Experts Answer What Your Sex Dreams Really Mean

Our minds can run wild while we sleep. In one dream, we're discovering a secret room; in another, we're at a school we haven't attended in years, and on rough nights we might have nightmares of falling through the air or losing our teeth. And sometimes, our imaginations can get a little X-rated when we dream. But why?

According to Cleveland Clinic, dreams are a product of the mental activity that occurs while we sleep, and they often reflect personal memories and experiences. Sex dreams are generally no different. These racy dreams may reveal fantasies, contain symbolism about our lives, or they could just be a random mix of illogical information we've taken in (per Medical News Today).

Sex dreams are extremely common: a 2007 study by the University of Montreal (via WebMD) indicated that 8% of dreams have sexual content, and a 2020 study published in Medicine (via National Library of Medicine) suggested that over 70% of people have these dreams.

Examining dreamland visions may help us better understand ourselves. "All dreams, even sex dreams, can be easily connected to things going on in your life," dream expert Ian Wallace told Everyday Health. "And every character in your dream represents a small snippet of your own personality." Here are some common sex dream characters and what they might mean.

Sex dreams about your significant other

Sexy dreams about your current partner may seem straightforward: if you two get frisky on the regular, it makes sense that it would land a spot in your dreams now and then. That might be why this is the most common type of sex dream among married women, according to one 2017 study published in the journal Dreaming (via APA PsycNet).

Dream analyst Lauri Quinn Loewenberg explained to Elite Daily that sex dreams featuring your significant other may simply be an indication of just how attracted you are to them. However, several other explanations could be at play. Loewenberg noted that sex dreams could also shine a light on unmet psychological needs within the relationship. Or if the fantasy ends before your dream self climaxes, "that is usually connected to some sort of dissatisfaction in real life," she says.

If you dream about having sex with your partner, take it as a sign to talk about your sexual wellness and desires with them. Loewenberg adds, "I think that a dream is always a great conversation starter, because a dream isn't just a dream. It's an issue being brought to light that your subconscious wants to address or that your subconscious feels good about."

Sex dreams about an ex

You've moved on from your ex when suddenly they creep into your dreams – and to make matters worse, the dream is super steamy. Yikes! These sex dreams can be enough to make you question if you're really over your ex or if there could be unfinished business. But, as Healthline says, these dreams can contain several possible messages and don't necessarily mean you miss your former flame.

If you recently broke up, you may still be processing the grief through these dreams. On the other hand, if you split up ages ago, dreaming about your ex may be your brain's way of making room for a new partner.

Dream expert Ian Wallace has a slightly different interpretation, however, telling Everyday Health that dreams where you have sex with your ex could mean that you're holding on to unhealthy behaviors from your past relationship. It could be time to change a habit or pattern that's keeping you stuck.

Sex dreams about taboo and off-limits people

A sex dream about your current boo? Great. One about your ex? Fine. But a racy dream about a teacher, someone from work, or even a family member? You might wake up feeling totally weird. However, these dreams aren't usually cause for concern.

If you dream of sleeping with your boss, family member, or someone else who's off-limits in real life, it might mean they have a personality trait or characteristic that you admire (per Everyday Health). These dreams may also illuminate a non-sexual need that requires attention. According to Healthline, sex with a teacher, for example, could mean that you want to be noticed by an authority figure.

If you have a sex dream involving a parent, therapist and life coach Hilda Burke told Refinery29 that you may be pondering your relationship with them. "It's perhaps trying to draw attention to something to do with your parents, not sexual, but certainly something," she says. "Are your parents active parents? Are you dreaming about an estranged parent? Do you want to be closer to your parents, and your mind is just boiling that down to its crudest form?" Exploring these questions can help you get to the bottom of your illicit dream.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Sex dreams about a famous person

Your dream of cozying up to Harry Styles or another celebrity crush might be no secret, and dreaming of sleeping with them may come as no surprise. Still, there could be a hidden message to these dreams that go beyond physical attraction.

Ian Wallace told Cosmopolitan that sex dreams with a famous person might indicate that you want to attain their star power. "This dream is shining the spotlight on your hidden talents and encouraging you to develop your potential skills," he says. "The more that you recognize your potential for development, the more recognized and celebrated you will become by other people."

Psychologist Rhonda Milrad echoed this interpretation, telling Bustle, "[M]ost often, dreams about having sex with someone famous reflect your desire to feel special, important in the world, and have people take note of you." Consider areas of your life where you may feel overlooked, and brainstorm ways you can boost your confidence.

Solo sex dreams

Sometimes, sex dreams are a one-woman show, but they can still be confusing. So what does it mean if you dream about masturbation? Dream decoder website AloDreams says the symbolism of these dreams is dependent on culture and personal beliefs about sexuality. Solo sex dreams might indicate that you're repressing your sexual desires or that you feel dissatisfied or stagnant in some way.

Therapist Hilda Burke also told Refinery29 that these dreams might reveal issues in your sex life. "If, in a dream, you can get sexual satisfaction [by masturbating], and you can't orgasm in the day, this shows there isn't a problem physically, and that it's the person having a problem with their own sexuality that stops them having sexual pleasure."

She also adds that these dreams may offer a chance to explore buried shame or discomfort around masturbation. "If the dream is troubling a person, I'd be interested in their waking attitude towards masturbation vs. sex with another person. ... You think you've got one attitude, but there's something older that you can't see, that may still be lingering!"