60 Common Dreams and Their Secret Meanings, According to Experts
Here's what your subconscious is trying to tell you after you nod off.
It's not always obvious what your dreams are telling you, but the art (and science) of dream interpretation can help set you on the right path. What does it mean when you dream that you can't find your shoes? What about when you can't see? Should you be worried about your marriage if you dreamt about getting a divorce? From endless falling to alien abductions to that common naked-in-a-crowd nightmare, almost all of your dreams can tell you something about yourself that you may not have realized.
"It's really important to remember that when we analyze dreams, dream interpretations are highly personal—because everyone has their own life experiences and internal representations that they process the world through," explains Olivia Dreizen Howell, certified hypnotherapist, life and success coach, and neuro-linguistic practitioner. "When we explore the meanings behind our dreams, we must take into consideration all of the emotions, experiences, and current life circumstances in the interrogation of the dream's meaning."
That said, certain themes tend to have overarching meanings. Read on to hear from therapists and dream experts about the meaning of 60 common dreams—who knows, maybe you'll sleep a little more soundly tonight.
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What does it mean when you dream your teeth are falling out?
According to a 2022 survey conducted by Amerisleep, 27 percent of Americans have dreamed about their teeth falling out, making it the seventh most common recurring dream in the country, especially among women.
So, what does it mean? Lauri Loewenberg, professional dream analyst and author of Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams Change Your Life, previously told Best Life that dreams involving the mouth relate to communication in some way. Losing your teeth, can mean you've "lost" the ability to speak up in real life.
"It points back to feeling powerless due to an inability to express yourself verbally," she said.
What does it mean when you dream you're unable to speak?
Likewise, dreaming of being unable to speak can mean you feel like you're not being heard or are being silenced in waking life.
What does it mean if you dream you're yelling?
Dreaming about yelling can have similar roots to dreaming about being unable to speak.
"Dreaming that you or another person is yelling may be indicative of repressed strong emotions or fears," explains Sleepopolis. "If you are yelling and no one hears, it could suggest that you feel overlooked."
What does it mean when you are bald in a dream?
Like losing your teeth, losing your hair in a dream (assuming you aren't already bald) can mean a sense of lost vigor, helplessness, or exposure.
"Your dignity has been compromised in some way and there may or may not have a certain shame attached to it," explains Jacquellene Lukich, a business coach, adult behavior specialist, and conscientious visionary scientist.
In his book, The Dream Interpretation Dictionary, author and dream interpreter J.M. DeBord explains that baldness "can indicate a clean mind, especially if the head is shiny and spotless." It may also relate to a sense of conformity, "because hair is a strong visual identifier" and may connect to a sense of losing oneself in a corporate culture or organization.
What does it mean when you dream that you're naked in the middle of a crowd?
You're standing in the middle of a crowd, at work, or in some other public place, and you're completely naked. Though it's a relief when you realize it's just a dream, you might want to think about your feelings of vulnerability.
"Being naked in public suggests that there is a situation in waking life that is making you feel vulnerable and exposed," Wallace said.
Addressing this common dream on his own website, he added, "People who are entering an unfamiliar situation, such as a new job or relationship where they feel that they lack confidence in their abilities, often experience this dream."
What does it mean when you dream that you're barefoot?
Just as being naked indicates vulnerability, having bare feet gets to a similar sense in your subconscious—but with a more direct connection to the steps you are taking in life.
It can "indicate issues around how you are maneuvering through your current life choices," explained psychologist and dream expert Michael Lennox in his book Dream Sight: A Dictionary and Guide for Interpreting Any Dream. "If you are exposed to the elements, it leaves them vulnerable to injury. This can have a great impact on your journey and how you get to where you intend to go."
What does it mean when you dream you can't find your shoes?
"Shoes typically represent your position in life. If you can't find your shoes, you may have lost your sense of direction and aren't sure which way to go in your career, home life, or friendships," explains Maggie Wilson, certified metaphysical practitioner and dream expert.
