Types of dreams

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Types of Dreams

Every dream is as unique as the dreamer, but there are specific types of dreams
that most commonly find their way into my consulting room. These are daydreams, vivid dreams, recurring dreams, lucid dreams, nightmares and night terrors. This month, I will focus on the first four types.


Daydreams are more common than we might think. I think there is a general misconception that children daydream the most. This is not true. Many adults also daydream whilst awake and conscious. It is a way of distracting us from what is going on in the moment, often to escape something we don’t want to think about, experience or remember.

To take us away from what’s going on in the here and now, we might, for example, wish we were still on holiday swinging in that hammock overlooking the lagoon in the south pacific. Or it can be consciously wishing things could be different from how they are currently, so we focus on the stranger we are attracted to, rather than our partner who is being particularly annoying and difficult.

Daydreams might also involve delving into a fantasy either involving the world we are in, or one we have entirely imagined and created ourselves. Whatever we daydream, the purpose is still to move our focus, consciously or unconsciously, from what’s currently going on to a more inward focus, so we can ignore and avoid what we don’t want to think about.

Once we become more aware of the content of our daydreams and the purpose they serve, perhaps through exploration in therapy, it’s interesting how they become less frequent and less useful to us. We can then engage more fully in our daily lives, rather than living in an alternate reality or fantasy for much of the time.

Vivid Dreams

Vivid dreams are the ones that we remember easily. They are very realistic and we may wake up feeling that we are still involved in the dream. Vivid dreams can occur when we are particularly tired or stressed. They are a gift to the therapist because they can be very easy for the dreamer to catch hold of, keep and remember. There is often a useful message or symbolism in the vivid dream which the dreamer can sometimes work out for themselves easily with little or no exploring with the therapist.

Recurring Dreams

Recurring dreams are more common than we might think. Some people can regularly dream the same dream from childhood for years. I find it fascinating how the same dream repeats itself again and again. It’s as if the unconscious is desperately trying to tell the dreamer something and won’t let it go until they get it! Another theory of the recurring dream is that it can be a way for the dreamer’s psyche to switch off from whatever is concerning the dreamer. I often find when a dreamer spends time in a therapy session giving the recurring dream time and attention, it becomes very clear what the dream means to them. Once figured out, the dream often fades.

Lucid Dreams

Lucid dreams especially fascinate me. They are the dreams in which the dreamer is awake or appears to be awake. The dreamer becomes aware of what they are dreaming and can even change or tweak their dreams to how they want them in real time.

Lucid dreams generally happen in the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep when we are sleeping quite lightly, perhaps on the border between sleep and wakefulness ie when consciousness is poking through our unconscious.

It can feel unsettling and confusing to be aware of our dreams whilst we are having them, and even disturbing to feel we are in control and can change the plot and course of a dream. However, if we change the course of our dreams to what we wish to happen, then this is generally a powerful and fulfilling position to be in and usually the dreamer wakes feeling satisfied and content with how the dream ended.

Nightmares and night terrors are also a very common type of dream. I will be exploring these more fully in my next blog post…

Photo by Jaime Handley on Unsplash