The Psychology of Dreams

The Psychology of Dreams

Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.

– Marscha Norman

I haven’t been dreaming lately. But there was a period when I dreamed almost every night. They weren’t scary nightmares or fun dreams. The dreams I had often resembled warnings or visions. I’ve had times when I dreamed about something and it came true the next day or a few days later. That’s pretty scary. I’m not a psychic or anything! I’ve also often dreamed about very strange things like killing a giant spider or losing my teeth.
In this article, I am going to talk about types of dreams and their meanings.

Table of Contents

    What are dreams?

    Dreams are a universal human experience that can be described as a state of consciousness characterized by sensory, cognitive and emotional occurrences during sleep. Humans dream for about 2 hours a night and each dream lasts about 5 to 20 minutes, although the dreamer may experience the dream as much longer than this. The contents of dreams are unique to the individual. They combine fragments of a person’s experiences, worries, and waking thoughts into new scenarios. There are many different types of dreams like recurring dreams, vivid dreams, nightmares, lucid dreams and fever dreams.

    Why do we dream?

    No one knows exactly why we dream, but there are many theories. Many experts say dreams exist to help solve problems in our lives, incorporate memories or process emotions. Some say the purpose of dreams is to learn, in a safe way, how to deal with challenging or threatening situations. 

    Possible explanations:

    • representing unconscious desires and wishes
    • interpreting random signals from the brain and body during sleep
    • consolidating and processing information gathered during the day
    • working as a form of psychotherapy

    Types of dreams

    Now that we know what dreams are and what theories are going around about why we dream, I’m going to introduce you to five different types of dreams; recurring dreams, vivid dreams, nightmares, lucid dreams and fever dreams.

    Recurring dreams

    Do you sometimes have the same dream more than once over a short period of time? Or maybe you’ve had the same dream over the entire course of your life. These repetitive dreams are called recurring dreams. Recurring dreams are personal and, like other dreams, often populated by people we recognize. Most recurring dreams are assumed to reveal the presence of unresolved conflict or stress in the dreamer’s life. These dreams happen night after night or several nights over time and feature similar situations and events. Some researchers think recurring dreams are the result of unsatisfied psychological needs. Recurring dreams often occur during times of stress, or over long periods of time, sometimes several years or even a lifetime.

    Vivid dreams

    A vivid dream is a dream that feels so real that you can recall it very clearly when you wake up. If you experience a vivid dream, it may even feel more like real life than a dream. Vivid dreams can be pleasurable and satisfying, such as when they fulfill a desire or replay a treasured experience. But they can also be unsettling in their strangeness or in the emotions they involve. Vivid dreams can be frightening and disturbing, or exciting and full of meaning depending on what happens in the dream. 


    • Stress or anxiety
    • Sleep disorders
    • Medications
    • Substance abuse
    • Other health disorders (depression, schizophrenia)
    • Early pregnancy


    A nightmare, also known as a bad dream, is an unpleasant dream that can cause a strong emotional response from the mind, typically fear but also despair, anxiety, disgust or sadness. Nightmares are vivid dreams that may be threatening, upsetting, bizarre, or otherwise bothersome. They occur more often during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage of sleep associated with intense dreaming.

    Common causes include stress, negative life events, the experience of trauma as in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, other psychiatric disorders, and medication side effects.

    Lucid dreams

    Lucid dreams are when you know that you’re dreaming while you’re asleep. During a lucid dream, the dreamer may gain some amount of control over the dream characters, narrative, or environment. Lucid dreaming is rare. Studies show that only about 50% of the population have ever experienced a lucid dream. But it’s unclear how many people actually experience lucid dreaming, though certain studies have tried to gather information regarding its prevalence and it seems that this phenomenon may be quite common. Like most dreams, lucid dreaming will typically occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

    How to know if you’ve had a lucid dream

    • Your emotions were very intense.
    • Your dream was very vivid.
    • You were aware that you were asleep and dreaming.

    Fever dreams

    Fever dreams are the type of dreams one commonly experiences while they have a fever or higher body temperature. So a fever dream occurs when your body temperature is higher than usual. For some people, these dreams can be emotionally intense; for others, they can be quite upsetting. Most people describe fever dreams as a distressing experience (emotionally intense, troubling, strange, or scary). While fever dreams can be stressful and uncomfortable, they aren’t necessarily bad. Fevers are a sign that your body is properly fighting sickness or infection.

    The exact cause of fever dreams is unknown. Some researchers speculate that the “overheated” brain.

    Possible causes:

    • Viral or bacterial infection
    • Certain inflammatory conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis
    • Heat exhaustion
    • Due to medication like antibiotics
    • Or a tumor

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