Dreams, Symbols, and Meanings: Does Dreaming Affect Your Sleep and Wellness?

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Dreams are images, stories, or replays of events that our minds create while we’re fast asleep. Some of them are entertaining. A few might be romantic and fun.

There are also dreams which are scary, disturbing, or filled with specific symbols that make it seem like a communicated message.

Do all of us dream? What do the symbols mean when we see them? Is there a meaning to decode from these images?

What We Know About Dreaming Today

Most dreams defy the limits of physics.

Although you may not remember dreaming the night before, each person is believed to dream between 3 to 6 times during the night. The actual number of dreaming events is based on the cycles of REM sleep which occur.

Each dream may last for up to 20 minutes. If you can remember the dream, it may feel more like hours, months, or even years.

Medical Daily offers some interesting facts about dreams to consider as well.

  • Fear and anger are two of the most common emotions which occur in a dream.
  • Most people forget about 90% of their dreams from the night before within 10 minutes of waking up.
  • We all spend more than six years dreaming during our lifetime.
  • It is thought that we can only imagine what we know, which means the people in our dreams are always people we’ve seen before.

What Causes Us to Dream?

We still have a long way to go to fully understand why we dream and its various functions.

There are more unanswered questions about the dreaming process than verified facts right now.

Some people may dream because they have an unconscious wish or desire that can only be fulfilled while in a fantasy state.

Researchers believe that some dreams may be the mind’s effort to interpret random brain signals and body movements which occur during sleep.

Dreams may be a way to process information, both positive and negative, from memories formed during the day.

What we do know is that dreams have been documented throughout human history. Even in the oldest religious books and spiritual manuals, the element of dreaming was used as a way to communicate and explore human existence.

What Do the Symbols in My Dreams Mean?

It is not unusual to encounter various symbols while dreaming.

When we do remember our dreams, there are often memories of specific symbols, people, or events which lodge deeply into the mind.

These dreams are remembered because of their profound nature.

Although there aren’t any specific rules to follow when interpreting a dream, some common dream symbols may communicate details about your life, your emotions, or your existence.

When you’re able to interpret these details, you can then unlock more information about who you are at the deepest levels.

Here are some of the most common dream symbols which people see in their dreams, along with what those images could mean.

 #1. Clothes

Being naked in a dream can be a sign of vulnerability.

Clothing, or the lack of it, becomes an element of societal perception. If you dress in the clothes of the wealthy, then you feel satisfied with your placement in life. When your clothing is tattered, then you feel unwanted, unloved, or exhausted. Being naked in a dream while in public indicates embarrassment, a lack of perceived preparation, or vulnerability.

#2. Animals

We can take various forms including that of animals in our dreams.

People dream about animals all the time. It is a way for us to be connected to Mother Nature in ways that feel safe. If your dreams involve cuddling with puppies and kittens (or other baby animals), then you feel content. Being chased by predators suggests you are internalizing difficult emotions.

#3. Snakes

Snakes appearing in dreams can mean many things.

Although snakes are an animal, they are a unique dream element. There are positive and negative dream meanings to consider. Dreams which include these slithering creatures may represent fear, evil, positive transformation, or a quest for knowledge.

#4. Falling

If you fall in your dream, your spiritual side may be telling you that it’s time to let go of something.

If you find yourself falling in a dream quite often, then it represents your desire to hold onto things. It’s a way for your brain to tell you that it’s time to let go, accept mistakes, and move on with life. Some people dream about falling because they fear losing control over their life.

#5. Children (Babies)

Babies are often associated with innocence.

Dreams about children may involve several different elements. If you dream about babies and you’re not a parent, then you could be visualizing a new start to life. Kids also represent vulnerability, such as a personal desire to be loved by others. Parents might dream about their children because it offers comfort during stressful situations.

#6. Food

Dreaming of food can indicate a craving of some sort.

If you dream about eating, then you have an inner desire to quest for knowledge. As food nourishes the body, knowledge nourishes the brain. That’s assuming you didn’t go to bed hungry, of course. You’ll also dream about food when your stomach says it is time to eat.

#7. Hair

Dreaming of hair is one of the more unusual occurrences.

Although this dream is somewhat uncommon, playing with someone’s hair or having something done to your own could mean love, strength, or abandonment. Some men have dreams where all their hair falls out because they’re afraid of being bald one day.

#8. Demons (Satan, Devils, Evil Beings)

This one is difficult to decipher due to the myriad of beliefs each of us possess.

If your dreams involve images of fire, brimstone, and demons, then you are not possessed. You are dealing with behaviors that you know must be changed, but are struggling to adjust them for some reason. This imagery is a way for your brain to communicate that it recognizes the need to be better while being unsure of how to proceed.

#9. Broken Things

Broken items could indicate a lack of something in your life.

