A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

25 Surprising Things Your Dreams Reveal About You

Updated: Nov. 17, 2022

Bring 'em on, Mr. Sandman.

1 / 25

How creative you are

Creative people are more likely to dream about unusual settings (rather than home or work) and about obstacles in the natural world, such as a log or a rock they can’t get around. These bizarre facts about dreaming might keep you up at night.

2 / 25
Girl holding an american flag with a parade float in the background

Your political views

Self-described conservatives are more likely to have mundane, realistic dreams, while liberals have more bizarre dreams. Does that mean liberals are more open-minded? Or that they’re caught up in their own fantasies? Take your pick. Here’s what your house says about your political affiliation.

3 / 25

That you’ve got a heart problem

People who have frequent nightmares may be significantly more likely to suffer from an irregular heartbeat or chest pain compared with those who don’t have them, found a study of older adults. That may be because heart problems can make it more difficult to breathe at night.

4 / 25

If you’re avoiding something

Do you dream about being pursued by a stranger, a monster, or a giant tidal wave? This could indicate that you’re afraid to deal with something in your waking life. Ask yourself what issue, person, or emotion you’re not confronting.

5 / 25

How fast you’ll bounce back from your divorce

Divorced people who have longer, more dramatic dreams about the old relationship are more likely to adjust better to being single. Dreams may help divorced folks (and the rest of us) work through trauma. Want to move things along? Here’s how to control what you dream about at night.

6 / 25

How you pursue the big answers

Adults who attend church frequently may recall fewer dreams than those who don’t attend worship services regularly. If you’re not relying on religion to answer big life questions, then your dreams may become a resource for insight.

7 / 25

That you may have sleep apnea

If you have terrible dreams about drowning, choking, or suffocation, you could have sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to stop breathing for seconds at a time while asleep. One study found that those kinds of nightmares disappeared in 91 percent of patients with sleep apnea after they were treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. Consider these home remedies for sleep apnea too.

8 / 25

That you’re a workaholic

Type A personalities tend to report more disturbing dreams than laid-back folks. Hard-driving types put more pressure on themselves, and that stress can appear in dreams. This is what your sleep position says about your personality.

9 / 25
hands examination answer sheet

If you’ll ace a test

College students spent an hour learning how to navigate a complex maze. When tested later, the only students whose performance improved were those who had dreamed about the maze during a nap. Dreaming may consolidate memories, which boosts learning and problem-solving skills.

10 / 25
Image of cigarette in man hand with smoke.

Whether you’ll give up smoking for good

One study found that the more you dream about smoking—and experience the guilt associated with falling off the wagon (even a phantom wagon)—the more likely you may be to quit. These are our favorite sleep secrets from sleep doctors.

11 / 25
Geriatric doctor consulting and diagnostic examining elderly senior adult patient on aging, Parkinson's disease, Arthritis hand and knee pain and mental health care in medical exam clinic or hospital

Your risk of Parkinson’s

Up to 90 percent of people who act out violent dreams—by punching, kicking, or yelling while asleep—may eventually develop Parkinson’s disease. The behavior may indicate REM sleep behavior disorder, an early sign of the disease.

12 / 25

How easy your labor and delivery will be

Pregnant women who dream about labor shorten their birth experiences by an hour, according to research. Experts believe dreaming about labor helps the women anticipate and emotionally prepare for it, so they are able to relax and have easier deliveries in real life.

13 / 25

Whether you’re depressed…

Depressed people start dreaming much sooner than others, as early as 45 minutes after falling asleep, rather than the usual 90 minutes. These are other warning signs of depression.

14 / 25

… And if you should see a therapist

Recurrent or repeated nightmares that keep you from sleeping are another hallmark sign of anxiety or depression. If your nightmares surge after a disturbing event, the trauma may be too big for your brain to psychologically digest. A sleep therapist or psychologist can help.

15 / 25

What medications you’re taking

Many drugs are known to cause bad dreams, including antidepressants, antibiotics, statins, and some antihistamines.

16 / 25
iStock/Nadya Lukic

Death may be near

The closer a person is to passing, the more likely he or she is to dream about loved ones who’ve passed on.

17 / 25

How likely you are to fight with your spouse

Did you dream about your partner’s infidelity? You just increased the chances that you’re going to argue with him or her the next day, according to a University of Maryland study. Having a “sex” dream, on the other hand, boosts feelings of love and intimacy. Here’s what your couples’ sleep position says about your relationship.

18 / 25

If you’re about to have a migraine

One study of 37 migraine sufferers found that patients often have bad dreams that involve themes of anger and aggression before a migraine comes on. One theory is if the headache develops at night, the pain may trigger the nightmare. Not having dreams? Here’s how that could be just as bad as sleep deprivation.

19 / 25

If you’re out of tune with your emotions

Many researchers believe dreams—especially nightmares—are your brain’s way of making sense of your experiences. If a dream reoccurs and does not change much over time, it could be a sign you’re having trouble dealing with something emotionally. To resolve those issues, consider how the dream made you feel and which real-life circumstances might be prompting those emotions in you.

20 / 25

What kind of problem solver you are

Those who recognize that they’re asleep while they’re dreaming (called lucid dreamers) are 25 percent better at solving problems compared to non-lucid dreamers, according to a study published in the journal Dreaming. Researchers speculate that if you’re insightful enough to realize that you’re dreaming while asleep, then that may translate into better insight for solving problems while you’re awake.

21 / 25

Who you’re closest to

The people you have the strongest relationships with appear most frequently in your dreams, researchers have found. “Your dreams are a very accurate mirror of your emotional relationships,” says psychologist Kelly Bulkeley, PhD. “So when I’m analyzing your dreams, and you dream most often of your father, I can predict that you are closer emotionally to your father and that’s highly likely to be accurate.” This is what your dreams say about your personality type.

22 / 25
Young man sleeping by his wife in bed
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

That you have to prepare for change

Sometimes dreams act as a rehearsal for upcoming challenges. Rosalind Cartwright, Ph.D., a psychologist and the founder of the Sleep Disorder Service and Research Center at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago, says your brain takes any “emotionally hot” material and uses dreams to process them. When you wake, you’ll be able to deal with the situation better.

23 / 25
Young woman sick in bed with temperature drinks hot. Indoor shot.
Irina Bg/Shutterstock

That you’re sick

According to the Mayo Clinic, being sick—especially with a fever— could trigger nightmares. And if you ignore or explain away symptoms, your nightmares might be the wakeup call that you need to look after your health. These are the sleep disorders you need to know about

24 / 25
Male Diabetic Checking Blood Sugar Levels
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

If your blood sugar is low

People who suffer from diabetes experience nightmares when they have a large dip in blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. This is a severe symptom that could occur if you take too much insulin, WebMD.com reports.

25 / 25
Woman hand holding contraceptive pill ready to eat.
NUM LPPHOTO/Shutterstock

Your period might be approaching

Some women report having wild dreams right before their period. And hormones do play a role in dreams. OB/GYN physician Dr. Christiane Northrup says that 
the day before your period, women are in a hormonal flux—causing erratic sleep and dreams. The theory is that the week before your period starts there is less REM sleep. Dreams, however, mainly occur when you are in REM. So when you are on or expecting your period, you’re not necessarily dreaming more, but you’re waking up and remembering more due to the uncomfortable nature of your menstrual cycle. Next, check out these little changes you can make in one day to sleep better.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest