Flying, Falling, and Having All Your Teeth Fall Out: Dream Experts Explain How to Interpret the 15 Most Common Dreams

Photo: Getty Images / Jacob Wackerhausen
No two people on Earth are the same. Sure, many of us share the same eye color, speak the same language, or even share some common genes, but when you consider the complexity of the human experience, each person that has ever lived a wholly unique life of their own. Despite how diverse our lives are, though, many of us have dreamed the same dreams—dreams about falling, dreams about being late for class, pregnancy dreams, and dreams about flying are not reserved for a specific group of people. And yet, the meanings of a common dream will vary.

"Any specific detail in a dream is not random." —Lauri Loewenberg, dream analyst

While the content of these common dreams are similar, the meaning of said dreams will depend greatly on the person having the dream. Flying, for example, might feel freeing to one person; someone who is afraid of heights, on the other hand, might experience flying as a nightmare rather than a dream.

Experts In This Article

Understanding this caveat, we can still derive meaning from the symbols in some common dreams to get a better understanding of why we continue to have the same dream over and over. Ahead, learn more about the most common dreams and what they each might mean, according to dream experts.

Do dreams have meanings?

It can be easy to write off dreams as nonsensical figments of our imagination, but in fact, all dreams carry significant meaning. "Any specific detail in a dream is not random," says certified dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg.

Every dream you have—whether it involves an exciting run-in with a celebrity crush or being chased by a 10-foot-tall tarantula—is dripping with symbolic significance. “There are many different types of dreams, and in my opinion, they all hold ‘deeper’ meaning in the sense that they illustrate multi-layered and nuanced expressions of our life and imaginal experiences,” says Naomi Sangreal, MA, licensed psychotherapist, dream specialist, and author of Little Hidden Doors: A Guided Journal for Deep Dreamers.

That’s because your subconscious mind uses your dreams as a medium to deliver important messages to you about your waking life, says Loewenberg. Often, unresolved conflicts from our waking life seep into our dreams, where our subconscious attempts to tackle said conflicts while we’re asleep. And if those conflicts continue to remain unsolved, our subconscious will use recurring dreams to try to get our attention.

"Your dreams are like your second brain. They're always on alert, they're always paying attention," explains Loewenberg. "The things we ignore during the day rise to the surface at night when we're dreaming and try to talk to us, to give us information about what's happening in our lives."

What’s the most common dream?

According to a survey conducted by Amerisleep of over 2000 Americans, the most common recurring dreams are dreams about falling, with 53.5 percent of participants reporting that they’ve experienced dreams about falling over and over again. The second most common recurring dreams were dreams about being chased, followed by dreams about being back in school, dreams about being unprepared for a test or important event, and dreams about flying.

The top 15 most common dreams according to Amerisleep, in order of most common to least common, are:

  • Falling
  • Being chased
  • Being back in school
  • Being unprepared for a test or important event
  • Flying
  • Mortality
  • Having your teeth fall out
  • Being lost
  • Going nowhere or moving in slow motion
  • Being late for (or missing) a bus, train, or plane
  • Being paralyzed or unable to speak
  • Seeing spiders, snakes, or other creatures
  • Having intruders try to break into your house
  • Finding money or coming into wealth
  • Driving an out-of-control vehicle

Curious to know what the most common dreams mean? Read ahead to learn more about 15 of the most common dreams people have.

15 most common dream meanings

1. Falling

Dreams about falling may be tied to emotional plummets in your waking life. "This sort of dream is connected to having some kind of let down in real life," says the dream psychologist. "Someone [or something] let you down." If you're merrily walking across a sun-soaked beach and a black hole suddenly swallows you up, you can take that as an indication that something you had high hopes for has been bashed.

2. Being chased

If you’re dreaming about being chased, you're more than likely avoiding something in your waking life. Whether you're doing everything in your power to stall a confrontation or procrastinating your to-do list at work, these stress dreams indicate you’ve been running from your problems. What's chasing you in your dream can also be indicative of what or who you're attempting to run from; pay attention!

3. Being back in school

Even if you graduated from school decades ago, school dreams “continue 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years after you've been in school," says Loewenberg. "I have found in my research that the back to school dream is most often caused by something going on in your job or in your career, because school was your first job and it was where you learn the dynamics of what a job or career entails."

So, if you have these types of nightmares about being back in school, consider it time for a check-up on your career—reflect on your current job and consider any professional goals you may have been neglecting.

4. Being unprepared for a test or important event

Too, being unprepared for class, a test, a speech, or other important event, could indicate shame or guilt regarding your career.

If the dream is about an IRL event on your calendar, it may just be your subconscious checking in about the mounting stress or anxiety you have about the upcoming event. Take it as a reminder to slow down, prioritize stress management, and trust in your ability to navigate the event, regardless of how well it goes.

