Sex dreams: What do they mean and why do we have them?
Awkward. Painful. Entirely guilt-triggering.
Sex dreams can be all of the above, and more, depending on who you're having them about.
Naturally, the concept of dream interpretation is just that - an interpretation. Although many of us often awaken from a dream and are desperate to assign some sort of meaning to it, other people are simply content to accept that their brains conjure scenarios when they are sleeping.
They don't have to mean anything, they're just random. And yet, chances are the majority of us have woken up at one time in our lives, confused, guilt-ridden, and even disgusted by a sex dream.
Be it a friend, an ex, or a random person you used to work with, sex dreams can be ever so slightly unnerving at the best of times. The important thing to note is that regardless of what you think they might mean, dreams are just dreams - whatever you do in them, you haven't done in real life.
That being said, dreams can also encourage us to act certain ways, change our behaviours, or even switch up our lives in ways we may not have considered before.
So, here's what a selection of the most common sex dreams and what they seemingly mean - and why you shouldn't be worried about having them... most of the time.
Sex with a stranger/person you don't recognise
There isn't a person on the planet who hasn't at least had one sex dream about a random person. It's a common occurrence, it's very standard, and according to a string of experts across many different publications, it probably just means that you're horny.
While there's a chance that the stranger in your dream could easily be a person you've seen in the past, if you don't recognise them, they could be a manifestation of what you're looking for in a partner.
But they're probably just telling you that you're horny. That's probably it.
Sex with your current partner
Dreaming that you're having sex with your current partner is probably indicative of the simple fact that you would like to be having sex with your partner, or that you had sex with your partner recently and your brain is simply replaying the events.
However, such dreams could be more meaningful if your relationship is experiencing some issues, particularly in the bedroom. Maybe you want more sex? Perhaps you want to try something new? Maybe you've been experiencing some sex-related issues that you'd like to bring up with your partner the next time you're intimate?
Or maybe, as above, you could just be horny again.
Sex with an ex
A chronic experience and not one you'd wish on your worst enemy. Unless, that is, you're into it.
Waking up from a dream about having sex with an ex can often lead to feelings of guilt, confusion, and even anger. A common belief is that you're dreaming about your ex because you want to get back together with them, or that you're missing them, and this is your subconsciouses way of letting you know.
But, a lot of the time that may not even be the case. In fact, sex with an ex can usually mean the opposite. According to Healthline, recurring dreams about sex with an ex could actually mean that you're in the process of getting over them.
"Depending on how often you’re having these dreams and how long you’ve been split from your ex, they could mean anything from getting used to a new partner to unresolved grief about an ex," they said.
Psychologist Dr Janet Brito told the publication that to make the dreams stop, you may need to slow things down with your current partner, seek closure with your ex, or simply deal with how the past relationship felt was it was ending.
Sex with a friend
Ah, sex with a friend - arguably the most awkward and least desirable dream a person could ever have. "Do I fancy my friend?" you question. "Do I want to sleep with them?! Should I tell them about my dream and potentially make the next time we hang out platonically very awkward indeed?"
Most of the time, the answer is probably: no. Unless you actually have feelings towards your friend (that's a different story), then dreaming of having sex with them isn't cause for alarm.
Rather, you could simply be admiring your friend's personality, their humour, their generosity - or you could even be seeing those traits in yourself.
Dream expert Ian Wallace says that even if you aren't in any way attracted to your friend, they could easily still appear in your dreams in a sexual manner.
He told Everyday Health: “People often tell me, ‘I have a friend. He’s ugly; he kind of smells — but I keep dreaming about sex with him. Am I mad?”
No, girl, you're not mad. It's just that despite the fact that you're not attracted to your friend, they probably do have some other quality beyond aesthetics that you approve of. Figure out what that is, and work on finding someone who has it too.
Sex with a colleague/your boss
A common one here and again, generally nothing to worry about. Although it's entirely possible that you fancy your boss or a colleague and do actually want to have sex with them, chances are your dreams aren't about that at all.
Sex therapist Holly Richmond told Allure that such dreams about someone you work with are likely about power dynamics within the office.
"There’s a relationship dynamic in which you need to control more, and it’s getting played out sexually," she said. "There’s so rarely a real sexual component to this. If you feel yucky when you wake up, trust that. You don’t want to have sex with this person, and there’s some other dynamic."
Sex with a family member
The holy grail of sex dreams, if 'holy grail' meant 'the worst possible thing that could ever happen.'
Dreaming of having sex with a family member isn't just awkward. It's also, in most, cases illegal and generally something you wouldn't want to spend an awful lot of time considering. So how come the idea can appear in your dreams sometimes?
According to Everyday Health, dreaming of sex with a family member is less about the family member themselves and more about the kind of person they are. Similar to dreaming about having sex with a friend, you could simply admire a trait in your family member and long for that same trait in future sexual partners.
See? Nothing to worry about. Shudder and move on.