Have you ever had a dream that you can’t seem to shake? Or woken up with the feeling of a distant dream, unable to recall the lands you traveled to in your slumber? Or, perhaps you remember your dreams clearly, but you aren’t quite sure what to make of them.
If you answered “yes,” it’s important to know that you’re not alone.
Dreams are mysterious and complex, often difficult or even seemingly impossible to understand. Dreams – and what they mean – are a wildly popular topic that many of us spend our time trying to understand.
You probably already know, if only on an instinctive level, that dreams and their meanings are powerful and can be used as a tool in life, allowing us to understand certain topics or subjects better than ever before.
If you’ve ever been curious about your dreams and the messages they’re trying to convey, then this article is for you. We’ve compiled some information that will help you learn everything you need to know about dreams, what they mean, and why we have them.
So, if you’re ready to explore the lands you create when you’re in a deep, blissful state of sleep, keep reading to learn more!
What Are Dreams?
Dreams can be defined as the “subconscious imaginings that contain sounds, images, and other sensations while you sleep.”
If you’ve ever had a dream that seemed to stick with you like glue on paper, you probably understand that they are made of so much more than this simple explanation – even if we aren’t quite sure what that material they’re made of is.
We know that dreams occur during the REM – or rapid eye movement – cycle of sleep, meaning you need to be in a deep state of sleep before your dreams can come to life. REM is the deepest stage of sleep, and you will likely go through this cycle many times a night.
There are a wide range of different schools of thought regarding the function of dreams as well.
As one example, psychologist Allen Hobson claims that dreams are essentially meaningless – but how can this be? If you’ve ever had a dream that seemed to change the way you view the world, you might also find this suggestion incomplete.
While we may not know exactly what dreams are made of, there is still much we can learn about them and how to use them to our advantage…
What Is Lucid Dreaming?
One of the most powerful methods of dreaming is called lucid dreaming, wherein the dreamer is aware of the fact that they are in the dream world. As a result, when someone becomes proficient at lucid dreaming, they can actually control certain aspects of their dreams.
There are certain ways to make lucid dreaming an easier habit.
A few old tricks include attempting to locate a light switch in your dream – if the light does not turn on and off as you would expect, you can recognize that you’re dreaming. Another way to check is by trying to find a book. Open to any page and see if you can read the writings; if you’re in a dream, the words will be jumbled and hard to make out.
While it may seem complicated, the majority of people who remember their dreams have had a lucid dream at least once or twice in their life.
When you’re lucid dreaming, there is a tiny part of your subconscious that is somewhat awake, allowing a part of yourself to realize what is happening. This small amount of lucidity is what helps you control certain aspects of your dreams.
What Is Dream Induction?
Dream induction is another way to describe lucid dreaming – particularly, the ability to induce a state of lucid dreaming.
Cognitive techniques are one way to induce lucid dreaming; another is reality testing, which involves asking yourself if you’re awake throughout the day. If you ask yourself this question enough times, there’s a good chance that you’ll also ask your sleeping self.
Being able to induce your own dreams is not as much about choosing the specific content of your dreams as it is about assisting you in recalling them so clearly that you can actually harness their powers and use them constructively in your life (more on this later in the article!).
What Are Bad Dreams & Nightmares?
If you remember your dreams frequently, you may notice that some of them take on a dark or frightening theme. It can feel scary and isolating having bad dreams or nightmares, but it’s important to note that you are not alone.
A nightmare is defined as “dreams that bring out strong feelings of fear, terror, distress of anxiety.” They will feel more vivid than a regular dream, and you will often experience intense emotions upon waking.
A few of the most commons themes in dreams include:
- Teeth falling out
- Dying or death of a loved one
- Being chased
- Being naked in public
- Extreme weather
- Being late
- Babies or family members
These are not all common nightmare scenarios, but rather the most common themes in general.
As you can see, frightening situations are not at all uncommon when dreaming. Each of these themes contains meaning, and the daily stressors in our lives contribute to dreams of this nature (we will touch more on these themes later!).
Stress, anxiety, and substance abuse can also contribute to nightmares. While they seem rather scary at the moment, even nightmares are dreams that we can learn from.
Is It Possible Not to Dream?
There is a percentage of people who do not report dreaming, even when they are successfully dozing into REM cycles each night.
That being said, there is a possibility that these people simply just don’t remember their dreams!
A 2015 study printed in the Journal of Dream Research out of France found that indeed, everybody does in fact dream. This research looked at 289 random people and studied their sleep patterns and body movements. Everyone included in this study in fact, had a dream, even if they had claimed beforehand that they “do not dream.”
