What does it mean when you dream about someone? This sleep expert explains why

An ex, a friend, or a colleague - we've decoded your dream

an illustration showing a woman asleep in bed dreaming with the moon above her
(Image credit: Future/Getty)

Dreams can have lots of different meanings and we can dream about a multitude of things, but what does it mean when you dream about someone?

From lucid dreaming to dreaming about being pregnant, we experience lots of different dream meanings while we sleep at night. Sleep coach Dave Gibson of Sleep site tells Goodto: "For an adult, it’s quite common to dream about someone, especially within a sexual context. In fact, surveys on the subject matter of dreams suggest that men have more of such dreams than women. Between 40% to 50% of adult dreams are about sex. 

"Dreams help us process the emotional struggles and conflicts of the day. As our personal relationships are often where we have the most difficult challenges and most lovely successes, dreaming of a person or persons are the most common dreams we have. As such they can be highly insightful as to our feelings towards that person and relationship with them. " It's certainly a comfort to know this isn't exactly an uncommon dream situation, but does the meaning vary depending on the person you're dreaming about? We've asked the experts to share what is implied when you dream of an ex, current partner, and friends and family members - past and present.

What does it mean when you dream about someone?

When you dream about someone, it is usually a reflection of how you feel about them in your waking life. So, for example, if you've been in contact with someone or thought about someone in the day - you may well dream about them that night.

"Typically, dreams are a creative process, blending our short and long term memory to make ‘sense of things’," Dave Gibson explains. "If you are dreaming about someone in particular it could be in response to a change in the status of your relationship with them.

"You could be working out what to say, whether to apologise or whether they should be getting in touch with you. All of this is processed naturally in your sub-conscious mind as you sleep."

He adds: "The state in which we wake up emotionally can be a guide to what sort of dream you have just had, i.e. happy or sad."

While Phil Lawlor, Sleep Expert at Dormeo, also weighs in on the dreaming phenomenom: "When we dream about someone we know, it means that our subconscious mind is telling our conscious brain to pay attention to your feelings towards that person. It can also be a sign of anxiety and fear, for example, you may dream of losing a partner/loved one due to insecurities and fear of them leaving you."

According to Psych News Daily, the person you dream about might signify a part of your life that you need to be focusing on. They add that we generally tend to dream about someone we have strong feelings for.

However, dreaming of strangers is also very common. This is based on dreams during deep sleep involving up to three or more characters - with one of these often a total stranger. A study of 320 adult dream reports found that 16% of characters were not known to the dreamer. A further 35% were an unknown character in a societal role such as a policeman or doctor.

Does dreaming of someone mean they are thinking of you?

While many believe that dreaming of someone means they are thinking of you, many sleep experts have confirmed that this is generally a misconception and is not likely to be the case.

Sleep expert David Gibson tells us: "There’s no evidence for synchronicity within dreams. But lots believe this to be the case - ie we connect with others through our thoughts, and as dreams are thoughts this could also be happening as we sleep. Personally, it’s not a belief I hold though."

There are those who believe that this dreaming of each other concept is a phenomenon of it's own and they've given it a name - 'dream telepathy.' But whilst it's a nice idea in principle - scientists have extensively researched the possibility and have been unable to prove that it exists in reality.

Why do I keep having dreams about the same person?

Dreaming about the same person over and over means they are likely of big significance or importance to your life. It's highly likely that if you're dreaming of the same person frequently, you have strong feelings for them.

"The reason for dreaming of the same person can be to do with relationship issues, both wanting one with them or being in one already," sleep coach David Gibson tells Goodto. "It can be that they represent something or someone else in your life (ie authority, love, passion). 

"Relationships, both positive and negative, tend to be the key reason, especially within a ‘fantasy’. Also, If you think you partner is cheating on you, the stress of trying work this through is also likely to come up in a dream."

Ultimately dreams of the same person over and over could signify a multitude of emotions and meanings including loss, grief, desire, a difficult relationship, or wanting to protect someone.

