What could your dreams mean?

Every night when we are asleep, we dream. In fact, studies suggest that we actually dream anywhere between three and six times a night.

So, why is it that we can sometimes remember our dreams so vividly when we wake, and yet, more often than not, we have no recollection of what was going through our minds the night before? 

sleeping eye dreaming

What are dreams?

Dreams are typically visual images or stories that go through our minds during sleep. They are a representation of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. For people who are blind, their dreams tend to be based on sound, touch, taste, and smell. 

Dreams can seem to make perfect sense, often leaving you feeling confused when you wake up because you felt so present in the moment, or they might be completely nonsensical. They can make us feel happy, upset, or, if we experience a nightmare, scared. 

Dreams take place at any point during the sleep cycle. The sleep cycle consists of:

  1. Wakefulness.
  2. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep (stage one) – this is where we start to nod off.
  3. NREM (stage two) – we spend about half our time sleeping in this phase. This is where we enter light sleep.
  4. NREM (stage three) – the ‘deep sleep’ phase.
  5. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – after your ‘deep sleep’, your body temperature and heart rate begin to rise as it enters back into NREM (stage two). Your eye movements become rapid and random as your brain waves increase. This period of sleep is where most of our vivid dreams take place. 

Types of dreams

Dreams can take many different forms, from lucid dreams to nightmares, and can also occur even when we aren’t asleep. 

Daydreams

Daydreams occur when we are awake. This might be during the day, distracting you from the present moment, such as at work, or in bed, right before you’re about to go to sleep. They are made up of a series of thoughts that your brain defaults to as a result of lack of stimulation. You might find yourself staring at nothing at all and ‘snapping’ back into reality. 

False-awakening dreams

False awakenings are when a person in the middle of a dream believes they are awake. This is often linked to sleep paralysis. 

Lucid dreams

When someone experiences a lucid dream, they are aware that they are dreaming and are able to have some control over their body and how the dream plays out. 

Prophetic dreams 

These are dreams thought to enable people to see future events before they happen in real life. Some people believe they have predicted the future, whilst others believe it is the subconscious predicting the most likely outcome of a situation.

Recurring dreams  

These are dreams that repeat themselves, whether exactly or very similar to the previous. They can also be in the form of recurring nightmares. People believe that these dreams are a reflection of an unresolved issue.

Nightmares

Nightmares are very common and we’ve all likely experienced a nightmare that’s left us waking up stunned in the middle of the night at least once in our lives. These dreams, often referred to as ‘bad dreams’, induce fear and are the brain’s way of processing stressful scenarios. Nightmares can be caused by unhealthy habits, past trauma, medication, and sleep deprivation. 


Why do we dream?

It’s thought that we dream for a variety of reasons. Experts suggest that dreams can help us solve problems, capture memories, and process our emotions.

Some dreams help us process an event that happened that day, whilst others may be reflections of day-to-day brain activity that can mean very little. Ever had a chat with a partner, friend, family member, or colleague and found yourself recalling it in some capacity during the night? That’s your brain’s way of processing that conversation. 

Research is yet to identify the exact reasons behind why we dream, but as well as processing our thoughts and feelings, some believe dreams are needed to support our well-being – mentally, physically, and emotionally. A study found that people who weren’t allowed to dream (due to being woken, for example) had greater anxiety, tension, lack of concentration, and, in some cases, hallucinations, compared to those that were left to dream. 


Common dreams and their meanings 

You’ve likely experienced at least one of the following dreams at some point. From teeth falling out to witches, some dreams are very common, which has led to dream analysts interpreting their possible meanings. 

So, what could these dreams signify?

Teeth falling out

If you’ve ever dreamt that your teeth were falling out into your hands, crumbling or starting to rot, this could represent anxiety – specifically about your appearance or how others may perceive you. It normally occurs after a rejection, embarrassment, or feeling unattractive. 

An alternative interpretation relates to being unable to communicate. Losing teeth makes it harder to talk, so this dream may symbolise not being able to express yourself or talk to someone. 

