If your dreams include losing your credit card, falling and never hitting bottom or getting lost in a forest, experts say these nocturnal adventures may actually be a window into your financial stability, future and decision making.
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Kelly Sullivan Walden, a hypno therapist, dream coach and author of "I Had the Strangest Dream ... the Dreamer's Dictionary for the 21stCentury," says the increased financial strain of the past few years have led to an increase of money-related dreams.
When two worlds collide
Walden says since money is a very real and central aspect of your life, it's no wonder you dream about having it, getting it, losing it or hoarding it.
"This may be a reflection of what is literally playing out in your real life. Or, because dreams are clever, it could be an indicator of something a little less obvious," says Walden.
If you're often dreaming about your bills or budget, Jeffrey S. Durmer, medical director and chief medical officer, Fusion Sleep Medical Programs in Suwanee, Ga., says that's probably because daily memories or events are often incorporated into dreaming.
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So if you fall asleep wondering how you're going to make ends meet, don't be surprised if money is a common dream theme.
"Just don't expect it to be a 'normal' money theme," he says.
Dr. Durmer says the information your brain receives just before you go to sleep often shows up in dreams in abstract or bizarre forms. "You might dream your banker is an alien or your credit card is attacking you because you fell asleep thinking about your finances."
Anatomy of a dream
Dreams are the result of a well-orchestrated series of events happening in your brain that only occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. "Several areas of your brain work together to create dreams," explains Dr. Durmer. Most adults typically dream four to six times during each REM cycle and have three to four REMcycles a night.
And despite how Hollywood portrays bad dreams and nightmares, Durmer says "you don't toss and turn or thrash in bed when you have a bad dream." During REM sleep, the same part of your brain that stimulates dreams sends signals (through your spinal cord) to most of the muscles in your body to remain inactive, temporarily "paralyzed."
"This is totally normal and happens to keep you from acting out your dreams," says Dr. Durmer. He says the only muscles that remain "active" are your diaphragm, the main muscle that controls breathing and your eye muscles, which move during REM.
Wondering what your dreams could be about? Here's a look inside some common money-related dreams.
The dream: You lost your credit card, purse or money and only realize it when you're at the checkout.
What it may mean: Lauri Quinn Loewenberg,dream expert and author of "Dream On It" says this doesn't necessarily mean you're irresponsible with money. "It is actually questioning your credibility."
"You may have recently slipped up or got caught in a money lie,"says Loewenberg. Does "yes, mortgage company, the check IS in the mail" sound familiar? "This dream may be telling you that you've lost credibility with someone around you and you had better check yourself, hence the checkout,"says Loewenberg.
Keep things in check by identifying where you slipped up. "Once you identify the credibility issue, this dream should be nothing more than a distant memory," says Loewenberg.
The dream: You're carting about a wheelbarrow, bucket or barrel filled with money, but no matter how carefully you walk, the money keeps falling out.
What it may mean: "Dreams with old-fashioned or outdated 'vessels' to carry money, like a wheelbarrow, are a sign that your current method for 'handling' or moving money is antiquated, unstable, out of balance. Not to mention stressful since it's hard to keep the money in the object," says Walden.
She suggests investing in a more modern "vehicle" to move your money. "You may want to interview new financial planners, explore online bill payments instead of snail-mailed checks or even update your wallet," says Walden.
The dream: You won the lottery or just came into a windfall.
What it may mean: Sorry, you're probably not going to win Powerball. But this dream is still a good sign. Consider this to be a message that you are on track with your finances, says Walden.
"Your dream is telling you that you should trust your instincts and ability to pick the right credit card to use, financial planner to consult or even set a good budget. Just like if you were to pick the right lotto numbers," she says. "It's your subconscious giving you a pat on the back."
The dream: You're slowly falling and even though you never hit a bottom, you continue to fall, unable to grab onto anything or stop the free-fall.
What it may mean: "Falling is a sign that you realize an aspect of your life is going in the wrong direction," says Loewenberg. "It's going down, not up."
She says you may dream about falling during a financially tough time or if you're worried about your finances.
The dream: You purchase your dream car and are cruising down the highway having a great time.
What it may mean: Loewenberg says this could be a call from your subconscious to upgrade from your ratty, old, duct-taped clunker. "However, cars showing up in dreams are usually about your ability to progress and move toward your goals in life."
If you are driving your dream car, then she says odds are you're confident in your financial decisions and your mind is telling you you're on the right path. "You have the 'drive' and motivation and are well on your way towards your financial goals," she says.
Frequently consult your internal GPS to stay on course with your finances. "You already know the direction you want to take your finances,so continue trusting in your decisions to get to your financial destination."
The dream: You're walking in a forest and can't find your way out. And you start to walk in circles seeing the same things over and over.
What it may mean: Loewenberg says no matter the setting -- a forest, an amusement park, etc. -- if you can't find your way out, that dream is directly connected to feeling there's no way out of a situation in your "real life." Orone that you don't know how to get out of.
"Debt can be a common real life issue that can cause this dream," she says. You might think there's no way to pay off all your creditors to ever save up enough for a down payment on a house, "so you feel trapped or 'lost' and those feelings play out in your dreams," she says.
Keep track of your dreams
To gain insight into your dreams -- and any financial implications they may have -- you may want to keep a pen and a pad of paper nearby for when you wake up.
"The best way to remember dreams is committing them to memory as soon as you wake up," she says. Writing your dream down, or even jotting down a few key words that will jog your memory helps.
"So does telling your partner. Nothing starts a great breakfast conversation quicker than 'I had the strangest dream'," says Loewenberg.
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