What It Really Means When You Dream About Suffocating

Dreams are often a respite from reality. Perhaps you'll dream about someone you love when you drift off to sleep tonight, or you'll conjure images of a desired vacation or an item you've been wanting to buy for yourself. The world of dreaming is vast and imaginative, but it can quickly become a place of fear and frustration. Experiencing a nightmare is jarring. You may wake up in a cold sweat, heartbeat racing, as you take a breath and remember that what happened wasn't real. Falling back to sleep feels illusive afterward, and you're unsure of what your subconscious may dredge up to the surface next.

For many people, specific dreams and nightmares are recurring experiences. The science behind this is fascinating — the nightmares can be caused by any number of influencing factors, such as stress, anxiety, and certain medications, per Healthline. Determining what's causing your troublesome dream is only half the battle. Interpreting what your subconscious is trying to tell you, particularly if you dream about suffocating or other types of frightening experiences, is the remaining piece of the puzzle.

If you frequently dream about suffocating, the explanation may be simpler than you think. Once you understand the reason behind these nightmares, it'll be easier to prevent them from cropping up again in the future.

You may dream about suffocating if you feel restricted in your personal or professional life

One of the most common causes of nightmares is anxiety. If you feel anxious about something in either your personal or professional life and the situation remains unresolved, you're more likely to experience difficult dreams, per the Sleep Foundation. This is because your subconscious is latching onto the stressful emotion and is projecting images mirroring this feeling. Dreams about suffocating are a prime example of this phenomenon taking place.

According to Sleep Culture, suffocation dreams typically stem from a feeling of restriction. Whether you feel restricted in a personal relationship or a professional setting, this feeling has a direct impact on your mental health. The more anxious you feel, the harder it is to fall asleep and stay asleep each night. This sensation of feeling restricted then becomes mirrored in your dreams and your brain creates images of you suffocating because your brain is essentially trying to tell you that you're being strangled by your stress.

Thankfully, there are ways to combat this issue that help you prevent these dreams of suffocating from occurring.

Behavioral changes can prevent nightmares in some cases

It's impossible to banish nightmares completely, but if you're stuck on a recurring dream and you want to abolish the issue, you can take steps to achieve this goal. If you dream about suffocating because you're in a situation you find confining, the first step is to address the problem head-on. Remove yourself from a taxing relationship, look for a new job, or distance yourself from a problematic family member. It's important to take care of yourself and your mental health, and to combat restrictive situations however you can in a safe and effective manner.

WebMD suggests making certain behavioral changes as well to prevent nightmares from occurring repeatedly. Manage your stress more effectively — enroll in a yoga class, download a meditation app, or simply get out for a walk to clear your head when you feel overwhelmed. Transform your bedroom into a calm, relaxing environment so you look forward to falling asleep each night. Play some peaceful music, read a book, or complete some word puzzles. 

The more you put your mind to ease at night, the easier it becomes to fight off unwanted dreams.