Wondering what your sex dreams mean? What 9 common steamy scenarios say about you, according to two experts

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  • Hands up if you’ve had a super vivid dream in the past year or so and ended up Googling ‘sex dream meaning’?

    One Psychol research paper from last year found that the lockdown had triggered sleep issues and nightmares for around 50% of respondents, likely as a subconscious reaction to stress.

    But what about the steamier dream sequences? According to Google Trends, data, ‘what do sex dreams mean’ has been Googled 9,900% more in the last three months alone. That’s a lot.

    So, question: what’s 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?

    We spoke to psychologist and dream expert, doctor Keith M. T. Hearne, and relationship therapist Zoé Williams at GearHungry to see what they make of these intimate dreams. Keep reading.

    Sex dream meaning: your guide

    Dr. Hearne, who conducted the world’s first sleep-lab research into lucid dreams, explains that dreams are probably best understood as symbolic messages. You dream for around two hours each night and, by-and-large, dream about normal, day-to-day things.

    “Dreams where you wake 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,” he explains.

    “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.”

    Williams, on the other hands, compares it to a hypnotherapy session and says that dreams can help to combat life problems in a slightly altered state.

    “The majority of dreaming – 90% – takes place when we’re in a REM state of sleep,” she explains. “When we’re in this state, our brain is just as active as when we’re awake during the day, though scientists attribute the strangeness of your dreams to the fact that, chemically, our brain is completely rewired when we sleep. Think of it as a hypnotherapy session that enables us to relax so we can combat problems and questions in an altered way.”

    Sex dream meaning: A woman lies in bed while having a sex dream

    So, why do I keep having sex dreams? 

    Good question – and not one that’s particularly easy to answer, according to both experts.

    “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,” shares doctor Hearne. 

    Sound familiar?

    And what can sex dreams teach us?

    Dreams can be complex, maddening, blurring and sometimes just plain illogical, right? “Traversing the valuable from the pointless is, occasionally, an arduous task that can result in very little info for the amount or research you put in,” explains Williams.

    Bottom line: dreaming about having sex with someone doesn’t mean you fancy them, but may mean you find them attractive subconsciously (or in many cases, consciously). “Where things get a bit more interesting is what type of sex dream you have with someone,” the relationship expert shares.

    Keep scrolling for their take on the various sex dream meanings…

    So, you want to know your sex dream meaning? 

    Scenario one: Sex with an authority figure

    A dream involving an authority figure – think your teacher or boss – can indicate a desire for more control in your life, shares Williams.

    “Perhaps you’re craving control that you don’t think you’re capable of giving yourself, or craving attention that you don’t feel you’re currently getting?”

    Scenario two: Adventurous sex

    Ever dreamt about having sex somewhere whacky – you know, in the middle of the ocean, or in a tree, or in the middle of the street?

    Yeah, apparently that’s more common than you’d think. “Sex dream involving a more adventurous type of sex that you would normally never imagine can indicate a person wanting to let go, and get out of their comfort zone, subconsciously desiring a life free from self-judgements,” explains Williams.

    Sex dream meaning: A couple sit on a roof kissing

    Scenario three: Being cheated on

    Spoiler alert: doctor Hearne reckons that occasionally, such dreams can indicate to the dreamer that cheating is indeed happening. “The subconscious is sensitive to subtle clues, like pheromones, that go unnoticed consciously, and the dream can sometimes be the only channel of communication to the consciousness,” he shares.

    Obviously, this isn’t always the case, and often it’s just what it says on the tin – a dream. Plus, if a person is lacking in trust, they’re more likely to project the issue into their relationship. “If the dream occurs in multiple relationship scenarios, the cause is more likely to be the latter,” he shares.

    Scenario four: Sex with a co-worker

    Fun fact: it’s not unusual for human beings to be attracted to each other. “In the long-term situation of a work-place, little fantasies and flirtations often occur,” shares doctor Hearne. “This one can be common as most dreams are about what happens in our daily lives, and you likely se your colleagues regularly,” he says.

    Sex dream meaning: Two colleagues kissing

    Scenario five: Being naked in public

    You know those dreams you have that are really heavy in metaphor? You know, where you feel embarrassed or shameful?

    “These dreams are often revealing the essential emotion,” shares doctor Hearne. “The content can symbolically display the cause of your dream.”

    In this case, the doctor advises you focus on what you’ve done or said in recent days, and how this made you feel, as a result. “This may be a rebuke from the unconscious of unacceptable social behaviour,” he explains. “However, if the feeling is more of exhilaration, it may represent perhaps a new-found sense of freedom.”

    Scenario six: Sex with an ex

    Now this one’s more common than you’d think.

    “In a relationship, a sort of addictive sexual behaviour builds up over time,” explains doctor Hearne. “In fact, it’s a powerful activity that promotes emotional and psychological closeness.”

    Should the relationship break up – well, your initial sexual attraction doesn’t just disappear. “Dreams can regress you to earlier times, so it’s not unusual to dream about your ex for months after a relationship, especially if there is sexual frustration there, too,” the doctor shares.

    Sex dream meanings: A couple kissing on a beach

    Scenario seven: Sex with another woman

    Sure, dreaming of having sex with another woman, as a woman, could indicate deeper sexual desires.

    Or, according to doctor Hearne, it could be a mirror of your inner conscious thoughts.

    “Sometimes, the ‘other person of the same sex’ may actually be representative of you, the dreamer,” he explains. Dreams can provide you with wise insights, such as:

    • Are you too self-centred?
    • Do you need to love yourself more?
    • Do you need to work on building your self-confidence?

    Top tip: Meditation on the topic of oneself may enable you to attain self-truths. says doctor Hearne.

    Scenario eight: Sex in public

    So, you want to know the sex dream meaning for sex in public. First things first, do know that some people are highly exhibitionistic, and the dream-world is a safe place for fantasies, or so says doctor Hearne.

    “Do note, though – 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,” he shares.

    “Nudity is one thing, perhaps revealing a wish to be free, but public sex may indicate a desire to shock other people – or display attention-seeking behaviour.”

    Sex dreams meaning: A couple kiss on a floating flamingo

    Scenario nine: Sex with someone you hate

    In short, as we’ve touched on, your day-to-day life massively impacts your dreams – and so if you’ve been thinking about someone you dislike a lot, there’s a high chance they’ll end up in your dreams, whether that be a sex one or not.

    “Verbal puns are also powerful directors of the dream content,” explains doctor Hearne. “They can take over a dream, for example. 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’.”

    And then – yep, you guessed it – the phrase evokes images of sex and changes the context of the dream entirely.

    “Sometimes, it’s merely a projection of the dream thought,” shares the doctor.

    Are some sex dreams ever completely meaningless?

    Do note here: sex dream meaning isn’t always a thing. Not all dreams have conclusions. “If you keep dreaming about being on a date with a shark in Spain, maybe don’t waste time delving into your childhood for answers,” advises Williams.

    But if they’re recurring and feel significant, things like keeping a dream journal and analysing if your subconscious is trying to tell you something can be helpful, according to the expert.

    Or…. you could just drift back to sleep…

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