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New Book – Answers in the Dark

The new book by Delphi Ellis, Answers in the Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal is now available to pre-order on Amazon

Synopsis

The 4am Mystery: that’s an actual thing by the way. Even before a global health crisis took the shape of COVID-19, people around the world were finding themselves sleep deprived, awake in the middle of the night.

You might be someone who says, no matter what you do, you just can’t sleep. Sometimes you know why: your thoughts are racing, or a nightmare has startled you into consciousness. Other nights you might toss and turn and, just as you finally doze off, the alarm blares.

This book was written for you.

It explores why you’re awake, how you can manage your mind at night, and what might help if it’s your dream content wreaking havoc.

Drawing on nearly two decades of therapeutic work, research, and an ancient wisdom proven to helpfully manage the mind, Delphi connects the dots between sleep, dreams and our mental health. She particularly highlights the impact of grief and loss on our well-being, which can ultimately affect the quality of our night-time rest – even if no one has died. Her book guides the reader on a journey to make friends with night-time, learning what the dark might have to offer, to achieve a calmer, healthier, happier life.

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Why We Can’t Sleep (and What Can Help)

Scientists have been telling us how much sleep we need for a while now. Depending on which research you read, the average figure quoted for adults is eight hours a night. But the reality is: most people aren’t getting that, and don’t sleep for that long.

According to the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) at least 4 in 10 people aren’t getting enough sleep, with the Sleep Health Foundation suggesting 1 in 3 people suffer with insomnia –  trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.  It’s the second most common health complaint after pain. The “average” Briton gets around six hours sleep a night according to this article in the Independent. Sunday was revealed as the day people get their worst night’s sleep.

And it’s not just a British problem. According to some reports (scrutinised by the NHS) sleep is an issue around the world.

It makes sense that when Dr. Guy Meadows commissioned The Big Sleep Report, he identified that only 1% of the UK’s population wake up feeling completely refreshed every day. Even people getting the recommended eight hours a night (or more) admit they don’t wake up feeling rested, with especially poor sleep the night before their next shift (known as Sunday Night Syndrome).

Why can’t we sleep?

Ironically, The Great British Sleep Survey identified that one of the main things (for 79% of people) that keeps us awake at night is how long they’ve been lying awake. In other words, it’s the worry that we are not getting our recommended eight hours, that’s stopping us from sleeping.

Other reasons include:

  • Body discomfort (e.g illness or injury)
  • Environment including room temperature, in comfy bed and noise
  • Use of technology
  • Persistent thoughts
  • Life changing events

What happens if we don’t sleep?

The research in the RSPH report and others explains that lack of sleep can cause significant problems for us physically and mentally where sleep is deprived over a significant period. People who don’t sleep well for a while may wake up feeling depressed as well as experience poor memory, weight gain and physical ill health. Research published in the New Scientist suggested increasing links in the role of sleep in causing Alzheimer’s for people with long-term, significant sleep deprivation. However, we are built to withstand some short-term periods of poor sleep, and even for those who haven’t slept well for a while there is hope; there are many things which can help.

So, what can we do?


First, talk to your doctor. They may be able to offer some top tips or strategies available to you locally.  You could also try:

