If you've ever woken up in a cold sweat, panicking because you had a nightmare about work — like being fired, or showing up to at your desk naked, or forgetting about a big project — you're definitely not alone. According to a new study from SleepZoo, 64 percent of American adults have work-related nightmares, which makes sense given how much time we all spend thinking (and stressing) about our jobs... but the most common nightmare about work probably isn't what you'd expect.
Of the nearly 2,000 people surveyed, 60 percent said they'd had dreams about having sex with a co-worker, which, needless to say, can be a pretty uncomfortable experience. The good news? Dreaming about hooking up with a co-worker doesn't necessarily mean you *actually* want to do the deed with them.
"Sex dreams are almost never about sex," Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "They are more often about wanting to make a new connection between two parts of oneself that are coming together, or that ought to. Your co-worker or boss represents a part of you, and you obviously represent a part of you. Sex is the physical merging of two bodies, and a dream is a mental projection of that desire — to integrate a certain part of you into your daily life."
Of course, there are pretty much unlimited possibilities as to why you might be having these kind of sexy dreams about someone you work with — here's how to go about interpreting them.
How To Interpret Your Dreams About Hooking Up With A Co-worker
Upon having a sex dream about anyone, your first instinct is probably to wonder whether you're sexually attracted to that person without having realized it previously. In the case of co-workers, it's not entirely implausible — almost everyone has a work crush or two, after all — but there's also a whole host of other explanations for your dreams, like how much time you spend with that co-worker, or the ~taboo~ of office romance in general.
"The fact that we spend so much time with our co-workers, that we all tend to have some unresolved relationship issues, that we are often drawn to people who we are sexually attracted to, and that sex with a co-worker is a generally forbidden act all contribute to these themes being played out when our conscious mind is at rest and our subconscious mind can be active," Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist and Host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle.
If you're not attracted to that particular co-worker, though, you're probably curious what else might have caused your subconscious mind to dream up a sexy scenario for you two. The easiest way to find out? Reflect and ask yourself some hard-hitting questions about the co-worker in question (and about yourself, too) to get to the bottom of your mysterious dreams.
"Do they remind you of someone you were connected to or slept with?" Klapow asks. "Do they provide some level of emotional connection that you might not have at home? Are you having problems with your current relationship? Does your co-worker engage with you in a way that makes you feel good? Are you wanting to get back at someone else in your life and sleeping with a co-worker would do that? Does your co-worker treat you poorly and would sleeping with them show your ability to exercise control over them?"
What It Means If You Have A Sex Dream About Your Boss
Another, even more frightening scenario? Having a dream about hooking up with your boss — aka the person who has the power to make or break your professional life.
"Hooking up with the boss at night can sure make it difficult to come into work the next day," professional dream analyst Lauri Quinn Loewenberg tells Bustle. "But remember, sex dreams are not necessarily about the person but rather about what they represent. In the case of your boss it is most likely power, authority, management skills, decision making, etc. that you need to merge into your own life. So ask yourself where in your life you need to be the boss, where do you need to take control, make firmer decisions and get the job done?"
Sure, it's not impossible that you might have a crush on your boss or find them attractive, but chances are there are much bigger psychological themes at play — like a desire to have more authority or control over your own life.
"The important thing to remember about sex dreams is that they aren't necessarily about a physical union you want but rather a psychological union you need," Loewenberg says. "Typically, there is some aspect of your dream lover you need to connect with and unite into your own personality in order to better yourself. Less often, the sex dream can be the result of you making a connection with that person on some level, after a deep, meaningful conversation perhaps. The dreaming mind uses the act of sex — which is two separate individuals joining together as one — to represent the connection or merger you are experiencing in waking life."
As uncomfortable as it might be to have a sex dream about a co-worker, it's not the end of the world. In fact, these dreams can open the door for you to dive deep and reflect on what your subconscious might be trying to tell you — but if you have a hard time looking that particular co-worker in the eye for a few days afterwards, no one can blame you.