Common types of dreams and what they could mean

October 30, 2020 5 mins read
Common types of dreams and what they could mean

Cloaked in mystery, the types of dreams we experience have always elicited interest and opinion. But what do they mean, really?

The feeling of waking up after an intense dream sometimes can’t be described because it’s overwhelming or so vivid that it leaves you breathless.

Dreams are a fascinating way for us to escape into what seems like a fantasy world. The reason why we dream the way we do has fascinated us for centuries, and today’s scientists continue to investigate the meaning behind us dreaming.

Join us as we uncover what they’ve discovered about our different types of dreams and their common interpreted meanings.

Why do we dream?

Dreams happen in the rapid eye movement (REM) of sleep where the brain processes the events of the day as the eyes vigorously flutter underneath the eyelids. Research shows that dreams play an important role in helping us retain, store and recall memories.

Dreams have also been found to help you process your thoughts and feelings. Have you had a recurring dream about something that’s worrying you? It could be linked to how you feel about it, which is why you keep dreaming about it.

5 types of dreams

You will be glad to know that dreams aren’t so mysterious that we can’t classify them. Interestingly, psychoanalysis founder Sigmund Freud believed dreams expressed an inner desire. According to Freud, dreams could give you insight into your wishes and secret thoughts. It’s no wonder dreams are so alluring.

1. Daydreams

When you daydream, you enter into a mini-meditation, like a hypnotic trance. Your mind conjures visual narratives while you’re still awake. If someone caught you daydreaming, they would say that you appeared lost in your thoughts. This type of dream often occurs when you’re not preoccupied or waiting for something.

2. Recurring dreams

Common recurring dreams include being chased, finding money or you can dream of losing teeth. It’s not strange for dreams to happen over and over because of the natural process of how our minds work through what we experience. However, if you keep dreaming the same dream over a long period, then it could point to stress.

3. Nightmares

Did you know that the word nightmare is from the old English word “mare” meaning demon or goblin? Nightmares are frightening dreams where you feel cornered, chased or fearful of something dreadful in the dream. Even though it doesn’t feel like it, these common nightmares are normal and our brain’s way of processing our emotions.

Nightmares are often caused by stress or your feelings towards a life-changing experience. Other factors can also lead to nightmares:

  • Watching or reading something scary
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Eating right before bed
  • Being ill

People who have anxiety, sleep apnea and migraines have also reported having nightmares more often.

4. False awakenings

You’ve just woken up from a vivid dream, and you’re drenched in sweat. Your breathing is heavy, laboured, and you’re relieved that you escaped your dream. You get up to go to the bathroom and reach for the tap but then you realise you’re standing in the middle of a desert! You have just experienced a false awakening, a dream that feels very real and quite scary too. It’s like the movie Inception – a dream within a dream.

5. Lucid dreams

In this type of dream, you’re fully aware that you’re dreaming and can even control the narrative with lucid dreaming techniques. You may have control over what you say, do or how you react to the events happening around you. These vivid dreams can be quite enjoyable, and upon waking, you could feel like you want to return to the dream again.

Common types of themes in dreams

Some dreams occur more regularly than others. These themes, like flying or being pregnant, have common meanings.


Do you have a fear of failure? Dreams of falling can indicate that you’re not in a good place, and you think of failing at your job or relationships, for instance.

Being chased

This type of dream can be terrifying. Dream interpreters have said by looking at who is doing the chasing, you can understand what the dream means. So if an animal is doing the chasing, you might be hiding from your own feelings of frustration, bitterness or anger. If it’s someone you can’t see or recognise, then it may symbolise trauma or a childhood experience you haven’t resolved.


A very common dream, this can represent a fear of change or the unknown. So if you’re moving to another city or changing jobs, these type of dreams can show your apprehension about a life-changing move.


Dreams about teeth can have multiple meanings. Some interpretations suggest they point to a feeling of powerlessness, or that you feel like you haven’t expressed yourself properly.

Being naked in public

Have you heard of the imposter syndrome? It’s when you feel like you’re not good enough or that everyone can see through you. Dreaming that you’re naked in public can mean that your sense of self-worth is low or you seek validation.


Mums-to-be regularly have this dream because they may feel anxious about the birth of their baby or their mothering abilities. Pregnancy dreams (whether you’re pregnant or not) can also depict a powerful feeling of creativity as if you’re about to give birth to your purpose.


In this type of dream, flying freely can represent your sense of independence, or it can be the complete opposite. If you feel trapped and want to escape your reality, then flying in a dream could symbolise that desire.

Why do we forget our dreams?

We almost always forget our dreams as soon as we wake up. This is because it’s part of the REM phase of sleep, in which the brain sorts through important information, prioritising what we need to remember over non-essential thoughts.

If you really want to recall your dreams, try keeping track of your dreams by journaling in a dream diary. As soon as you wake up, write down every detail of your dream and as time goes by, you’ll be able to see patterns and decipher the meanings behind your dreams. Happy dreaming!