  • Ditching the eight hours myth: not many people in this country get eight hours of sleep a night, in fact the ‘average’ Briton gets around six hours sleep.  Research also shows us that it’s our belief we should  get eight hours that’s actually keeping us awake; people look at the clock or check their phone when they wake up in the night, see what time it is and then get stressed that they haven’t slept enough.  Focus on quality, rather than quantity, using the additional tips below, and try not to use your phone if you’re waking up in the dark.  The light from it can literally keep you awake.
  • Taking care of yourself. A good daytime routine is as important as a bedtime routine. Avoiding caffeine and heavy meals in the hours leading up to bedtime, can help. A warm bath and listening to some calming music can also be relaxing before bed. We know that too much time spent on smart phones and computers, especially at night, as well as our bedroom environment can affect how well we sleep. So make sure your bed is comfy, and where you sleep lends itself to a restful night, going to bed when you’re sleepy. But also try to deal with stress during the day, so it’s less likely to come into your mind when it’s quiet. Talk to someone if you are worried or anxious about something.
  • Knowing your sleep cycle: the length of time it takes you to go through light, deep and dreaming sleep is called a sleep cycle.  We all have one, everyone is different but it averages between 90 minute and two hours in length in adults (it’s half that in children). At the end of each sleep cycle, it’s quite normal to come back round in to light sleep, (before you go into deep sleep) and be easily woken – it’s one of the reasons, people will often say “I was waking up every couple of hours in the night”.   Waking up is normal; the key is deciding how you get back to sleep.  This is where mindfulness can help (see tip at the bottom
  • Accepting the problem. Sometimes it’s not our caffeine intake that’s the issue, but a situation or circumstance that’s causing a lack of sleep. Here is a list of agencies that might help. If you suffer with poor sleep, and have done for a while, acknowledging that you may not sleep well is also a place to start, rather than trying to fight it. This can help manage the repetitive thoughts Instead of saying “I’m such a bad sleeper, what’s wrong with me?” try turning your thoughts away from criticising yourself; focus positively on getting back to sleep, like using the tip below.
  • Focus on the breath. When you realise you’re awake and not going to get back to sleep, try a breathing technique. As you lay in bed, bring your attention to how your breath is coming in and going out of your body. Try not to get tangled in the commentary of thoughts that are rolling round in your mind. Every time you notice your mind wandering, accept that, label them ‘thinking’ and then turn your attention back to the breath. In one study, 91% of people who described themselves as having insomnia, were able to significantly reduce or stop using their medication after six weeks of mindfulness, 20 minutes a day (Please speak to your doctor first if you’re thinking of reducing your medication).

For people who work shifts, it can be even harder to rest. Here are some extra tips:

  • Go to bed when you’re sleepy; whatever time your shift finishes, you’ll generally start to feel sleepy every couple of hours, so try to factor in a bedtime which fits in with that.  If you don’t sleep when you’re sleepy, or if you push through it for more than half an hour, when you eventually go to bed you’ll probably toss and turn until you feel sleepy again – about two hours later. It’s one of the reasons why if you wake up at 4am, and don’t get straight back to sleep, you will be awake until 6am, just as you’re alarm goes off. So try not to push through sleepiness once you’re home, make sleep a priority.
  • Try power naps – the optimum length of a power nap is 20 minutes; try not to nap for longer than that, unless you can manage a full sleep cycle (about 90 minutes). Don’t nap for something in between though; people who set the alarm to nap for an hour, will often find they wake up feeling like they have a hangover: headache, dry mouth and don’t know what year it is – this is actually called the Hangover Effect. So keep your power naps to 20 minutes, or the whole length of your sleep cycle (90-120 minutes). If power naps are stopping you sleeping at night, avoid them during the day.
  • Try Mindfulness – proven strategy for helping people sleep, and known for many other benefits including managing stress and anxiety. Even if you find you’re tossing and turning in bed you can use mindfulness to rest your mind and body. There are a number of apps including Headspace you can try, as well as Mindfit Cop, which is being rolled out via the college of Policing, for frontline officers. You can read more about this here

Everyone is different so how much sleep you need may be different to everyone else. If the aim is to wake up feeling rested, try shifting your attention to sleep quality, rather than quantity. Remember to chat to your GP or Occupational Health if sleep is really becoming an issue.

©️ Copyright Delphi Ellis

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Common and Recurring Dreams

During our life time we can have dreams which come back to us time and again, sometimes known as recurring dreams.

If you have recurring dreams, keeping a dream diary can be a helpful way to understand why you have the dreams you do.

Below are some links to some of the common and recurring dreams that people have.

