18 Famous Dreams And What They Really Mean

One universal experience that all humans share is dreaming. No matter your age, gender, where you're from, or your financial status, you and everybody else dreams. According to the Sleep Foundation, dreams are images and stories that the mind creates while sleeping that could possibly represent unconscious desires or the brain's way of processing information gathered while awake. Researchers are still studying the purpose of dreams and exactly what causes them.

Medical News Today shares that there are five phases of the sleep cycle, with the fifth stage being rapid eye movement or REM sleep. Although this phase only accounts for 20% to 25% of the total sleep cycle, it's during the REM stage that people experience dreams. Sleep experts say we have between three to six dreams each night, and each dream lasts anywhere from five to 20 minutes. However, it's unlikely that you'll remember them. By the time people get out of bed, 95% have already forgotten their dreams.

When you are able to recall some details, dreams can often leave you feeling baffled and curious as to what they might mean. While there is some semblance of reality in dreams, there are also several bizarre qualities and common themes that make us eager to interpret them. Here are 18 common types of dreams and why you might have them.

Flying dreams

Flying is something that many people have reported experiencing in their dreams. Interestingly, a study published in Perceptual and Motor Skills shares that flying dreams have become much more common and increased between 1956 and 2000. The study also notes that this uptick in flying dreams may be connected to the prevalence of air travel over the decades. Many people also report being lucid while flying in a dream. Lucid dreaming occurs when the dreamer becomes aware of the dream while in it.

There are many ways to interpret flying dreams depending on the details of the dream. According to Dream Dictionary, the symbolic importance of flying in a dream may include new opportunities and future potential, a coming burst of creativity, spiritual growth, new relationships, and confronting your fears in reality. Flying in a dream often represents a new or transitional phase of your life that can lead to new experiences.

However, flying very high through empty space may indicate marital challenges. Flying over trees or other plants may symbolize a temporary rough patch coming — soon to be followed by success.

Dreams about being chased

Another common theme in dreams is being chased. When you experience these dreams, the details can make all the difference when trying to understand the message behind the dream. In an interview with the Huffington Post, psychotherapist Richard Nicoletti, J.D., explains that dreams about being chased mean you are "being told by your unconsciousness that you're avoiding an issue or a person." He goes on to say, "You may be avoiding something painful, annoying or fearful."

Dream Dictionary shares that identifying who or what is chasing you is an important step in analyzing these dreams. Running from someone who poses a violent threat means you're avoiding something in life that intimidates you. Being chased by the police or other authority figures could indicate that you're doing something you know you shouldn't or you're afraid to be judged for your behavior or actions.

Dream Dictionary also points out that a chase dream is a symbolic message that can help you gain a better understanding of your deepest fears. Being chased in your dream depicts internal conflict or something you're unwilling to face that you may not even be aware of when you're awake. This may be represented by a shadowed figure or an unrecognizable face in your dream.

Dreams about falling

The feeling of falling in a dream is one most people have experienced. In fact, dreams about falling are often recalled more than others because they can trigger a hypnic jerk that jolts you awake mid-dream. A hypnic jerk is a sudden muscle contraction that happens just as you're falling asleep and seems to sometimes overlap with the sensation of falling in a dream. You may even recall this phenomenon featured in the film "Inception" as a way to "kick" the characters awake from their subconscious activities.

If you had a dream about falling, Healthline explains that you may be feeling insecure, anxious, overwhelmed, or that you're not in control of certain aspects of your life. It could also mean you're struggling with inferiority or inadequacy. However, when these falling dreams are particularly distressing or frightening, they may be connected to sleep disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In addition to insecurity and loss of control, dreams about falling may also represent reckless behavior that is taking you down a wrong path that leads to your rock bottom. With this interpretation, a falling dream may be a warning sign from your subconscious to change your ways.

Water dreams

While many elements are featured in dreams, water seems to be the one that occurs most frequently. Water may be common in dreams because it's part of our daily routines and important to our existence. Water is also incredibly symbolic across most cultures and is often connected to themes of birth, life, fluidity, femininity, and emotions. Again, the details of the dream matter when interpreting the meaning of these types of dreams.