Falling 

Falling is another common dream which can represent anxiety. If you are scared when falling, this is normally anxiety around failure, such as failing an exam or failing to do something at work, and falling is our brain’s way of expressing your feelings of not doing as well as you had hoped. However, if you are free-falling happily, this suggests you have no fear of failure. 

Finding a room

If you have experienced finding a new or unused room in a dream, this implies you have found new abilities that you did not know you had.

An old house

If you find yourself dreaming of a house you once lived in, this may be symbolic of past memories or holding on to something. There are a few different interpretations of seeing your house in your dream. If you’re a child in the house, this might mean someone is taking advantage of you. Seeing your house in a bad way might be a sign something is bothering you – whether you recognise this or not. But, selling your old house can be freeing, as this implies you’re getting over something and moving on in life. 

Cheating

Maybe you’ve had a dream that you’ve cheated on your partner or your partner has cheated on you? Dreams of infidelity suggest you might have trust, communication or loyalty issues. If you have experienced this, talk to your partner and ensure you both communicate your needs and get what you want out of the relationship.

Dreaming about witches

This one is less common, but if you’ve dreamt that you’ve seen a witch, this can be a sign that you’ll have good luck. If you are the witch, however, this might suggest that you will get into conflict with somebody. Seeing a witch on a broom means you should be prepared to hear some disturbing news from someone, or that a change is coming that you might not like. 

Dreaming of an ex

This dream also comes with various interpretations. If you’ve recently seen them (whether in person or in a picture online) it could just be a simple case of memory building. However, it could also suggest that you’re not quite over them – though this might not be in a romantic way. It could be anger, frustration or jealousy.

Take the time to consider your emotions when interpreting your dream – how does seeing your ex make you feel? Seeing an ex in a dream might not even have anything to do with feelings for that person; they can represent a period in your life or an association of a particular emotion. For example, if your ex brings feelings of frustration or stress, consider what else is causing you to feel that way in your life right now. 

Being naked

If you find yourself ‘in the buff’ in your dream, don’t feel weirded out. It is, in fact, a sign that you are about to undergo a big change in your life. Maybe you’re starting a new school or job, or moving house. There might be an element of vulnerability in your dream – perhaps you’re unsure of what to expect? But, being nude is your subconscious telling you to embrace it and have a little more self-acceptance, so do more of what makes you happy!

Being chased

This can be a pretty scary dream. If you’re dreaming of being chased by an animal, this might be a sign you’re hiding from your feelings. If it’s an unknown person to you, this might represent a childhood experience or trauma. Being chased by someone of the opposite sex might mean you’re afraid of love or there is something haunting you from a previous relationship. 


So, how do you interpret your dreams?

If you’ve found yourself waking up from a dream that has left you feeling scared, confused, or even happy, it can seem hard to process at first. The key is to write down all you can remember before you forget it! Try and recall as much information as possible, such as what happened, who was there, and what objects were involved. Even the smallest of objects can be a symbol of something going on in your life, so try to think as hard as possible. 

If there are associations that you can pinpoint, write them down. For example, if your dream took place at your childhood home, consider what importance that has for you. Did a traumatic experience happen there? Or is it filled with fond, happy memories? This then allows you to recall your emotions – how did you feel during your dream?

If you are able to identify associations and, importantly, how they make you feel, reflect on what might have happened in your life, what’s going on at present, or what may happen in the future. You might find that your dreams slowly start to make sense. 


Contacting a professional

If you’re struggling with recurring dreams, you may benefit from working with a professional to better understand what might be causing them, and to work through it.

A dream analyst can help you interpret your dreams and uncover possible deep-rooted meanings behind them. If you think your dream might be your subconscious clinging on to past trauma, or telling you you feel anxious or stressed, a counsellor/therapist can help you work through these issues in a safe, non-judgemental space.

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Written by Emily Whitton
Emily is a Content Creator & Marketing Coordinator at Happiful and a writer for Counselling Directory.
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Written by Emily Whitton

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