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Sleep Health

What Do Dreams Mean? 8 Common Dream Interpretations

  •  Purple Author Icon
    Last Updated
    June 7, 2023
    min read

    Dreams have fascinated and perplexed people for centuries – and for good reason. This intangible realm that feels so tangible is the mysterious work of our subconscious mind creating  vivid, oh-so-real scenarios that have been interpreted, shared, and awed over through generations

    Despite many scientific studies on the subject, dreams still  remain much of a mystery.  Many believe dreams bear  deeper meaning and have the ability to  provide insight into our psyche. Most have debated the meaning underlying common recurring dreams across all humans such as dreams of falling, being chased and losing the ability to speak, but one finite answer still has yet to be resolved.   

    What does my dream mean? Are dreams signs? This article explores the common questions regarding dreams and uncovers potential meanings behind one of the world’s most puzzling phenomenons. 

    What Are Dreams, And Why Do I Dream?

    Dreams are natural and universal phenomena that occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. During this stage, the brain becomes highly active and experiences a myriad of  images, emotions, and sensations, known as memory consolidation. Do you want to learn more about the stages of sleep? This  guide has you covered.

    Furthermore, dreams can be a single scene or a series of events that may or may not have related elements. 

    The purpose of dreams is only partially clear, and there are many theories and answers about why we dream. One popular approach is that dreams help us process and consolidate memories from the day. 

    Another theory suggests that dreams allow our brains to confront unresolved emotional issues or conflicts. According to psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, someone might interpret their dreams as repressed, unconscious feelings.

    Dream content may also vary according to someone’s state of mind. For instance, someone experiencing anxiety or high levels of stress may have dreams that follow suit. If you’re struggling to stay asleep because of frequent nightmares, learn more about how to stay asleep in our guide.

    By comparison, some researchers believe dreams are simply a byproduct of the brain's activity during sleep and have no specific purpose.

    While dreams lie beyond our control, mattress selection is a choice entirely in your hands – and one that determines the restfulness of your sleep night after night. With adaptive support, pressure relief, and temperature balance, every Purple mattress is designed to achieve rejuvenating sleep that proves life-changing rest isn’t a pipe dream. 

    Do Dreams Actually Mean Something?

    While every search engine and dream interpreter will ascribe some sort of meaning to your dream, the paramount aspect of your dreams depends on how you interpret them. While experts may provide insight through dream theory, the meaning a person ascribes to a dream will be more significant. 

    That said, some hypotheses propose the potential meaning behind dreams:

    • Activation-synthesis hypothesis: This hypothesis suggests that dreams are a result of synthesizing brain activity during sleep a.k.a. the biological effects of REM. This theory proposes that dreams have no “meaning” attached to them and are instead a result of neuronal processes.
    • Threat simulation theory: This hypothesis suggests that dreams sometimes act as a defense mechanism for preparing against potentially threatening events. Some scientists have put forward that individuals with highly developed threat simulation systems are better equipped to survive dangerous situations.
    • Wish-fulfillment theory: According to Freudian psychology, dreams are connections between real-life experiences, wishes, and desires. In this hypothesis, dreaming reveals an individual’s repressed thoughts, conflicts, and wishes.

    Common Dreams And Their Meaning

    While we all have incredibly detailed dreams of people we met years ago or the smallest of instances we experienced in passing, there is a collection of common dreams most people experience at one point in their life. Below are eleven common dreams and what they could possibly symbolize.

    1. Dreams About Falling

    The startling leg kick you’ve likely experienced while dozing off? It’s wildly common. While this light flinch that occurs during the very early stages of sleep is a routine occurrence, the dreams of falling during a deep sleep tend to stir a bit more anxiety. Some interpretations say falling in your dream might represent real-life fears or the desire to rethink a choice. If you regularly dream about falling, many experts claim this as a sign to let go of something weighing you down.

    2. Dreams About Animals

    The meaning behind  an animal-centric dream ultimately depends on the type of animal and the interaction t. For instance, domesticated animals often symbolize loyalty, security, and harmony. However, if you dream about a domestic animal acting against its nature, it may  indicate potential problems with close friends or family members.

    If you dream about caging an animal, it might be an expression of the desire to control an aspect of your life that may seem overwhelming or unmanageable. Alternatively, you might be yearning for a sense of freedom you can’t have. 

    3. Dreams Where You Can't Move

    Dreaming about being unable to move might signify a phase in your life in which you feel trapped or unable to move on from a significant life experience. For example, you might feel “stuck” in your career trajectory or an unhappy relationship. Alternatively, you might feel like you’re under constant scrutiny or are afraid to experience failure. 

