Top 10 Recurring Dreams and What They Mean

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Do you ever have really, really weird dreams?

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I do, and I don’t need professional help to figure out the source – usually that salami sandwich or entire cheesecake I ate right before I went to bed.

Recurring dreams, on the other hand, demand more of my attention – often because they are scary. In fact, most of the recurring dreams on this list might be more accurately described as nightmares. Perhaps this is because scary dreams are more memorable – a more effective way for your subconscious to get your attention.

Events and emotions in your waking life trigger your dreams. If you repeatedly have the same dream, your subconscious is trying to send you a message. Fortunately, there are a lot of online resources available to help you figure out what your dreams mean, including extremely detailed dream dictionaries. There are also online communities that allow you to share your dreams in forums for interpretation and discussion. You can even use the discussion boards to connect with people who have similar dreams and receive free advice from various experts, ranging from professional dream analysts to psychics.

Bad Dreams Are Good?

According to a lot of the material out there, once you’ve received the message your dream is sending, it goes away. If you take the time to think about how it relates to your life and act on it, you can correct the problem and you’ll never have the dream again. Lucid dreaming is another remedy. In this case, you realize you are dreaming and then take control of the action – changing the experience or the outcome. If lucid dreaming doesn’t work for you, you can also revisit your dream while you are awake, making appropriate edits during the process.

There are sites, books, and experts all over the place– you can even get your most bizarre dreams interpreted. For example, did you know that a dream about a unicorn means that you are “…ready to understand your animal nature and your spiritual essence” (petrix.com)? Of course, if you aren’t a little girl sleeping in a princess bed and you are dreaming about unicorns, I might suggest that you might have deeper issues…

List Guidelines

The recurring dreams that made this list are ones that we seem to share in our collective consciousness – they are the ten most common recurring dreams I found during my research. In my opinion, the meanings of the most common recurring dreams are pretty clear, as you will see below. I have listed all of the online resources used for each dream if you are looking for more in-depth (and expert) information.

10. Trapped

Have you ever had a dream that you are locked in a room, trapped in a mine, or buried alive in a box? If so, then there is some aspect of your waking life that makes you feel trapped or claustrophobic. Did you make the wrong career choice? Is there a mountain of debt on top of you, stifling the lifestyle that you thought you would have?

Dreamforth.com says that if you dream you are caged you “may feel like you cannot change your situation and are feeling trapped by it”. Kind of like if you were locked in a cage in real life, so that make sense…

Dreamforth.com’s interpretation also suggests that this type of dream indicates “you may feel like you are not being allowed to live up to your full potential because somebody is holding you back”.

9. Excuse Me, Where’s the Restroom?

I’ll admit I have this dream a lot. I search for a bathroom but when I get there the toilets are either broken or missing completely. Sometimes I wait in line for a long time, but when it’s my turn the stall doors are all gone or there are showers inside instead. I know exactly what this dream means because when I wake up, I always have to go to the bathroom! I’m not sure why my brain goes to the great effort to incorporate bathroom breaks into my dream life when it could just wake me up and send me down the hall instead.

During my research I discovered other meaningful interpretations to this dream in addition to the most obvious one. According to dreammoods.com, “to dream that you are in a public restroom with no stalls, signifies your frustrations about getting enough privacy”. As a parent of a toddler, this definitely applies. Not only do I never get to ‘go’ by myself in public washrooms any more – my daughter often provides a play-by-play commentary on my private activities to the rest of the lucky people in the room! She also likes to unlock the stall door and swing it open…

I typed “recurring dreams can’t find bathroom” into the search engine at sleeps.com and found a thread with lots of people who have similar dreams. So many that Charmin should figure out how to send out an army of their bears to distribute dream toilet paper – they could make a killing!

Anyways, according to one of the moderators at sleeps.com, a bathroom is a symbol for “thinking too much to increase income and not spending money”. One of the members suggested that we “encounter in this dream all those obstacles so [we] won’t pee in bed”.

If you dream of other ‘bathroom problems’ (perhaps related to your own plumbing?) consider consulting a professional. That brings us to our next list item…

8. Wet Dreams (Drowning, not the other thing.)

If you regularly dream that you are drowning, or that large waves wash over you, or floodwaters rise over you – I would suggest that you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by something in your life.

