Dream meanings explained: What does my dream mean?

Find out the meaning of these common dreams

A floating bed with a cloud above it and a blue background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We've reached out to experts to get our dream meanings explained, so we can finally answer that age old question - what does my dream mean?

We all have dreams every now and then that really stick in our minds. Ever dreamt about an ex-partner that you haven't thought about in years? How about the one we all hate - finding yourself naked in public? Although most of our dreams don’t make any sense, that doesn’t stop us from asking questions about them, like why are my dreams so vivid (opens in new tab) and why do I keep having nightmares (opens in new tab)? You might even want to know how to lucid dream (opens in new tab). But perhaps the most common question we ask ourselves when we wake up from a deep slumber is: what does my dream mean?

Psychologist Dr Keith Hearne says, "Sometimes meanings behind these weird dreams aren't quite as obvious as you might think. "Dreams are often mistranslated and the actual message is different to the original. They should be taken metaphorically, not literally." So, before you start worrying that you're really in love with the postman, read our guide below to make sense of some of the most common dream meanings. 

Dream meanings explained

1. Your ex

Break-ups happen for a reason (whether they're romantic relationships or friendships) and most of us don't like to be reminded of ex-partners or friends years down the line, especially if we're happy with the relationships we have now. But it’s not uncommon to dream about an ex, leaving you wondering why you're being plagued by the past.

UKCP Psychotherapist Yuko Nippoda (opens in new tab) says that the meaning behind the dream depends on the relationship. "The re-experience of the relationship might have sweet memories, and people might be unconsciously fantasising to go back to the time of this relationship. However, if it was a sour relationship, people might feel that they have unfinished business or regret, and be unconsciously wishing to fix it." 

Man asleep in bed in the background, in the foreground his phone displays an incoming call saying 'My Ex'

(Image credit: Getty Images)

She adds "If it was a damaging relationship, then it can become a nightmare which creates further fear, instead of offering a safe place. In that case, it is important to be aware that the relationship has already ended and it will not come back, so that the dreamer can create a safe place for themselves."

Counsellor Dwight Turner (opens in new tab) agrees with Nippoda, saying "It is ultimately about the nature of that relationship and how it still impacts upon us unconsciously." 

2. Cheating

Perhaps even less pleasant than dreaming about an ex - but just as common - is dreaming about being cheated on. 

Dream analyst Lauri Lowenberg (opens in new tab) told Harper's Bazaar (opens in new tab) "If there’s infidelity in your past, either in this relationship or a past relationship, this will keep cropping up because it’s a bone of contention within yourself." 

However, she adds that if there are no trust issues in your relationship, another hidden meaning could be that there is something else you feel is taking time and attention away from you, such as a job, a hobby or a new friend.

If you're the one cheating in the dream, then think about the person you're cheating with. Bed retailer Dreams (opens in new tab) says "Typically, these dreams don’t indicate a sexual attraction but that they may have certain qualities that you wish your partner could emulate."

3. Being naked in public

We've all had that dream where we're at work or in a busy public place and all of a sudden we realise we've forgotten to get dressed. The way we react to this in our dreams is key to working out the meaning.

Psychologist Dr Keith Hearne (opens in new tab) says, "In this case, a feeling of embarrassment and shame probably accurately reveals the essential emotion, and the content symbolically displays the cause of the dream. The dreamer should focus on what they have done or said to ‘show themselves up’.”

However, dreams of this type aren’t always negative.

"It may be a rebuke from the unconscious of unacceptable social behaviour, but if the feeling in the dream is of exhilaration, it may represent a new-found sense of freedom," explains Dr Hearne.

4. Teeth falling out

Losing your teeth is a common dream to have during deep sleep (opens in new tab). Sometimes the dream starts off with teeth having already fallen out, or in other versions of this dream the teeth drop out one-by-one. Both are unpleasant, but what do they mean?

One interpretation of a teeth-loss dream is that you're concerned about losing your looks. Have you recently found a new cluster of grey hairs or feel like your wrinkles are deepening? Something as simple as this could trigger a dream of this sort. Women experiencing menopause symptoms (opens in new tab) reportedly dream frequently about teeth loss, and in this instance it often represents worries about growing old and losing their femininity.

Dr Hearne adds, "This dream may be interpreted as a warning that time is passing and important things need to be done in life, or that you are embarrassed over something insensitive you’ve said to someone else."