Have you ever tried to read something while in a dream state? Tried to start equipment, like a lawn mower, and it wouldn’t work? When we dream, the language centers of the mind are usually shut down. That makes it difficult within the dream state to complete everyday tasks, like answering the telephone or reading the newspaper. It is a reflection of anxiety that is lurking somewhere in your life, where you’re afraid that success will not be found.

#10. Death

This is probably one of the more difficult elements to decipher when it comes to dreaming.

The idea that you’ll die in real life if death visits you in a dream is unproven. When you dream about the end of life, it represents a desire for change. You want something to end, or you’re seeking a new beginning. If you really hate your job, but it seems like you can’t go anywhere else, this type of dream might pay you a visit.

#11. Marriage

Dreaming of marriage could indicate your longing for a unity of some sort.

If you get married in your dream, then it usually reflects an internal desire for companionship. Marriages start on the principle of “until death do us part.” If you feel lonely, this dream type gives you an emotional surge of contentment. When you are married and dream of getting married again, it may indicate that you’re thinking about a new start in life.

#12. Radios/Televisions

TVs and radios do not usually appear in dreams but could indicate that you are in a lucid dream if they do appear.

If you dream about watching TV or listening to the radio, there’s an excellent chance that you’re experiencing a lucid dream. You’re close to a state of wakefulness, but not yet there, and the sounds in the environment around you are translating to something recognizable. These elements may also be a symbol of the connections made between the conscious and unconscious mind.

#13. Roads/Driving/Road Trips

Long roads appearing in dreams could mean just that – you have a long road ahead if you want to achieve your goal(s).

A road leads you toward a new destination. Where you are headed often directs the meaning of this dream symbol. When you dream about driving home, then you’re seeking out comfort, safety, and warmth. If you dream about a road trip or a vacation, it is an indication that stress levels may be too high. Should your dream involve being on an endless road that never ends, then you likely have a difficult decision to make that you’re avoiding.

#14. Sex

Dreaming of sex can also be a sign that you are lacking intimate physical contact in your real life.

Many people think of sex dreams as a desire to be intimate. They’re also an indication that your mind has recognized essential steps in your personal growth. You have become aware of yourself, your needs, and what is required to fulfill the basic essentials of life.

#15. Teeth

Being smiled at by others while dreaming could mean that you feel that you perceive yourself to be of lower status.

If you notice people smiling at you in your dreams all the time, then this symbol is a reflection of how unattractive you feel compared to others. This element appears more often today because of our exposure to social media. Most of our family and friends share the best aspects of their day and life online, ignoring their struggles and difficulties. When all we see is perfection in the lives of others, it makes us feel deeply inadequate.

#16. Water

The essence of life when it appears in a dream could indicate a desire for tranquility.

Dreams about water may suggest emotional or physical states. If you dream about sitting next to a pond, then you’re having a reflection of the inner peace currently felt. Standing on the shore of a choppy ocean suggests a discomfort somewhere in life. Images of waterfalls suggest contentment – or a desire to go to the bathroom.

#17. Tsunamis and Floods

Tidal waves could indicate some rising emotions long-held within your subconscious.

Here’s another specific dream element to consider. If your dreams about water involve flooding or a tidal wave, then there are repressed emotions which have risen to the surface. You are dissatisfied and desire change. When you find yourself caught up in a tsunami (assuming you aren’t experiencing an actual memory), then you’re trying to hold onto something when you should really let it go. Some people dream about creating tsunamis, which signifies confidence and power in your current situation.

#18. Trapped

Dreaming of locks is possibly a reflect of feeling trapped in your life.

If your nightmares involve being trapped somewhere, then you’re experiencing a reflection of how your emotions currently are. As a symbol, being caught in a dream indicates you feel stuck in life somewhere and feel powerless to change your circumstances.

#19. Mountains

Mountains in dreams may indicate that you have a tall barrier to overcome.

When you dream about a mountain, what you’re viewing is an obstacle that’s in the way of your goals. Conquering a tall peak brings with it a sense of accomplishment. Not being able to move beyond those towering ridges means you’re unable to think up a solution to your current problem.

Dreams and Your Health

Rarely do we associate dreams with our health but maybe it’s time that we do.

Dreams are an indication that you’ve reached the REM cycle of sleep. Most people require 7 to 9 hours of rest each night for good health, which means you’ll encounter multiple dream states.

When you’re lying in bed and a nightmare hits, that’s not an indication you’re in an unhealthy state of mind. Some bad dreams are a reflection of your mind’s desire to pursue creativity. It is a holistic way to process difficult circumstances.

About 1 in 5 adults experience regular nightmares that disrupt their healthy sleep cycles. If you’re experiencing this issue, then your doctor may have recommendations about lifestyle changes which could help.

Dreams and their meanings create unique memories when we wake up. They give us the freedom to travel to new worlds, explore relationships, or cope with stressful situations. Get into the habit of a nightly bedtime routine, and you’ll set the stage for dreams as you sleep.