You simply may not remember dreams because they happen when your brain waves are slowest and longest, and they don’t deposit information into your memory bank.
Read this next: How to Use the Tarot to Interpret Your Dreams
Why Do We Dream?
Some scientists suggest that there is no rhyme or reason to dreaming, that it happens randomly, and has “no direct function.” Others claim that dreams help us process the things we learned or experienced throughout our waking hours, helping us retain new information.
There are even theories that dreams are simply a recollection of the things we experienced during the day, or that they act as a way for us to process the things that might be causing us stress or anxiety.
Another possible reason? Dreams are seen by some to act as a protection device, shielding us from the dangers or threats we feel we are facing in our “real lives.”
8 Common Dreams & Their Meanings
Let’s explore a few of the most common dreams we experience collectively to find out the deeper meaning behind them.
1. Dreams About Being Naked
These kinds of dreams refer to a sense of vulnerability or being exposed in some way. If you dream about being naked in public, you may feel like a secret side of yourself will come out to the world around you or that your secrets are no longer safe.
Solution: Try exploring the areas of your life that you may be feeling vulnerable about to learn why you might be having such dreams.
2. Dreams About Being Chased
When we’re being chased by something in a dream – whether a person, animal, or unknown entity – we’re likely feeling overwhelmed about some aspect of life. It may be your career, your bills, or even unhealthy relationships causing these dreams. This dream often means that you are allowing fear to lead your life.
When we are actively avoiding someone or doing something that causes us anxiety, we will often have fearful dreams of being pursued relentlessly so we can see that there is a more empowered way of living that can bring us a greater sense of fulfillment.
Solution: To find out more about why this dream might be occurring or even recurring, try to figure out what you feel is “chasing” you during your waking hours. If there is a feeling of powerlessness, think of where you feel powerless in your life and where that belief may have come from.
Make sure to read: All You Need to Know About Stress Dreams
3. Dreams About Flying
Dreaming of flying, on the other hand, relates to your own sense of power. It represents a feeling of control that you might be experiencing in your life right now. Did you recently receive a promotion or a raise? Did you finally stand up for yourself in a toxic relationship?
You are often about to take off on something really big. You are rising above the circumstances and have all of the information at your disposal, you can see it all clearly now, laying before you.
These kinds of experiences can lead to the personal power you might feel during a dream about personal air travel. Dreams about flying may also represent a new perspective or way of looking at things in your life.
Solution: If you woke up with a not-so-great feeling after this type of dream, it could suggest that you need movement in your life. Think about a relationship that might need a different direction or a lifestyle habit that needs some tweaking. What might be weighing you down?
4. Dreams About Teeth
Teeth are also seen as symbols of power in dreams, but they may relate more to your personal appearance or physical health. If you dream of your teeth falling out, you may feel as though you’re losing your own power in some way!
It can also suggest that you feel powerless about your health or how others see you. You might be concerned about how someone is currently perceiving you. Teeth can also represent renewal and communication in dreams.
Solution: Nail down what might be bothering you, or where you might be feeling insecure in your life.
5. Dreams About Having Sex with Your Boss or Co-Worker
While you may initially feel strange after such a dream, you can rest easy knowing that dreams about sex very rarely represent sexual desires. In fact, dreaming of having sex with a co-worker or a boss can indicate that you recognize your leadership qualities developing in your waking life.
Maybe you want more responsibility at work and are looking to deepen a relationship here. Maybe you want a more engaged experience at work, which could mean a promotion that puts you in a role you more deeply desire.
Solution: If you have these dreams, it might be time to start taking your career more seriously!
6. Dreams About Falling
If you’ve ever had a dream of falling, you know how scary they can be. However, they typically represent a feeling of being unsupported in our waking lives.
Solution: If you frequently dream of falling, you may need to take some time to bond with and seek support from a friend or family member. Talking about your needs and fears can help you feel more loved and cared for. Pay attention to who is in the dream, where you are, how old you are or what the emotional state is.
Perhaps an experience you had as child or a pattern you witnessed in your family is holding you back from making a career move, getting out of a co-dependent relationship or making you think you need a relationship to be happy.
7. Dreams About Death
Dreams about death can feel particularly scary, but they actually represent the ending of a certain cycle in your life. Perhaps you’re growing out of the insecure identity that you developed in high school. Maybe you’re letting go of being a smothering partner because you’re finding your own purpose in life.
Dreams about death are indeed a good omen that you should embrace with a positive attitude.
This can mean a new beginning for you, if you pay attention. What is going on in your life right now? Are you changing jobs? Relationships? Moving? What is the change the death in your dream is symbolizing?