Thecuriousdreamer.com agrees with me. According to their dream dictionary, drowning indicates “overwhelming circumstances in real life, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, or something feeling out of control.” It also explains that “one huge wave could represent… a challenge in your life” and a flood might represent “feeling like you are ‘over your head’ or things are out of control somehow in your life”.

7. Flying in Your Dreams

I’ve had some scary swaying-on-high-scaffolding dreams but my dreams about flying have all been very good in a weightless, superhero sort of way.

To me, dreams about flying express feelings about freedom; I checked with the experts online and their interpretations matched mine. Dreamsdictionary.org uses the following words to describe dreams about flying: “freedom of expression”, “doing the impossible”, and “creativity”.

But what if your superhero dreams go south? For advice when good flying dreams go bad, see #2 on this list (“Falling”).

6. Going Nowhere

Initially I thought that running in slow motion in a dream meant you felt “stuck” in a real-life situation and I had this dream lumped in with #10 on this list (“Trapped”). A visit to dreamforth.com changed my mind, explaining that a “dream that you are moving in slow motion indicates that you are currently facing hardships and obstacles”.



Dreams of paralysis can also fit into this category. One interpretation of paralysis is that you are “feeling unable to make progress of your own accord in your life, or in a particular situation” or you’re “feeling held back… perhaps even feeling self-sabotaged” (thecuriousdreamer.org).

If you dream that you are running in place, and you’re not doing the running man on the set of a 1980’s rock video, then this same interpretation applies to you.

5. How’s Your Dental Plan? Losing Teeth in Your Dreams?

You feel something hard rolling around in your mouth and spit it out, only to discover it is one of your own teeth. Or, you look in the mirror and your teeth are all missing. Have you had this dream? This dream is apparently very common, so here it is at number 5.

My interpretation of this dream would be that you are feeling that things are decaying or falling apart in your life. I had no idea, so I looked it up at smartgirl.org and they said “…in general, dreams about losing teeth are common and suggest the dreamer feels powerless or out of control in a real life situation.”

This interpretation is very similar to the dream that you are falling (see #2 on this list), but the next two interpretations earn it a space on the list all on it’s own. The first additional interpretation is from dreamsdictionary.org: “you are having difficulties related to self esteem and speaking your mind”.  In my case, if I ever dreamed my teeth were falling out I would just assume that my body is telling me to cut back on the candy and baked goodies – so dreamsdictionary.org’s  second interpretation that “it could be time to see a dentist” is my favorite.

A bit more advice on this topic – if you look in the mirror while you’re awake and your teeth suddenly disappear before your eyes – you are probably just on a bad acid trip. Go find a friend and wait it out…

4. Public Exposure – Nudity in Dreams

If you have recurring dreams that you are naked in public, I would suggest that you are afraid you will be exposed. Is there something you are hiding? The experts agree – apparently when you are naked in a dream you are revealing the real you (unless you are Joan Rivers of course).

3. Lost and/or Unprepared in Your Dreams

In another amazing show of my talent for stating the obvious, I would say that if you are dreaming about being lost or unprepared, you probably feel unprepared or lost in your real life.

If you can’t get your locker open, can’t find your classroom or your house; or, you’re late for something (a test, a train, a meeting) then you find yourself in this category (and in good company – this is a very common type of dream).

School, career, even a new home – these settings all represent change. If you feel unprepared for changes coming to your waking life, then prepare yourself for dreams furnished with impenetrable school lockers, locked doors, and labyrinthine buildings.

Smartgirl.org agrees with me (with a name like that, of course they would). Their dream dictionary states, “…to dream that you are late for something represents your fear of change and your anxiety about seizing an opportunity. You may feel unready or unworthy in your current circumstances. You may also be conflicted over decisions about your future… Dreams about being at school often mean you are feeling insecure about your social status, your abilities or your performance in a situation.”

Smartgirl.org also has this to add about dreams about locks and school, which I found very interesting: “dreams about locks mean you are frustrated and need to express your feelings about a situation in real life” and “…a dream that takes place in school may also be a metaphor for the lessons you are learning in your life.”

Dreamforth.com adds that “dream[s] of a school locker signify hidden feelings and thirst for knowledge”.