Being Naked

Being Chased

Dreaming of death – including a child, loved one and your own (updated in response to Coronavirus and COVID-19)

Dreaming of an ex

Falling

Having affairs / partner cheating

Losing Things (includes Being Lost)

Lucid Dreams

Getting Married

Mutual Dreaming (Having the same dream as someone else)

Nightmares

Teeth falling out

Toilets

Precognitive Dreams (Dreams about the future)

Pregnancy

Being Back at School

Dreams about Sex

Visitations (Dreams of the deceased)

Having weird dreams during the Coronavirus outbreak? This article might explain why.

Can’t see your dream here?  Why not purchase a dream interpretation.

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About this website

Thank you for visiting my website about dreams.

I am a qualified counsellor, and well-being trainer. I provide professional therapeutic services into the community to help people find what I call their ‘mojo’ (feel-good energy or motivation) and get their sparkle back, often during or after a difficult time in their lives. You can find out more about my counselling services here. I am also the author of Answers in the Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal.

My mission is to help improve and enhance the well-being of others through compassionate education and wholehearted, meaningful dialogue. I believe in human potential, helping people manage uncertainty and build resilience, building connection in communities.

I have designed and delivered nationwide training programmes, including promoting the benefits of peer support following the death of a loved one, and tailored bereavement awareness training to front line personnel including police officers, paramedics, and search and rescue teams. I currently run and facilitate peer support groups on well-being and bereavement

I have a special interest in dreams and sleep, appearing on TV shows like Loose Women. (You can find out more about this further down the page).

I campaign to raise awareness and discuss prevention of domestic abuse. I also actively challenge the taboo of talking about death, dying and grief. I am a strong advocate of self-compassion, encouraging regular restorative acts of self-care

I am based in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes, with some services available nationwide and globally via call services like Zoom, Teams and Google Meet.

Professional Career

I started my therapeutic career in 2002, where I supported those bereaved by murder and suicide, including attending inquests at coroner’s court. I now work in the community promoting well-being maintenance and recovery, through 1-1 sessions and group events.

I also work for a charity in my spare time, managing volunteers who provide a unique transport service for cancer patients, which won the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2014. 

Pregnancy Mental Health

In 2004, I established a unique website and peer support group dedicated to Pregnancy Mental Health, following my own experience of ante-natal depression and anxiety.

As a result, I have featured in several popular magazines on this topic, including Pregnancy and Birth and Natural Health magazines, and featured on radio programmes like Radio 4’s Women’s Hour. (You can see a full list of tv and media appearances below). 

Volunteering

I currently volunteer with an organisation that supports victims of crime and as an independent advisor on community cohesion. I am also a community ambassadorraising awareness of signs and prevention of domestic abuse. 

Qualifications and Training

My qualifications and training include Therapeutic Counselling, Delivering Adult Learning, Support for Insomnia, Positive Psychology, Pain Management, Mental Health First Aid (and Psychological First Aid for Pandemics), and Mindfulness.

I have also received training with the National Homicide Service, Victim Support, and Women’s Aid. I am accredited to work with victims of crime, including those escaping domestic abuse.

TV and Media Career

I have enjoyed a TV and media career talking about the subjects I am passionate about, including dreams and healthy sleep. You can view an expanded list of media appearances below:

Radio:

BBC Radio: BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 1 Xtra, BBC WM, BBC Shropshire, BBC Coventry, BBC Three Counties, BBC Radio 6 with George Lamb, BBC Suffolk Breakfast Show, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Drive Time, BBC Radio Leeds Drive Time, BBC Tees, BBC Radio Shropshire, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio 4, Woman’s Hour, BBC London with Sunny & Shay and on the Eddie Nestor show, Talk Sport, Beacon Radio, Hallam FM, Original 106 FM, Gemini FM, WLR FM, XFM, The Psychic Show (LBC 97.3), My Spirit Radio, Bridge Radio, Red FM

Television:

Loose Women, ITV’s This Morning, DayBreak (Presenter of The Guide to Sleep), , GMTV, The Wright Stuff, LK Today (Lorraine), Consultant to SO Television for My Lovely Audience (Graham Norton), Psychic TV

Featured work –

Natural Health, In Style MagazineGlamour Magazine, Daily Express, Practical Parenting & Pregnancy Magazine, Soul & Spirit magazine, Huffington Post, Guardian (G2), Sunday Express, Pregnancy, Baby & You, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, Pregnancy & Birth magazine, Prima Baby magazine, Practical Parenting, Columnist for Spirit & Destiny Magazine, Contributor to Talk Mum, Contributor to Silent Voices, Columnist for Spirit Force Magazine, Mens Health magazine

PR Events

Dreams Bed Company, Maybelline New York, Sky + HD (article featured in Daily Telegraph), Johnson’s Beauty: Dreamy Skin, Snow Leopard Trust

Awards

  • Volunteer of the Year Cohesion Award for services to the community;
  • Nomination: “Women Who Keep Bedfordshire Safer”;
  • Regional Finalist for the Health and Social Care Awards for Mental Health and Wellbeing;
  • Spiritual Connextions Awards for Best Service to Others

© Delphi Ellis – Helping You Sparkle ™: The Dreams Maven™ and The Dreams Lady 2020™

Dreaming of Water

Dream question: Why do I dream I can’t swim in deep water?

When we talk about dreams it helps to think in metaphor. “Deep water” could imply that someone is “out of their depth”, (eg feels like they don’t know enough) or feeling like they’re about to get into trouble. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, just that we might worry it will.

When we say we’re ‘drowning’ in daily life, it usually means we’re feeling overwhelmed; for example, we might say ‘I’m drowning in paperwork’. So, water dreams like this can also be a sign that at the time of the dream we may be feeling overwhelmed at work or at home.

Drowning can also represent feeling like we can’t catch our breath; this may be a metaphor for not getting a moment to ourselves. However, since the COVID outbreak, and so much focus placed on our breathing, people may be having the drowning dream because they’re anxious abut their or someone else’s health, or them catching the virus. The dream doesn’t mean they have reason to be worried, just that the dream may be highlighting their anxiety.

In the same way, if we have a fear of water and specifically drowning, this may be an acknowledgement of that fear playing out in the dream. This is why keeping a dream diary can be helpful. It can assist with noticing patterns that may help us make sense of the dream when we wake. Some people may have dreams of drowning every time they’re feeling under pressure at work; a dream diary would help them notice it.

The size of the body of water and the context of the dream may make a difference to the interpretation. Depending on the setting of the dream (somewhere regulated like a swimming pool), it may reassure the dreamer that everything is as it should be. Alternatively, venturing out in to unknown territory, could be symbolised by the ocean. Swimming pools are also public spaces, so if in the dream it’s crowded, the dreamer may be feeling like there’s too much going on in their public life.

Where an ocean is calm and peaceful in the dream, that may be a reflection of what the dreamer is feeling – or wants to feel – in daily life. Because of COVID, most of us are missing holidays abroad. So the dream may also be a representation of the good times we miss, and a desire to be back in warmer, sunnier climates.

A waterfall is also associated with peace and tranquility, but can also represent passion due to the fast flowing nature of the water itself, or that something may feel out of control – like our emotions, or that something is moving too fast. Whereas a lake is another type of container just on a much larger scale and out in the open.

Like all dreams, it depends very much on what’s happening in the dream and how safe the dreamer feels. Again metaphor is helpful: we sometimes say ‘we’re heading for stormy waters’ which means we know there’s some uncertainty or difficult times ahead, perhaps with changes at work. This may be represented by crashing waves and stormy water in the dream. In the same way we sometimes say we’re in ‘deep water”.

