THE BLOG

What Do Dreams Say About Your Physical Health?

11/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Have you ever had a dream where you were walking down a staircase that suddenly looked too rickety to trust? Has a car in your dreams had its engine freeze up or its brakes fail? Dreams of houses and cars can refer to the human body, and are some of the images that give us information about our physical health.

But dreams can also give us health warnings in very direct ways. A friend of mine had a dream where she was walking down the street when suddenly her heart fell out of her chest and onto the sidewalk! Something about this image disturbed her dream group very much, and they urged her to get her heart checked right away. She did, and found a life-threatening heart condition that needed immediate treatment. Her dream literally saved her life.

One woman woke up very disturbed after dreaming of a fuzzy brown patch on her throat. She scheduled an appointment to see her doctor and get her throat looked at. Her immediate action caught an early stage of cancer in her throat, which was then successfully treated.

This woman did not tell her doctor about the dream, but the important thing is that she paid attention to it -- and the "not quite right" feeling it left her with. If more people followed their hunches in this way, many medical conditions could be discovered before they become serious.

What are some common health images in dreams? If there is a long, rickety staircase, it may have to do with your spine, which is also long and connects your upper and lower body. Car engines can represent the human heart, which is our "engine." Sinks and plumbing often refer to digestion and elimination, and when we dream of car brakes failing it could mean that we are going too fast and need to slow down!

Dreams can also clue us in on normal body changes. Nightmares are rare in adults, but often occur right before we get sick. My teenage daughter has discovered that she always dreams about zombies when she has a fever, and she can tell she is getting better when the zombie dreams stop. Why zombies? Perhaps because all the body's functions are "under wraps" during a fever, and we feel somewhat less than human.

While dream of physical health issues are quite common, doctors have been slow to catch on to the diagnostic potential of dream reports. Most psychology programs don't even train their students in working with or interpreting dreams. And while there are a few doctors who take dream reports seriously, they are a very rare breed.

Another good friend of mine suffers from a complicated heart condition. Recently, she noticed that her heart "episodes" usually occur the day after she has a certain kind of dream. Once she discovered the connection she told her doctor about it. But then she went one step farther: she gave her doctor information on the healing potential of dreams. Because her past insights into her medical condition have proven so helpful, he took the material and promised to read it.

Whether or not Western medicine recognizes how important dreams are, the fact is that thousands of people use this information every day to guide their own medical decisions. Everyone from cancer patients to diabetics have found that they gain important clues to their health through dreams. We don't need to be "dream experts" to do this--interpreting dreams is not an exact science anyway. And while there are some symbols for health that occur more than others, everyone's dreams are unique.

Mostly we need to pay attention to those "funny feelings" that tell us something is not quite right. These hunches, also known as intuition, are our best ally in preventing problems before they arise, and for dealing with them swiftly when they threaten our health. And that is certainly good news to wake up to!