5. Being late for class or work

Similarly, dreams about being late for class, work, or somewhere you’re expected to show up on a regular basis, could be your subconscious mind’s way of addressing anxiety. If—oh, my god!—you're late to class and you can't find your locker anywhere, that could be a sign that you're not where you want to be when it comes to your professional or academic goals, says Loewenberg.

6. Flying

Flying in a dream feels euphoric—and it's a sign that you're feeling weightless in your everyday life, too.

"We'll get a flying dream when we've risen above something that had previously been weighing us down, bringing us down, making life hard and heavy,” says Loewenberg. “We can get it when we've accomplished something and we've realized our own power to reach our high goals.”

7. Death and dying

Don’t worry: Dreams about death are not necessarily indicative of actual death in the real world.

"People worry that maybe they're seeing the future or something, but remember, dreams are symbolic,” says Loewenberg. “If you look at them literally, you're completely missing the message," Loewenberg says. Dreams about death or dying, rather, often mean that there’s a chapter of your life closing. These dreams are a sign of finality and rebirth.

8. Teeth falling out

If you constantly have dreams about your teeth falling out, you may have some major regrets about something you’ve said while awake. "If you dream of your teeth falling out, the most common thing that means is loose speech,” says Loewenberg. “You've allowed something out of your mouth that should have stayed in there permanently, like your teeth.”

So, if your pearly whites crumble, that might be an indication that you didn't communicate a point as well as you had hoped.

9. Being lost

Dreams of being lost could indicate that you feel ‘lost’ in some areas of your life, whether it be in regards to your career, your relationship status, your relationship with your family, or your greater purpose in life. Consider areas in your waking life that you feel astray; your subconscious is trying to avert your attention to it.

10. Water

Dreams about water are incredibly common and vary person to person. In order to get to the bottom of what your dream means, Loewenberg suggests putting the dream into one of two categories. "Ask yourself, is the water life-affirming or life-threatening?”

If the water is life-affirming, like a relaxing pool of water, a serene ocean, or a waterfall, it could symbolize healing, new life, and figurative cleansing. Alternatively, life-threatening forms of water, like a major tidal wave, a hurricane, or water that’s drowning you, could symbolize something that is taking over your life. Floods, says Loewenberg, could indicate an overflow of unaddressed or stifled emotions.

11. Being cheated on

Don't take dreams of being cheated on as signals of IRL cheating. According to Loewenberg, this dream signifies a third wheel in your relationship that's usually not a person. "Unless you have good reason to suspect your partner's cheating, or you've been cheated on in the past and are just very distrustful, it doesn't typically mean that your significant other is getting his or her pleasures elsewhere," she says.

Such subconscious warnings are a sign that you feel like something in your partner's life is encroaching on the time you should be spending with them. Maybe they're logging too many hours at work, or ignoring you in bed. Before you jump to any conclusions about infidelity, consider what, not who, is infringing on your relationship.

12. Finding money or coming into wealth

Recurring dreams aren’t all bad—in fact, some of them are really, really good dreams. If you dream about finding money on the ground or suddenly coming into large sums of money, it could indicate that you have a new outlook on life. Perhaps you’ve transcended a limited mindset and have adopted a newer, more optimistic abundance mindset. These dreams can also indicate good luck or new opportunities.

13. Seeing spiders, snakes, or other creatures

The significance of dreams about creepy crawlies, likes snakes, spiders, and rats, will largely depend on your existing relationship with them and how you view them through a personal lens. Animals symbolize different things in different cultures, and your view of them will vary depending on where you live and what experiences you’ve had with them in person.

That being said, snakes may indicate ‘snakes’ in your relationships; that is, someone who pines against you behind your back. Snakes also symbolize rebirth, since they shed their skin. Rats are often associated with dark, damp, hidden spaces, and could indicate taboo areas of your life you’re trying to keep under wraps. Depending on how many and how large they are, dreams about spiders can symbolize infestation, creativity (ala their web-making mastery), and predation.

14. Being paralyzed or unable to speak

If you have recurring dreams wherein you’re paralyzed or unable to move, it could indicate that you feel stuck in some area of your waking life, whether that’s literally, like being unable to move out of your hometown, or figuratively, like being unable to quit your job, or end a relationship.

As for not being able to speak in your dreams, it could symbolize that you’re being silenced or not listened to while you’re awake. It could also indicate that you’ve been keeping something to yourself that your subconscious is urging you to share with someone. Ask yourself: Am I speaking my truth? Do I surround myself with people who really, truly listen to me? What secrets am I being forced to keep?

15. Driving an out-of-control vehicle

You are in the driver’s seat of your own life—you dictate where you go, what you do, and how you spend your time. However, if you’ve been feeling like life is happening to you rather than something you actively direct, you may begin having dreams about trying to drive an out-of-control car. These dreams can indicate that there’s an area of your life wherein you feel like you’re not control of.

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