You wake up in a cold sweat. Moments ago, you were back in school, facing a test you are completely unprepared for. Or maybe you were being chased by someone, something, but could barely move your legs. You feel relieved as you realize it was just a dream, yet you find yourself asking “what did that mean?”
According to certified dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg, your dreams are constructed from your subconscious experiences, feelings, and thoughts throughout your day. You may not remember them, but every night you have an average of five dreams during which your mind can reflect on the day’s events.
While every dream is one of a kind, they have consistent elements or overarching themes that help us to interpret their meaning. To find the meaning of your dreams, Loewenberg and psychologist Dr. William Braun shared the interpretations of these 13 common dreams below.
Your Dream: You're in School Again, and It’s Test Time
The Meaning: When you dream about a test, this is often related to a work test you are facing. This could be a beneficial challenge, such as being up for a promotion or going for a new contract, but it’s a challenge that will test your mettle and ask you to prove your worth.
Your mind looks at school as your first “job,” so in these dreams your subconscious uses this analogy to reflect on your work challenge, and how you really feel about it. To find the meaning, all you must do is ask yourself: “Was I ready?”
Your Dream: You Were Hanging Around a Celebrity
The Meaning: Unless you hang out with celebrities on the regular, running into one in your dreams might be a bit unexpected. Yet whether they are a musician, actor, or someone more personally relevant, your mind will often use celebrities and their work to express your subconscious thoughts and feelings. The meaning behind their presence depends on how they appear. If you are friends in the dream, for example, this could mean that the celebrity has some quality you like that you also see in yourself.
If their appearance seems more spontaneous, then there’s something in that person’s work that speaks to your subconscious mind. The question to ask is “what about this person, or what they’ve done, is relevant to me right now?” To answer this question might require digging through some song lyrics or revisiting a movie you haven’t seen in a while, but dive deep enough and you will find your meaning.
Your Dream: Your Partner or Spouse Cheating
The Meaning: For as much as dreams can reveal about our hidden truths, they cannot predict the future. In this case, they do not necessarily mean your partner is actually cheating. In fact, if you can leave the emotions it evokes in the dream world there could be a helpful message to take away. If you do have experience with a partner being unfaithful, you may find this dream will continue to appear until you have reconciled with this past pain internally. This is your subconscious mind’s way of urging you to work on letting go.
If you do not have any experience of infidelity, there may be something else causing disharmony. Look to the things in the life of you or your partner that may be taking the attention you need away from you. This could be a demanding job, a time-consuming hobby, or a new addition to the family. Look for what can be adjusted to restore your balance – it could be as simple as getting out together more often.
Your Dream: You're Behind Schedule or Late for Something Important
The Meaning: Some dreams are easier to understand than others. The meaning of this dream is straight-forward if you work in a field with frequent deadlines.
For others, this may appear if you have a timeline you have set for yourself, like a fitness goal or preparing your house for an upcoming family gathering.
Your Dream: You’re Going to Have a Baby
The Meaning: Whether or not you are trying to conceive, this dream is generally a good one to be having. It typically refers to something you are working on, building, or developing – something that is growing within you.
This is a common dream for women who are pursuing a college degree but could mean anything from a new relationship to a new inspiration.
Your Dream: You’re Standing at the Edge of a Steep Drop When All of Sudden You're in Freefall
The Meaning: The meaning of this dream is in how it feels to experience falling. These dreams are a subconscious reflection of your own internal feelings, whether that is feeling insecure, out of control, or just plain overloaded.
The specific meaning may vary depending on the details, such as falling off the cliff of a canyon or launching out a window to escape danger. Where a fall from grace might relate to insecurity, having the floor come out from under you may relate more to feeling like you don’t have enough support. While the fall remains a constant, the details point to very different interpretations.
You're Dream: You’re Calling for Help, but You Have No Voice
The Meaning: As we sleep our bodies go through several sleep cycles, and these voiceless experiences may not be a dream but a result of your body waking up during one of these cycles. We dream during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle, and while in the REM cycle our bodies are in a state of paralysis to help prevent you from physically acting out your dream.
If you wake up before the REM cycle is over you may experience what’s called “sleep paralysis,” where you are in a waking state, but your body is still in a state of paralysis. For some this means not only being physically paralyzed, but also unable to talk, or even breathe properly. While you may be awake, this in-between of asleep and awake may result in the experience seeming dream-like.
Your Dream: You’re Out in Public With No Clothes On
The Meaning: Was it totally embarrassing, or did you have not a care in the world? The meaning of these dreams is all in how you are feeling. They often reflect the feeling of being vulnerable, shameful, or exposed.
If instead, you felt comfortable, the meaning could be the other way around. In this case, you may want to be more recognized, given more attention, or to be celebrated yourself.
Your Dream: You’re Losing Teeth
The Meaning: These dreams can be a result of significant anxiety, reflecting your subconscious uncertainty about your own capabilities, potential, or inner strength.
Teeth often represent a source of power, and losing teeth evokes a feeling of powerlessness. This dream may also be related to a period of change or transformation, harkening back to the childhood transition.
Your Dream: You’re Running Away From Someone or Something
The Meaning: If you are being chased by a monster, the meaning probably doesn’t have anything to do with an actual monster. Instead, it’s likely a reflection of the metaphorical monsters in your life, the bills, debts, bad habits, or other unpleasantries you may be “running away” from.
On the other hand, being chased by someone you know may have a different meaning. It likely has less to do with that specific person, but rather what they represent. They may reflect someone else or even a part of you, so consider what your subconscious is trying to represent through this person.
Your Dream: You Were Dreaming about a Part of Your Day, or Where You Feel Asleep
The Meaning: Our dreams often draw from the experiences and thoughts we have throughout the day.
This dream is a perfect example, as it is a straightforward reflection of your daily experiences.
Your Dream: You're Someone Powerful, Like a Monarch or Business Executive
The Meaning: While having such an empowering dream may seem ideal, the reality they reflect is often one where the dreamer is vulnerable or without much power.
These dreams allow your subconscious mind to overcome the feeling of powerlessness by empowering you within the dream world. While this may not change your reality directly, it offers an opportunity to feel or experience this power, which may serve as a reminder of what you have within.
Your Dream: You’re at a Luxurious Feast, With a Late Relative, or Other Desirable Impossibilities
The Meaning: When we dream of the impossible, especially when it is desirable or positive, we are using our dream-space to make up for what is lacking.
To dream of a luxurious meal is a way of compensating for not having enough food access. Dreaming of those who are no longer with us is a way to be with them once again, if only in the dream world.