What Do Dreams Mean? 15 Common Dream Interpretations

June 9, 2020 | Casper Editorial Team

Humans have always tried to interpret their dreams. From ancient wives’ tales to complex theories, the ways people analyze them continue to evolve.
Assigning certain meanings to dreams has gained traction in pop culture as both a source of entertainment and self-reflection. However, does anyone really know what dreams mean?
Some people may say that dreams are a way for your brain to process thoughts and feelings, but no one fully understands their purpose. To explore the possibilities, we’ve collected information on 15 of the most common themes and what they are said to mean.

1. Dreams About Being Chased

An illustration of a shoe with a lightning bolt on the side.
Dreams about being chased are extremely common. In these dreams, you may not know exactly what or who is chasing you. You may also feel like you can’t run fast or that trying to run faster results in you actually slowing down.
Dream interpreters often interpret these dreams as you attempting to avoid something in your life, or that you want to escape from fears or unwanted desires.
If you’re able to identify what or who is chasing you, that can further explain your dream. For example, a dream about being chased by a potential love interest could mean that you’re afraid of romance or a new relationship.

2. Dreams About Falling

Illustration of an anvil falling from the sky.
Dreams where you’re falling are also common and typically stem from anxiety. Many people think that falling dreams occur to express fear or insecurities you feel like you have no control over.
Dream interpreters also widely believe that falling dreams are a sign that something in your life isn’t going as well as you had hoped. Perhaps you are failing at work or failing in a relationship, which could lead to dreams like this.

3. Dreams About Being Naked

Illustration of a statue of a nude male torso.
If you’ve ever had a dream in which you showed up to school, work or somewhere else public in your birthday suit, you’re not alone. It’s normal to fear societal embarrassment, which is what these dreams typically symbolize.
Dreams about being naked in public can also mean that you’re worried about your appearance or that you’re trying to hide something from others.

4. Dreams About Flying

Illustration of a superhero wearing a cape and flying in the sky.
Dreams where you’re flying like a superhero can mean that you feel liberated, powerful or free. On the other hand, dreams about flying can also indicate that you feel a desire to escape or fly away from something in your life.
Not all flying dreams are bad, however. If you are flying alone this can mean that you feel independent and confident.

5. Dreams About Teeth Falling Out

Illustration of a tooth falling out of a mouth.
People quite commonly have dreams about teeth — either that they’re falling out or that they’re loose and wiggling. There are also dreams where people suddenly have no teeth. If you’ve experienced this, don’t be afraid.
This is likely your brain’s way of coping with a situation in which you feel powerless, embarrassed or unable to communicate. These types of dreams could also indicate that you’re worried about your personal appearance or that you may have said something embarrassing.

6. Dreams About Death and Dying

Illustration of a tombstone that reads "RIP".
Experiencing a dream in which you or a loved one dies can be frightening. Not to fear, though — dream theorists commonly think dreams like this are associated with a fear of change.
Change can be scary because, like death, it’s hard to know what’s on the other side of that change. This is why your mind tends to equate change with death. These dreams are also common in those who are entering the end of their lifetime, and many even find them comforting.

7. Dreams About Taking a Test

Illustration of a pencil and a piece of paper.
In dreams about taking a test, the dreamer often imagines themselves taking an exam or realizing that they aren’t prepared for an exam they have coming up. Since the underlying issue here is the lack of preparedness, dream theorists think this is your brain processing the stress of not being ready for a certain situation.
The situation, of course, isn’t always a test. It can be a presentation at work, an overdue project or a big social event. They can also mean that you’re feeling judged or tested by a person or situation in your life.

8. Dreams About Pregnancy

Illustration of a bun being cooked inside of an oven.
Dreams about pregnancy or preparing to give birth can signify that you’re experiencing a new beginning in your life. Of course, this could be a child, but it could also be something you’re about to embark on.
Maybe you’re thinking about switching careers, starting a new relationship or moving to a new city. All of these could cause you to dream about being pregnant.

9. Dreams About Water

Illustration of a large water droplet falling into a puddle.
If water is present in your dreams, this could be a sign that you feel overwhelmed or unsupported by the people around you. It could also signify feelings of freedom or peace.
To determine what the dream symbolizes, think about your feelings toward water. If they are positive, water in a dream will likely manifest as something good. If you are afraid of water or something similar, it will symbolize something more negative.
Also think about the kind of water present — was it a deep, turbulent ocean or a calm, babbling brook? Since dreams are so subjective, water can manifest in a lot of different ways.

10. Dreams About Infidelity

Illustration of a left hand wearing a wedding ring.
When you’re dreaming about being cheated on by your partner, it can be incredibly distressing. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your partner is being unfaithful. Some dream theorists believe that our brains like to test “what if” situations to better prepare us for potential real-life situations or work through fears.
Still, others think that dreams about infidelity mean that there could be issues with communication, trust or loyalty in your relationship. If you’re the one cheating in the dream, it could mean you’re not getting everything you want out of your current relationship.

