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Sudden Recurring Nightmares about Drowning

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I used to never get nightmares at all; my dreams were always either pleasant or they didn’t make sense. However, about a month or two ago, I had this dream where I was on a bus that was going through this big city. In the middle of this city, there was a big lake with a small peninsula on one side. Suddenly, the bus was going so fast that it drove right off the peninsula and  into the lake. As it sank, I quickly opened the emergency exit and swam back to shore along with all the other passengers and saved the day. I woke up immediately, feeling like I just ran a marathon. A few weeks ago, I dreamt that my father was driving me and my family in his car. And for whatever reason, he just drove right into a lake and the car began to sink. Once the car was completely underwater, I began to have trouble breathing and immediately woke up, gasping for air. Last night, I had the same dream again and woke up gasping for air once again. I’m really concerned because I never got nightmares before. I am too scared to sleep now because I’m afraid that one day I might not wake up in time and will die in my sleep. (age 17, from US)

Sudden Recurring Nightmares about Drowning

Answered by on -


A: I’m sorry that you are having nightmares. I know how unsettling and frightening they can be, but please don’t worry that you will stop breathing in your sleep. Your body will wake up, regardless of what is going on in your dream.

Many times dreams are just a glimpse into our own unconscious mind and what we might be worried about or struggling with at the time. Sometimes the themes can be very literal, such as dreaming about something that you saw or heard recently, but many times they are symbolic. For instance, since you are dreaming about drowning do you feel like you are “drowning” in anything in life right now, such as school work, a busy schedule, etc? Or do you have any particular fears or concerns that you have not faced directly? If so, try to deal with the concern in your waking state and most likely the dream will stop haunting you.

I’m including the link to an article on the topic that you might find interesting: 9 Common Questions About Dreams Answered.

I usually suggest keeping a dream journal to help identify recurrent themes and potential meaning. Don’t just write down what you dream about but also the feelings and associations attached to the dream. And finally, it may help to say a prayer, meditate or read something funny or uplifting right before going to bed.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

Sudden Recurring Nightmares about Drowning

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Holly Counts, Psy.D.

Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2018). Sudden Recurring Nightmares about Drowning. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 29 Nov 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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