Do Bad Dreams Come True If You Tell Someone?

Do Bad Dreams Come True If You Tell Someone?

Bad dreams can be a disturbing experience that leaves people feeling anxious or scared. There is no scientific evidence showing that sharing bad dreams makes them come true. However, some cultures believe telling others about nightmares makes them more or less likely to happen.

Ultimately, deciding to share bad dreams is a personal choice that depends on the individual. Talking to someone may help some people process the emotions and fear from the dream. For others, discussing nightmares can amplify negative feelings and lead them to believe the events might happen in real life.

Prevalence of Bad Dreams

Bad dreams are very common, with an estimated 50-85% of adults experiencing occasional disturbing dreams. Up to 10% of the general population report chronic, recurrent nightmares. Bad dreams occur more frequently in women than men. Studies show anywhere from 23-44% of children experience frequent bad dreams that affect their sleep quality.

Causes of Bad Dreams

Potential causes of disturbing dreams include:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Trauma or PTSD
  • Certain medications or substance use
  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnea
  • Fever or illness
  • Negative life events or transitions

What the Research Says

While no evidence shows sharing bad dreams impacts their likelihood of occurring, studies do show talking about nightmares with a supportive listener can help decrease associated distress. This may be due to making sense of the dream content and reducing emotional intensity around the experience.

Additionally, writing down dreams helps some people process the content. Recording nightmares throughout treatment is an important part of therapies like Imagery Rehearsal Therapy used to cope with disturbing dreams.

Cultural Beliefs About Bad Dreams

Cultures around the world have a wide range of perspectives on the meaning of dreams and nightmares. Some common beliefs include:

  • Chinese Culture: In Chinese tradition, dreams are seen as a window into a spiritual world and the health of one’s chi or life energy. Bad dreams suggest blocked chi and that luck or fortune may turn against someone.
  • Native American Culture: Many Native American tribes see dreams as an extension of reality and provide important guidance. Bad dreams are thought to reflect disruption of harmony in one’s life and a need for renewal.
  • Hispanic Culture: In Mexican and Central American culture, disturbing dreams known as pesadillas signal that a soul is in danger. It is believed telling others pesadillas makes them come true.
  • Middle Eastern Culture: In some Middle Eastern societies, nightmares show that someone wishes another harm. An ancient ritual for getting rid of bad dreams involves the dreamer and listener spitting salt at each other.
  • Maori Culture: The Maori people of New Zealand call bad dreams makutu and believe they indicate someone using black magic against the dreamer. Sharing dreams removes their power.
  • European Folklore: Old European superstition says telling dreams before breakfast makes them come true. Another belief is marking a cross on the wall prevents bad dreams from entering through.

So while nightmare beliefs vary hugely across cultures, a shared theme is these dreams hold power and meaning. The response to nightmares also matters, whether that involves telling others, conducting rituals, or seeking answers within the dream itself through interpretation. The diversity of perspectives underlines the complexity of global dream culture.


While no research confirms sharing bad dreams impacts their likelihood in reality, cultural beliefs hold an expectation this can happen. Strategies like talking to a trusted friend, recording dreams, and relaxation practices can often help cope with disturbing nightmares. Ultimately, the decision to discuss unpleasant dreams depends on personal comfort levels and cultural perspectives around dreams.