Feeling stuck in the ocean may be a literal interpretation for feeling stuck somewhere in daily life. Having said this, standing on the edge of an ocean can be representative of how we feel at the time of the dream, perhaps on the verge of a change or transformation. It’s also common for people who are grieving, to dream of staring out to sea, representing that their loved one is now out of reach.

We will sometimes say we got ‘carried away’ by something, or be in ‘floods’ of tears and this may be symbolised by a tidal wave in a dream. It can also represent the intensity of emotion we’re feeling at the time of the dream; we speak about ‘waves of emotion’ which is why our feelings are often symbolised by water in a dream. Here is a link to a specific article about tidal waves.

Water can also suggest we’re going through a ‘cleansing’ phase, perhaps getting rid of something toxic in our life – especially if you’re drinking water in the dream. So how we feel at the time of the dream may be reflected by the content of it, calm water implying all is well, or how we’d like it to be, whereas stormy weather suggesting it’s been a difficult time.

Remember dreams can be literal, so if you’re thirsty, looking for water in a dream, when you wake up you may find you need a drink.

If you’re worried about your dream content, or have trouble sleeping, speak to a counsellor or your doctor.

Keeping a dream diary can help understand common and recurring dreams. I talk about this and provide a template in my book, Answers in the Dark.

Copyright Delphi Ellis 2021

Dream Question: Why am I dreaming about insects (especially during the pandemic)?

As we are hearing in the U.K. the COVID-19 “curve is flattening”, more and more people are saying they are having wilder, and more worrying dreams.

A radio presenter told me this week (on air during her show) that she’d had a dream where maggots were on her face. The following day, a journalist called me to say loads of people she’s speaking to are having dreams about creepy crawlies. So I thought I’d offer some thoughts below.

It’s important to say first, everyone is different – so if you go fishing and use maggots as bait for example, the interpretation for you might be completely different than for the radio presenter I’ve mentioned above.

Having said that, the first explanation might be the language we use around insects, ie bugs. When we talk of a virus, you might say you “have a bug”, and if you have a natural fear and anxiety of catching coronavirus, then it makes sense you’d have a dream where insects are a little too close for comfort.

In the same way, it could be that at the time of the dream, someone or something is “bugging” you. This is why keeping a dream diary can help you notice patterns in your dreaming, and whether there is any correlation between what you dreamt about at night, and what’s been happening during the day of late.

The type of insect can also matter. A lot of people don’t like maggots, and may even associate them with death. Whilst we are hearing so much about the impact of COVID-19 and daily death tolls around the world, it makes sense if the subject of our own mortality comes to the surface, alongside any worries about people we love , so it would be natural to dream about something which represents that.

On a lighter note, insects like bees and butterflies are often seen as positive (for example around leadership, or transformation respectively), so again it helps to take the content of your dream into context with what’s happening in your life at the time – I always ask the questions “why this, and why now?” Keeping a dream diary can help you notice if these types of insects appear regularly, which can help you explore the meaning if it’s a recurring dream.

How you feel about the insect is also key: eg., were you scared, or were you irritated in the dream? Do you like that type of insect, or do they make you anxious? All of this is worth considering when exploring your own dream. (If you’ve been stung by a bee or other insect in real life for example, how you feel about that will matter too).

According to Lyon Neuroscience Centre research, our dream recall is up 35% at the moment. This might be because we are sleeping longer in the mornings (and so more likely to remember the dream you have before you wake up), or because the nature of our dreams is more troubling.

Like any dream or nightmare, its worth talking about it with someone who will listen. Research from Swansea now supports that telling someone about the dream you have can help in many ways. It doesn’t have to be a professional exploration; a close friend or family member that you trust might help you make sense of it all.

If you are worried about your health and well-being, especially if it’s affecting your sleep, always speak to your doctor or healthcare team. Learning ways to manage anxiety, during the outbreak and beyond, can help too.

Keeping a dream diary can help understand common and recurring dreams. I talk about this and provide a template in my book, Answers in the Dark.