11. Dreams About Food

Illustration of a slice of pepperoni pizza.
Dreams that involve food are fairly common and typically involve the dreamer eating all sorts of delicious things. This could be pizza, ice cream or anything else that’s indulgent. Many people speculate, though, that this type of dream is typically caused by going to bed hungry.
If you’re very hungry or thinking about food when you go to sleep, you’re likely to dream about it. What you eat before bed is also said to impact what you dream about.

12. Dreams Where You Can’t Move

Illustration of a shoe stuck in sticky mud.
If you have a dream in which you can’t move — for example, you’re running in place or you can’t seem to walk or move forward — this could be a sign that you feel like you’re not in control of some aspect of your life.
You may feel like no matter how much effort you’re putting into something, you’re still spinning your wheels. If you’re having this dream you might want to consider setting some new goals and figuring out a more concrete direction in life.

13. Dreams Where You Can’t Speak

Illustration of a mouth forced shut by a zipped zipper.
Have you ever had a dream where you’re desperately trying to speak or scream but can’t? Some people report that, in these dreams, something is stuffed in their mouths. They also may have a lot of sticky food in their mouths that they can’t swallow.
Dreams like this can indicate that there’s something on your mind that you want to share, but feel like you’re unable to. You may feel ignored or feel that your opinions aren’t being heard or considered.

14. Dreams About Animals

Illustration of a smiling lion.
Most people will dream about animals at one point or another. Like dreams about water, dreams about animals can be interpreted in various ways. Typically, these animals will symbolize different things to different people.
Sometimes animals can symbolize a trait or emotion. For example, if someone is portrayed as or with a lion, they may be strong and powerful. If your dream involves a serpent, you may feel like you’re being betrayed or someone is being dishonest.

15. Recurring Dreams

Illustration of a TV with a repeating symbol ont he screen.
Dreams that happen repeatedly typically mean that there’s an unresolved conflict in waking life. These dreams tend to be negative or stressful, and will likely stop once the issue in your life has been resolved.
Recurring dreams occur in for 60 to 75 percent of adults and are more prevalent in women than men. They are also more likely to occur with people who are unhappy with their current situation in life.

Do Our Dreams Really Mean Anything?

Illustration of a head with gears turning inside the brain.
The jury is still out on whether or not dream interpretations are accurate. However, many famous psychologists had theories on why we dream. They also had suggestions for dream interpretation and processes in which they believed people can better understand their dreams.
In Sigmund Freud’s book “The Interpretation of Dreams,” he theorized that dreams are related to wish fulfillment. He wrote that subconscious desires are hidden behind the actual imagery in our dreams. According to Freud, the dreamer can decipher these by reverse-engineering the “dream-work” their brains have done to help them figure out and process emotions and desires.
Carl Jung had a slightly different approach to deciphering dreams. He thought that dreams reveal both thoughts from the collective unconscious and personal beliefs. He also believed that these thoughts are often portrayed as symbols and archetypes such as the hero, the mother and the wise old man.
Unlike Freud, Jung wrote that dreams are highly personal and that only those very close to the dreamer could decipher them.
Calvin Hall interpreted dreams as a way in which the brain conceptualizes elements of our waking lives. He would examine the dreamer’s actions, the interactions within the dream and the objects or symbols present when trying to interpret them.
He would also look at the setting. He believed that by understanding what these elements meant and why they were portrayed a certain way, he could understand the dreamer.

Tips for Remembering Your Dreams

Illustration of a notebook and pen with drawings fo the moon and starts on them.
The first step to interpreting your dreams is to remember them. However, many people find that they can’t recall dreams once they wake up. There are a few ways people claim they can train their brains to remember dreams.

  • Keep a Dream Diary: People who write down their dreams right when they wake up tend to eventually remember them more vividly. Even if you only remember small aspects or fleeting images, it’s important to record them. Over time, you might see patterns.
  • Train Your Brain: Before you fall asleep each night, try to remind yourself to remember your dreams. Let it be your last thought as you’re drifting off. Right when you wake up, try to recall your dreams, even if it’s just a feeling. Over time, this can help you remember more accurately.
  • Wake Up Without an Alarm: Since your dreams are already fading from memory when you wake, any large distraction is sure to absorb your mind’s focus. This is why it’s best to wake up naturally to allow your brain time to focus on remembering the dream.
  • Limit Alcohol and Caffeine: These substances can inhibit REM sleep, which is when your brain does the bulk of its dreaming.
  • Follow a Regular Sleep Schedule: Since you experience most of your dreams in the REM stage, you’ll want to ensure you’re getting enough REM sleep. To do this, sleep for at least seven hours every night and stick to a consistent sleep schedule.

Now that you know all about what dreams mean and why we have them, it’s time to start interpreting your own! They can be a valuable resource for self-reflection, introspection and fun.

Remember, the first step to remembering your dreams is getting a good night’s sleep, and to do that you’ll need comfortable bedding and a cozy sleeping environment. Try an award-winning Casper mattress and feel the difference!