If you’ve had a sex dream, you’re not alone. The vast majority of people have woken up from a sex dream at some point in time. While this can be an exciting experience, it can also leave you feeling uncomfortable or confused, especially if you dreamed about having sex with someone unexpected. We explore why you might have sex dreams, what different types of sex dreams mean, and how to stop having sex dreams if they’re bothering you.

Why Do I Have Sex Dreams?

According to the “continuity hypothesis,” the meaning of dreams, including sex dreams, relates to your waking life. At times, that may mean your sex dreams simply symbolize your sexual fantasies or a desire to have sex. But often, it’s not that simple. 

A sex dream can also represent a non-sexual desire, or a need that isn’t being met. Romantic relationships often satisfy several human needs, like the need for safety, social interaction, and self-esteem. For this reason, romantic and sexual dreams can act as a sign that you aren’t having your needs met in one of these areas.

In some cases, a sex dream might simply be the result of your sleeping position. Sleeping on your stomach makes a sex dream more likely, perhaps because of the pressure it puts on your genitals.

“Sex dreams may also be opportunities for subconscious processing of sexuality and gender identity. This may or may not correlate with waking desire.”
Dr. Brandon Peters
Dr. Brandon Peters
Sleep Physician, Sleep Psychiatry Expert

Common Sex Dreams and Their Meaning

Sex dreams often involve common recurring themes. We explore what they might mean.

Sex With an Ex

If you’ve been dreaming about sex with an ex, don’t feel guilty. Research suggests that people tend to have sex dreams about ex-partners more often than they do about their current partner. Sex-with-an-ex dreams are also likely to feel especially intense. 

In some cases, a sex dream about an ex may mean you miss them or want to get back together, but not always. Thinking about how your relationship with that ex made you feel may provide insight into what the dream means. If it was a traumatic relationship, perhaps the dream suggests you currently need to heal or feel more safe. If the ex understood you well or made you feel like you belong, the dream could suggest you don’t feel that way now.

Sex With Your Partner

One study found that nearly 40% of participants had dreams about their current romantic partner. Sex dreams about your partner may be less sexual and exciting than dreams about exes. However, mundane dreams about your partner don’t necessarily mean you find them boring or prefer your ex. They could simply reflect that you spend a lot of time in daily life with your partner, so their presence in your dreams symbolizes regular, day-to-day activity rather than something out of the ordinary.

Sex That’s Cheating

Cheating dreams don’t mean that you actually want to cheat, and they certainly don’t count as cheating (although, if you actually are cheating, that’s a different story). Sometimes these dreams arise because you have been cheated on in the past, or you are experiencing jealousy in your relationship. You may also dream of cheating because you feel distant from your partner and are longing for increased intimacy.

Sex With a Stranger

People tend to have sex dreams about exes and current partners most often, but sometimes they also dream about fictional people they’ve never met before. Often, a dream about having sex with a stranger simply means that you want to have sex. Experts have also wondered if dreaming about a stranger could symbolize wanting to find someone new to begin a relationship with, but more research is needed to know for sure.

Sex With a Friend

Sometimes a sex dream about a friend suggests you’re attracted to them. But, you might find yourself dreaming about sex with a friend even when they aren’t someone you’re attracted to. In that case, the dream could indicate you feel close to them, or that you wish you felt closer to them. If the friend is someone you think of as off-limits, the dream could also indicate a desire to take a risk or do something forbidden.

Sex With a Boss

Dreaming of sex with your boss or someone else who is off-limits in real life, like a coworker or teacher, can also indicate a temptation for the forbidden. These dreams don’t necessarily mean you actually want to have sex with the person you dreamed about. Instead, they likely symbolize something else that you want. For example, maybe you want to feel closer to the person, get ahead or gain approval at work or school, or to have more excitement in your life.

Sex With a Celebrity

Dreaming about sex with a celebrity may simply mean you have a crush on them or enjoy fantasizing about them. Since celebrities hold such high status in our society, these types of dreams can also symbolize that you desire to feel special, important, or noticed.

Are Sex Dreams Normal?

Sex dreams are completely normal, with one large study finding over 95% of participants had experienced one. Another study found that sexuality is the second most common theme that appears in dreams. Sexual dreams can involve actual sexual intercourse, or simply feel sexual in nature. For example, a person may have a sex dream that involves fantasizing about sex, flirting, or kissing someone.

How to Stop Having Sex Dreams

Although sex dreams are common and normal, you might find you want to stop having them, especially if they are recurring. Identifying what your sex dreams symbolize and trying to fulfill your unmet needs in waking life may help the dreams go away. Avoiding sleeping on your stomach may also help.

In some cases, sex dreams can be linked to past trauma or current mental illness and may impact your sleep. For example, research has found that frequent sex dreams are more likely among people who were abused as children. Nightmares are also more common among people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which may occur after sexual assault.

 If your sex dreams occur excessively, involve assault or aggression, or cause you distress, consider seeing a therapist or doctor. There are multiple treatments available to help with nightmares and recovering from trauma, including dream rehearsal therapy and medications.

Learn more about our Editorial Team

5 Sources

  1. Shao, X., Wang, C., Jia, Y., & Wang, W. (2020). Sexual dream and family relationships in frequent sexual dreamers and healthy volunteers. Medicine, 99(36), e21981.

  2. Coutts, R. (2015). Variation in the Frequency of Relationship Characters in the Dream Reports of Singles: A Survey of 15,657 Visitors to an Online Dating Website. Comprehensive Psychology, 4.

  3. Yu, C. K.-C. (2012). The effect of sleep position on dream experiences. Dreaming, 22(3), 212–221.

  4. Schredl, M., & Wood, L. C. (2021). Partners and Ex-Partners in Dreams: A Diary Study. Clocks & sleep, 3(2), 289–297.

  5. Clarke, J., DeCicco, T. L., & Navara, G. (2010). An investigation among dreams with sexual imagery, romantic jealousy and relationship satisfaction. International Journal of Dream Research, 3(1), 54–59.


Learn More About Dreams

How Long Do Dreams Last?

By Jay Summer May 8, 2024

False Awakenings

By Danielle Pacheco May 8, 2024

Lucid Dream Masks: Do They Work?

By Sarah Shoen May 3, 2024

How to Interpret Your Dreams

By Jay Summer May 2, 2024

Recurring Dreams

By Jay Summer May 2, 2024

Vivid Dreams Explained

By Lucy Bryan February 9, 2024

What Does It Mean When You Dream About Your Ex?

By Danielle Pacheco February 2, 2024

How Trauma Affects Dreams

By Rob Newsom January 3, 2024