Typical Dreams

     It can be uncomfortable to realize that you are ordinary, that even your dreams (or nightmares) are typical.  It turns out that one of my frequent nightmares, during which my teeth shatter and fall out, and which feels uniquely horrible to me, is common as dirt.  More than that, it is apparently a bad personal indicator.  From ‘The Nightmare Encyclopedia’:

“Research has been conducted comparing the personality traits of people with chronic teeth dreams to the traits of those who frequently experience flying dreams.  While the “flyers” were calm, confident, and generally optimistic, those who dreamed about teeth were more anxious, prone to bouts of self-criticism, and more likely to feel helpless in situations with which they were unfamiliar.”

     I never have flying dreams.

     ‘The Nightmare Encyclopedia’ didn’t provide specific citations to this anti-teeth dreamer research.  I was unable to find it; however, I did stumble across a 2004 paper dealing with gender differences in dream frequency.  It was intriguing.

     The study, ‘Typical Dreams: Stability and Gender Differences’, employs something called the Typical Dream Questionnaire, which asks subjects to indicate how many of 50 ‘typical’ dreams they have experienced.  Apparently, men and women dream in roughly equal percentages of

  • “being chased or pursued” (89.1% of women; 86.8% of men)
  • “being frozen with fright” (56.7% of women; 54.4% of men)
  • “being nude” (43.1% of women; 42.7% of men)
  • “insects or spiders” (37% of women; 38.2% of men)
  • “lunatics or insane people” (17% of women; 17.7% of men)
  • “seeing an angel” (11.2% of women; 11.8% of men).

     Men are more likely than women to dream about

  • “being locked up” (37.2% of women; 47.1% of men)
  • “being killed” (34.8% of women; 44.1% of men)
  • “having superior knowledge or mental ability” (24.5% of women; 41.2% of men)
  • “killing someone” (16.2% of women; 32.4% of men)
  • “seeing a flying object crash” (10.9% of women; 17.7% of men)
  • “seeing a UFO” (3.5% of women; 10.3% of men).

     Women are more likely than men to dream about

  • “arriving too late” (70% of women; 60.3% of men),
  • “failing an examination” (63.8% of women; 44.1% of men)
  • “being unable to find, or embarrassed about using a toilet” (31.1% of women; 23.5% of men)
  • “losing control of a vehicle” (28.7% of women; 16.2% of men)
  • “being a member of the opposite sex” (17.8% of women; 5.9% of men).

     Perhaps the most interesting lesson of ‘Typical Dreams’ is how many of us have strange dreams.  Some of the items on the Typical Dream Questionnaire sound downright atypical:

  • “discovering a new room at home” (29.1% of the population)
  • “seeing a face very close to you” (26.1%)
  • “being an object” (2.5%)

And yet, significant percentages of the population are having them.  For the record, a lucky 63.5% of the general population gets to have dreams of “flying or soaring through the air”; the remaining 35.6% of us are stuck with dreams of our “teeth falling out/losing our teeth”.


Belanger and Dalley, ‘The Nightmare Encyclopedia: Your Darkest Dreams Interpreted’, New Page Books, 2006

Schredl et al., “Typical Dreams: Stability and Gender Differences’, The Journal of Psychology, 2004, 138(6), 485-494

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