to process these nightmares and understand their metaphorical meanings can help reduce their intensity over time. You may uncover connections to specific life triggers. Increased self-awareness leads to better dream management. We believe in the power of dream journals so much that we’ve designed a number of them as books which you can buy through Amazon. You can view our dream journals here.
Seek Medical Guidance
If you suspect sleep disorders like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome are contributing to falling dreams, get medical advice. A doctor may recommend a sleep study or changes to medications that are impacting sleep. Addressing underlying conditions leads to overall better rest with fewer unpleasant dreams.
Dreams about falling are an extremely common experience that most people will have at some point in their lives. As we’ve discussed, these unsettling sensations of falling while asleep can arise from various psychological, spiritual and/or physical factors.
On a psychological level your falling dreams tend to represent feelings of insecurity, lack of control and needing support. They can stem from stress, anxiety, trauma, depression or major life changes. There are also physical triggers like muscle spasms, sleep disorders and medication side effects that may contribute to falling nightmares.
While disturbing, these vivid plunges often symbolize opportunities for self-reflection and positive change. By keeping a dream journal, improving sleep habits, addressing stressors and seeking counseling when needed, you can start to better understand and manage recurring falling dreams. With time and effort, you may even be able to transform unsettling nightmares of descent into uplifting sensations of fearless flight. In doing so you’ll start to dream of flying without wings instead of falling disturbingly.
The goal is to gain self-awareness in order to take back control in both your dreaming and waking lives. If you can confront the issues and emotions being expressed through falling dreams then they can become empowering messengers rather than harbingers of dread. With the right approach, a good night’s rest can be within reach.
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