If you dream about large, turbulent bodies of water or flooding, you may feel overwhelmed by an emotionally-charged event in your life. Something like a breakup with a romantic partner may cause you to have a flooding dream. However, a dream about a flood can also signify a need to cleanse or purify yourself in some way.

A dream about dirty or muddy water is symbolic of the dreamer feeling trapped and wanting to escape from a real-life situation. On the other hand, clean or pure water may symbolize the clarity of the mind or a feeling of being purified or refreshed. You may experience this type of dream if you have taken steps in the right direction and left a toxic situation or relationship behind you. Dreaming about a waterfall indicates that you are seeking peace and need a change in your routine.

Dreams about being pregnant

Dreaming about being pregnant can stir up different emotions in different people. For some, it may be a welcome sign of what's to come. For others, it could be an alarming prospect that leaves them anxious. Pregnancy dreams are common and can carry more in-depth symbolism than what's on the surface.

Dreams of being pregnant can occur when you're trying to conceive, which makes sense. However, they also happen to women who fear becoming pregnant and experience anxiety about taking on that responsibility. Another reason that may cause you to have a pregnancy dream is recalling a past pregnancy or being reminded of a memory that happened while you were pregnant.

Unrelated to actual pregnancy, these types of dreams are also symbolic of creativity or "giving birth" to something you've been working on for a while. You may also be going through an identity rebirth tied to changes in who you are or an exploration of who you could be. Also, people who are ready or have started the process of a spiritual change may experience this type of dream. The desire to feel connected to something beyond yourself can manifest as a dream about being pregnant.

Work-related dreams

After a long day in the office, dreaming about work is the last thing you want to do when you finally hit the hay. However, it's one of the most common types of dreams people experience. Today shares that about 64% of Americans who took a dream survey reported having experienced dreams related to work and their jobs. This may simply be because Americans spend a lot of time at work and often invest their energy and emotions into their job performance. Negative dreams or nightmares about work could be a result of stress and anxiety connected to the job.

Common dreams related to work include being naked at work, being unable to complete your duties or a specific task, or being sexually intimate with a boss. The important thing to keep in mind when trying to interpret these dreams is to focus on the emotions you felt during the dream and not the actual scenario, as explained by dream analyst Lauri Quinn Loewenberg in the Huffington Post article. Understanding these feelings, including frustration or embarrassment, will give you insight into the meaning behind the dream.

Also, dreams about work could be your brain working through problems and preparing you for situations you may experience on the job. A study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on the importance and function of dreams found that a 90-minute nap actually helped participants perform a specific task better than those who did not take a nap.

Dreams about taking a test

Even if it's been years or decades since you've been in school, it's common to dream about having to take a test or exam. Psychology Today shares that test-related dreams tend to center around feelings of not being prepared, forgetting that you had an exam, or failing to attend classes leading up to the day of the final. These dreams occur most in areas with education systems that put a high value on formal tests or final exams as a way to move to the next stage of education.

So, what do they mean? Test dreams could indicate that you're having trouble moving to another phase of your life or the next stage on your journey. This can relate to everything from your career to relationships. Other symbolism in test dreams represents procrastination, fear of being alone or left behind, self-esteem issues, feeling judged, or not wanting to advance to the next step. It could also indicate that you lack the motivation to do something you know you have to do.

Dreams about death

Although it might be disturbing to dream about death or dying, they can offer a ton of insight when you dissect them. Jane Teresa Anderson, a dream analyst and author, shares that death dreams are typically symbolic of something coming to a close or ending in your life. With this in mind, dreams about death are really about change and how your life is evolving by closing a chapter and moving forward.

Dreams that involve you dying may symbolize a major transition in your life. If you dream about a friend dying, it could represent feelings of concern for that person or needing a change in your relationship. A pet dying in a dream most likely means you're fearful of losing the comfort, security, or companionship you currently have in your life.

Overall, death dreams are representative of emotions or something going on in your life rather than being indicative of things to come. Having dreams about death is incredibly common, normal, and even expected over a person's lifetime. The important thing is to focus on the emotions you experience in your dream and connect them with what is making you feel that way in real life. That could help you get to the bottom of what is causing these types of dreams.

