Here’s what your sex dreams really mean, according to science

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  • Sex dream meanings – what is really going on when you nod off and end up dreaming of sleeping with your ex? Or a co-worker? Or having sex in public?

    While you might be pretty pleased waking up after a sex dream with your favourite celeb, when you’ve inadvertently fantasied about sleeping with someone you really don’t like it can leave you feeling a little confused.

    So what do the most common sex dreams really mean?

    A new study by bed and mattress specialists Bed SOS has revealed that 48% of Brits dream about sex, whilst one in seven have dreamt about doing it with someone unseemly, such as a co-worker.

    Interestingly, 1 in 25 men have dreamed about being pregnant, whilst one in five have been dream-cheated on.

    What does psychologist and dream expert, Dr. Keith M. T. Hearne, make of these intimate dreams?

    Sex dream meanings

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    Credit: Loop Images RF / Getty

    Dr. Hearne, who conducted the world’s first sleep-lab research into lucid dreams, explains: ‘Dreams, especially those that wake you suddenly, are probably best understood – not literally – but as symbolic messages, and verbal puns, from your wise unconscious. The emotion left on waking is probably the best indicator of whether the dream portrayed something good or bad.

    ‘Our unconscious is very knowledgeable and is like a friend, guide and protector. It can encourage and prod us if we’re not achieving things it knows we can.

    ‘We dream for around two hours each night, and most are actually about mundane things. However, strong emotions sometimes intrude. We can anticipate that the topic of sex, in particular, could be driving these powerful dreams.

    ‘Of course, many sex dreams simply reflect a wish for sexual gratification, but sometimes they are so illogical – you may really dislike the person (from real life) with whom you are making love in the dream. This factor, of strangeness, points out that the dream is not about what it seems to be. A switch has occurred.’

    Danny Richmond, Managing Director of Bed SOS, said: ‘We all hope for a restful night’s sleep, and the environment we’re in – a cool, quiet room and a comfortable bed for example – can have a big impact on the duration and quality of our sleep.

    ‘Most people dream and sometimes they can be surprising or uncomfortable, and it can be a bit unnerving if you don’t know the meaning behind them. Hopefully our research with Dr. Hearne will help put the nation’s conscious and subconscious minds at ease!’

    Here’s Dr. Hearne’s take on sex dream meanings…

    Sex dream meanings – being cheated on

    ‘Sometimes such a dream is indicating to the dreamer that cheating is indeed happening. The subconscious is sensitive to subtle clues (e.g. pheromones) that go unnoticed consciously, and the dream is just about the only channel of communication to the consciousness. But equally, a person who is lacking in trust may project that issue into their relationship. If the dream occurs in each relationship, the cause is more likely to be the latter.’

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    Credit: Westend61 / Getty

    Sex dream meanings – sex with a co-worker

    ‘It is not unusual for human beings to be attracted to each other.  In the generally friendly long-term situation of a work-place, little fantasies and flirtations often occur. Most dreams are about our daily lives, and in REM (dreaming) sleep, a main feature is that males have a full erection, and women experience clitoral engorgement, so any friction can trigger such a dream. Freud would have said that a part of our personality (the Id) which seeks basic gratification, would be responsible. In dreams it is safe to happen and can remain unspoken.’

    Sex dream meanings – being naked in public

    ‘The ‘metaphors in motion’ description of dreams often suffices to understand the real meaning. 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’. It may be a rebuke from the unconscious of unacceptable social behaviour. If, however, the feeling is of exhilaration, it may represent perhaps a new-found sense of freedom.’

    Sex dream meanings – sex with an ex

    ‘In a relationship a sort of addictive sexual behaviour builds up over time. In fact, it is a powerful activity that promotes emotional and psychological closeness. Should the relationship fail, those features of the initial sexual attraction can’t easily be dropped, and dreams can regress us to earlier times, so it is not unusual for people to experience this dream for a while after a relationship, especially if there is sexual frustration.’

    Sex dream meanings – sex with another woman

    ‘Sexual orientation is more open to discussion these days, so in some cases these dreams may be developments of those conscious thoughts. But in dreams there is so often a deeper level to consider.

    ‘The ‘other person of the same sex’ may actually be representative of you, the dreamer. Dreams can provide us with wise insights, such as – are you too self-centred? Or do you need to love yourself more, and build self-confidence? Meditation on the topic of oneself may enable you to attain self-truths.’

    Sex dream meanings – sex in public

    ‘Some people are highly exhibitionistic, and the dream-world is a safe place for such fantasies, but that superego part of you is more likely to be intervening to warn that you’ve been exposing yourself recklessly about aspects of your life and made yourself vulnerable to social criticism. Nudity is one thing, perhaps revealing a wish to be free, but public sex may indicate a neurotic desire to shock other people – an extreme attention-seeking behaviour.’

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    Credit: Tara Moore / Getty

    Sex dream meanings – men dreaming of being pregnant

    ‘Sometimes, men can feel great empathy with their partner and even experience symptoms of pregnancy. So in some cases it is a wish-fulfilment dream. Now that the strict bi-polarity concept of the sexes is easing, this kind of dream becomes more comprehensible. In the symbolic, metaphorical, language of the subconscious, another possibility is that it positively represents some much-loved and developing project (say, a business idea, or a building plan).’

    Sex dream meanings – sex with someone you hate

    ‘Dreams progress along visual and verbal associative pathways, and the overriding law of all dreaming is that what you think you will then dream. What happens here is that the dream’s pathway at some time leads to a dream thought, about the person you dislike. That point acts as at trigger. Feeding on the negative emotion, the dream thought comes into metaphorical play.

    ‘Significantly, verbal puns are very powerful directors of the dream content and can take over a dream – switching the dream to the context of the dream thought. The underlying dream thought can be colloquial and even crude. Should the disliked person have scored some victory over you, say in an argument (and the encounter may have had nothing to do with sex), the essential unconscious descriptive thought about the episode might have been ‘I’m f***ed’.

    ‘But that phrase in the dream thought evokes powerful images of the sex act, which is then automatically displayed to the dreamer, along with the offending person. It is merely a projection of the dream thought. The discrepancy can be unsettling and puzzling to the dreamer on waking. What was happening in the sex dream is important for the interpretation – were you active or passive? That will reveal if you were emphasising your success in the encounter, or reliving the humiliation that you suffered from the individual.’

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