Sleep and Dreaming What Does It Mean When You Dream About Sex? By Brittany Loggins Brittany Loggins LinkedIn Twitter Brittany is a health and lifestyle writer and former staffer at TODAY on NBC and CBS News. She's also contributed to dozens of magazines. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 14, 2021 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 Ivy Kwong, LMFT Medically reviewed by Ivy Kwong, LMFT LinkedIn Twitter Ivy Kwong, LMFT, is a psychotherapist specializing in relationships, love and intimacy, trauma and codependency, and AAPI mental health. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz Table of Contents View All Table of Contents The Most Common Sex Dreams Dream Theories Dreams and Stress While not many people are probably running around talking about it, sex dreams are super common. In fact, results from a survey that was published in the Psychology & Sexuality journal noted that 2,907 people in Germany between the ages of 16 and 92 said that about 1 in 5 dreams is erotic. And while this survey has flaws in that it was asking people to make estimates, it still shows that sex is definitely on the brain—even when we are sleeping. Theresa Cheung, a dream expert author who has researched the topic for more than 25 years, explains that sex dreams are not only normal, they're healthy. "Sex dreams allow your curiosity to cathartically express itself, but in a safe way that hurts nobody," explains Cheung. "The only time to worry is if you have repeated sex dreams most nights and are also thinking about cheating and having sex constantly during the day. If this is the case, seek out your therapist for advice." In this article, you'll find some common sex dreams and studies that have looked into what your sex dreams might mean. The Most Common Sex Dreams If you've been having erotic dreams, you're probably wondering whether your dreams are common or not. Most likely, you're not alone as many people tend to have similar dreams. So, let's take a look at some of the most common sex dreams. Cheating on Your Partner If you've ever had a dream where you find yourself cheating on your significant other, don't worry. This dream is actually quite common and can occur whether you're married or unmarried. If you're having this dream, it's possible that you're feeling a certain amount of jealousy or a lack of intimacy with your partner. Maybe not surprisingly, in another dream study, people that scored higher in terms of romantic jealousy, had more dreams where their partner was cheating on them. It's also possible that men have more dreams where they cheat on a partner. Another study surveyed 470 men and 575 women, all of whom were in a romantic relationship, found that men were more likely to report dreaming of someone other than their partner, especially an acquaintance. It also revealed that higher relationship satisfaction made people in relationships more likely to dream about their partners, and those in shorter-term relationships with lower satisfaction rates were more likely to have dreams that featured a former partner. Sex With a Boss or Authority Figure According to the Sleep Foundation, dreams about having sex with a boss or someone in charge could mean that you are seeking their approval. That said if you're spending a lot of time with that person, or even if you're having to spend a lot of time thinking about that person, the stress of their needs at your job could just be causing them to pop up everywhere. Same-Sex Dreams Cheung explains that, while same-sex dreams can feel disorienting if you're not normally attracted to your sex, they're completely normal. "They are very common and entirely normal," says Cheung. "The interpretation lies in what the other woman or man in your dream represents to you." Cheung explains that when people dream about things that are uncommon to them, it can be a sign that their brain is focusing on qualities that they wish they possessed themselves. "Dream lovers can represent aspects of yourself that you need to integrate [into your own life] in order to grow," says Cheung. Multiple Partners According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, both genders reported more dreams involving multiple partners at once. Cheung cited this study as well, explaining that this is an area where gender stereotypes can come into play. "Gender stereotypes do perhaps transfer to choice of a dream partner, with women tending to dream about sex in a more intimate and personal way, meaning their dream lover is as significant as the dream sex," explains Cheung. "But men tend to focus more on the dream sex rather than who they are actually having sex with in a dream, hence men dreaming more about sex with strangers or multiple partners." This is also a good thing to remember if you are worried that your partner has shared that they have dreams about having sex with multiple partners. It's probably indicative that they are more focused on the physical components of the dreams rather than personal ones. Sex With an Ex Not only is this common, this typically isn't something you have to worry about. Especially if you're in another relationship, your mind could just be grouping together similar experiences from the past. Cheung says that sex dreams about an ex might suggest that you've moved on from them and are