Dreams are the language of our unconscious mind. Learning to decipher them is never easy, but trying to unravel sexual dreams can be tantalizing.
Nearly everyone has experienced sexual dreams. They may be highly arousing and pleasurable, frustrating, repulsive or simply puzzling. Some dreams seem real, but most seem to be a rather unusual adaptation of what we know to be reality.
We dream in strictly defined periods of sleep. A number of times during the night we enter REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, characterized by our eyes twitching beneath closed eyelids. It is during REM sleep that dreams occur.
The nature of love
The pattern of sleep is that we drift between light and deep sleep. Dreams occur in light sleep.
Much of what we know about patterns of sleep has been learned relatively recently. By attaching electrodes to the scalps of willing subjects, sleep researchers have been able to measure the activity of the brain during REM and non-REM sleep, and also to ascertain more about the nature of dreams. They do this by rousing subjects when they see the characteristic movement of the dreamers’ eyeballs.
Wakened from non-REM sleep, people just report feeling slightly annoyed that they have been wakened, but roused from REM sleep, the subjects almost always report dreams. Dreams which in our conscious daytime minds seem to have gone on for ever, actually last for just a matter of minutes. Studies show that REM sleep occurs roughly every 90 minutes or so during the night and lasts from just a few seconds to about 20 minutes.
The body needs sleep – without it, bizarre psychological effects have been observed ranging from loss of balance and co-ordination in early stages, to violent hallucinations after long periods of deprivation. In particular, the body appears to need REM sleep, and subjects prevented from dreaming for several nights begin to show signs of becoming psychotic.
An experiment in France came up with even more startling results. Professor Jouvet of Lyons University found that cats denied REM sleep for more than 20 days all subsequently died from unknown causes.
It seems possible that dreams – both sexual and non-sexual – are so vital to our functioning that without them we too might die.
Explicitly sexual dreams
The most obviously sexual dreams are ones that contain sexual activity or sexual feelings. These dreams are the ones where the dreamer is involved in sex – he or she may be vividly involved in making love or perhaps just doing something as apparently innocent as watching another person undress.
Most explicitly sexual dreams involve people who are known to the dreamer and may reveal something of the dreamer’s feelings for that person. When the object of the dream is a partner, the meaning of the dream can be very clear, but when the object of the dream is an acquaintance, or even a member of the family, the meaning is often less so.
If you experience a dream where you are sexually involved with someone in your life that you are not conscious of having any feelings for, the dream can be both puzzling and a little upsetting. Psychologists feel that you are almost certainly attracted to that person.
If you are involved in another relationship, you may want to stay away from the person who appeared in your dream, or at least be a little wary of them. Alternatively, if you are not involved in a relationship your attraction to the person in your dream may be a signpost to better things.
The Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud saw people as sexual beings from the moment of birth. This means that the sexual feelings expressed in dreams are really beyond our control, as are our dreams in general.
What Freud and most psychologists today would assert is that it is perfectly natural to respond sexually to those around us, even though it is often socially unacceptable to acknowledge these feelings when we are awake.