Exploring the Sleeping Mind

Why Do We Dream of Being Late?

We’ve all had one of these dreams or something like them: we look at the clock and realize we are late for a major test; we are racing to a significant event but just can’t drive fast enough; we walk in late to a crowded meeting to the awkward stares of our punctual colleagues. Why dream about being tardy? These dreams are so stressful they only seem to cause anxiety that interferes with restorative sleep.

Part of the purpose of dreaming is to continue processing the events of our day and to train the brain for future events. Since being late can interfere with pretty much any occasion, it’s not surprising those worries can invade our sleeping minds as well as our waking minds. If you struggle with organization, you may see more dreams where you seem to never be able to catch up with where you need to be. In this case, the best remedy is obviously to work on time management.

If you don’t struggle with organization, and tardiness is nothing your brain needs to pull an all-nighter to work through, being late is a common symbolic expression of larger issues in our lives. In comparison with our waking minds, our sleeping minds are more abstract, conceptual, and creative. In the most abstract terms, tardiness is a negative outcome, either due to personal errors or external events, as we progress through something, which can cause lost opportunities, rebuke, or other negative consequences, and in turn, the possibility of tardiness causes anxiety and fear. What situations in life would mirror this? Perhaps you feel you work as hard as you can, but after being passed up for promotions at work repeatedly, you suddenly realize you are not on track for your career goals. Perhaps it’s almost your 30th birthday, and instead of having the full family you imagined at this time ten years ago, you are still single. In both these examples, on the (self-imposed) timeline of life, you are late. In this case, your dreams are using a simple symbol to work through a bigger issue of expectations and failures weighing on your mind.

It’s never fun to dream about being late, but it’s better than being late literally or symbolically in our waking lives. Therefore, our dreams give us an interesting insight into some issues we may need to work through upon waking. Purposefully cultivating a peaceful, attentive mind and an organized life is a good practice that will also transfer into an enjoyable, restful sleep.

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