Copyright Delphi Ellis 202

Why do we wake up with a tune in our heads, singing song lyrics, or an ear worm?

This is featured in my book Answers in the Dark. You can pre-order on Amazon here.

Have you ever woken up in the morning with a tune going round your head?

It might make sense if it’s a favourite track you’re enjoying right now. But what about the random songs you haven’t heard in years like “Strobe Light” from the B52’s, “She Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby or a song from as far back as during the war?

There could be a number of different reasons why we get what’s known as “sticky music”, “stuck song syndrome” or an “ear worm”, which might explain why we have a song on our lips when we wake up first thing. This article sets out to explain the possible reasons why.

1) Music Exposure

One explanation is that it’s an echo of a song you heard during the previous day or before you went to bed. As I write this, we are currently navigating our way through lockdown in the U.K., whilst commemorating 75 years since Victory in Europe day.

As the nation went to sleep singing “We’ll Meet Again”, it makes sense many may have woken up singing it the next morning.

This is called Music Exposure; our thoughts can be influenced by what we’ve heard recently. So if you’ve been playing a song you love on repeat or went to bed humming a tune, this might be why it’s still with you when you wake up.

2) The Association of Ideas

When someone starts talking about sleep or feeling tired, you might find before long you start yawning. This can be referred to as the Association of Ideas. When we hear or see something, we register it in our minds, search for comparisons or mirror it with something similar from our own experiences.

As Dr Vicky Williamson explains in this article , if you shop somewhere like Faith, your “memory goes down a line of dominoes” until it reaches George Michael’s song of the same name.

It might be then, the dream you’ve had the night before triggers a similar domino effect if the song you have on waking aligns with the dominating thought (from the dream) in your mind.

3) The Impact of Stress

As Williamson explains, if there was a song playing when you were revising for exams at school, then it follows that when you feel stressed you start singing or ‘hear’ that song.

So it could be, if you dream you’re back at school taking your exams for example, that you might wake up singing one of the songs you associate with that time in your life.

If you wake up singing a song you haven’t heard in a while, you could maybe pause to see if there is a part of your history it’s from. If it is, you could reflect on why that song and why now?

4) Lyrics as Information

In the years before we wrote stuff down, we passed on wisdom to our tribe through songs and storytelling. It’s possible that the lyrics of the song you wake up with provide some insight or information that could be useful, so it’s worth writing the lyrics down and seeing how you interpret them.

If you find you have this experience regularly, keeping a dream diary might help. You can see if there are any patterns as to why you wake up with those lyrics and their possible meaning. (You can get a free guide on keeping a dream diary when you subscribe.)

Keep in mind, there could be lots of reasons this is happening which are still unexplored – the song might reflect your mood, a memory or just be a song.

5) Inspiration

Several people throughout history have woken up with a tune and used this as the inspiration for their own music creations.

Keith Richards reportedly dreamt the riff for “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” just as Paul McCartney apparently dreamt the tune for “Yesterday”. So if you don’t recognise the song you’re humming when you wake up, maybe write it down or record it, just as Keith Richards is said to have kept a guitar and tape player by his bed just in case. Who knows, we may be hearing your song in the charts very soon.

One thing Williamson’s research did highlight is how different we all are. In a database of “ear worms” of over 2500 songs, it was rare that people had the same ”stuck song”.

Just like our dreams and their meanings are unique to each of us, this highlights our individuality and the way we interpret the music we hear. The best person to decide what your dreams mean is you, but if you’re worried about your dreams, or are having nightmares, talk to your health care professional for reassurance.

Copyright Delphi Ellis 2020

Dream Question: are dreams about sex what they appear to be?

Trigger warning: this article briefly discusses rape.

How common are sex dreams?

Men and women can dream about sex, and they can have a number of different themes. In those studied who remembered their dreams, around eight percent of dreams reported were about sex.