What does it mean to dream about a person you like?

Dreaming about a person you like has a fairly simple meaning - it probably means you want to be with them and/or are attracted to them. The reason you're dreaming about them is because, chances are, you're thinking about them a lot when you're awake.

"They could be platonic dreams, but are most likely to be sexual in this context," says sleep expert David Gisbon. "The most common type of person people dream about would be a sexual partner, a celebrity, or a person in a position of authority. 

"Our dreams are processed on a nightly basis, with our short-term memory taken into long term storage. So anything (or anyone) that happens of significance that particular day would come up in your dreams."

So maybe the whole dreaming of someone you love line shouldn't be so quickly dismissed after all.

What does it mean to dream about kissing someone?

While dreaming about someone we like has a fairly straightforward meaning, dreaming of kissing someone can have several different meanings. One meaning is that you have a misunderstanding and want to resolve the problem and come to an understanding.

Kissing them means you no longer want to be separated or have ill feelings towards them. Another meaning could be that you have a good feeling about this person and feel safe and secure around them. 

If you dream about kissing an ex, it could mean that you still long for them and haven’t accepted the reality of your breakup. While dreaming of a stranger can mean that you're ready to address a part of yourself that you've perhaps been hiding.

Kissing someone in your dream could also mean you're in love with him or have a strong desire for them, as sleep expert David Gibson explains: "This type of dream is a strong reference to sexual attraction."

What does it mean when you dream about someone?

(Image credit: Getty)

What does it mean when you dream about someone dying?

This is, understandably, a very traumatic dream to have, especially if you dream about someone you know or love dying. But this dream can have several meanings and isn't to be worried about.

Sleep expert David Gibson says: "This could be both factual or fictional. It could be that you're frightened about the health of a loved one. In this context the uncomfortable fear of this happening could be processed in dreams on a nightly basis."

He adds: "With reference to ending a relationship, this could also be seen as a ‘death’ and could be represented as them dying in your dream and therefore bringing your relationship to an end. In the ancient world, dreams were often interpreted as meaning the opposite. So if you dream about someone dying it was thought to mean a birth was coming – but this of course isn’t based on any science or research."

According to Healthline, dreaming about yourself dying could mean that you’re in a major life transition. It might be a symbolic goodbye to a relationship, a job, or a home. It could also be that you’ve been putting your own needs on the back burner in favour of everyone else. 

They add that dreaming about the death of a friend could signify concern for that person. It could also mean that your friendship is undergoing change or that you’d prefer to be free of this person.

And when you dream about a loved one dying, it might be due to changes - whether perceived or actual - to your relationship with them.

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A photo of Dave Gibson
Dave Gibson

Dave Gibson has over 20 years of experience in healthcare providing advice, advice, support and intervention across a wide range of conditions to promote good sleep patterns and quality sleep. He specialises in sleep advice and support but also works to treat a range of conditions from back and neck pain as an Osteopath to low self-esteem, overeating, addictions and anxiety as a Hypnotherapist. 

Phil Lawlor

Phil Lawlor is the resident Dormeo sleep expert and their professional mattress tester. When it comes to trialling a new mattress, Phil tries every sleeping position to review key aspects, such as comfort and support. Plus, he'll consider the materials, durability, craftsmanship, breathability, and material temperature to make sure that our products are the very best that money can buy. When he's not helping our team design cutting-edge products, Phil spends his time reading up on the latest developments in the sleep industry.

Robyn Morris
Entertainment writer - contributor

Robyn is a freelance celebrity journalist with ten years experience in the industry. While studying for a degree in Media and Cultural Studies at London College of Communication, she did internships at Now and Heat magazines. After graduating, she landed a job at Star magazine, where she worked her way up to features editor. She then worked at Future as Deputy Celebrity Content Director across Woman, Woman’s Own, Woman’s Weekly and Woman & Home magazines.