Sex & Relationships

Experts Break Down The Meaning Behind 9 Common Sex Dreams

Your dreams can represent untouched emotions or hidden desires.

What does it mean to dream of having sex with someone unexpected?
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Whether you believe it or not, there are many people who are convinced their dreams have a deeper meaning than what they seem to be on the surface. For some, their dreams might represent untouched emotions that still need attention. For others, it's hidden desires that have yet to come to the surface. But perhaps most interesting is that many believe sex dreams have meaning — so it might be worth it to dig a little deeper to see what yours could be all about.

If you wake up from a dream about your partner cheating on you, or one where you're in bed with a celebrity, experts say it could be a message from your subconscious, so to speak. After all, it’s hard to be totally honest with yourself in your super busy day-to-day life… or even just to notice smaller, simple truths about what you might be feeling beneath the surface. That's why dream analysis can be so helpful — especially for deciphering the meaning of a dream about having sex.

When you're dozing off alone in bed, your inner thoughts can break free. If you have a sex dream, it could mean you're looking for some external desires or answers to a current or potential relationship question. Here are nine different types of sex dreams you might experience (as they're actually pretty common). Instead of brushing them off, take a moment to evaluate them and figure out what they might be trying to tell you.

1. A Sex Dream Where You Or Your Partner Is Cheating

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If you wake up from a dream (or nightmare) that your partner is cheating on you, you may want to take note. According to Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a professional dream analyst and author of the book Dream On It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life, if you imagine your partner cheating, it could mean you're insecure in your relationship — and that it's time to communicate these concerns.

Though these dreams can sometimes be a result of picking up on tiny clues your partner is cheating, they don't guarantee something is going on behind your back. More often than not, they're just your brain's way of telling you it's time to have a conversation about the topic. By sitting down with your partner and chatting about your worries, or even straight up explaining your dream to them, you should be able to get to a place where you feel more secure.

If you’re the one cheating in the dream, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not happy in your relationship (although it could). “Just because you dream you cheated on your significant other doesn't mean you will,” Chris Brantner, Certified Sleep Science Coach at SleepZoo.com, previously told Bustle. “It doesn't necessarily even mean it's crossed your mind. You have nothing to feel guilty about — assuming you haven't actually been cheating!” Use this experience as an opportunity to explore what you enjoy about your relationship and what might be missing that is prompting you to dream about someone else.

2. Dreaming Of Dominating Someone or Being Dominated

According to Cadyn Cathers, MA, a psychological assistant, any dreams related to control issues (being extra dominant or desiring aggression) can be symbolic of other control issues going on in your life. Think about work, your relationship, and how you feel within your real-life surroundings.

If you aren't speaking up at work, for instance, these types of dreams might be more prevalent. The good news is that you can use them to your advantage. Let the dream inspire you to ask for what you need during the day.

3. A Dream About Sleeping With Someone "Inappropriate"

A sex dream with your partner's sibling? A work colleague? A best friend? These might seem like inappropriate people to fantasize about, as your relationships with them shouldn't be sexual. So what does it mean if your sleeping brain conjures up these visuals anyway?

"It is your mind's way of releasing the feeling, the temptation, validating it, and processing it appropriately," Dr. Nancy Irwin, PsyD, CHt, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. To take an even deeper look, ask yourself: "What is the parallel of this image/object/person/event in my life at this moment?" Your mind's job is to make associations, to connect the dots and make sense of the world, Irwin says.

Dreaming about having sex with a BFF or colleague doesn’t mean you’re interested in sleeping with them IRL, and it’s nothing to feel guilty about. "There is no dream that is 'inappropriate'," Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, previously told Bustle. "For instance, if you dream about someone who is married and off limits, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you want that specific person." It could just mean you have a close relationship and feel a connection with them.

4. A Sex Dream Where You’re Not Performing Well

While anyone can have dreams about not performing well in bed, it's especially common for people who identify as male to feel impotent and insecure in their dreams. "If a man dreams about having erectile dysfunction, it may reflect that he is feeling weak or powerless in another area of his life at the time of the dream... not necessarily a literal reflection of his sexual performance," Irwin says.