Lukich says this can specifically apply to a "fear of losing stability in [your] home, relationship, or job."
What does it mean when you dream you've gone blind?
Suffering blindness in a dream usually hints that you're overlooking something in your life or worry you aren't able to see something. Wilson says it can represent "feeling lost or vulnerable" or "concealing something from yourself and others."
Lukich adds that it can also mean something in your life is so difficult, "the dreamer feels they cannot face the reality of the circumstance or wishes not to do the work through the pain."
What does it mean if you dream that one of your limbs is gone?
Lennox's book also notes that amputations or missing limbs are a typical theme that appears in dreams and indicates some sense of lacking in ability or mobility.
If you're missing feet, it "relates to an inability to be grounded on your path, whereas missing an entire leg or both legs connects to being completely stopped on your path," he wrote.
What does it mean when you dream you've (literally) lost your head?
A more extreme absence that you might experience in a dream is the loss of your head. According to Lennox, that's a sign of "an eradication of a thought process, or to your sense of identity."
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What does it mean when you dream you're back in school?
In general, being back in school in a dream represents "unfinished thoughts and goals," says Lukich. Maybe you've lost touch with your high school friends, or perhaps you never pursued that art degree.
What does it mean when you dream that you show up for an exam but aren't prepared?
Another classic dream scenario is the feeling of showing up for an exam and realizing you are totally unprepared for it. Maybe you feel like you studied for the wrong subject or you can't even understand the words in front of you, but the likely source of the feeling is that you feel pressure to complete or succeed in something in your current adult life.
"Basically, I need to accomplish X before it's too late," said Loewenberg.
What does it mean when you dream that you show up for another exam and you're still not prepared?
Having the unprepared-for-an-exam dream can also be a sign of something positive: You are a high performer who is used to working hard and doing things right.
That's the conclusion of Anderson, who has said that those who have the dream are usually the people who perform well and that "it's your fear of being unprepared that actually drives you to being totally ready to perform."
What does it mean when you dream there's something chasing you?
If you're running away from something in your dream, it very well might mean you're mentally running away from something or someone in you're waking life.
"People who tend to avoid confrontation at all costs get this dream a lot," Loewenberg told Best Life. In fact, it's the second-most common recurring dream, according to the Amerisleep survey.
Your dreams may be trying to tell you that it's time to face your fears and pursue what you've been putting aside.
What does it mean when you dream you can't walk?
Whether you're trying to get away from someone or just want to take a stroll, if you're dreaming about being unable to walk, it "may show reluctance to proceed in a difficult situation," according to Sleepopolis.
"You may also be trying to distance yourself from certain people or life experiences," they explain.
What does it mean when you dream you're drowning?
If you're dreaming about drowning or being unable to swim, Loewenberg previously explained that this could symbolize being in too deep in a relationship, career, or mindset.
"Ask yourself what in your life is getting increasingly worse," she said. "It is a warning from your subconscious to find a way to alleviate the situation before it completely overtakes your life and pulls you down into a deep depression."
What does it mean when you dream that you're falling?
We've all likely felt the sensation of falling in a dream—it's the number-one most common recurring dream, according to Amerisleep.
Lukich says this may indicate that "you fear you have no control over a situation" or are feeling anxious about it. "You feel your grip is being loosened and your fear of losing rises."
It may also mean you're feeling disappointed about something and are having a hard time letting go of it, Loewenberg said: "Things we had high hopes for, falling through or falling apart, or when something in our life is going in the wrong direction."
What does it mean when you dream that you're flying?
While falling is an indication that something is amiss, flying in a dream is usually a sign that you've freed yourself from something frustrating or difficult.
"You are rising above all and you feel in control and free and a sense of independence," Lukich says.
What does it mean when you dream about having an affair?
A dream in which you cheat on your partner does not necessarily mean that you're thinking about being unfaithful in real life. According to DeBord, that dream could be rooted in a broader range of feelings about wanting to escape or try something different.
He gives the example that "the thought of quitting your job and living on an island crossed your mind, and the desire is growing in you to actually do it." Or this dream could represent the idea of jumping into a new artistic project or exploring new intellectual pursuits.
