Dreams are the mind’s way of sorting through your waking experiences and helping your brain to process thoughts and feelings. In a way, you can think of it like defragmenting a computer disk: your brain needs time to rest, file away information, and store its memories. This is why getting enough sleep is so important for your health and memory.
However, dreams are also filled with symbolism. There are many recurring themes that appear in dreams, and understanding what they mean can help you to have better insight into your life and future. Some dream symbolism comes from your subconscious mind connecting patterns that you might not see while you’re awake. Some may even have a more mystical and unexplained origin. Whatever the case, here are five of the most common types of dreams you might experience and what they could mean.
Being Naked in Public
A common dream motif is being naked or partially naked in public. It often manifests as a normal dream about going through your mundane routine before realizing that you’re not wearing any clothes. You might be talking to a crush, giving a presentation in front of the class, or walking through the mall when you suddenly realize that you’re not dressed.
For most people, being naked in a dream is a symbol of vulnerability and exposure. It may happen when you are stressed or worried about the outcome of something, especially an event that could affect your social standing. You might be worried about how others see you and that you’re not living up to their expectations. It may also be a sign that you live with an outward projection or mask and that you fear that mask slipping, enabling people to see the real you.
Dreams of flying and falling are some of the most commonly experienced. The sensation of falling is common in the early stages of sleep as your brain begins to disconnect from your body and prepares for its nightly journey through your subconscious. In some cases, that falling sensation might jolt you awake. Other people may move seamlessly from falling into flying, and those dreams can be joyfully adventurous.
Flying dreams are powerful because they create a sensation of freedom and mobility. You may feel yourself soaring high over the ground and enjoying weightlessness and freedom. Most people find flying dreams to be extremely enjoyable, and the symbolism they contain is similarly pleasant.
Flying may symbolize happiness, joy, freedom, and self-fulfillment. Dreaming about flying could mean that you are content with your life and feel empowered to make the right choices to support your happiness.
Dreams about dying can be frightening, but they are also a common motif among dreamers. You may dream about your funeral or of the aftermath of your death. You may also dream of the act of dying itself, whether from natural or violent means. Many people wake up before they die in a dream, but others will dream through the entire process.
If you dream about dying, don’t be alarmed. The idea that dying in a dream means that you will die in real life is nothing more than an old wives’ tale. In general, death is often a symbol of change or of something ending in your waking life. You should view death in a dream as symbolic of change, transition or the death of the status quo, not a literal death. In the sense that they can signal transition and new beginnings, death dreams can actually be symbols of good fortune!
Another common nightmare motif is the feeling of being chased or pursued, often by unseen enemies or monsters. You may run through what seems to be a maze or an endless environment. These dreams can be exhausting to wake from and may leave you feeling tired throughout the day.
Being chased in a dream is often a manifestation of anxiety from your waking life. It’s an especially strong symbol for responsibilities that you’re avoiding or things you don’t want to confront head-on. When you have unfinished business that needs to be addressed, like a college application you’ve procrastinated on or an important chore you’re avoiding, that business can come for you in your sleep. Taking a hard look at the things you’ve left unfinished during the day can help you tackle these nightmares and sleep peacefully instead.
Failing a Class
A very common dream motif, especially among students, is of going to school only to realize that you’ve missed an important test or assignment and now are failing without realizing it. Another version of this dream is that you realize during midterms that you were enrolled in a class that you’ve never attended. In some cases, this dream might lead into a panicked and endless search through the school to find the class you’re supposed to be attending. These dreams can feel very realistic and leave you wondering whether they were true even after you wake up.
You might be surprised to learn that this dream is common even in older dreamers who haven’t been to school for years. That’s because the dream isn’t really about school as much as general stress. It’s a symbol of priorities that have been forgotten or left on the back burner. It’s also a symbol for the loss of control or feeling like you can’t get everything done that you need to. Taking a hard look at your priorities and schedule can help you find places where important things have been ignored or shuffled aside. Taking steps to bring balance to your schedule will alleviate some stress and keep these dreams from coming back.
Of course, dreams and their interpretations can be as individual and personal as the people having them. If you’re interested in learning more about dream interpretation, it may help to begin keeping a dream journal and writing down your dreams as you have them. Journaling will help you to remember your dreams better and will also help you identify the trends.