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15 Types of Dreams Explained (with 15 common dream themes!)

15 Types of Dreams Explained (with 15 common dream themes!)Updated on September 9, 2021 | Published on August 30, 2021
Reviewed by Dr. Johanna Lamm, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist

15 Types of Dreams Explained (with 15 Common Dream Themes!)

If you are here, you are either curious to know what are the types of dreams you experience every day or what was the type of dream you saw last night!

Don’t worry, I have the answer to both!

At times, we love them and never want it to end but at other times, it races our heartbeats and wakes us from anxiety and panic attacks. Why is there such a vast difference when both of them are dreams?

This is because there are different types of dreams that we’re unaware of. So now let’s dig deep to understand more.

Most of us experience “Standard” Dreams – What is it?

SUMMARY
Dreams that relate to our daily-life incidents or real-life emotions are called standard dreams.

People dream every night and the sleep cycle consists of two phases – REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM. Most of us get dreams in our REM sleep, i.e., during our Rapid Eye Movement sleep stage. This is when your brain is active and so is able to remember your dreams.

You wouldn’t believe it but an average human being dreams four-six times every night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Despite that, we tend to forget 95% of our dreams because they took place in NREM sleep. During the NREM phase, we are in deep sleep and our mind is inactive and is incapable of remembering dreams from this phase. Hence, you’ll hardly remember two dreams from the same night.

Most of us experience “standard” dreams in our everyday life that are based on the emotions from our real-life or incidences based on our daily life. Our mind tries to process the past and the entire day through the dreams and that’s why you’ll find your dreams very similar to your waking life.

At times, you might have seen somebody in your dream and when that person meets you in person, you keep recollecting where you had seen them. This is because your mind has already processed the entry of that person in the dream (the future events).

However, there are others…

15 Types of Dreams (& their meanings!)

A research reveals that 65 percent of dreams are associated with your experiences from your waking life. Yet, dreams can be divided into several types, including…

1. Recent event dreams

This is one of the most common types of dreams. In such dreams, the happenings in the last 24-48 hours of your waking life are reflected in your dreams.

For example, you had a dispute with your colleague or your boss scolded you in the office. This is reflected back in the dream. It is not necessary that the dream will be the exact representation of your waking life. At times, the representations are in symbolic form.

2. Symbolic dream or Metaphoric Dreams

The symbolic dreams are helpful in nature if interpreted well. They help us to process the happenings in our life from the past or present.

Suppose somebody is blackmailing you in real life. Then you can get a dream where you feel you’re running constantly and somebody is after you to kill you. On the other side of the road, you see people who are happy and not lending you help.

Here, you learn the lesson that nobody knows what you’re going through and people will live their own life until you tell them your problems. So, if you need help, you’ll have to ask for it. When you sit and interpret such dreams, they offer high-quality life lessons.

3. Comfort or Fantasy Dreams

These are the dreams that relieve your stress when times are tough. They bring to you your fantasies and comfort zones in your dreams that you can enjoy in your dream world if not in your waking life. The fantasy dreams are your wishes that are being fulfilled in the dreams.

Comfort dreams try to bring positivity to your life. It also brings along positive thoughts about everybody around you.

For instance, if a child is being bullied by his classmates, he would often dream that he has become a superhero. This way his fantasy of being everybody’s superhero is being fulfilled.

Such dreams soothe a dreamer’s mind and give them a break from their anxieties.

4. Problem-solving or Creative Dreams

There are some dreams that ask you to think harder and brainstorm creative solutions to a problem. Such dreams are known as problem-solving or creative dreams. The dreamer wakes up with a sense that the problem has been solved.

If we take real-life examples of such dreams, then there are two prominent occurrences that immediately come to our minds. One is of James Watson – he dreamt about snakes and then successfully derived the structure of DNA. He also won the Nobel Prize for this.

Another example is Paul McCartney – he wrote the song ‘Yesterday’. The idea of which was derived from his dream.

5. Nightmares

After a family problem, a dispute, or a tragedy, nightmares are a common issue. Bad dreams occur as a result of fear, depression, or trauma from recent incidents.

Through nightmares, your subconscious or unconscious mind is trying to solve the issues. At times, these nightmares can be a result of some neurological, psychological, or biological factors too.

If you get frequent nightmares, don’t take it lightly. Consult a doctor and seek medical guidance or visit here to understand them in detail.

6. Lucid Dreams

Lucid dreams are the ones where you’re the hero and the editor of your own dream. This means you have the power to control your dreams. That’s why lucid dreaming is the most fun type of dreaming.

Here, the dreamer knows that he is actually dreaming and can turn the events according to his will. This way a dreamer can solve many problems by gaining control over the dreams.