2. Falling in Your Dreams

I think everyone has had this dream, which is why it’s in this position on the list. I really wanted to make the recurring toilet-related dreams #2, but could not justify it.

Falling is definitely a sign that you are out of control. According to the curiousdreamer.com these dreams signify a loss of control as well as “a sudden lack of foundation in your life, such as a situation where ‘the rug is pulled out’ from under you”. This makes sense to me, unlike their other interpretation that falling dreams represent “…a feeling or fear of abandonment, especially feeling abandoned by a ‘caretaker’ such as a partner, employer, or by God.”

1. Chased in Your Dreams

My superior interpretation skills tell me that if you dream you are being chased – you are probably trying to get away from something.

According to dream.net.au, “you are running away from or trying to hide from something you need to face”. It could be “a feeling you are avoiding, a conflict you don’t want to handle or a difficult memory you would rather forget.”

But wait, let’s end this list on a positive note: the cloak on that shadowy figure chasing you may have a silver lining!  According to the same website, you might actually be running away from something good “like a talent you are not acknowledging or a feeling of love you are not ready to admit” (dream.net.au).


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236 Comments

  1. I had a continually recurring nightmare when i was younger, if i stared at a spot for to long, a woman dressed in white with long strandy black hair, would emerge from where i was staring, and follow me; i never saw her face. Instinctivley, i ran from her but no matter where i went or how far, i would turn around and she would be there still advancing toward me. My family have moved to 3 different houses becuase of me being traumatised by these nightmares and i have often seen a physchiatrist to help with the nightmares. Before i went to sleep, i thought if it happens tonight, i will confront her but i never could and it has always haunted me even now. They stopped round about puberty and now i dont dream at all. It frightens me still that for many of my childhood years, well for as long as i can remember, i never had a night where i wasnt trying to stay awake in fear of this women and what frightens me more, is that now my subconcious wont let me dream so i would like to know not only what your opinion is on it, but what unearthly explanation is this. No other forum i have visited has had a person with a recurring nightmare for 12 years of there life and then for dreams to stop altogether

    • On another note, i often saw ghosts when i was a child. For whomever has seen the ring, the little boy who watched the tape, imagine him in reality. Well thats me. I saw a woman in my previous house, she had tripped at the landing if the stairs and feel down 17 steps which broke her neck and spine. I got up to go to the toilet one night and as i stepped out i saw a woman, through the banister, she was elderly, about 70, and looked like a pleasant woman, but i noticed that her head was touching her shoulders, ear to shoulder, and as i looked closer i notcied her spine emerging from her neck. I cried for 3 hours not becuase i was frightened, but becuase of the pain the woman looked in. Im 16 now and she still reamins vivid in my mind. Im just posting this on here to show all of you that as traumatising as your nightmares sound, think about a 8 year old boy being haunted by a woman in his dreams, and dead people in reality.

  2. Casey,

    A lot of people say that the color white signifies death or your feelings about death.

    It sounds to me like for whatever reason as a child, you were utterly terrified by the concept of death, maybe either your own or of an unknown person.

    The fact you no longer dream suggests your brain was so traumatised by your early fears and dreams that it refuses to allow you to dream anymore.

    What’s your sleeping pattern like? Do you sleep enough? Make sure you get the right amount of sleep every night and eventually your dreams might come back.

    I had similar issues where I was too afraid to sleep for fear of nightmares but I now have normal dreams.

    Good luck x

    Kitteh.

  3. Teeth falling out: My method of dream interpretation is to choose a thing in the dream and ask it what it wants. I had the teeth falling out dream over and over again until I asked my tooth what it wanted. It said, “I need to have deeper roots.” I never had that dream since.