Teeth falling out in a dream

Dreaming about teeth falling out is one of the strangest dreams people experience, yet it is also one that is frequently reported around the world. According to the Sleep Foundation, about 39% of the population has dreamed about their teeth falling out at least once. Some people have it as a recurring dream that happens regularly.

One study found that there is a connection between dreams about teeth and actual dental stimulation while sleeping (via Frontiers in Psychology). Results showed that some people experience dreams about their teeth falling out when they unconsciously apply tension to their teeth as they sleep. However, the same cannot be said for teeth grinding at night.

Other possible causes of dreams involving teeth falling out include a personal loss like the death of a loved one, stress, anxiety, major life changes, depression, or jealousy. Also, dreams about broken teeth or teeth falling out could indicate that you feel vulnerable or insecure, are lacking support from others, or are experiencing difficulties in work or school.

Naked dreams

If you recently dreamed about being naked, there are several ways you can interpret this. Depending on what was happening in your dream, where you were, who you were with, and people's reactions to seeing you in the nude, your dream may be symbolic of different things going on in your waking life.

Feeling unbothered by your nakedness in a dream is a symbol of empowerment. This could mean you are ready to make a major change in your life and take control of your destiny. However, if you have feelings of shame about being naked in the dream, you are possibly dealing with feelings of insecurity or not being able to protect yourself from hurt. If you're with somebody else who is naked in your dream, this could indicate that you feel comfortable and fully trust that person.

Guilt or neglect can cause you to dream about being naked as well. There could also be something about yourself that you're keeping hidden from other people out of fear of embarrassment that is triggering a nude dream in which you feel ashamed of your nakedness.

Dreams about animals

Sigmund Freud and many indigenous cultures considered animal dreams to be particularly special and meaningful, as explained by Psychology Today. Animals in dreams are thought to represent the internal instincts that we forget in our day-to-day routines. When we suppress those instincts, natural behaviors, or desires, many believe they can show up in our dreams and are symbolically represented by animals.

There are several interpretations for animal dreams because of the variety of animals anyone can dream about, but some common animal dreams include dogs, bears, and snakes. Dreams about dogs are usually connected to loyalty. However, if the dog bites you, you may be hiding feelings of guilt. An animal dream in which a bear is trying to attack you means you are avoiding a problem. If the bear is standing but not attacking, you may be put in a situation where you need to defend your beliefs.

While a snake may carry negative connotations in the real world, the symbolism of a snake in a dream could indicate a spiritual or emotional transformation. If the snake is talking to you in the dream, you may have new opportunities for success on the horizon. However, a snake biting you might signal that somebody you trust may betray you.

Dreams about infidelity

Dreaming about cheating on a partner or your significant other cheating on you can be disturbing, to say the least. But like many common dreams, the actions that occur in the dream are less important than the emotions behind the dream. Dreams about infidelity are generally a result of some type of dissatisfaction in your life, including emotional or sexual. They are also closely tied to feelings of guilt.

If your partner was the one who cheated in the dream, it may indicate that you feel like that person is not spending enough time with you or you're not getting the attention you need. There could also be elements of jealousy or feelings of lacking something that can feed into an infidelity dream about your partner.

Were you the one who cheated in the dream? It's likely that you're experiencing feelings of guilt in your real life. Maybe you went against a core belief or disappointed somebody you care about. It's also possible that you recognize that you're not giving enough time to your partner, which is manifesting itself in an infidelity dream. In any case, it's important to identify why you're feeling guilty and work on clearing your mind of those negative feelings.

Dreams about food or eating

Because food is such a big part of everyday life, it's common to have dreams that revolve around eating. Food is also a big part of cultural identity and how people define themselves, giving it a deeper meaning in some dreams. Some common ways food may appear in a dream are eating, giving food to others, receiving food from people who have passed away, buying food, cooking, and burning food.

If you dream about getting food from another person, it may symbolize your connection and indicate a strong relationship. It could also be a metaphor for wanting to acquire certain characteristics or qualities that this person possesses. Receiving food from a deceased loved one may indicate a message that this person is thinking of you and sending you spiritual nourishment.

