10 Decoded Dream Symbols That’ll Help You Get Your Life Together

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Let’s talk about our favorite pastime: sleeping. Sleep is great, except sometimes waking up leaves us more confused than satisfied. Thank your subconscious because while you sleep, your brain stays up weaving a strange tangle of images and stories that become your dreams. Turns out they’re not just a wish your heart makes (sorry, Disney). At least I really hope not, because then my heart really wishes it would rain beetles. As wacky or boring as your dreams may be, most of us dream with common symbols.

So what do these 10 common dreams really mean?

1. Being Unable to Speak

Being a motor-mouth myself, this is basically my worst nightmare. “Not being able to speak would indicate that you aren’t speaking up about something in real life, you are not speaking your mind or saying something that needs to be said or perhaps you simply don’t feel like you are being heard,” said dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg. Try to isolate this feeling and hone in on why you are feeling this way. Is someone in your life not listening to you? Do you feel like your opinion has been overlooked on a group project? Your dreams may be drawing attention to a problem in your life.

2. Being Late

Have you ever dreamt you slept through your alarm and woken up in a panic only to find yourself awake at 3 a.m. for no reason? This a pretty common dream symbol for college students who feel like they are working on a deadline. “But this dream also happens when we have self-imposed deadlines, for example: reaching a career goal by a certain age or losing 10 lbs. before our wedding. We can also get it when we worry we may be missing out on some opportunity or when we see others enjoying milestones and opportunities we are not getting,” said Loewenberg. So your dreams may say your late, but think about who set the deadline in reality.

3. Houses

Houses represent our inner psyche. How we perceive these houses shows the truth of our inner selves. If the house is falling apart, then you are taking inventory of yourself and are ready to rebuild and change. A mansion could represent pride or a hope for humility. Also keep in mind how you felt when you saw or were inside the house. Were you worried, proud comfortable? The parts of the house also contain meaning, the front shows what we show to others while the back is what we only know of ourselves.


Even though babies are usually associated with sleepless nights and stress, their meaning in dreams is vastly different. Babies are said to represent new beginnings. “The baby can symbolize anything new in your life that requires your focus and care: a new job, a new degree, a new relationship even a new phase of life,” said Loewenberg. Babies also symbolize one’s own vulnerability like they are having to take care of their own insecurities.

5. Water

Water represents our emotions in its presence and depiction. If the water moves quickly or overtakes you, then perhaps something troubling is plaguing your emotions. If the water is cloudy, you feel unable to see through your emotions recently. Or if you lie on a beach surrounded by beautiful water that runs smooth and calm, you feel content with your life and emotions.

6. Taking an Exam

We’ve all woken up in a sweat for this one, especially during finals. “Having to take a test often means you are feeling tested in some way in waking life: is someone or something testing your patience? Are you having to learn something new? Is it evaluation time? What is causing you to feel tested, judged or scrutinized?” said Loewenberg. The importance in evaluating your dream hinges on your feeling in the dream. Were you feeling prepared or afraid? “This dream often comes as a reminder that is time to be fully prepared for what is in store in waking life,” said Loewenberg.

7. Money

To dream about money shows concern over your self-worth. When you feel like you have no money, you may be experiencing low self-esteem. If you dream you are rich, you are feeling loved and powerful, good for you. If you dream you found money (if only!), you hope for luck and are feeling like good things are coming in your life. Man, wouldn’t that be nice right about now?

8. Losing Your Teeth

This one is pretty simple, think where are your teeth are and think about what else your mouth is used for (let’s keep it PG, delinquents). You need your mouth to talk.  “Teeth falling out of your mouth uncontrollably is often the result of loose speech in real life: saying something without thinking about it first, gossiping, saying something that should have remained in your mouth.” Your brain may be telling you to be more careful about what you say to others, lest the dreaded word vomit rears its ugly head.

9. Feeling Paralyzed

Time for a lesson: When you enter the REM state of sleeping, your brain paralyzes your muscles so you don’t jump out a window trying to fly. So you when you feel that in your dream, it could just be you feeling yourself in the REM state. “Is a good indication that somewhere in your waking life you are feeling stuck like in your job or in a situation you don’t know how to get out of. This dream would be telling you to stop acting paralyzed and at least do something so you can move on,” said Loewenberg.

10. Falling

You wake up with that jolt and gasp for breath. “Falling is often connected to losing a sense of control or power somewhere in real life, losing a sense of stability,” said Loewenberg. Maybe you feel let down in life or experience suffering. “You want to go up in a dream as that usually means something is progressing and going down is often connected to regression.” Try to isolate the situation that made you feel this way and work to resolve it. Dreams aren’t always random movies for your brain to keep itself occupied. “This is also a common dream for people who suffer from depression and is a warning that they are about to ‘fall’ into another bout of depression,” warned Loewenberg. If you are a victim of depression and experience other signs, you may need to reach out for help.

Hannah is a 3rd year at UVa majoring in Media Studies and Art History. She loves music, Pixar movies, and the oxford comma.

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