  4. have always had very scary dreams and recurring dreams of 3 diff old houses. recently i was talking with my mom and we started talking about some of our dreams and we were very surprised that us and my grandmother have all had recurring dreams about the same house. in my dreams im young and always start out going in to this old farm house that seems like it had been abandoned and left to fall apart, i go in with some one i trust and feel safe with the last time it was my step father. the house is so vivid there are brown water spots on the ceiling the furnature is very old its dusty and dirty, but it feels like i know the place and maybe a relative lives or lived there but i have actually never met or ever seen this person. from the outside the place dont seem that big but it ends up being very large. in the door i am in an entery room to the right of me is a livingroom, in the front on me there is a kitchen with a old dirty sink that i can see, to the left of me is a room and a few feet from the door of that room is a stair case sticking out of the wall, stairs with no railling at the top there is a small platform with a door.. the last time i had this dream my step father told me i could walk around and i want soo bad to go into that door but i know that whats on the other side is scarry and isnt nice, long dream short i go in the door my step dad is gone im alone and scared whats up there terrorizes me and the house ends up being so big i scurry thru attics and rooms to escape untill i wake up..my mom i found out 2 weeks ago has also dreamed of this house and this staircase and door since she was young she said that she has always been to scared to go into the room, even weirder my 16yr old cousin and i were together today and she told me of a dream she has started to have alot. i didnt say anything when she also started to describe this same house with the same stairs the same door in the same place with the same waterspots the same feeling of dread and ending up alone as my mother and i have, it has been 2 years since i have had this dream as far as i can remember.. and there are details that i dont remember anymore about the dream but this still makes me want so bad to find someone for us all to talk to am just not sure who and what direction to go in..

  5. Erm hi, basically this is probably the third night in a row? Where I’ve had the dream that I’m with other people in this abandoned shopping centre thing. And we’re getting chased my this woman/daemon thing. She like traps us all in one room towards the end of the dream and she breaks in and grabs someone as if to kill them. But then I always wake up so I don’t know. But it’s been the same dream for three night now and it never seems to change, just add more detail really. It’s just really scaring me and I would like some help please :/

    • Angey – There’s anxiety and fear in your life that is coming out in your dream Having this terrifying dream will relieve some of the stress of carrying the fear around with you in life. Try this; before you go to sleep tonight, visualize the daemon/woman and tell yourself to ask her for a gift. Repeat, in your mind “ask her for a gift” over and over before you go to sleep. Then see what happens.

  6. I once had this dream that last for one month total.. Each night it would start with this young blonde girl kneeling in chains in front of this man in robes, while surrounded be men in armour. A man would stand beside her, with his sword drawn and one hand resting on her shoulder.. It would then fast forward, and I would watch a series of images that I couldn’t recognise, until it would stop with the blonde girl lying down on a stone slab, the man in robes standing above her with this knife raised above his head while the man with the sword, was down on the ground in changes, being beaten. The man in robes would then proceed to swiftly lower his arms, and stab the blonde girl in the heart, and then he would be surrounded by this glowing yellow light, and then things would fast forward again.. When it stopped this time, the room was dark, and a young man and woman would enter bearing flashlights, while exploring the room, they stumble across the altar when the blonde girl had been stabbed, but though the room had aged, the girl herself had remained the same, she hadn’t aged, she didn’t even have the slightest smudge of dirt on her.. The young woman who had entered the room, walked up to the altar, and ignoring the young mans protests, proceeded to reach out and grabe the blade in the blonde girls chest.. having pulled the blade out, the blonde girl awaked, and the room is swallowed in bright yellow light.. And then I would proceed to wake up.
    I admit this sounds like it came from a novel, but this dream plagued me for nights on end, making it so that I remembered a little more each time.. I have no idea what it means, or what purpose there was for me to have this dream, but it has plagued me and I am interested to know the reasons why this particular dream would occur for me..

  7. I frequently have a very bizarre dream in which people are being killed and they are being mutilated. Their bodies are put on the walls and much more.. In my dream there is a very dark over empowering music. I am quite calm in my dream, almost like a spectator who is in no apparent danger. Though my dream does invoke some tense feelings in me whilst im in this labrynth of gore. I like to chalk this up to the fact that I have seen a number of horror movies, though not recently. I don’t know if I should seek professional help or what. I just do not understand what these dreams may mean.

  8. My friend dreamt that I had had a baby. At 49 years old, and with a 13 year old and 10 year old, this would be highly unlikely or desirable on my side. What do you think this means?

    • It could mean that your friend feels like a baby around you and wants your protection or that your friend wants a baby. it’s not about you. It’s about your friend’s unexpressed needs and feelings.