It has become a very common phenomenon in the recent days and to keep you updated with it, we have a full-fledged think-piece on it. You can find it here

7. Supernatural Dreams

These are the most memorable and rare types of dreams. However, when these supernatural dreams occur, the experience is unique and stays with you for months, sometimes, for years.

Some examples are:

Premonition dreams – In such dreams, a dreamer can predict the future and it later comes true in real life.

Telepathic dreams – Here, the dreamer gets the details of an event occurring elsewhere in the dream only. After that, when the dreamer wakes up, the details turn out to be true.

Shared dreams – These are the same dreams that occur to different people at the same time.

Visitation dreams – These are the dreams where you see a deceased family member, pet, or loving friend. Such dreams are generally more vivid and instructive.

However, scientists are still researching the concept of supernatural dreams.

8. Night Terrors

The dream dictionaries say that night terrors are a wake-up call that you should let things go. It often leads you to wake up from a dream in panic and you wouldn’t want to go back to sleep again because the memory of the dream is so vivid.

Your entire dream just appears real to you and your heart cannot stop racing.

At times, these night terrors are linked to your real-life situations as well. You might be going through a tough time in your real life and these dreams prepare you for your real-life situations in the dreams themselves.

They give you the time to process your emotions. In case you’re walking on the wrong path then these dreams are nature’s way of telling you that you must be authentic and grow in a correct way. It asks you to let things go or face the truth.

9. Daydreams

You daydream for around 70-120 minutes in a day. This is about fantasizing about a situation from your perspective. The situations can be from the past or even from the future.  

Between the state of consciousness and sleep, there’s another stage that lets you imagine. This is where you daydream. During daydreaming, your sense of awareness decreases, and your consciousness is trying to pull you back every time.

10. Recurring dreams

These are the dream themes or storylines that keep repeating in your dreams for weeks and months.

At times, they’re very irrational and will leave you perplexed. But they will be based on the situations you come across in your daily life. You have to understand the hidden message behind the dream: It is asking you to transform.

Recurring dreams will be based on the things you’re avoiding in your real life. Once you face the situation in your real life, these dreams will also go away. They can seem frightening to you but all they are asking you to do is to confront the situation.

11. False-awakening dreams

These are the dreams that make you believe that you have woken up from a dream while you’re actually dreaming. They are the hybrid state that overlaps wakefulness and sleep and is mostly associated with lucid dreams or sleep paralysis.

12. Healing dreams

Certain times, the vehicle doors or the floors of your house represent the aspects of your body. They communicate you a message about your health. Like, the front door can represent your arms while the back doors denote the legs.

Electrical circuits can stand for neurology and water problems can be linked to psychological or vascular problems. If we look at a building, the top floor denotes the head and the rooms suggest the various body parts.

So, at certain times our dreams communicate to us beforehand if there’s an illness waiting to attack our body in the near future. That’s why dreams are an important way to achieve wellness.

13. Prophetic dreams

Dreams that are supposed to narrate a future event(s) are prophetic dreams. However, there’s no research to back this up. So, it boils down to what you believe.

It is believed that this dream occurs in three stages. The first stage represents that you’re the hero of your own life facing a challenge.

The second stage denotes the past and how this challenge has occurred. After which, you learn the lessons and transform into a new self that you’ll be in the future. You understand your destiny.

Dreams are considered to be the mirror of the mind and that’s why it is important to reflect within yourself to know what your mind wants.

The third stage provides you new imagery that gives you an innovative vision to understand your transformation. It becomes the missing link to overcome the challenge in front of you.

If you understand the dreams, you’ll know that they actually guide you on how to overcome your real-life challenges. Your unconscious mind already knows what’s coming to your life and warns your conscious self to deal with it.

14. Vivid Dreams

Vivid dreams, in a literal sense, are intense dreams that feel very real. It occurs when you wake up during your REM sleep, i.e., the time when the dreams are most vivid and most remembered.

Even though anyone can have vivid dreams, if you are pregnant or extremely stressed, you are more prone to experiencing vivid dreams.

If you wish to know more about vivid dreams, you can read it here

15. Life-changing Dreams

During periods when you’re going through a transformation, you’ll see dreams related to mythology. These dreams lay an impact on you and are so vivid that you can even remember them for months and years. They change your life in many ways.

When you keep revisiting these dreams, every time you’ll learn something more from it and understand the message better.

15 Common Dream Themes & Their Meanings

Apart from the types of dreams, there are also a few common dreams that we experience like teeth falling out dreams, chasing dreams, etc.

Let’s understand a few of them and gain a better understanding of their interpretations.

1. Naked in Public

When you dream of being without clothes in a public place, it implies that you feel vulnerable and unsafe in real life. It means you need some protection in your life and are always afraid of the harm that might be coming your way.

