Among the myriad mysterious and amazing things about the human body, dreaming might just be one of the most fascinating. Think about it: Every night, when you go to sleep, your brain creates mini-movie reels for you to watch. Why? Well, the answer to that will vary widely depending on who you ask. Really, that’s part of what makes dream interpretation so intriguing — most of us would love to learn more about the meaning behind our dreams.
Even though it’s true that there’s no hard-and-fast science behind dream meanings, dream analysts seem to agree that what we “see” in our sleep can tell a lot about us: our fears, our hopes, our worries, our ambitions. And since so many people report having the same types of dreams, it definitely seems as though dreaming might be the brain’s way of manifesting certain universal messages or emotions.
So, you might fall on the side of Sigmund Freud in thinking that every dream has a meaning. Or you may believe that dreams are simply spontaneous images produced by the subconscious. Either way, it’s fun to crack open a dream dictionary and mull over the possible meanings. Here, we examine some of the most commonly reported dreams — along with the hidden messages embedded in them.
Someone Has Died
No one really wants to dream about death. It’s one of those dreams that leaves you with a sense of foreboding the following day (and the day after that, too). Interestingly, dreams about death actually represent rebirth. Per the dream dictionary site Dream Moods, “Dreaming of your own death symbolized inner changes, transformation, self-discovery, and positive development that is happening within you or your life.”
Your Teeth Are Falling Out
If you haven’t had this dream yet, give it time — it’s more common than you may think. A 2018 study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that 39 percent of participants reported being plagued by this dream at least once. (Personally, this dream visits me way too often.) So, what’s the deal?
There are a few widely circulated meanings of this dream. One has to do with communication, such as you spoke before measuring your words. In that sense, dreams about your teeth falling out represent words falling out of your mouth. Another theory suggests that dreaming about your teeth falling out means you’re worried about being perceived as less attractive. Other possible meanings for this dream include embarrassment over something, the fear of failing, and (yay, some good news) receiving money.
Water Is Involved
There are many different ways that water can invade your dreams. Maybe you’re in the shower. Or caught in a flood. Perhaps you’re staring out at the ocean. There are as many possibilities as there are people wondering about those possibilities. But the bottom line is this: Water dreams are generally associated with a wave of emotion, whether that emotion involves self-renewal (the shower), being overwhelmed (the flood), or powerful uncertainty (the ocean).
Who hasn’t had the standing-naked-in-front-of-the-class dream before? In that context, the meaning of a naked dream is relatively unsurprising; you might be feeling vulnerable, insecure, and unprepared about something in your waking life. But hey, maybe your naked dream involves you being totally free and uninhibited in your birthday suit. That, unlike the first scenario, could spell out an uptick in confidence or desire to show the world who you truly are.
This is the worst, right? You’re peacefully sleeping (or trying to, anyway) when you begin to dream you’re falling. Often, this ends in either jerking away unceremoniously. You might even fall out of the bed for real. Unfortunately, this dream represents a similar sense of anxiety. Dreaming about falling is “the mind’s symbolic way of alerting the dreamer to a situation in her waking life where she feels out of control or where things are quite literally going quickly downhill,” Cathleen O’Connor, Ph.D., author of The Everything Law of Attraction Dream Dictionary, told HuffPost.
You’re Running Late
If a dream of running late has you feeling flushed, it might have to do with the pressure you feel is being placed on you by others. “When we dream that we are late or that we are about to be late, it is often because we are fighting a battle to achieve more than we can actually handle,” Michael R. Olsen, an expert on unconscious intelligence and (nightly) dreams, explains on his website. He also points out that this dream may symbolize the fear of “missing an opportunity or missing out on something critical.”
There Are Snakes
Depending on how you feel about snakes, you might consider this a good dream or a really bad nightmare. Perhaps it will bring you a bit of comfort to know that you aren’t alone — snakes are one of the most common animals reported in dreams. That also makes analyzing snake dreams a bit trickier, because the meaning is typically tied up in your own personal perspective. In general, though, there are a few prevalent theories about snake dreams.
According to Dream Moods, the meaning of snake dreams may mirror what they make you feel: fear. In this way, dreaming about snakes might mean you’re afraid someone is out to get you, much like a snake lying in the grass might bite you unexpectedly. On the other hand, snakes are also associated with both the subconscious and sexuality. So, the next time you dream about a snake in a box, it could mean you’re repressing one or both of these things… and you probably already know which one.
If snakes represent the most dreaded of dream subjects, flying has to be one of the best. After all, we all not-so-secretly wish we had this ability in real life, right? When you dream about flying, it probably means you need a reprieve from responsibility and expectations. “Usually, [flying dreams] occur when we are dealing with issues of freedom, momentum or a lack thereof,” Jeffrey Sumber, a psychotherapist and author, told HuffPost in 2017, noting, “In almost every culture, flying dreams represent freedom or a release from daily pressures.”