Sleep and Dreaming 9 Common Dreams and What They Mean Dream Analysis and Interpretation Are Imperfect Sciences By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry Facebook Twitter Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology. Learn about our editorial process Updated on July 23, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief Medically reviewed by Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.For media or public speaking inquiries, contact Amy here. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print The subject of dream interpretation has been of interest for many years, and for good reason. Understanding the deeper meaning of dreams can bring about realizations about how you feel and think, which can be beneficial for providing personal insight. Verywell / Jessica Olah Understanding Dream Interpretations Famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud described dreams as the "royal road" to the unconscious and suggested that by studying the obvious content of dreams, we could bring to light the hidden and unconscious desires that lead to neurosis. Analyzing dream symbols and ascribing meaning to them has become a source of both entertainment and self-reflection in popular culture. Do dreams mean anything? Can you learn your unconscious wishes and desires by interpreting your dreams? What your dreams tell you and whether they reveal your true feelings depends on various factors. While some modern theories of dreams suggest that the answer is no—that dreams may have a more biological component or even be due to sleep position—this hasn't stopped interpreters and analysts from attempting to identify what common dream themes and symbols mean. 7 Most Common Dreams Researchers have found that the seven most common dreams involve being attacked or chased, being late, loved ones dying, falling, flying, school, and sex. Let's take a closer look at some of the most common dreams and what dream interpretation books have to say about them. 1:40 9 Common Dreams and Their Interpretations 1 Dreams About Falling Dreams about falling from great heights are very common. While there is a popular myth that if you hit the ground in your dream you will die in real life, it simply is not true. So what exactly could dreams about falling really mean? According to many popular dream interpretations and at least one study, falling dreams are a sign that something in your life isn't going well. It might suggest that you need to rethink a choice, for instance, or consider a new direction in some area of your life. "Dreaming of falling is very common. It is a symbol of fear in real life— perhaps of failing at work or in your love life," says Russell Grant, author of "The Illustrated Dream Dictionary." He adds that "Falling often expresses a need to let yourself go more and enjoy life more." 2 Dreams About Being Naked in Public Have you ever had one of those awkward dreams where you show up at school or the office in your birthday suit? Don't worry. Dreaming about being naked is hardly unusual. Penney Peirce, the author of "Dream Dictionary for Dummies," suggests that dreaming of public nudity might indicate that you feel like a phony or that you are afraid of revealing your imperfections and shortcomings. 3 Dreams About Being Chased Dreams that feature being pursued by a known or unknown attacker can be particularly terrifying. And many people experience these types of dreams. But what do dreams of being chased say about what's going on inside your mind? Dream interpreters often suggest that such dreams mean that you are trying to avoid something in your daily life. Tony Crisp, the author of "Dream Dictionary," suggests that being chased in a dream might indicate a desire to escape from your own fears or desires. The key to understanding what such a dream might mean depends partly on the identity of your pursuer. If it is: An animal: You might be hiding from your own anger, passions, and other feelings. An unknown chaser: If your pursuer is a mysterious, unknown figure, it might represent a childhood experience or past trauma. A member of the opposite sex: Crisp suggests this means you are afraid of love or haunted by a past relationship. 4 Dreams About Losing Teeth What do dreams mean if your teeth fall out? Penney Peirce, the author of "Dream Dictionary for Dummies," suggests that dreaming about losing teeth can have multiple meanings. It might mean that you are worried about your attractiveness or appearance, for instance. It may also indicate that you are concerned about your ability to communicate, or that you are concerned that you might have said something embarrassing. "The real essence of teeth is their ability to bite through, to cut, tear, and grind," she explains. "If your teeth fall out, you lose personal power and your ability to be assertive, decisive, and self-protective." 5 Dreams About Dying Death is another common subject of dreams and one that can be particularly disconcerting. Dreamers sometimes dream of the death of a loved one or even of dying themselves. Popular dream interpretations suggest that such dreams reflect anxiety about change or a fear of the unknown. "Like death, change can be scary because—also like death—we do not know what is 'on the other side' of the change, which is why the dreaming mind equates change with death," suggests Lauri Loewenberg in her book "Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life." Loewenberg also believes that dreaming about the death of a loved one can reflect a similar fear of change, especially with regard to our children. As a child grows up, a parent's mind begins to wonder where the younger version of the child went. Dreams of dying, therefore, reflect a sort of mourning for the passage of time. Studies have also shown that those approaching the end of life and loved ones around them experience significant and meaningful dreams, often relating to a comforting presence, preparing to go, watching or engaging with the deceased, loved ones waiting, distressing experiences, and unfinished business. 