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Types of dreams and what they may mean about you

When asleep, our minds are active, creating stories and images that can be either vivid or fleeting; nonsensical or seemingly prophetic; terrifying or absolutely mundane.

Why do we dream? We may not have definitive answers, but there are several types of dreams and themes, and different factors that cause these dreams to occur.

Lucid dreams

Lucid dreaming means you’re aware that you’re dreaming while you’re in the dream. Like most dreams, it often happens during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Most people don’t have frequent lucid dreams, though some research reports that 55 percent of people experience it at least once in their lives.

Sometimes you can control a lucid dream if you have practice. This can help you control your dreams, especially if you tend to have recurring dreams or nightmares.

Daydreams

The main difference between a daydream and all other types of dreams is that you’re awake during a daydream.

Daydreams occur consciously, but you may still feel like you’re not fully awake or aware of your surroundings. If someone catches you daydreaming, they may say that you look “zoned out” or lost in thoughts.

Daydreams usually involve other people, whether real or imagined. Some research has shown that daydreaming about people you know predicts positive well-being while daydreaming about people you aren’t close to can predict more loneliness and worse well-being.

Recurring dreams

Recurring dreams are dreams that repeat more than once. They often have themes such as confrontations, being chased, or falling.

You can have neutral recurring dreams or recurring nightmares. If you have recurring nightmares, it may be due to an underlying mental health condition, substance use, or certain medication.

Common themes in recurring dreams involve:

  • being attacked or chased
  • falling
  • being frozen with fear

False awakenings

False awakenings are a type of dream occurrence where a person believes they’ve woken up but actually haven’t. If you’ve ever found yourself dreaming that you woke up, but it was actually a part of the dream, this is a false awakening.

False awakenings have been noted to occur alongside lucid dreams and sleep paralysis.

Healing dreams

While there’s not a lot of scientific information on healing dreams, they’ve been described as dreams that:

  • bring you balance or harmony
  • give you a sense of connection, meaning, or purpose
  • bring about reconciliation
  • leaves you feeling joyful or at peace

Prophetic dreams

Prophetic dreams are thought to be dreams that have foretold a future event. If you dream of something happening and then it occurs later, you may feel you’ve had a prophetic dream.

Historically, dreams were considered to impart wisdom or even predict the future. In some cultures today, dreams are still considered to be a way of receiving messages from the spirit world.

There’s no real way to tell if a dream is prophetic or not — it comes down to what you believe. Some believe that a prophetic dream is just your subconscious anticipating a particular outcome and having you dream it to prepare.

Vivid dreams

Vivid dreams are almost always associated with waking up during REM sleep when your dreams are most vivid and more easily remembered.

While we may consider any dream that we experience in REM sleep “vivid,” with vivid dreaming, it’s used to describe a particularly intense dream that felt very real. You may also remember your vivid dream a lot easier than a typical dream.

Anyone can have vivid dreams, but if you’re pregnant or particularly stressed, it may contribute to having one.

Common themes in dreams

Have you had a dream about your teeth falling out, flying through the sky, or being chased? These are common themes that many people dream about.

Some of the most common dream themes are about:

  • falling
  • being chased
  • dying
  • teeth
  • being naked in public
  • pregnancy
  • flying
  • sex or cheating

Dreaming about specific things like this could mean many things, or as some researchers believe, be completely nonsensical. Interpretations will vary depending on the individual and how they’re doing in their day-to-day lives.

Dreams about falling or being chased may indicate experiencing anxiety or conflict, or even falling in love.

Dreams about teeth falling out have been interpreted as everything from stress and big life changes, to indicating dental health issues.

Losing teeth, being naked in public, and test taking may all fall under fear of embarrassment.

There are no answers on why we dream or why we have the types of dreams we have, but there are some clues.

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