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What does it mean when you dream that you're being cheated on?
If you dream that your partner is cheating on you, it could be that you're feeling left out of something in your waking life, particularly in regard to your significant other.
"In what way are you feeling 'cheated' in the relationship?" Loewenberg previously posited.
What does it mean when you dream you're in bed with a coworker?
If you are being intimate with a coworker in your dream, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have a crush on them. Lukich says this can represent several things, depending on your relationship with this coworker in waking life.
"It could be a sexual desire, it could be wanting power or control, it could also be where you wish for them to collaborate with you on a particular project," she explains.
What does it mean when you dream about your ex?
This dream may have less to do with your ex and more to do with your current relationship.
"Our dreams will often borrow from the past so we can compare it to the present in order to help us determine whether we have progressed or are dealing with the same old thing again," Loewenberg explained.
So, dreaming about your ex may mean you're anxious about repeating negative patterns with your current partner.
What does it mean when you dream you're getting a divorce?
Don't despair that a divorce dream is trying to tell you that your actual marriage is over. Lukich says this dream may arise when something in your life isn't working and is affecting your marriage.
"It could be a friendship, a job, a not-so-good relative coming to live with you, an unwanted responsibility added to your plate," she explains. "All of these things affect the marriage dynamic. And it does not necessarily mean you want or are going to get a divorce from your spouse."
What does it mean when you dream you're getting married to someone you don't know?
Whether you've taken a new job or agreed to attend an event where you'll know no one, a sense of committing to something that you're unsure about may manifest in a dream where you're marrying a stranger.
"Not knowing the identity of the bride or groom suggests you are unsure what you are really committing yourself to, and that you doubt that you will have much time for yourself if you take on these commitments," Wallace explained.
What does it mean when you dream you're pregnant?
Dreaming that you're pregnant could mean that something new is "growing" inside you, explained David Bedrick, JD, a counselor, attorney, and teacher, in an article for Psychology Today.
"When people dream of being pregnant, I ask them if they sense, feel, or know what new thing is coming into their lives. 'Have you been hoping for a change, considering a new path, exploring a next step in your life?' I might ask," he wrote.
What does it mean when you dream about having a baby?
Dreaming about a baby is usually a positive thing, as Lukich says it represents "joy and celebration." She adds, "Your goals or dreams are coming to fruition finally."
Of course, since a baby is also helpless and needs to be cared for, it can also refer to responsibilities you feel you have.
What does it mean when you dream that you're speaking in an accent?
If you've had a dream where you're inexplicably speaking with a southern drawl, cockney lilt, or some other accent you don't naturally have, it could be positive or negative—depending not on the type of accent, but the way people in the dream react to it.
DeBord posits that using an accent that draws positive attention could mean you are feeling a sense of "confidence or sophistication" while an accent drawing a negative reply may mean "you feel insecure or persecuted."
What does it mean to have cats in a dream?
In The Illustrated Dream Dictionary, Russell Grant explains that cats are largely bad omens and may be a sign of deception or disloyalty among those closest to you. A black cat, in particular, may indicate signs of illness to come, "but chase one away and you may get a surprise stroke of good luck."
Another explanation has to do with sex, as cats represent sexual energy, according to Loewenberg. "So if the cat in your dream is sick, injured, dead, or dying… that's a good sign the sexual energy in your relationship is dead or dying as well."
What does it mean to have dogs in a dream?
Grant says dogs generally symbolize friends and can indicate good times ahead, but a snarling dog could mean that someone close to you may not be trustworthy.
If a dog actually bites you in the dream, "a so-called friend is up to some trickery which can harm you," he writes. A barking dog could be a signal of danger on the horizon, potentially legal trouble.
What does it mean when you dream about birds?
Birds have been symbols of delivering information going back centuries, and their appearance in your dreams could be an indication that you are expecting to hear from someone or receive a message.
