Dreams are a universal experience and on average a person spends about two hours dreaming each night according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Common dream themes include being chased, losing a loved one or a sexual experience, research by YouGov found.
The German neurologist Sigmund Freud’s book, The Interpretation of Dreams, first published in 1900, drew attention to the potential of the theory and interpretation of dreams in the late 19th century. Freud theorised that dreams represent our deepest desires and anxieties often related to repressed memories from childhood or obsessions.
So, what do our dreams mean? "We dream in similar patterns. It helps to consolidate memory, a fundamental neurological process for human emotions and reveal our fears and desires," dream expert and psychologist Ian Wallace tells Yahoo UK. "Even though many dreams may seem illogical, surreal - everyone dreams it's a natural part of our life."
Wallace believes dreams don’t just happen to you; you actually happen to your dreams, you create everything in your dreams. "If you dream about a bicycle it represents balance in your life and whether you are committed to starting something," he adds.
12 of the most common dreams
1. Falling or floating
YouGov’s survey found that 46% of people dream of falling or floating. Some experts believe that it may indicate feelings about loss of control, anxiety or insecurity.
Wallace says: "If you trip over a small obstacle it often indicates that you are just releasing some minor tension from your daily life. A larger fall suggests you need to let go of some bigger responsibilities that are dragging you down."
2. A house once lived in
Interestingly, 45% of people dream about a house they once lived in or been to, conjuring up feelings about the past. "Dreaming different parts of a childhood house is revisiting the core of who you were then, the structure of your identity at that time of the power you had and the choices you made," says Wallace.
3. Being chased
Being chased by someone or something was a recurring theme for 43% of people. "Following decades of decoding dreams, I’ve found the most common dream people have is being chased," Wallace says.
"Being chased also means pursuit - chasing an ambition Encountering challenges in your life in pursuit of that goal manifests in your dream."
4. Sexual activity
Sexual activity came at 43% with people remembering a romantic experience which, speaking to Mind Body Green according to sleep expert Lauri Loewenberg, indicates "a desire to connect to some internal aspect of that person, like a trait or behaviour, rather than their physical body."
5. Dreaming about a deceased person
And our thoughts of death manifest into dreams with 43% of people dreaming about a deceased family member. Wallace believes that these dreams help us to process the trauma of the loss and "suggests that you are undergoing a transformation in your personal awareness in daily life."
6. Childhood memories
YouGov findings found that 43% of people have dreams of childhood memories and 41% have dreams about former relationships.
Wallace said that dreams of one’s childhood home signifies a place where we were loved and supported, but that if we had unhappy memories of childhood the trauma resurfaces in our dream.
7. Former relationships
Psychologist Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari said in an interview with Stylist, that dreaming about a former relationship said that dreams are very personal but are usually a way of guiding us in our waking lives. “Often the person/situation or object is a representation of a feeling, longing, need or a reflection of a part within the self.”
8. Current or past jobs
Even our careers and employment enter our dreams with 38% of people dreaming about their current or past jobs. But can we learn from our dreams? "A dream is a dream until you put it into action," says Wallace. "You can use the information and linguistic imagery in your dreams to navigate in your waking life."
9. Being attacked
The YouGov poll found that 37% of people dream about being attacked by someone or something.
"Dreaming of being attacked indicates feelings of vulnerability," says Wallace. "You often feel that you need to win every argument, no matter how small. You feel others might exploit your apparent weaknesses."
10. Losing or forgetting something
34% of people dream about losing or forgetting something signifying that you are trying to find what would make you feel happiest and most fulfilled in your life, Wallace explains.
"You aren’t sure, however, what would give you the most satisfaction, so you spend most of your time hoping you might just stumble across it by chance."
11. Being later for something
Ever been late for a job interview or wedding? According to YouGov’s research, 32% of us dream of being late to something which Wallace says shows that you are starting to feel you are about to lose the opportunity to experience some sort of fulfilment in your waking life.
"The timely message from this dream is about committing to meaningful action rather than just involving yourself in busy and meaningless activity," he adds.
12. Trying to scream
Dreams vary in intensity and, sometimes, our fears translate into nightmares, or are so vivid that we recall them many times throughout the following day. Trying to scream but being unable to is a theme that 30% of people dream about.