In real life, you often feel people staring at you and are passing wrong judgments about you. You know that the people are criticizing you but there’s nothing much that you can do to change it. You’re reluctant to bring forth your true self in front of others.

2. Sex Dreams

If you get sex dreams, it signals that you desire some sense of security in your waking life. It is also a form of wish-fulfillment dreams.

Sex dreams are usually very complex and are a reflection of your needs, wishes, and fears. Most people have sex dreams with a person you cannot have in your real life.

3. Falling dreams

You might be dreaming of falling from a cliff, a surface, or a plane. Falling from something is a common dream theme.

Dream researchers believe that when you see yourself falling in dreams, you’re going through a difficult time in your waking life. This means you can be undergoing anxiety, depression, feeling powerless, or overwhelmed in your real life.

When your real-life is falling apart, you experience such dreams in your sleep.

4. Dreams about flying

If you think all dreams are related to your stress, it’s not true. Dreams about flying are nowhere linked to anxiety and depression.

Instead, soaring high in the sky is a symbol that you have everything under your control or power and you have a better perspective towards things than others. That’s why you’ll achieve success in your ongoing projects and there’s nothing to worry about.

Flying dreams often give you a sense of freedom but in some cases, it is an indication that you’re trying to escape reality.

5. Losing your teeth

At times, you find your teeth falling in your dream. This might scare you and make you look into the mirror in the middle of the night to check if your teeth are still there.

Dreaming of losing teeth is one of the most common dream symbols that denotes you’re uncertain or unsettled about an occurrence or person in your real life.

It can also be a sign that you have a challenging decision to make that is being tough for you. This also shows that you’re running low on your self-esteem.

6. Dreams about death

If you see yourself or your near one dying in your dream, this doesn’t mean the person is going to die in reality. Instead, this dream is considered to bring good fate and is a sign that your worries are about to get over.

A big news is waiting on your door that is going to transform your life and change it for the good. At times, tragedies in dreams mean happiness in real life.

7. Being chased

You might have been chased by somebody in your dream. This might bother you and you might feel like somebody is constantly keeping a check on you. But this dream reveals that you’re trying to avoid a situation.

Until you confront a situation, such dreams are going to keep repeating. You can also experience this dream if you’re avoiding your deadlines or conflicts with someone. To come out of this, face the situation and your feelings. Talk to somebody and sort things out.

8. Dreams about Spiders

When you see a spider in real life, you get scared and jump out of fear. This is usually the common reaction. Similarly, in your dreams also if you see a spider, it indicates your fears and anxieties.

Seeing a spider in a dream can also mean that you’re feeling trapped and helpless. You want to escape a situation but you don’t know how to do that. Additionally, it can also mean that you’re not able to predict the future or you think there are things kept hidden from you.

However, the illustrated dream dictionary also has a positive dream interpretation attached to it; spiders also denote that you’re a creative person.

9. Dreams about Snakes

Another fear that most of us have in common is snakes. It is often closely associated with danger.

Seeing a snake biting you in the dream shows that you fear somebody is being toxic around you in your waking life. If you see a snake shedding skin, this is a sign that your life is going to transform very soon.

In case you’re religious and see a talking snake in your dream, this is a sign that you have somebody around you who has bad intentions towards you.

10. Passed loved ones

This is a common dream when we miss somebody close by who has passed by. You might have been thinking about them for a long time and dreams are the way you can relive your memories with them.

Few people also take such dreams as messages from deceased people. For that, the details of the dream are important. If you’re enjoying and having fun with them in your dream, it is only a recollection of memories. If there’s something wrong or dreadful in the dream, then it is a matter of worry.

11. Dreams about Infidelity

Infidelity dreams reveal hidden fears within you. These dreams can also trigger you because of your past bad experiences.

Or if you have been cheated by your partner or are insecure about your partner, then such dreams are common. Even if your partner does something to annoy you, you might fall prey to dreams about infidelity because you think your partner will leave you.

When you have such dreams, it is better to talk to your partner and solve the ongoing issues with them.

12. Dreams about Running Away

If you find yourself running away in dreams, this is a sign that you want to escape from something. The important thing to note here is what you are trying to run from.

If you’re running from an animal, this means you want to get rid of your own fears or passions. In case it’s a known person chasing you, then it is a sign that you have left some work incomplete that you need to finish on a priority basis. An unknown person as a pursuer denotes childhood trauma.

13. Dreams about Taking a Test

Dreams about taking a test indicate that you’re facing challenges in real life and facing a hard time. You’re being tested or examined in some area of your real life. If you look at the pattern of most dreams, you’ll understand that the root cause of this dream is also anxiety.

You might see that you reached late for an exam or the paper is in some foreign language and you don’t know how to escape the situation.

You might be getting such dreams because you have a fear of failure and lack of confidence.

