We all have dreams every now and then that really stick in our minds. Ever dreamt about an ex-partner that you haven't thought about in years? How about the one we all hate - finding yourself naked in public?
An odd dream can leave us wondering all day what on earth is going on in our heads and about the underlying dream meanings. “Dreams give us messages, which are largely symbolic. I call them ‘metaphors in motion’,” Dr Keith M T Hearne told us.
A study of 2,000 UK adults carried out by Bed SOS revealed the nation most commonly dream about having sex (48%), with falling (45%) and being chased (37%) in second and third place.
Sometimes the dream meanings behind these weird scenarios aren’t quite as obvious as you might think. “Dreams are often mistranslated and the actual message is different to the original. They should be taken metaphorically, not literally,” said Keith.
So before you start worrying that you’re really in love with the postman or have sleep problems, read our guide below to make sense of some of the most common dream meanings. “They are decodable,” says Keith. “The unconscious is our guide, protector and advisor, so we should always be listening.”
Common dream meanings
Dream meanings: Animals
The animals in our dreams are representations of ourselves and how we’re feeling. Different animals have different dream meanings.
- Insects represent worries or team work
- Bears represent hurdles or our inner strength
- Birds represent happiness, good news and freedom
- Alligators represents a warning
- Spiders represent fortune and money
- Cats, including tigers and lions, represent our feminine and intuitive sides
- Dogs represent loyalty, generosity and friendship
- Horses represent physical strength and sometimes arrogance
- Snakes represent knowledge, wisdom and sexuality
Dream meanings: Being naked in public
We’ve all had that dream where we’re at work or in a busy public place when all of a sudden we realise we’ve forgotten to get dressed! The way we react to this in our dreams is key to working out the meaning.
“In this case, a feeling of embarrassment and shame probably accurately reveals the essential emotion, and the content symbolically displays the cause of the dream. The dreamer should focus on what they have done or said to ‘show themselves up’.
However, this doesn’t always have to be a negative dream.
“It may be a rebuke from the unconscious of unacceptable social behaviour. If, however, the feeling is of exhilaration, it may represent perhaps a new-found sense of freedom,” explains Keith.
Dream meanings: Your teeth falling out
Losing your teeth is a dream lots of us have had. Sometimes the dream starts off with teeth having already fallen out. Other versions of this dream can be the teeth dropping out one-by-one. Both are unpleasant, but what do they mean?
One interpretation of a teeth-loss dream is that you’re concerned about losing your looks. Have you recently found a new cluster of grey hairs or feel like your wrinkles are deepening? Something as simple as this could trigger a dream of this sort. Menopausal women have been found to dream frequently about teeth loss and in this instance it represents their worries about growing old and losing their femininity.
“This dream may be interpreted as a warning that time is passing and important things need to be done in life, or that you are embarrassed over something insensitive you’ve said to someone else,” revealed Keith.
Dream meanings: Falling
Many people wake with a start after having a dream that they’re falling. The common myth is that if you ever actually hit the ground, you’ll die in real life but this, unsurprisingly, isn’t true.
“This can cover several different scenarios, and often seems to come up as a linguistic pun,” says Keith. “The word ‘fall’ is used in several contexts in everyday life. It may appear either as a wish (for example to fall in love, or to fall pregnant), or refer to a negative event (say, to fall out with someone, to decline or fail in some way). Recall what was happening in the dream, and the characters present, to uncover the probable topic.”
Dream meanings: Flying
Flying dreams can be really fun, especially when you’re soaring through the sky without a care. “This is a well known metaphor for doing well in life, and progressing with ease,” explains Keith.
When you dream you’re flying and it seems like the most natural thing in the world, it indicates that you are on top of a situation and feel confident that you will succeed. However, if you find yourself flapping around to stay up in the air, this could represent a struggle you face with some aspect in your life. Obstacles such as trees or mountains that get in your way represent particular people holding you back so next time you go crashing into a branch, think of it as a confrontation with someone and work out how to progress past them.
Dream meanings: Being lost
“The feeling of being lost is a powerful emotion, in life and in dreams,” Keith explains. “Children can be traumatised by such an experience, and a ‘sub-personality’ may form, stuck at that age – subsequently influencing their life and their dreams.
“They may have developed a feeling of having been abandoned. In adulthood, if they have a relationship which ends, the grief may be amplified by the trapped childhood emotion. Symbolically, the dreamer be ‘lost in life’, and needs to find a way forward to a rewarding place.”
Have you been worrying about where your career is going or perhaps you’re concerned about how a relationship with a partner has changed lately? This could be a good chance to assess where things are going.
Dream meanings: Someone that’s died
Being visited in our dreams by loved ones that have died can be comforting or upsetting, depending on how you look at it. Some people see it as a sign that the person is trying to communicate with them from the afterlife. Watch out for reading too much into this as it could lead to you obsessing over what they’re trying to tell you.
Another thought is that it means you still need to deal with issues surrounding their death, even if it was a long time ago. Whichever you choose to believe, it’s clear that the person remains in your memories.
“The ancients understood the concept of opposites in dreams,” revealed Keith. “The unconscious message might be that a birth is in fact imminent.” Which could mean an actual birth, or a new beginning.