6 Dreams About Taking a Test Studies have also found that dreams of test-taking are common. According to Craig Hamilton-Parker, author of "The Hidden Meaning of Dreams," taking an exam in your dream might reveal an underlying fear of failure. "Examinations are stressful experiences in which you are made to face up to your shortcomings," he writes. "To dream of failing an exam, being late for one, or being unprepared shows that you feel unprepared for the challenges of waking life." 7 Dreams About Infidelity Dreaming that your spouse or romantic partner is cheating on you with someone else can be incredibly distressing. In some cases, people even start to wonder if the dream might really be true. Does dreaming that your partner is unfaithful mean that it might happen? Or that it is already happening? While these dreams might be the reflection of fears of infidelity, such dreams probably don't mean that your spouse is cheating or will cheat, say Trish and Rob MacGregor, authors of "Complete Dream Dictionary: A Bedside Guide to Knowing What Your Dreams Mean." "This is another 'what if' dream–you are testing the limits of reality," the authors suggest. Eve Adamson and Gayle Williamson, authors of "The Complete Idiot's Guide Dream Dictionary," posit that dreams about infidelity indicate issues with trust, loyalty, and communication in a relationship. "If you or your partner cheated in your dream, one of you isn't getting what you need from that relationship right now," they write. 8 Dreams About Flying Many people experience dreams about flying. Flying dreams can be exciting and even liberating, but they can also sometimes be quite frightening (especially for those afraid of heights). According to Tony Crisp, author of "Dream Dictionary," dreams about flying often have two very different sides. They can represent feelings of freedom and independence. On the other hand, they can also indicate a desire to flee or escape from the realities of life. "Flying alone occurs most frequently," he writes, "showing the independent aspect of flying. But because it often involves positive feelings of pleasure, flying may depict our sexuality…especially aspects of it expressing freedom from social norms and restraints." 9 Dreams About Pregnancy Dream interpreters often suggest that dreams about pregnancy represent everything from creativity to fear. David C. Lohff, the author of "Dream Dictionary," believes that pregnancy dreams might sometimes represent a woman's fears of being an inadequate mother. Author Tony Crisp, has a different take, suggesting that pregnancy dreams indicate that the dreamer is developing some area of potential or deepening a relationship. Dream interpreter Russell Grant writes that these dreams presage difficult times. More Common Dream Themes There are other dream themes that tend to be fairly common. They include:Discovering new rooms or passagesBeing dressed inappropriatelyBeing unable to find a toiletArriving someplace lateHaving a massive wave approaching youFinding money A Word From Verywell So what do you think? Do some of these dream interpretations seem accurate? If not, don't worry—your dreams are unique and highly personal. In all likelihood, the things you experience in your dreams probably reflect the concerns you face in your daily existence or of recent events. How do you analyze a dream? The first step is to write down everything you can remember as soon as you wake. Dreams are often quickly forgotten, so jotting down the details can help aid in recall. Next, look at the dream's contents and think about what it might mean in your life. What association do you have with the events of the dream? What kind of feelings did it evoke? In many cases, you may find that your dream reflects the events or concerns of your waking life. Frequently Asked Questions What does it mean when you dream about someone? Psychoanalyst Carl Jung believed that if you dream about someone close to you or someone who is important to you, that might represent how you feel about that person in real life; whereas if you dream about a person you are not close with (such as someone in your past) or an unknown person, that person is more symbolic.Sigmund Freud suggested that the environment around the person you're dreaming about may matter as well, such as dreaming of your parents in places you would normally find a king and queen, which would be a sign of your respect for them. How accurate are dream interpretations? There is no way to answer this question with any certainty as dream interpretations are both individual and subjective. They are individual in that the meaning of dreams for one person may not be the same for another. Dream interpretations are also subjective in that they are based on the meanings that you assign them, and these assigned meanings can also differ from one person to the next. Why are dream interpretations important in psychoanalysis? The self-organization theory of dreaming implies that dreams are a reflection of one's physiological and psychological activities, thus providing important information about the