Solution: If you have a dream about death, whether your own or someone else’s, this may mean that a certain chapter in your life is closing and making room for new experiences.
8. Recurring Dreams with Different Themes
We sometimes have dreams that seem to pop up in our lives over and over again, and those can be frightening. These dreams are trying to tell you that something is unresolved in your life, and that’s why they keep happening.
Many people experience reoccurring dreams of some sort. Whether it’s being late for school or work, losing control of a vehicle, or being inexplicably naked in public, these are all messages meant to wake you up to your own inner struggle to show you how to make your life easier. If you are out of control in some way in your dream, you probably need more stability and structure in your life. If you are being stalked or chased, it means you may want to avoid the influence of the thoughts of a culture or person in your waking life.
A common recurring dream many people often have is getting into a fight with someone. It’s important to remember that recurring dreams are trying to help you release negative emotions.
Solution: Try to ask yourself intuitively what these dreams might relate to in your waking life, as this area needs your attention and your willingness to resolve any lingering frustrations. Be mindful of what you might not need in your life.
What Are My Dreams Trying to Tell Me?
Every dream is sprinkled with messages and themes, whether they’re presented to you in detailed symbols or simple codes. It can feel confusing, even overwhelming, to have strange dreams that seem to contain hidden messages, but decoding them can help you understand even more about how you’re handling things in your waking life.
Learning to understand the signals contained within your dreams is one of the most effective ways to interpret them. Try tapping into your deepest emotions to learn more about the symbols within your dreams and what they mean for you:
- Did you have a strong reaction?
- Was the feeling fleeting?
- Do certain symbols seem to stick with you longer than others?
Asking yourself these questions may be the key to realizing which dreams contain a stronger message for you and your life.
Try not to stress yourself out if you aren’t recalling your dreams, as this can make it even harder to remember them. Connect to your emotional center and try to understand your emotional response rather than the dream itself to start. For instance, if you wake up feeling anxious but do not remember your dream, this anxiety may be trying to send you the same message as the dream itself.
Connecting to your emotional response upon waking can tell you nearly as much as the symbols of the dream you were just experiencing.
Read this next: How to Use Your Dreams to Become Successful
How to Recall Your Dreams
Have you ever woken up with the feeling that there was something important in your dream that you wanted to remember? There is a good chance that your dream was trying desperately to tell you something that your conscious mind is unaware of.
One of the best ways to start remembering more about your dreams is to jog your short-term memory upon waking.
- Try writing the word “remember” on a glass of water on your bedside table.
- Make sure the last thing you do before closing your eyes for bed is to drink from this glass of water.
- When you wake up, take a sip of your memory water before doing anything else.
- Grab a pen and a notebook and try to write down anything you remember from your dreams the night before.
This ritual will help you start recalling your dreams more easily, giving you the opportunity to interpret and understand them. Here’s a few more quick tips:
Use a Dream Journal
It’s a good idea to pick out a notebook and a pen that will live on your bedside table. This can be your official dream journal, and you’ll want to make a habit of tending to it each morning when you wake up. Even if you don’t remember your dreams at first, try writing down anything that comes to mind.
The process of writing them down will further jog your memory, helping you recall more details as times goes on.
Avoid Food Before Bed
Having a large meal or snack before bed can make it harder for you to reach that restful, dreamy REM stage of sleep. Focus on sipping your memory water instead.
When you begin trying to remember your dreams, you may find the process frustrating and want to give up – but consistency is key. Try setting a timer before you write in your dream journal and don’t finish writing until the timer is up.
Practice makes perfect! Keep at it for as long as it takes, because it will eventually become easier than ever to recall your dreams.
Meditate in the Evening
Meditation can not only clear the mind, making it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and remember your dreams, but it can also assist with lucid dreaming.
Try a guided meditation for lucid dreaming, or simply meditate before bed to get the most from your sleep.
Wake up Earlier
We often have our most intense dreams right before waking up. Training yourself to wake up earlier can help you catch the tail-end of these dreams, allowing you to remember more of them.
Try setting your alarm for 30 minutes earlier than usual, which also gives you more time to practice recalling and writing down your dreams in the morning.
Where Will Your Dreams Take You?
Our dreams are like messages from the Universe, messages from our subconscious, or both. Learning to remember and interpret your dreams can open you up to a world of information that you’ve never before experienced.
So, grab your pillow, your blanket, and set your dream journal beside your bed. It’s time to dive into that world of mystery that exists within your mind.
Wondering about other dream topics? Try our free Dream Dictionary!
Related article: Dream Interpretation: Enhance Recall & Decipher Key Themes