Psychologist and dream expert Michael Lennox wrote in his book Dream Sight: A Dictionary and Guide for Interpreting Any Dream that these beliefs go back to Nordic mythology, where Odin, the head of the pantheon, was accompanied by a pair of all-seeing ravens that "would travel through the world of men and bring back important information."
Dreaming of a crow, specifically, however, could indicate something far less pleasant. "Crows and ravens have long been associated with bad omens and death, and in dreams they're still associated that way," DeBord wrote.
What does it mean when you dream about aliens?
If you dream about being abducted by aliens, it may mean that you are encountering something in your life that is unfamiliar or even hostile. It could also mean you're experiencing "fear of the unknown," DeBord wrote on his website.
What does it mean to dream about an airport?
Sure, it might be that you are anxious about an upcoming flight, but being at an airport in your dream can also symbolize a time of transition or change.
"Airports are points of departure, such as when you're leaving behind old beliefs or practices or a time of life," according to DeBord. It could indicate that you are ready for change or start something new.
What does it mean when you dream you're on a plane?
If you're dreaming of flying in a plane, it may be because you are feeling the effects of fast changes in your life.
"Because of the dramatic way an airplane leaves the ground and speeds toward a destination, it is connected with any sudden transition in life," Lennox explained. It may not just be alerting you to the changes you're going through, but that change "is needed or wished for."
He continued, "As a plane is our world's fastest mode of public transportation, it connects symbolically to those moments in life where change is rapid and total."
What does it mean when you dream that you miss your plane or train?
If you miss a plane or train in your dream—maybe because you overslept or went to the wrong place—it may be that you feel hesitant about something in your life.
"These dreams often show our hesitancies, attachments, or beliefs that are somehow limiting us or stopping us from taking a step in our lives or a step toward a deeper way of living," explained Bedrick in another article for Psychology Today.
What does it mean when you are playing sports in a dream?
If you are getting athletic in your dream or playing in a competition, it may not mean anything special—if you do those activities in your regular life, that is.
But if you don't regularly participate in sports, it could indicate that you may be pushing yourself in life and must "take care not to overdo things," according to Grant. It may also mean you are feeling competitive or see rivals in your midst of whom you should be wary.
What does it mean when you dream that you're a professional athlete?
If you're someone who responds to being part of a team or being part of something larger than yourself, you might have dreams where you're a professional athlete, according to Wallace.
A dream where you're competing in the big leagues, "reflects their acceptance into a wider society where in order to have their skills and talents recognized, they will have to work as part of a team, and this will help them to ultimately achieve their goals."
What does it mean when you dream about dying?
If you die in a dream or feel like you're dying, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're afraid of dying in life or have a hidden terminal illness. It may just mean that something in your life is coming to an end.
"Dreaming about death often means that you feel something is coming to an end in your life," dream analyst and the host of The Dream Show podcast, Jane Teresa Anderson, told news.com.au. "But that being said, how you react to the death in the dream can mean different things."
What does it mean when you die in a dream, but feel peaceful about it?
If you experience death in a dream but feel at peace, "you have an 'out with the old and in with the new' attitude" and "it could be something that you're ready to let go from," said Anderson.
What does it mean when you dream about someone else dying?
Just like dreaming about yourself dying is not literal, the same applies to nightmares about others dying. It's usually about something within your relationship with said person ending or changing, Loewenberg explained.
For example, if you dream about your child dying, it could be that you're processing feelings about them finishing high school or getting married.
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What does it mean when you dream you're in an empty room?
Wallace told The Independent that unused or empty rooms might be telling you that you've got untapped talents.
"The more time that you spend exploring your dormant talents, the more likely that you will find other doors opening for you in waking life," he said.
What does it mean when you dream you're in an empty room and you're scared?
If that unused room is accompanied by feelings of discomfort or fear, it might represent something very different.
"If you go into the room and it's spooky or scary, that means in the past one to two days you've realized something about yourself that's unexpected," Anderson said. "It can be something old that you haven't look at before. It could be any aspect of your life—your job, a relationship—that you've shut the door on. It's about trying to open that door, even if you're scared."
