One minute, you’re drifting off into slumber. The next, you’re confused after dreaming about getting it on with someone completely nonsensical, like Shrek. Although dreams of intimacy often appear “normal” when centered around a current or ex-lover, they can also be seemingly illogical.
If you’ve ever woken up confused — and maybe even slightly aroused — about why your dreams were full of steamy sex scenes with you as the main character, you’re not alone. Sex dreams are a normal part of life. In fact, it’s relatively safe to say that we all have them at some point — some more than others. Dreaming about sexual activity with someone other than your partner is also normal.
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So what do sex dreams mean?
Decoding the meaning behind sex dreams is not a one-size-fits-all process. While you may have the urge to interpret your sex dream literally, Dr. Janet Brito, a licensed psychologist, and AASECT certified sex therapist says to capture the essence of a dream, it’s best to focus on the symbolic representation.
“When sex shows up in your dreams, break it down into a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and focus on experiencing the feelings in your dream and being curious about where the energy of the dream leads you, specifically of how the dream ends,” explains Brito. “This will reveal to you the emotional need that your sex dream is trying to have you fulfill in waking life,” she adds.
That’s why it’s OK to not read too much into last night’s dream that featured you doing things you never thought you would do with your boss. Even sex dreams that might be considered “taboo” are nothing to worry about. You just have to dig a little deeper to see what your subconscious is saying about your waking life.
Sex dreams can link past feelings with the present
Raise your hand if you’ve ever slept with your ex in your dreams. (Many people have at some point — no shame here.) Sometimes, it’s a delicious fantasy, other times you wake up like, “Oh hell no. C’mon subconscious, why’d you do that?”Either way, sex with your ex is one of the more common ones.
According to expert dream analyst Layne Dalfen, sex dreams about ex-lovers may reveal quite a bit about what’s going on in your present-day life. “Every partner you’ve ever had, they’re in the same [mental] file as other important relationships in your life,” Dalfen explains. For example, she continues, “If something happens between my husband and I, and I walk away feeling rejected, the mental filing cabinet opens up that night in my dreams, and I might choose a boyfriend I had when I was 18 years old. This is because that boyfriend made me feel exactly the same way my husband made me feel earlier.”
In other words, both the past and present lover are essentially interchangeable in dreamland. Interestingly, the aforementioned study found that 20 percent of women — compared with 14 percent of men — reported having current or past partners in their sex dreams. If you’re sleeping with an ex in your dreams, ask yourself: “What are the first few things that come to mind when I think of that person?”Whether it’s fond nostalgia or heart-sinking rejection, there’s likely an existing tie to your present-day reality.
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They can illustrate qualities you want to develop in yourself
It turns out that your Shrek sex dream might not be so nonsensical after all. If you’re getting it on with random folks in your dreams, look a little closer at the characteristics they possess.
“If you’re at a point in life when you really need to say or do something, but you’re afraid — you might just end up sleeping with your boss in your dreams because they likely have that powerful, assertive quality that you need yourself,” Dalfen says.
In this scenario, it’s about something you’re currently missing in your life, and you want it. “If you’re already in bed with that characteristic in your dreams, so to speak, then you’re probably closer to achieving the characteristic in real life,” she adds.
For non-single folks, this can manifest in dreams about cheating — there’s something about that person you’re sleeping with in your slumbers. You’re likely cozying up to another part of yourself through someone else, perhaps a part that isn’t getting expressed in your present relationship.
That said, dreams about cheating can be interpreted literally as well. If you’re feeling unfulfilled, don’t be surprised if your mind wanders in dreamland or a fantasy of freedom, Dalfen notes.
They can directly mirror present day situations
Some people have sex dreams about those they’d never actually want to sleep with IRL — but, somehow, it’s pleasurable in their dream, leading them to wake up supremely confused.
When asked for an example, Dalfen dove into an anecdote about a client who had sex dreams involving someone she never wanted to sleep with “in a million years,” as they put it. “I asked her, ‘What do you think you did recently, something you thought you’d never do in a million years, but you loved every minute of it?’” she says. Low and behold, the client was able to connect a recent real-life experience to the abstract scenario within her dream. It was her subconscious expression of trying something completely new, mirroring the real world, as strange of a metaphor as it may seem.
But you could also just be super horny
Simply put, a large portion of sex dreams are rehearsals that remind you what it’s like to feel good.
If you have a hot dream, maybe you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be turned on. Think of it as your subconscious helping you out.
“We’ll call this ‘Take That Feeling and Run With It,’” says Dalfen. Who could argue with that, right? She goes on to explain that the orgasms we have in our dreams are indeed the real deal, a plea from the dream asking you to “take care of business,” as she puts it. So, if you wake up a little woozy from a deliciously drowsy orgasm in your sleep, take that as a suggestion to get the sensual show on during waking hours.