In any case, dreaming that you aren't performing well in bed deserves a closer look so you can figure out what's triggering it. A licensed sex therapist can help you work through these feelings and gain confidence in yourself and your sex life.

5. Having Sex In A Dream In Public

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Dreaming about having sex in a car or in the woods isn't as cut-and-dry as you might think. "This isn’t about your desire to be an exhibitionist,” Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, a psychologist and ABS certified clinical sexologist, tells Bustle. “Instead, this type of dream relates to feeling vulnerable, self conscious, and exposed in front of others.”

Again, take a look at what's going on in your waking life, and see if you can connect those dots. "You may be worried that something embarrassing or secretive is going to be exposed or that others will judge you about something," Milrad says, and this anxiety could come up in a sexual dream.

6. Having Sex With An Ex In A Dream

Depending on your ex, this could be a good dream or a really, really bad one. But in both instances, it can be pretty confusing. "Sometimes your ex shows up in a dream, and you wonder if it's a sign that they are in fact your soulmate and you should rethink your breakup," Milrad says. But thankfully, the truth is often much simpler than that.

"Most likely, they are in your subconscious because you have had some reminder of them in your life," Milrad says. Maybe you accidentally stumbled upon one of their TikToks or are coming up on a date that used to be significant to the two of you, like an anniversary. And now your ex is in your subconscious.

Usually, you should feel free to brush it off and forget about them. But, "if you find your ex has a starring role in your thoughts, then it may reflect something more, and you want to take some time to investigate what that is about," Milrad says. You might even consider talking with friends about it or going to therapy to figure out what role your ex is still playing in your life.

7. Having Dream Sex With Someone Famous

Do you have steamy, fantastical dreams about hooking up with your favorite celebrity? "Sure, you’re obviously attracted to this person and may have even used their image as fantasy during sexual experiences," Milrad says. "However, when they show up in your dream as your sexual partner, it isn’t just another layer of having a crush on them."

Surprisingly, "most 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," she says. "This may stem from feeling the opposite in your day-to-day life." Take the time to make sure your needs are being met by reaching out to friends, talking with a partner, and ensuring you're doing plenty of things that make you feel seen and supported.

8. Aggressive Sex In A Dream

Dreams that revolve around violence or even abuse are obviously upsetting. "If you are violated or abused sexually in a dream, it is worth considering whether something like this has ever occurred in waking life," Kezia Vida, a dreamworker and relationship expert, tells Bustle. "If you are worried that you may be recovering memories of a trauma, seek support." If you are currently experiencing domestic violence, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.

Even if you can’t immediately identify the catalyzing event for the dream, consider what the dream might be saying about your current life. "Often, dreams will reflect sexual trauma that we have experienced in an effort to help us process," Vida says, adding that "even if you feel certain that this violation didn't occur in your current life, it can be helpful to understand your experience in the dream as a wound you are carrying." Speaking to a professional can help you process all of this in a safe, affirming space.

9. Mind-Blowing AF Dream Sex

Even dreams about mind-blowing, super amazing sex — the kind that have the potential to give you an orgasm while you sleep — are worth taking a closer look at, beyond how sexy they are on the surface. "These dreams can make for a powerful meditation, especially if you are having trouble accessing your desire in waking life," Vida says.

Also, don't forget that whatever you feel in a dream may be something you'd like to feel in waking life — like mind-blowing sex. Consider exploring how to achieve that level of ecstasy when you're awake, Vida says. These dreams might inspire you to try something new with a partner or to feel confident enough to ask for something new in bed.

If you have any of these sex dreams, and especially if they concern you, consider speaking to a therapist or professional to find some answers and initiate the healing process. As for the really good dreams, let them inspire you to spice up your sex life so you can live out those fantasies for real.

Experts:

Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, professional dream analyst

Cadyn Cathers, MA, psychological assistant

Dr. Nancy Irwin, PsyD, CHt, licensed clinical psychologist

Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist

Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, psychologist and ABS certified clinical sexologist

Kezia Vida, dreamworker and relationship expert

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