What does it mean when you dream your car's brakes don't work?
Unsurprisingly, dreaming about driving a car when the brakes stop working symbolizes something in your life feeling out of control.
"It may symbolize current or past situations or emotions where you feel, or have felt, powerless, unable to stop or slow down the pace of events," explains Howell.
"This can also symbolize a situation you are working through in which you're fearing the negative outcome or consequences," she adds. "Our anxiety is represented in the loss of control we feel about being in that car, and not being able to make a concrete decision, or being afraid of what happens after the decision is made."
What does it mean when you dream of a regular car?
But a car in one's dreams could indicate the opposite, as well. Wallace explained, "The car represents your ability to make consistent progress toward a specific objective."
So if a dream features a car progressing steadily and consistently, things might be moving along just as they should be in your life.
What does it mean when you dream you're in an attic?
Having a house in your dream usually connects back to your sense of self, with different rooms representing different aspects of your personality.
So dreaming of an attic usually relates to your intellect or memories—and a "musty, dirty atmosphere means you are in realms that you haven't visited in a while," said Lennox, which can indicate "unhealthy avoidance."
What does it mean when you dream you lost something valuable and can't find it?
If you've misplaced something of value in your dream or spend the dream trying to find something and fail to do it, it may be that you feel a sense of lower value in your life.
Wallace said, "If we are looking for our purse or wallet, then we are reflecting on our value to others as we may feel that we have lost some self-esteem in waking life."
What does it mean when you dream you're searching for someone?
If you dream you're searching for someone, it may not have to do with that person, specifically. "When we search for other people in our dreams, we are trying to reconnect with aspects of our own identities that we have lost touch with," Wallace explained.
What does it mean when you dream you have suddenly become very wealthy?
If you have a dream about striking it rich or winning the lottery, you're feeling pretty good about life or have gained a "sudden awareness of the richness of the self," according to Wallace. "This richness can be an understanding of the wisdom the dreamer has gained, or a realization of their value to others." In other words, not so much material as spiritual wealth.
What does it mean when you dream that you're falling in love?
If you dream of falling in love or having a passionate tryst, it may have nothing to do with finding that special someone and more to do with self-love.
"It may be your subconscious reminding you that you are on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance," Howell explains. "A dream of falling in love could illustrate a growing awareness and appreciation of your own qualities, desires, and needs in matters of the heart—and the matters of the heart are about you and self-love!"
"Dreaming of falling in love may also represent that you are open to new beginnings, fresh starts, and personal growth, which could then lead to romantic love coming in your future," she adds.
What does it mean when you dream you're on a beautiful vacation?
Dreams might not get more pleasant than this! And according to Howell, dreaming about lounging on a tropical island or exploring a new city could actually mean a few things.
"One dream interpretation could simply be that you desire a beautiful vacation, and you know you are worthy of taking this vacation, so it's your subconscious giving you the nod to pursue the joy."
She says it also may be your body's subconscious way of telling you that you need a break. "It could suggest that you need to prioritize self-care and find ways to rejuvenate yourself."
Finally, Howell says, dreaming about a beautiful vacation "could also suggest we are trying to escape something in our lives, and though we can't get to a beautiful vacation in real physical life, our subconscious mind is allowing us to escape to a serene place in our dreams and give us something wonderful to think about."
What does it mean when you dream about eating something delicious?
Cupcakes, pizza, a big juicy steak—dreaming about eating something delicious is another dream that seems pretty enjoyable, one that Howell says "is a nod from our subconscious that we are worthy of enjoying the delicious things in life!"
She explains that it could be your body's way of telling you that you're in need of nourishment, "whether that is through creativity, emotional nourishment, or even, yes, delicious food."
"Dreaming of eating something delicious may also represent a desire for abundance in our life," Howell adds. "It may symbolize success, or the fulfillment of desires and aspirations in various areas of life, such as career, relationships, or personal goals."
What does it mean when you dream that you call the wrong number?
