top of page

Being Chased By a Bear? 5 Most Common Dreams and Why They Occur

Let's explore the five most common dreams and their supposed meanings, as well as generalized theories as to why humans dream in the first place.

We have all experienced a weird dream or two (or twenty), from running naked in a public setting to hiding silently from a crazed axe murderer. Have you ever stopped to wonder whether these common illusions carry significance? Or why you dream at night to begin with? Before we dive into scientific theories that explore the effect of dreaming on proper human function, let's first touch on the five most common dreams, according to a sleep study organized by Amerisleep where 2,007 Americans were asked to provide their most reoccurring dream. Here were the top five responses:

1. Falling

“A dream about falling indicates fear, terror, and anxiety that comes out of losing grip over significant things” - Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, M.D, Psychiatrist

One minute you're free falling off of an extremely high building, and the next, you're jerked awake and gain awareness of your surroundings. If you've experienced these dreams about aren't alone. In fact, in the survey mentioned above, 53.5% of respondents reported similar dreams about falling. So why are these illusions met with an abrupt awakening and a sudden surge of energy? This body movement is an involuntary muscle movement called a hypnic jerk. When the body becomes deeply relaxed, this unexpected sensation pushes you into full consciousness because the brain perceives the situation as dangerous.

2. Being Chased

It's hard to watch a two-and-a-half-hour horror movie about a terrifying serial killer and not dream up a similar plot that night. Although the meaning is left up for interpretation, dream interpreters suggest that being chased in a dream might indicate a desire to escape from your own fears or desires.

3. Back in the Classroom

Oh no! You're late for class! You rush into Ms. Peterson's 5th-grade classroom with your pencil and highlighter, ready to answer the day's addition problem...until you remember that you're a 45-year-old, married woman with three kids.

4. Being Unprepared for a Test or Event

Usually if you have this kind of dream, you’re the kind of person who typically performs well and is always well-prepared. Thus, it’s your fear of being unprepared that actually drives you to be totally ready to perform.

5. Flying

"How do you feel when you’re flying? Is it an amazing feeling? That feeling comes when you feel like you’ve achieved something. You’ve literally lifted yourself to a higher potential or beginning to feel better." - Jane Teresa Anderson, author of 101 Dream Interpretation Tips and host of The Dream Show podcast

Dream Theories

The exact purpose of dreaming for not only humans, but dogs, birds, and many other animals remains a mystery. However, neurobiologists have attempted to propose various theories on why dreams are beneficial to us as a species. Here are some of the most common ideas:

*Looking for a quick, on-the-go version of the information below? Want to know why many dreams are unrealistic, if you can die from a lack of sleep, and how caffeine wakes you up? Check out our Human Body Digest Instagram page where we answer all of these article topics and more into succinct, convenient reads. Visit us at @humanbodydigest!

Survival Training 101

Think of dreaming as the dojo where your amygdala practices its self-defense moves"

When you dream, your amygdala, or the small, almond-shaped ball of grey matter responsible for experiencing emotions, is very active. Because the amygdala is heavily associated with general emotional expression, it is also involved in survival instincts where fear is a driving factor. So, think of dreaming as an opportunity for your amygdala to run wild and simulate dangerous scenarios that you may come across in real life.

While you may dream of performing Taekwondo on a kidnapper, your body isn't actually training alongside your amygdala. This is because your brain stem sends out nerve signals to relax your muscles during REM sleep.

Organizing Memories

Because dreaming essentially consists of imaginary scenarios in your head, it allows for the brain to problem-solve and make decisions. Consequently, scientists believe that dreaming may play a pivotal role in knowledge organization and the formation of brain connections.

Free Therapy

Dreaming is an opportunity for you to confront past events that carry severe emotional trauma. In dreams, emotional content is brought up in a safe environment, allowing us to make connections without the judgment of our defensive and critical brains. Thus, dreaming is like free therapy.


1. Eagleman, D., & Vaughn, D. (2020, December 29). Why do we dream? A new theory on how it protects our brains. Time. Retrieved March 21, 2021, from

2. Linden, S. van der. (2011, July 26). The science behind dreaming. Scientific American. Retrieved March 25, 2021, from

3. Miles, J. (2015, December 14). The significance of dreams and what they can represent. Counselling Directory. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from

4. Roland, J. (2017, August 22). Why do we dream? the role of dreams and nightmares. Healthline. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from

5. Team, C. C. (2022, August 18). Why do we dream? Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from Dreaming


bottom of page