6 Types of Dreams Explained and Why They Happen

Types of Dreams

Dreams are stories that our minds create while we are sleeping, and though much research has been done into dreams, this is an area of our lives that is still very mysterious, and little is known about why we dream.

One thing we do know is that while we are asleep, our brains are still active, and this is where our dreams originate.

Dreams are most commonly visual, like movies that are being shown in our mind’s eye. Dreams can be seemingly irrational and illogical, or they might follow a path that has a clear meaning for you.

There are many different types of dreams people have, which can be affected by a number of different influences, and there are also several themes with dreams popularly center around.

Facts About Dreams:

  • Most studies indicate that the average person will have between four and six dreams every single night. You might find this hard to believe because you struggle to recall having even one dream, let alone six, but there’s a reason for this, and that is that we typically are unable to remember around 95% of the dreams we have.
  • Dreams can happen at any time during sleep, but the dreams you remember, which are also known as ‘vivid dreams,’ will occur during REM sleep, a phase of sleep characterized by rapid eye movement.
  • Though you can sometimes wake up feeling that a dream has lasted many hours, this is very misleading. Most studies indicate that dreams range from between five and 20 minutes in length.
  • Research suggests that over 60% of our dreams are directly related to things that are happening in our lives. This is why we tend to have bad dreams when we are stressed or worried and good dreams when we feel happy, relaxed, or content.
  • Most dreams are predominantly visual, meaning they appear like a movie in your mind. It is rare for dreams to be based around our other senses, such as smell or touch.
  • The majority of people dream in color, but it is believed that some people can only dream in black and white.
  • Dreams can be completely nonsensical, but they can also be a warning about things that will soon happen in your life. Dreams can also be a way for our subconscious to process things that we haven’t had time to sort out in waking life. Dreams might be a way for your anxieties to resolve themselves, or they can also bring things to the forefront of your mind that you might have been ignoring.

6 Types of Dreams

Standard Dreams

Standard Dreams

Standard dreams are the normal dreams that most people have every night and never even remember. These types of dreams account for the vast majority of dreams the average person has and can be about absolutely anything.

Most commonly, standard dreams will feature people you know and be based in locations you recognize. These dreams can be based around real-life scenarios or entirely fictional events.

In standard dreams, your dreams are likely to echo how you feel in your waking life. For example, if you are stressed or worried in your real life, then you will likely have dreams that make you feel anxious, while if you are feeling conflicted in real life, then your dreams will reflect this.



Nightmares can be terrifying and leave you feeling disturbed and even worried about going back to sleep. Unfortunately, most people will experience nightmares in their lifetime, and some people are more prone to them than others.

It is believed that certain activities can make you more likely to have nightmares, so these should be avoided if you’re trying to reduce the number of nightmares you are having. These activities include watching scary movies on TV or reading scary books before bedtime, eating late at night, or being sleep deprived.

There are also some things that can make you prone to nightmares that might be out of your control; for instance, certain medications can cause people to have nightmares while being ill, or having a sleep disorder can also contribute to more frequent nightmares.

If you are stressed or are suffering from anxiety, then you are also at a greater risk of having nightmares. Studies indicate that over 70% of people who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder will suffer from recurring nightmares.

Nightmares are commonly based around three key themes, and these are death, being chased, and physical violence. Nightmares typically happen during REM sleep, and the dreamer is usually able to recall the details of the nightmare.

Unfortunately, recurring nightmares can be difficult to treat because they operate in a never-ending cycle. Nightmares usually happen if the person having them is feeling stressed or anxious, but the nightmare itself will make them feel more stressed and anxious, which contributes to the likelihood of them having a nightmare again, and the cycle continues.

To break the cycle of nightmares, you may need to employ the help of a professional, or you can try relaxation techniques prior to bedtimes, such as mindfulness or yoga.

Lucid Dreams

Lucid Dreams

Lucid dreams are dreams where you are aware that you are dreaming and may even be able to control the events of the dream. These types of dreams are not a common occurrence for most people, though studies indicate that around half of the population will have at least one lucid dream during their lifetime.

Lucid dreams almost always occur during the phase of REM sleep, and the dreamer is usually able to recall the details of the dream.

Some people even claim to be able to practice lucid dreaming so that with experience, they are able to have complete control over the direction that the dream takes, and therefore are able to live out their wildest fantasies in their dream life.



Daydreams happen when the dreamer is not actually asleep, but you can become so distracted or invested in your thoughts that you might feel as though you have been asleep. When you are daydreaming, you may appear to have ‘zoned out’ and may be completely unaware of what is going on around you.

Daydreams are usually quite short and most commonly involve characters who you know. It is suggested that daydreaming about friends and family is indicative of a happy and fulfilled life while dreaming about strangers or people you are not close to suggests you are lonely.

Recurring Dreams

Recurring Dreams

Recurring dreams are those that happen repeatedly. These can be recurring dreams or recurring nightmares, but most commonly, recurring dreams are about unpleasant events. The themes recurring dreams are based around typically include being chased, being frozen with fear, or falling.

These dreams could point to a situation in your life that you need to resolve, and the only way to get these recurring dreams to stop is by dealing with the situation. Recurring dreams can also happen as a result of substance abuse, medication side effects, or mental health issues.

Night Terrors

Night Terrors

Night terrors on the surface may seem to have a lot in common with nightmares, in that they are scary incidents that happen in your subconscious during sleep, but while nightmares are frightening types of dreams, night terrors are actually considered to be a sleep disorder.