  9. Hey was wondering if you know anything about reocuring people? I have a lot of horrible dreams. I have had them for as long as I can remember. A lot of all the above, but also much worse, things such as murder in very violent ways. Murder of people I love, but also some times I myself am killing people, only to protect others but I am still killing people. I do not watch horrific movies because I can’t stand blood and guts. I have not got a violent background, in fact I can’t even bring myself to shoot foxes and rabbits and I am a farm girl. Sometimes I have a dream and there is this male figure. Sometimes we are both kids, playing on the farm. Other times he is a grown man driving in the car with me. We are friends some times. And other times he asks me to marry him. I wake up wishing I could go back to sleep because when he is there I am so relaxed and peaceful and when he is there, then the night horrors are gone. I know it is always the same person but I never remember his name when I wake. So what can a random dream man mean?

  10. I keep having a reoccurring dream that someone I was very close to at one time is trying to suffocate me with a pillow & then chokes in my sleep. In my dream, I am dreaming that I am asleep & he is putting the pillow over my face & then choking me. What does this mean? This is an almost every night dream. Can someone help shed some light for me? Thank you in advance.

  11. Iam single been so for ever but anyways I keep having this dream that iam in the wild their mud on the ground and and light forests area and then my vision gets clearer and their tons of naked girls and I looked down and iam naked but I dident care then me and this girl with like long brown hair run threw the mud and down a hill away from the older people and nt a tree and have sex I rember every thing bout it. I also had another dream I was in bed and my wife asked me to turn the light off and I got out bed turned it off and went to hug her back in bed but she was gone I think I need get a gf so advise on that would be good to thanks

  12. I keep having the same dream that I have to take more than one classes at the same time. Like first I would have to take Employment Law at 11:00am, then at 11:05am I have to switch to American Constitutional Law, and at 11:10am I would have to take Managerial Communications, and 11:15am I would have to start over again. Like every five minute I would have to rotate classes.

  13. i keep having dreams of my best friend i don’t know my feelings that much and sometimes it has closeness or terror but it always involves him. i don’t know what to do. they scare me.

  14. i keep having a dream about my best friend. he and i were close but had a very complcated relationship that no one understood. my dreams are very vivid and sometimes scary. last night i dreamt that he said he wanted to kiss me. i did in the dream. i could lmost feel it. another dream i had last week was where he was hugging me and it seemed we were older and married. i kept seeing myself in a bed in pain though he was holding my hand and telling me i was going to be okay. i just saw his face an touched it. i could almost feel the pain in my lower stomach area and it increased rapidly and i screamed at the top of my lungs and i woke up. another dream was i was hearing his voice that said what ever you do, do not kill yourself ever! he said this in real life when i was depressed. he kissed me in the dream and put his forehead against mine and looked down and said kiss me here in 20 minutes okay? i said to him i love you. he looked at me and said it back. another was very vivid and was our wedding. we aren’t married or anything in real life.

  15. My most upsetting dream: As the sun is setting in my neighborhood I am riding my bicycle w/my dog in a basket on the handle bars. I take a right turn down a street and it is suddenly dark & the scene is unfamiliar, I see many houses in the distance with lights on in the windows and people in the windows. Still riding my bike I see a “gang” of strangers in front of me, I feel like I’m in danger so I start pedaling faster thinking I will ride my bike through the strangers & as soon as I am about to make contact I am airborne and fly over the gang. When I land from my flight it is daylight and I am in a strange country (don’t understand the language) the streets are very narrow cobblestone with multi-story buildings lining both sides. I keep asking people how to get back to my home address but no one understands me. I finally get off of my bike and walk into a doctors building with a large spiral staircase, as I am walking up the stairs I see a group of USA soldiers walking down & I stop them and ask them how to get back to my home address, the soldiers all shake their heads no & continue down the stairs. I continue up the stairs into a woman’s doctors office where I ask here how to get back to my home address & she simply states, “I’m sorry, but you can’t go back to (home address)”. Then I wake up crying! Please any insight would be most appreciated. (PS. I am a 50 yr old woman, living in the USA, happily married (2nd marriage) w/two wonderful grown offspring, 1 boy & 1 girl)

