You just had a sex dream that left you waking up in a night sweat—the good kind. Except, now that you're awake you have serious questions. You may be wondering why on earth your steamy dream involved an old flame you haven't thought about in literal years or why you were sharing a bed with someone you aren't sexually attracted to in real life.
Before you start jumping to conclusions, sex dreams aren't always literal. "Dreams speak in a symbolic language, not a literal language," says Lauri Loewenberg, a certified dream analyst. "Sex in a dream is not about the physical act of merging two bodies but more about the psychological act of merging two minds or merging a quality or behavior of your dream partner into your self." (Though of course, sometimes sex dreams are literal. “If your bedroom activity is dead, and you are frustrated with that fact, you may find yourself having lots of sex dreams,” Loewenberg says.)
Most sex dreams require a little deciphering. Loewenberg's advice when it comes to approaching any type of sex dream is to ask yourself these questions: Have you recently connected with this person on some level in real life? Do you need to find common ground or a meeting of the minds with this person? Is there something about this person's behavior, skills, or life that you desire for yourself right now? “These questions should guide you toward the reason why you had a sex dream about that particular individual,” she says.
Sex dreams tend to fall into common categories—from hooking up with an ex to having an orgy—and each one can trigger questions. So we asked Loewenberg to take us through the scenarios most likely to show up in your subconscious and explain what your sex dreams might mean.
Sex with an ex
This one might leave you waking up in a panic depending on how things ended with said ex. Sure, you might just miss that person (or the good sex) but dreaming about an ex does not necessarily mean you want to get back together—especially if you're well into a new relationship. Loewenberg says dreams like this could be stemming from similarities between your past and current relationship. "A lot of us tend to keep going for the same type of person. These dreams are helping you determine if this ‘type’ is good for you or not," she says.
Cue a sigh of relief. So this doesn't mean you should ring up your ex out of the blue and confess that your burning passion still lingers or ask if they're up for a reunion romp. More pressing is the opportunity to take a deep-dive within.
Sex with a friend
So you've had an amazing Zoom call with your bestie and then suddenly they have a starring role in your wet dream. Sex dreams with platonic friends can be particularly mind-boggling for a lot of reasons: maybe you've never thought of them that way before in real life or maybe said friend isn't even the gender that you're typically attracted to.
In dreamland, none of that matters. “A sex dream can come on the heels of having connected with someone on some level emotionally or psychologically," says Loewenberg. Your dream isn't necessarily unleashing a hidden desire for sexy time with your friend—it's more likely this is your mind's way of processing the intimacy of your relationship and reflecting it back.
Sex with a coworker
If you find yourself dreaming of a wild sexual fantasy with a co-worker you've always admired but don't find in the least way attractive, it doesn't mean you're subconsciously smitten. Remember, a lot of the time sex dreams are “more about a psychological connection you need rather than a physical connection you want,” says Lowewenberg. In other words, the sex dream meaning could be more about desiring "a quality the co-worker has,” like their stellar work ethic. So instead of an indecent proposal, suggest coffee.
Sex with multiple people at once
"A threesome or an orgy can mean you have too many things going on in your life or in your mind and you need to focus on one thing at a time," says Loewenberg.
It makes sense—if you're feeling particularly anxious before heading to sleep you can start to fell like your anxiety is taking up way too much space in the room. When you're dreaming, the anxiety over multiple obligations can be suddenly transformed into sexy strangers eager for a ménage à trois.
Sex with someone other than your partner
When you're boo'd up, it can be pretty alarming to realize that the sex dream that gave you a sleep orgasm was not with your partner. You wake up feeling aroused—and guilty.
But dream cheating doesn't automatically mean you're unsatisfied with the relationship. “When you dream of cheating, it often that means you have allowed something to become a third wheel in your relationship," says Loewenberg. It could be a work obligation or a new side hustle—not necessarily a new love interest.
However, Loewenberg does add that if your sex dreams involve someone who isn't your partner who you're definitely attracted to, it could be a red flag that you're subconsciously looking elsewhere for something missing in your relationship.
Sex between your partner and someone else
But what about if you dream about your partner cheating on you? “The same is true if you dream your partner is cheating on you,” says Loewenberg. "It can mean he or she is the one giving too much of their time and attention to something else causing you to feel ‘cheated.’" This calls for a conversation, not a hasty breakup in the twilight hours.
Having oral sex
This one's very literal. If you find yourself receiving oral sex or giving oral sex to someone you just had a heart-to-heart with, that often just reflects the "symbolic of intimate conversation in real life because the mouth is doing the work," Loewenberg.
Originally Appeared on Glamour