Your subconscious might be feeling frustrated that you can't connect with someone in your life the way you used to—and this may manifest itself in a dream in which you are dialing the wrong number.
"This suggests that a logical way of communicating with someone, or a specific personal behavior used when being with a particular person, is not really working anymore," said Wallace. "It is also experienced in dreams about computers or calculators where the dreamer keeps pressing the wrong buttons. This reflects that what they are doing in waking life just doesn't really add up."
What does it mean when you dream you're playing a board game?
While some might dream of fights or athletic competition, if you are someone who has board games appear in your dreams, you are more likely someone who prefers "a civilized approach to expressing competitive impulses and conflict-solving skills," according to Lennox.
If you're playing Monopoly or Scrabble in your mind, it may be a sign that you prefer some emotional distance to actual confrontation, and the more structured, rules-based logic to conflict that board games bring.
What does it mean when you dream of an explosion?
While you might usually think of bombs as a destructive force, often when explosions happen in your dreams, it shows that you are experiencing or ready for major change. Lennox advised looking at the specific context in which a bomb detonates and how effectively it destroys its target.
"Whatever or whomever was hunted or destroyed will supply you with the meaning you should assign the symbol," he said. "The area of life that is suggested by the target is the area of your life that needs a drastic change."
What does it mean when you dream that you can't find a bathroom?
If you have a sense that you're not addressing your own needs, a typical dream you're likely to have is one in which you're trying—and failing—to find a toilet.
"In waking life, the toilet is where you go to release what is no longer healthy or sustaining for you," explains Wallace on his website. "Dreaming about needing the toilet indicates that there is some situation in your life that has become unhealthy but you aren't sure how to let go of it…Searching for a toilet shows you are looking for some way to tell someone what you really need."
What does it mean when you dream that you're accused of a crime?
An unsettling dream is one where you're being accused of committing or have actually committed a crime. Howell says this may "reflect subconscious feelings of vulnerability, powerlessness, or being unfairly targeted in some aspect of your life."
"Perhaps there is a situation that feels out of your control in your daily life or a relationship that you feel you are not being heard or validated in," she shares. "In the dream sense, this is illustrated as a crime, because it is an injustice to your boundaries and makes you feel physically and emotionally unsafe, which is a sign to your subconscious that you need to regain a sense of control in challenging situations."
What does it mean when you dream you're entering a lot of new spaces?
If you have a large house in your dream or spend your dream going through doors and discovering new spaces, "It is a hint from your subconscious that you are ready to enter a new phase of your life," says Howell.
"Sometimes we can waver if the time is right or not to take a risk, maybe it's buying a new house, or looking for a new job, and we can be so stuck in our decision-making process. But, the subconscious knows we are ready before we do!" she adds.
What does it mean when you dream about a bridge?
If you're ready to move into a new chapter in your life or to make a change—but without losing touch with your past—the image of a bridge is likely to appear in your dreams.
According to Lennox, a bridge "relates to the connections we make in life, hence the warning in the phrase 'don't burn your bridges.'" If the water below is especially rough, it might mean you're uncomfortable with the change.
What does it mean when there's a candle in your dream?
If you're feeling a creative spark or an innovative idea just struck you, then you may dream of a candle or candles. "When we light a candle, we are committing an act of creation," Lennox explained.
A candle can reflect the beginning of some important event or relationship in our life or a sense of creative richness. Of course, if the candle is blown out, it can mean the end of something.
What does it mean when you dream you're climbing something?
If you're climbing in your dream, straining as you make it up the side of a mountain inch by inch, it may be a signal that you are someone who likes a challenge or the opportunity to take a journey that, while difficult, promises a reward at the end.
What does it mean when you're exploring a closet or looking in a cabinet?
Back to the dream house: If you're exploring a closet or looking at what's inside a cabinet, it could mean that you are hiding something or ashamed of it.
"What you discover in a closet should be viewed through the focus of something you are hiding from or not wanting to face," Lennox said. "A full or overstuffed closet may point to avoidance issues that need attention."