Additionally, bed retailer Dreams says that dreams about losing teeth can also be about communication, and may relate to your difficulty communicating with a person in your life or a lack of confidence. 

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5. Falling

Many people wake with a start after having a dream that they're falling. The common myth is that if you ever actually hit the ground you'll die in real life, but this, unsurprisingly, isn't true.

A study of 2,000 UK adults carried out by Bed SOS (opens in new tab) found falling to be the second most common dream (45%), after having sex (48%). Being chased (37%) was in third place.

"Falling dreams can cover several different scenarios, and often seems to come up as a linguistic pun," says Dr Hearne. "The word ‘fall’ is used in several contexts in everyday life. It may appear either as a wish (for example to fall in love, or to fall pregnant), or refer to a negative event (say, to fall out with someone, to decline or fail in some way). Recall what was happening in the dream, and the characters present, to uncover the probable topic."

6. Flying

Flying dreams can be really fun - who wouldn’t want to soar through the sky without a care? When you dream you're flying and it feels like the most natural thing in the world, it indicates that you are on top of a situation and feel confident that you will succeed.

Dr Hearne says "This is a well known metaphor for doing well in life, and progressing with ease."

However, Dreams say that if you find yourself struggling to fly, this has a less positive meaning. They say “A tough time flying in your dream suggests that someone (or something) is stopping you from moving to the next step in your life. If you are unable to fly it suggests that you might be struggling to meet the high goals you set for yourself.”  

7. Being lost

"The feeling of being lost is a powerful emotion, in life and in dreams," Dr Hearne explains. "Children can be traumatised by such an experience, and a ‘sub-personality’ may form, stuck at that age, subsequently influencing their life and their dreams.

"Symbolically, the dreamer many be ‘lost in life’, and needs to find a way forward to a rewarding place."

Have you been worrying about your career path? Or perhaps you're concerned about how a relationship with a partner has changed lately? This could be a good chance to assess where things are going.

Two hikers stood on a hill with a map covering their faces

(Image credit: Getty Images)

8. Someone that has died

Being visited in our dreams by loved ones that have died can be comforting or upsetting. Some people see it as a sign that the person is trying to communicate from the afterlife, but watch out for reading too much into this as it can lead to an obsession over what they're trying to tell you.

Another interpretation is that it means you still need to deal with issues surrounding their death, even if it was a long time ago. Whichever you choose to believe, their appearnace in your dream means this person remains in your memories.

"The ancients understood the concept of opposites in dreams," reveals Dr Hearn, saying "The unconscious message might be that a birth is in fact imminent." This could mean an actual birth, or a new beginning. 

The best books to help you interpret your dreams

The Complete A to Z Dictionary of Dreams: Be Your Own Dream Expert £13.15 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

The Complete A to Z Dictionary of Dreams: Be Your Own Dream Expert £13.15 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

Written by highly respected Dream Psychologist Ian Wallace, this comprehensive guide will help you interpret the imagery you see in your dreams and analyse the hidden meaning and messages within them.

12,000 Dreams Interpreted: A New Edition for the 21st Century £9.19 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

12,000 Dreams Interpreted: A New Edition for the 21st Century £9.19 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

Popular psychic and medium Linda Shields has updated this classic, with revisions and additions to more than 2000 of his original interpretations as well as 2000 entirely new entries.

The Dream Dictionary from A to Z: The Ultimate A-Z to Interpret the Secrets of Your Dreams £13.25 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

The Dream Dictionary from A to Z: The Ultimate A-Z to Interpret the Secrets of Your Dreams £13.25 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

Packed with fascinating information, The Dream Dictionary from A to Z is an extensive collection of the symbols that appear in your dreams and how to interpret what they mean for you.

The Dream Interpretation Handbook: A Guide and Dictionary to Unlock the Meanings of Your Dreams £9.81 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

The Dream Interpretation Handbook: A Guide and Dictionary to Unlock the Meanings of Your Dreams £9.81 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

With The Dream Interpretation Handbook, you'll learn to decipher your dreams and use what you discover to connect more deeply with yourself and make changes in your waking life.

Dream Dictionary: An A-to-Z Guide to Understanding Your Unconscious Mind £6.56 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

Dream Dictionary: An A-to-Z Guide to Understanding Your Unconscious Mind £6.56 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

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