14. Dreams about Water

Water in dreams shows that you have deep emotions for somebody or something. If you see muddy or dirty water in the dream, it can be because you’re confused or uncertain about that person.

The water in the dream can also drown you or choke you. This can terrify you but in reality, they denote your anger and pain.

If you dream of ocean water, this means you have limitless horizons that are coming your way. The river water is a sign that you’re going to transform your life very soon.

15. Dreams about Cheating

Dreams about cheating are common. You might get it in two possible ways- either your partner is cheating on you or you are cheating on your partner. Both these dreams have different meanings depending upon who the other details of the dreams are.

If you see your partner cheating you with a stranger, it might be because the two of you don’t spend enough time together anymore. Your partner might have joined a new workplace or a hobby center and is not able to devote as much time to you as before.

Similarly, if you see yourself cheating on your partner with a stranger, it is only because your attention is divided at multiple places.

Other FAQs

Apart from the types mentioned above, there are a few more questions that are in everyone’s mind but nobody is able to ask because you don’t know who is the right person to answer them.

Don’t worry, we have read your mind and here are your answers!

1. What is the difference between Nightmares and Night Terrors?

This is the biggest confusion among all. Nightmares are the scary and frightening dreams that are seen among all age groups but night terrors are more common among children than the older generation.

The nightmares are a result of stress and anxiety or some medical disorders. The nightmares are very frequent and you remember them. But if we talk about night terrors, a person wakes up in a panic after experiencing night terror and only has a vague idea about it.

A person can scream, kick, sweat, or breathe hard during a dream. Nightmares are bad dreams but night terrors are no sort of dreams. They are sleep disorders.

Night terrors are majorly experienced in NREM sleep and hence are easily forgotten but nightmares are experienced in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is why we can vividly remember our nightmares.

2. How to turn nightmares into lucid dreams?

Nightmares are caused due to fear, anxiety, and depression. This means if you want to attain lucidity i.e., control over your dreams, you’ll have to fight your fear. Now you may ask HOW?

Suppose, you have a dream where you’re being killed by a person. At that point of time, your mind automatically signals you to wake up.

You hear somebody shouting WAKE UP! WAKE UP! And then you wake up and see nobody around. This was your mind telling you how to face the situation. You escaped the situation in your dream also by waking up.

Now, if you want to attain lucidity, what you need to do is say to yourself “I am breathing”. You might think about how you can say this to yourself while you’re dreaming. The answer is simple- just the way you said WAKE UP! This time you need to ask yourself to breathe and things will come under control.

3. How to Use False Awakenings to Become Lucid?

False awakenings are not harmful. They might get frustrating and annoying at times because you don’t know if you’re dreaming of doing things in real life. In such instances, you need to do frequent reality checks.

Some people also get multiple false awakenings and it continues in a never-ending cycle. If you’re also going through frequent false awakenings, you need to do reality checks.

Whenever you think it’s a false awakening, make a reality check by banging something or pinching yourself and you’ll achieve your lucidity. These awakenings are extremely vivid and do not frighten us like nightmares.

4. What are Dream Illusions?

Dream illusions are dreams that are triggered by external stimuli. You might be in a situation but you’ll imagine yourself to be in a totally different situation that is barely going to take place.

For instance, if a man is surrounded by too many lights while sleeping, he can dream of his land being destroyed by fire since light causes heat.

Similarly, if a man whose leg is touching a hot surface while sleeping can think of walking on a volcano. So, these situations that don’t happen in real life but still appear in your dreams, are called dream illusions.

5. What are Dream Hallucinations?

The dream hallucinations are created by our own trail of thoughts and visuals. It is triggered by our central stimuli.

For example, a young girl who loves romance will dream about her beloved. Sigmund Freud also says that some dreams are the result of unsatisfied sexual needs whereas others are triggered by poetic or artistic impulses too.

Some other dreaming occurs because you want to achieve expertise in a particular arena while a few others are just a fantastic play of imagination.

Final Thoughts!

Dreams are often based on individualistic thought processes. However, scientists still do not have answers pertaining to all the questions of dreams. 

With the help of various experiments, they’re trying to learn why we dream and why there are so many types of dreams, and on what basis do we experience these dreams.

While they continue to find answers, make sure you don’t shrug off your dreams. Pay attention to them and if there’s anything disturbing you, don’t be afraid of consulting dream experts who can give you solid answers!


Sources

1. https://www.psychologydiscussion.net/dreams/3-main-types-of-dreams-psychology/1649
2. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/types-of-dreams-explained
3. https://www.healthline.com/health/types-of-dreams
4. https://www.cafeausoul.com/dreams/inspired-by-dreams/dream-expert-kari-hohne/types-dreams/
5. https://rapidleaks.com/lifestyle/types-of-dreams/
6. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/202010/7-fascinating-types-dreams