Why Am I Having Weird Dreams? 4 Reasons

April 2, 2024 | Casper Editorial Team

Fact checked by Jonathan Eilenberg, CPE

Weird dreams can be caused by stress, diet, changes in medication, and poor sleep hygiene, with each factor affecting the quality and content of dreams. Managing stress, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and practicing good sleep hygiene can help reduce the occurrence of strange dreams.

Do you keep having that classic (and upsetting) recurring dream where all your teeth fall out, or maybe something weirder, like giant ladybugs overrunning your town? 

As bizarre as they may seem, you’re not the only one dealing with bad dreams. About 65 to 70% of people’s dreams involve a “threatening event,” anything from being chased by a bear to forgetting a doctor’s appointment.1

So what’s causing your weird dreams? The answer actually lies in the waking world. 

The food you eat, your stress levels, the media you consume, and more can all have serious impacts on your sleep quality and the contents of your dreams. Learn more about what causes weird dreams—and how to stop having them—with this insightful guide. 

The Mystifying Science Behind Dreams

Before you ask, “why am I having weird dreams?” it would be helpful to understand what dreams actually are. Though that’s easier said than done.

While you’re asleep, your brain is still active, making sure your body is doing essential things like breathing and removing waste from cells.2 Your brain is most active during the period of REM sleep, or rapid-eye-movement sleep.3 It’s thought that REM sleep is linked to memory and emotional processing.1

REM sleep is also when you have the most vivid dreams,1 which can often be, well, weird.  

Despite lots of research and studies, dreams are still a mystery. Currently, there’s no clear connection between what happens in dreams and what they mean.1 There is, however, a connection between dreams and your waking life.

How Your Waking Life Impacts Your Dreams

Some people (think Sigmund Freud) swear that dreams are influenced by everyday life, and reveal your innermost desires and fears.1 While this may or may not be true, your daily habits can significantly affect your dreams. 

Here are the four most common reasons for weird or disturbing dreams:

  1. Stress – Not only does stress cause you to dream more often, it causes more vivid and distressing dreams, often known as fever dreams.3 Dreaming during REM sleep helps you process emotions, but if you have heightened emotions due to stress, your dreams will reflect this.3 Stress disorders like PTSD are also linked to intense fever dreams that often relate to one’s trauma.3
  1. Diet – Many people perceive certain foods, like dairy or spicy dishes, to negatively influence dreams, though these claims are largely unfounded.4 There is, however, a correlation between an unhealthy diet and poor sleep quality; caffeine and alcohol use are especially notorious for affecting one’s sleep pattern and dreams.6
  1. Medication changes – Certain medications, like antidepressants, can reduce your REM sleep, which then reduces the amount you dream.3Often, if you change medications or stop taking them, you might experience a “REM rebound,” increasing the number of dreams you have—including weird and strange dreams.3 
  1. Poor sleep hygiene – The quality of your sleep also affects how you dream. Symptoms related to sleep apnea, including an inconsistent sleep pattern, frequent sleep disruptions, and sleep deprivation, can all interfere with REM sleep, leading to strange dreams.3 

If you can identify the root cause of your bad dreams, you can start to take steps toward preventing them. 

Ways to Reduce Weird Dreams

Dreams alone can’t physically harm you. As some might say, they’re “all in your head.” But that doesn’t mean that weird or disturbing dreams don’t affect you beyond those first few minutes after the alarm goes off. 

A disturbing dream can set the tone for the day, distracting you and setting you off balance. They can even affect your mental health and disrupt your natural sleep cycle, potentially leading to developing a sleep disorder, like nightmare disorder.

Thankfully, there are several ways you can reduce the occurrence of weird dreams5:

  • Practice good sleep hygiene Sleep hygiene involves all the things you do before bed, as well as how you maintain your sleeping environment. Simple ways to improve your sleep hygiene include going to bed at the same time each night, avoiding screen usage, and sleeping on a comfortable, supportive mattress.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle – A healthier lifestyle leads to healthier sleep. Eating well, exercising, and getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night can all improve your sleep and help you avoid having a weird or disturbing dream.
  • Manage stress with calming activities – Reducing stress is beneficial to all areas of your life, both sleeping and waking. Practice mindful meditation to quiet anxious thoughts before bed, or unwind with a good book or a warm bath.

Don’t let weird dreams and frequent nightmares control your sleeping and waking life. Take action today to find relief—starting with learning how to choose a new mattress from Casper.

Get a Peaceful Night’s Sleep with Casper

Weird dreams can be caused by a variety of factors, some easier to manage than others. One thing you do have the power to change: your sleep hygiene. 

The key to sleeping through the night lies in a quiet, distraction-free sleeping environment, consistent routines, and—most importantly—a comfortable mattress. 

Casper offers dreamily soft and supportive mattresses and pillows to give you the best sleep possible.

For better sleep and pleasant dreams, choose Casper. 


  1. Knowable Magazine. The science of dreams. https://knowablemagazine.org/content/article/mind/2022/science-dreams 
  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. The Science of Sleep: Understanding What Happens When You Sleep. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-science-of-sleep-understanding-what-happens-when-you-sleep 
  3. Cleveland Clinic. What Do Dreams Mean? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/dreams-and-dreaming 
  4. National Library of Medicine. Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: food and diet as instigators of bizarre and disturbing dreams. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4330685/ 
  5. Right as Rain by UW Medicine. Tired of Having Nightmares? 6 Tips to Prevent Them. https://rightasrain.uwmedicine.org/body/rest/nightmares