Interpretations may depend on how you define sex, for example including kissing and masturbation.  The thoughts I’ve offered below focus on sexual intercourse.

Most research agrees men are more likely to have sex dreams than women, although some might suggest the ratio is about the same. One article quotes a study that young women aged between 16 and 30 are having more sex dreams than they used to, but as many women are feeling more liberated to talk freely about their rights and preferences, that data may not reflect that. Women may always have had erotic dreams, it’s just that now we are more comfortable talking about it.

In any event, the content will vary. 

About four percent of people report having orgasms in their dreams even if they don’t remember why. One report suggested women may dream of giving someone else an orgasm, whereas men generally dream about their own.

What are the most common sex dreams?

Types of sex dreams vary. For example, a woman might dream she’s having sex with her boss, whereas a man might dream about having sex with multiple partners in one dream. (The report mentioned above backs this up).

A common dream a lot of people have is that they’re cheating on their partner, or that their partner has cheated on them. On analysis, and hopefully reassuringly, this often seems to be a fear this will happen (perhaps based on previous relationships), rather than a prediction.

Other types of sex dream can be more disturbing, where someone may dream they’re being forced to have sex.

People process trauma in different ways but dreams and particularly nightmares can be a sign that trauma may have occurred.

With these types of dream, they may be an echo of an actual event that happened, where the details appear in the dream as they were in real life, or are being relayed slightly differently in the dream. Where this is the case, and particularly if these dreams may be a sign of trauma, it’s always important to speak to a professional so they can offer help as soon as possible. Where the dreams are based on actual events, there are specialist centres as well as organisations like Rape Crisis who can offer confidential support.  A link to sexual assault referral centres in your area in the U.K. is also here

Where you are dreaming of sex that’s not based on actual events, or where you’re dreaming you or someone else is instigating sex with someone you don’t like or desire, this may be a dream about control or connection. (See below)

Are dreams of sex actually about sex?

Although sometimes dreams can be about a sexual fantasy or desire – or an acknowledgment if you haven’t had any for a while – sex in dreams can be about control or connection, and not necessarily in a sexual way. This is why in your dreams you might have sex with someone you never would in real life.

For example, where a woman dreams she’s having sex with her female boss (and where this doesn’t reflect a sexual fantasy or desire), it may well be there is a power struggle at work that the dreamer is finding uncomfortable.

This is why it’s so important to think about how you feel during the dream, not just afterwards. If you were enjoying sex with your boss in a dream, but never would in real life, then it might be you’re happy your boss is in charge and taking the lead right now.

Dreams are unique to everyone though, so the interpretation will depend on the content and the context, including current events at the time you have it.  


What should I do if I have a sex dream?

Dreams are like secret messages that only you can decode, which is why keeping a dream diary is so important to help you understand them.

You might find you have a sex dream about your boss every time your regular 1-1 comes round. People who menstruate may think more about sex around days 7-14+ of their cycle, and that might be another reason why sex dreams appear. Often once people recognise why they have the dreams they do, the dreams take a different form or become less disturbing.

If you’re worrying that your partner is or may be cheating, then it’s always best to talk to them or reach out to organisations like Relate to help. If the dreams are violent, keeping you awake at night, are memories of a traumatic event or you are worrying about their content in any way, it’s always best to reach out to someone you trust for help. Speak to your doctor first, and see what help they can offer.

Keeping a dream diary can help understand common and recurring dreams. I talk about this and provide a template in my book, Answers in the Dark.

Note to the reader: For the purposes of this article I’ve referred to ‘men’ and ‘women’, and research which has explored heterosexual relationships. This is only because at the time of writing I’m not aware of any research yet that covers the types of sex dreams people of different sexualities may have or who, for example identify as non-binary, or trans gender. I think it would be important research to add into this discussion. If I become aware of any, I will update this article.

Links in this article are not an endorsement. This article was requested for an online magazine and published here July 2019 – Intellectual ©️ copyright Delphi Ellis 2019