person's thoughts and emotional state. Psychoanalysts can then use the person's dreams to better understand what is going on in their mind, perhaps on an unconscious level. What do sexual dreams mean? Some studies suggest that having sexual dreams is a result of your thoughts and fantasies when you're awake, with more frequent thoughts about sex contributing to more of these dreams. Others connect dreaming about sex with a desire to be in a sexually stimulating situation. These types of dreams are common, with more than 95% of people reporting having dreams that are erotic in nature. Learn More: What It Means to Dream About Sex What do recurring dreams mean? Some researchers theorize that regular, recurring dreams represent being frustrated about psychological needs that are unmet. Recurring dreams are also common after experiencing a lot of mental distress, such as with post-traumatic stress disorder. Learn More: Understanding Recurring Nightmares What do vivid dreams mean? In some cases, having vivid or highly intense dreams is a result of major trauma, with some studies showing increases in these types of dreams post-9/11.Dreams that are vivid generally occur during REM sleep and could also be due to fragmented sleep, sleep deprivation, a sleep disorder, stress, pregnancy, or a medication you are taking. Learn More: What Causes Vivid Dreams? 28 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Edwards C, Malinowski J, McGee S, Bennett P, Ruby P, Blagrove M. Comparing personal insight gains due to consideration of a recent dream and consideration of a recent event using Ullman and Schredl dream group methods. Front Psychol. 2015;6. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00831 Schredl M. Freud's interpretation of his own dreams in "The interpretation of dreams": A continuity hypothesis perspective. Int J Dream Res. 2008;1(2):44–47. doi:10.11588/ijodr.2008.2.80 Ellman S, Weinstein L. When theories touch: An attempted integration reformulation of dream theory. In: Fonagy P, Kächele H, Leuzinger-Bohleber M, Taylor D, eds, The Significance of Dreams: Bridging Clinical and Extraclinical Research in Psychoanalysis. Karnac Books. Yu CK. The effect of sleep position on dream experiences. Dreaming. 2012;22(3):212-221. doi:10.1037/a0029255 Schredl M, Ciric P, Götz S, Wittmann L. Typical dreams: stability and gender differences. J Psychol. 2004;138(6):485-94. doi:10.3200/JRLP.138.6.485-494 Weinstein N, Campbell R, Vansteenkiste M. Linking psychological need experiences to daily and recurring dreams. Motiv Emot. 2018;42(1):50–63. doi:10.1007/s11031-017-9656-0 Grant R. The Illustrated Dream Dictionary. Sterling. Peirce P. Dream Dictionary for Dummies. Wiley. Crisp T. Dream Dictionary: An A-to-Z Guide to Understanding Your Unconscious Mind. Random House Publishing Group. Loewenberg L. Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life. St. Martin's Publishing Group. Nosek CL, Kerr CW, Woodworth J, et al. End-of-life dreams and visions: A qualitative perspective from hospice patients. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2015;32(3):269-74. doi:10.1177/1049909113517291 Hamilton-Parker C. The Hidden Meaning of Dreams. Sterling. MacGregor T, MacGregor R. The Complete Dream Dictionary: A Bedside Guide to Knowing What Your Dreams Mean. F+W Media. Adamson E, Williamson G. The Complete Idiot's Guide Dream Dictionary. Alpha Books. Nir Y, Tononi G. Dreaming and the brain: from phenomenology to neurophysiology. Trends Cogn Sci. 2010;14(2):88–100. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2009.12.001 Lohff DC. Dream Dictionary: A Comprehensive Guide to Analysis and Interpretation, With Explanations for More Than 350 Symbols and Theories. Courage Books. Nielsen TA, Zadra AL, Simard V, et al. The typical dreams of Canadian university students. Dreaming. 2003;13(4):211-235. doi:10.1023/B:DREM.0000003144.40929.0b Wang JX, Shen HY. An attempt at matching waking events into dream reports by independent judges. Front Psychol. 2018;9:465. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00465 Jung CG. Dream Analysis 1: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1928-30. Majumdar P, Tripathi S. Comparison of Freudian & Jungian view on dream analysis. Pramana Res J. 2019;9(6):1387-99. Zhang W, Guo B. Freud's dream interpretation: a different perspective based on the self-organization theory of dreaming. Front Psychol. 2018;9:1553. doi:103389/fpsyg.2018.01553 Schredl M, Geibler C, Gortiz A. Factors influencing the frequency of erotic dreams: an online study. Psychol Sexual. 2019;19(4):316-24. doi:10.1080/19419899.2019.1638297 Younis I, Abdelrahman S, Ibrahim A, Hasan S, Mostafa T. Sex dreams in married women: Prevalence, frequency, content, and drives. Dreaming. 2017;27(3):251-9. doi:10.1037/drm0000058 Vaillancourt-Morel M, Daspe M, Lussier Y, Zadra A. Targets of erotic dreams and their associations with waking couple and sexual life. Dreaming. 2021;31(1):44-56. doi:10.1037/drm0000160 Weinstein N, Campbell R, Vansteenkiste M. Linking psychological need experiences to daily and recurring dreams. Motiv Emot. 2018;42:50-63. doi:10.1007/s11031-017-9656-0 Dithole K, Thupayagale-Tshweneagae G, Mgutshini T. Posttraumatic stress disorder among spouses of patients discharged from the intensive care unit after six months. Issues Mental Health Nurs. 2013;34(1):30-5. doi:10.3109/01612840.2012.715235 Hartmann E, Brezler T. A systematic change in dreams after 9/11/01. Sleep. 2008;31(2):213-8. doi:10.1093/sleep/31.2.213 Sleep Foundation. Vivid dreams. By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.