Night terrors are much more common in children than they are in adults, and while it can be a very worrying phase for your child to go through, rest assured that the vast majority of children grow out of having night terrors with age.

Night terrors most commonly happen during non-REM sleep, as children tend to have much greater periods of non-REM sleep than adults. By comparison, nightmares usually happen during REM sleep. People often wake up from night terrors feeling afraid, screaming, sweating, or crying, but they cannot usually recall their terror and feel very confused about why they feel so scared.

This, in itself, can be a very disturbing feeling. People may also wake from night terrors with a racing heartbeat and feel confused about where they are or what has happened to them. Nightmares, on the other hand, can usually be recalled by the dreamer.

Nobody knows the reason why night terrors happen, but fortunately, they are usually a phase that passes relatively quickly. Night terrors are more common in boys than girls, and if you are worried about your child’s night terrors, you should see your doctor for advice.

Common Themes in Dreams

Though dreams can take interesting and unpredictable paths, there are several themes that repeatedly crop up in most people’s dreams. These are:


Dreams about death can present themselves in all kinds of ways, including dreaming about your own death or dreaming about people close to you.

The way that death happens can vary enormously, but whether it be a violent death, a sudden death, or a gentle and expected death, most people who study dreams agree that dreaming about death suggests you are struggling to come to terms with a change in your life.

Death is something that all of us know is coming at some point, but we don’t know what happens after death and what, if anything, is waiting for us on the other side. In this way, for most people, death represents the unknown, and the majority of people will agree that the unknown is a scary idea.

You might be dreaming about death if you are experiencing changes in your life that make you feel anxious, for example, moving to a new country or starting a new career.

If you have dreams that your children die, this is usually indicative of you fearing change that is happening with your relationship with your kids in waking life.

For example, they may be starting college or moving out of the family home, and you feel uncertain about what the future holds for them, and also uncertain of how often you may see them or how your relationship with them will change. Though dreaming about our loved ones dying can feel traumatic, these dreams do not suggest that these people are in danger of death in real life.

Being Chased

Dreams about being chased are extremely common, and they generally point to the fact that you are running from something in your waking life.

The pursuer in your dream will help you to understand what it is you are running from; for example, if you are running from a specific animal, this can suggest you are running from change, running from your own emotions, or running from intimacy.

The way this dream pans out can help you to deal with your fears and feelings. If the pursuer catches you, then this suggests that whatever you are running from cannot be avoided, and you need to deal with the situation in your waking life to stop the dreams from recurring.


Dreams about falling can feel very real and make you wake up with a jolt. These dreams are common, and usually, you will wake up before you hit the ground in the dream. Dreams about falling indicate that something in your life is not going well or that you are afraid.

If the fall left you feeling tense, upset, or anxious, then you may need to address the root cause and make some decisions to change the path of your life. Conversely, if the fall left you feeling weightless and free, then this suggests you want to let go in your waking life and open yourself up to the adventure.

Losing Teeth

Losing teeth is another common dream that can have many interpretations, depending on the context of the dream. Losing teeth can suggest you are worried about your physical appearance and appeal, and it can also suggest you feel like you are losing control.

Our teeth serve the function of biting, chewing, eating, and allowing us to effectively produce sounds to communicate. Therefore, losing teeth in a dream can indicate that you are worried you are not communicating well or that you are losing your ability to take care of yourself.

Being Naked in Public

Most people can recall a dream where they have found themselves naked in public, and actually, this is a common dream to have during puberty when teenagers feel vulnerable and uncertain about the changes their bodies are going through. This dream suggests the dreamer feels embarrassed about their body or that they are hiding something from their peers.

Taking Tests

Having exams in your dreams is indicative of your fearing failure in real life. Often when we take tests in our dreams, we feel anxious and unprepared, and sometimes we will be late for a test, show up without the correct equipment, have an emergency that prevents us from finishing the test, or find that the test is not comprehensible.

All of these types of incidents suggest that we feel unprepared to face the challenges that lay ahead of us in life. This type of dream can be useful in urging us to better prepare for coming challenges so that we don’t feel the anxiety in real life that we felt in the dream.


Dreams that your partner is cheating on you are sadly quite common, but you’ll be pleased to know that these do not usually indicate your partner is having an affair. Instead, these dreams point to problems with trust and communication in the relationship and suggest you need to work on the partnership to make it stronger.

If you are dreaming about you yourself having an affair, then this suggests you feel that your relationship is not giving you what you want. Rather than engaging in infidelity in waking life, address the issues with your partner and work on opening pathways of communication and engaging with each other better in order to improve your relationship.


If you dream about being pregnant, the interpretation of this dream can vary depending on what pregnancy represents to you. If you long to have a child, then this might be a wonderful dream that signals that you are ready to form a deep and meaningful bond with a new baby.

Alternatively, the thought of becoming pregnant may strike you with fear; in that case, this dream will have a very different meaning for you. Some dream analysts also suggest that dreaming about being pregnant means you are worried that you are an inadequate parent.


Dreams about flying can leave the dreamer feeling exhilarated or terrified, and it’s important to make this distinction in order to correctly interpret the dream. If you felt free in your flying dream, then this is a reflection of how you feel in real life.

You are confident, independent, and ready to take on whatever challenges may lay ahead. Conversely, if your flying dream felt scary, then this suggests you are not having an easy time in your waking life, and you want to escape or fly away.

6 Types of Dreams Explained and Why They Happen