Giving food in your dreams shows that you are offering a part of yourself to this person, such as love or emotions. Dreams about cooking food may represent a need to be creative or nourish your creativity. However, if you spill or burn food in your dream, you should take this as a warning sign to pay more attention to aspects of your life you might be neglecting.

You can't move in a dream

Not being able to move in a dream can be a frustrating and distressing experience, but it does carry some powerful symbolism that may help you gain insight into how you're feeling in your waking life. In these dreams, you may have somewhere you need to go or an object you need to pick up or move but are not able to get your body to cooperate.

Paralysis dreams represent your current state of being, which can include feeling helpless or discouraged. It can also be a subconscious reminder to avoid being too stubborn to accept help from others when you need it. These dreams are often triggered by failing to ask for help, which ultimately prevents you from moving forward.

Dreams in which you're unable to walk can mean that you're feeling powerless in your situation or are falling behind on reaching your goals. However, if you're struggling to walk or move because of an injury, this indicates that you're experiencing hurt or feeling unsupported by people in your real life.

You can't speak in a dream

Communication is an essential part of everyday life, which makes it a common theme while dreaming. When you have dreams in which you are unable to talk or easily communicate with others, it's possible that you feel like you're not being heard or appreciated. However, there are other reasons or symbolism behind dreams that involve not being able to speak or shout when you want to.

If you have recurring dreams about having your voice blocked or cut off, it may indicate that you have some past trauma or repressed feelings that you don't like to discuss with others. If you have difficulty talking or find that you keep getting tongue-tied when trying to speak, it could reflect having to hold your tongue and change the way you speak in real life.

An inability to scream in your dream can feel a little more intense, especially if you're trying to help somebody or prevent them from being hurt. Dreaming of not being able to scream represents failed attempts to express your emotions or feelings clearly. If there is something physically stopping you from screaming, such as a bandana over your mouth, it could be a warning sign to get out of your own way.

Dreams about being late

Being late is another common dream theme you've most likely experienced. Whether it's not getting to work on time, possibly missing a test, or simply rushing to a location where you know people are waiting for you, these dreams are often stressful and tense.

These feelings of rushing and pressure to get to where you need to be in your dream can stem from being unprepared in your waking life. You may be procrastinating or avoiding something in your life that you know ultimately needs to happen. A dream about being late could be your subconscious expressing fear of failure tied to certain goals. However, there could also be a fear of success that is keeping you from moving forward.

When there is an actual event in your dream and you're running late to get to it, this could indicate issues with commitment, life changes, or transitions happening in your job or relationship. It can also be symbolic of something holding you back from achieving potential success or happiness.

Dreams about money

Money in a dream is generally symbolic of a person's drive. However, money can symbolize a lot of things in a dream, including success, comfort, or new opportunities. When finding money in a dream, there are several ways you can interpret the dream, depending on what the money means to you. The details on how and where you found the money could also offer some insight into what your dream really means.

If your dream involves finding gold bars or paper money, it may represent feelings of self-confidence and indicate abundant times to come. Some dreams may center around coins rather than paper money, which could be a prediction of an unexpected achievement or dream vacation in the near future.

However, not all money dreams have to do with finding it. Dreams about winning money are reflective of positive energy in your life. Dreaming about losing money may be symbolic of painful experiences or the stress felt by not being able to reach your financial goals.

Dreams about sex

Before you start panicking about having a sex dream, it's important to know that dreams involving sexual encounters are completely normal and common. Although dreams about sex can be downright confusing, they are often symbolic of your inner feelings rather than actual physical desires. Some reasons you might have a sex dream include a desire to feel closer to somebody, wanting to express admiration for that person, or seeking to build a connection with someone in particular.

Specifically, dreaming about sex with your boss or a teacher could symbolize a need to get approval from an authority figure. If your dream involves having sex in public, it could mean that you're spending too much time and energy evaluating what other people think of you. However, sex dreams about a former partner or ex may have a more literal connection to real life. It may reflect your feelings about a current relationship or grief revolving around the last one ending.