  16. So I am just waking up from another bad dream. The first one I was with my uncle and cousins and we had weed on us for some reason and we were going back to my dads job. We were walking from a store across the street from my dads job and we were nervous cuz weed is illegal and we didn’t wanna get caught so we played it cool but Shaun (one of my ciusins)just started running and I screamed “Shaun no!” And he got captured by something I’m not sure if it was the cops so we all started running and I woke up. The dream I just had minutes ago once again took place at my dads shop and me and my best friend Mariah were just showing off some of my dads cars because he owns his own car shop so we just parked the cars out front and people started to come check them out. A group of guys came and they tried to plan to take the car and I over heard them so I told Mariah what they said and I told her we had to close up the shop and leave. So we told everyone the show was over and we pulled all the cars into the shop and we started to mess around… All of a sudden I was feeling drunk in my dream and I couldn’t function and someone came to the shop looking for me and I got so scared that I woke up. I think it’s weird cuz my and my dad currently aren’t talking and I just moved out of his house into my moms. What is the dream trying to tell me???

  17. I had a dream where i am in a classroom with my classmates. Our professor is busy with arrangging the seats because he wanted to have a seat plan for us. Actually it’s random. All you need is to pick a number and find your designated sit. I picked no. 2. Then i proceed to my seat. Then i didn’t know that my seatmate is my ex. It was unexpected.after that, he made me again a paper rose and gave it to me. What’s the meaning of this? Thanks.

  18. Begin to acknowledge thee nature of reality is much like a dream.
    For instance, there was a musician who suffered from paralyzing stage fright and would use his sleep time to practice
    in front of an audience. Because iff you have this great
    vision of you retiring on your own private each
    but deep down you don.

  19. i had a reoccurring dream where i was at my old house out in the field by the pool with my roomates. these men would always say hello while we were out there. but one night those men shot one of my roomates while i was in the house, when i saw my boyfriend come up to the house to grab a big rock, i asked him what was wrong. he told me what had happened, so i followed him. he ran at the men but was then shot. they saw me do i jumped in the pool to escape, but when i came up i was shot, and then i woke up. the dream has never ended like this. but ever since that night i havent had that dream again. tonight i had a new dream where i drove my honda into a wall. i then felt very intoxicated like i was drunk. pulled a towl away from the window to get out. it was in a park where a woman was sitting on a bench. she said something to me but i couldnt hear her. and then i started to rise into the sky. then woke up. i am so done with these horrible dreams. and i am wondering if anyone knows what it means when one night your good reoccurring dream turns bad. thank you

  20. Hi, i have dreams thst freaks me out. I have dreams that shift usually ive gone out of town with a few friends and siblings like baby sister (1 year) and were all jointed up in a town and some commotion happens between a friends(a) mom hitting another friends(n) sister, while i try to resort this out we get chased out by the other friend(n) and we all go to this abbandoned house of some sort. And then people in horses come and they send an alarm saying “they are coming”- and all i know was that everyone was separated and the friend (a) and i were having to take care of two smaller girls and try to escape. By the next morning the house were surrounded by smoke bombs and I ran and snuck the 1 year old girl out, i cant seem to remember where friend (a) got left out and its weird so i checked facebook for some reason this was avaliable in my dream and facebook was there and friend (a) said the little girl didnt make it. I was trying to go back home so i found 2 people, 1 i cant remake the face or anything the second was walking near by with his dog. He told me to go where and where to get home. It was getting dark out so i stayed in a home and decided to change the baby’s diapers and give her a bath. When i was about done i heard a voice calling, i yelled “show me your face” and it was dark out. i left the girl in the bathroom( it was the only place that had light since the person called out) and i went out to kill the person. i was so determined, the persons face looked like an old mans wearing a jumper. It kind of reminded me of my orthodontist but its not like ive ever had any bad connections with him. And i just started ripping his neck out and he said “oh not the joint” no matter what i did he still kept talking he wasnt dead yet, but i think he was death. I dont think i took my babysister with me. I ran out the door and i dont know what got to me but i felt like something was chasing me. I kept on thinking “leave me alone” and i woke up.
    I have a feeling also this dream has happened more than once and i dont know whay to do. Always in different settings though. Im very spooked out, please help.

  21. I get these dreams of my family that i have not seen or heard anything from them well these dreams tend to affect me like me moving out never happened and every time in my dreams I’m packing the stuff I actually left behind and I can’t get them back because they pushed me out of there life but it feels like a life and death experience and they feel so real and when i wake up I feel like I don’t know where I’m at and I go back asleep if there’s a name for this let me know