    How you interpret a dream about being unable to move will also depend on the part of the body that is paralyzed. If you can’t move your legs, you may have to step back and assess what’s keeping you from moving forward. If you can’t move your eyes, you might be feeling lost or unable to focus.

    4. Dreams Where You Can't Speak

    Dreams about being unable to speak suggest a lack of assertiveness and confidence. Conversely, you might feel unheard or misunderstood in your interactions.

    However, if you feel you’re trying to scream but cannot call out, you may not just be dreaming – this might be a case of sleep paralysis. During REM, the body experiences atonia, or natural paralysis, preventing the body from moving. As such, if you feel awake but cannot move, you could be between sleep and wakefulness.

    Sleep paralysis can be frightening and uncomfortable, but you can reduce occurrences by learning how to get better sleep in our article.

    5. Dreams About Meeting a Celebrity

    Dreaming about celebrities may indicate that you might relate to them in some way. Have they played a certain character you empathize with? Do you relate to their social media posts and interviews? What do you like about this celebrity? Think about what personality traits you have in common or a shared skill or characteristic you aren’t getting recognition for.

    6. Dreams About Food

    Food dreams can have various meanings depending on the context and content of the dream. Generally, food is a basic necessity of life, representing nourishment, pleasure, and satisfaction.

    Dreaming about eating food may reflect what you find satisfying. If you’re enjoying a meal in your dream, it might indicate that you’re indulging in something that makes you happy. If you’re cooking in your dream, it may reflect the act of fulfilling your desires.

    7. Dreams About Water

    Experts often associate water with fertility, purity, renewal, creativity, and birth. There are many kinds of water dreams, such as bathing, swimming in the ocean, or being underwater.

    Dreaming about being in the ocean might indicate you’re overflowing with emotions. A calm sea might mean stability, while a stormy one might mean an unsettling or turbulent state.

    If you find yourself underwater, you may be trying to escape overwhelming circumstances in favor of a safer, more protected space. That is, unless you are drowning – in this case, you might struggle to manage impossible expectations or a high volume of work.

    Meanwhile, bathing may be a sign of emotional or physical cleansing. Perhaps you’re overcoming an internal or external burden.

    8. Dreams About Being Chased

    The person doing the chasing in a dream will be instrumental in the overall interpretation of the dream. . Think about the person’s personality traits – how do these reflect upon aspects of your life?

    If a monster is chasing you, the dream may remind you of your debts, addictions, or indiscretions. If someone you know is chasing you, how you associate yourself with that person will provide more insight into what the dream represents. 

    More Common Dream Themes

    • Teeth falling out: Dreams about teeth falling out indicate insecurities about appearance. Alternatively, it could mean a loss of power and a sense of self-assertiveness. Dreams about your teeth falling out also suggest bruxism or teeth grinding.
    • Pregnancy: Whether or not you’re pregnant, dreams about pregnancy often symbolize something in your life that is developing or growing. Pregnancy dreams are typical in women in new relationships, applying for a new job, or working on a degree.
    • Flying: Dreaming about flying often expresses the desire for freedom or power. Similarly, it could be a sign to take a new approach to an old problem. 

    Dreams' role in your subconscious is unique to your personality, immediate environment, and circumstances. Dreams can be healing and even help people get through distressing events and psychosocial diagnoses like post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Whatever the case, discussing your findings with a therapist or keeping a dream journal can help you address persisting concerns and overcome hurdles.

    One solution to frequent nightmares and wakeful sleep is a new mattress that promotes deep, rejuvenating rest. All Purple mattresses are designed with our patented  GelFlex Grid that instantly adapts to movement for uninterrupted sleep, relieves pressure for ache-soothing bliss, and promotes unparalleled temperature balance for an optimal sleeping environment. 

    Common Dreams FAQs

    Can dreams predict your future?

    No, dreams cannot explicitly predict your future. However, precognitive dreams can suggest events that may take place relating to your current situation. 

    Remember, your sleeping brain consolidates memories and processes information about probable events. As such, dreams can’t forecast any details about the future, but they can represent your hopes and aspirations.

    Do dreams reflect your personality?

    Dream recall can reflect a lot on your personality. While they can’t provide concrete explanations for who you are, they can help reflect on your patterns and habits. You can learn a lot about the human experience, including how you view yourself.

    Can you feel pain in dreams?

    While rare, you can sometimes feel pain in dreams, often due to pain inflicted in your waking life. For instance, a traumatizing dream might cause you to sleep improperly or in an uncomfortable position. The pain during a nightmare might also result from a general health condition like a sleep disorder or side effects from certain medications


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