ready to use the lessons you learned from that relationship in your new one. While she also emphasizes that dreams about having sex with an ex don't necessarily have anything to do with your current relationship, it may be worth looking into if they're constant. "It can indicate that something is missing from your current relationship, but it could simply be that you're not spending enough personal quality time together and your intimacy needs are not being met," says Cheung. "This dream could also have nothing to do with relationships and suggest something missing from other areas of your life, perhaps a sense of adventure." Dream Theories Dream theories are important because they reflect research that aims to determine whether or not dreams have anything to do with real-life issues. Basically, they hope to help people better understand why they might be having the same recurring themes within their dreams, and what these themes can tell them about their life. Continuity Theory The continuity theory suggests that the way people think and act in dreams is a continuation of how they behave in real life. This is also true for some of the common themes and familiar faces from a person's waking life. Basically, all of these familiar things continue to pop up when people dream. One study even showed that how people react to an event in a dream aligns with how they would respond to that event if it were to occur in real life. This theory also says that even if the events in the dream are far-fetched or unrealistic, the dreamer's reaction is consistent with who they are in real life. Non-Continuity Theory This is when dreams get a little crazier. The non-continuity theory comes into play if your dreams start showing fictional people or timelines in your life begin to intermingle somehow. An example of a dream that would exhibit this theory would be if a person dreams about having sex with someone (like say, their boss) who they would never have sex with in real life, either due to lack of attraction or inability (like with a famous person). Some experts believe that non-continuity is a way for our brains to consolidate memories by integrating old memories with new ones so they're more easily accessible. Others think that these types of dreams could help people make potentially important associations about the patterns of things that they continually find themselves doing in real life. In other words, if you're frustrated with the way that you respond to something in real life and you find yourself dreaming about it consistently, it may be a sign that you need to start working on that in your daily life. Why These Theories Matter Psychologists think that both of these dream theories play an important role in our mental health. They show the cognitive connection and disconnection between our dreams and real life. It's important to note that neither of these dream theories states that your dreams are an accurate reflection of your desires. In fact, they could just be a reflection of your stress levels or your brain's need to be creative. Dreams and Stress You might have noticed that, if you're stressed, your dreams can tend to get a little, well, out there. This was backed up in a study that followed college students during the days leading up to their final exams. The study found that emotional stress is a common cause of recurrent and frequent dreams. In fact, it even showed that the students were dreaming more in the days leading up to the final exams than they were during the days after. This definitely shows that instances of stress can impact the way we dream. A Word From Verywell While it's easier said than done, try to not let your dreams become an additional source of stress in your life. While your dreams might sometimes suggest a desire for out-of-the-box situations, oftentimes dreams are just your brain's way of blowing off steam and are nothing to worry about. 8 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. Schredl, M., Ciric, P., Götz, S., & Wittmann, L. (2004). Typical dreams: Stability and gender differences. Journal of Psychology, 138, 485–494. Clarke, J., DeCicco, T. L., & Navara, G. (2010). An investigation among dreams with sexual imagery, romantic jealousy and relationship satisfaction. International Journal of Dream Research, 3(1), 54–59. Vaillancourt-Morel, M.-P., Daspe, M.-È., Lussier, Y., & Zadra, A. (2021). Targets of erotic dreams and their associations with waking couple and sexual life. Dreaming, 31(1), 44–56. Pacheco D, Wright H. What Do Sex Dreams Mean?. The Sleep Foundation. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. ScienceDaily. Sexual Activity Reported In Dreams Of Men And Women, Coutts R. Variation in the Frequency of Relationship Characters in the Dream Reports of Singles: A Survey of 15,657 Visitors to an Online Dating Website. Sage Journals. 2015;4. Kahn D. Reactions to Dream Content: Continuity and Non-continuity. Frontiers in Psychology. Duke, T., & Davidson, J. (2002). Ordinary and recurrent dream recall of active, past and non-recurrent dreamers during and after academic stress. Dreaming, 12(4), 185–197. By Brittany Loggins Brittany is a health and lifestyle writer and former staffer at TODAY on NBC and CBS News. She's also contributed to dozens of magazines. 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.