Can We Sin in Our Sleep? What to Do with Troubling Dreams

Sarah’s heart raced as she awoke from a vivid nightmare. In her dream, she committed a murderous act against someone she’d never met. She soon grew disturbed that her mind could entertain such a thing, and she didn’t know what to do next. Had she sinned? Should she ask God for forgiveness?

Vivid dreams of vile deeds can interrupt the sleep of the most faithful saints. Some dreams recur, while others visit only once. These imaginary acts of adultery, immorality, vengeance, deceit, lies, thievery, and murder can leave us crippled with shame and guilt.

If you or someone you’re ministering to has a sinful dream, what should you do?

Should you seek an interpretation?
Should you feel guilty?
Should you confess to the person you harmed in your dream?
Should you repent of your murder, adultery, or whatever else you did — even though you didn’t actually do it?

If we search the Scriptures, we find sufficient wisdom to develop several principles to help us answer these questions.

1. Dreams are not reality.

Dreams are, in the first place, dreams. If you didn’t commit adultery in real life, but dreamt about committing adultery, you didn’t actually commit adultery. There is a clear and significant difference between what you dream and what you actually do.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of a hungry man who dreams about feasting yet awakes with a growl in his belly (Isaiah 29:8). The reason he is still hungry is that his dream eating was not real eating; it was a dream.

“Before you rest, rest in Jesus.”

This comforts us with the certainty that though our resting minds may execute wicked deeds, we aren’t actually doing them. Our will is not engaged. We are not intentionally offering our bodies to sin (Romans 6:13). We are not guilty of sin if we only dreamt about it.

Our lack of guilt for specific sin, however, should not le
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