This is how your age and gender affects the way you dream

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Susan Devaney
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Your gender and generation might play a bigger role in what your dream about, according to a recent survey. 

From seeing all of our teeth fall out to feeling like we’re falling, there are some dreams that are a lot more common than others. And for a long time we’ve tried to answer the age old question: why and what do they mean?

Now, at long last, a survey has been carried out to try to find out the answer.

By surveying 1256 people – 57% identifying as female and 43% as male with participants ranging in age from 18 to 81 – about their reoccurring dreams and focusing on colours and feelings associated with them they found that gender and generation play a part in your nightmares and dreams. To begin with, falling is the most common bad dream among men, while being chased is the most reoccurring nightmare for women. 

Nightmares and sleepwalking are most likely a result of disruption to slow wave sleep.

Many of us have had dreams where we’ve woken up feeling slightly confused and scared – and we’re not alone. 19.4% of men reported constant nightmares of falling, 17.1% experienced about being chased and 13.7% dreamt of being attacked. With 36.9% of men’s nightmares being stress driven.

In comparison, 19.6% of women reported dreams of being chased, 9.9% dreamt of falling and losing teeth, 9.7% recalled being attacked, and 8.3% reported dreaming of a break up. With 49% of women’s nightmares being stress driven.

The average person spends six and half years dreaming throughout their lifetime so working out what your dreams mean is kind of crucial to your wellbeing. Dreaming about being chased, is “being told by your unconsciousness that you’re avoiding an issue or a person,” according to psychotherapist Richard Nicoletti, J.D. While dreaming of your teeth falling out “could mean that the dreamer’s ability to assess emotional experiences was being interfered with,” explains Nicoletti. “When the teeth fall out, one’s survival is challenged, one’s ability to eat, so it could mean disease. If it’s a person other than the dreamer whose teeth are falling out, the dreamer may have an issue with the person, who may be a superior at work, for example. The dream may indicate that the fear of the person in waking life is overstated.”

And there were differences in dreams between generations too. Social issues seem to haunt millennials the most, particularly protests and police brutality. While 19.9% experienced nightmares of being chased. Interestingly, in comparison to other generations they had the highest frequency of bad dreams about a partner leaving them.

Similarly, 15.1% of Generation X reported being chased, 10.9% experienced nightmares about falling, and 10.5% dreamt they were being attacked. Interestingly, this generation also mentioned dreaming of feeling lost (8.4%) and being late for an important event (9.2%).

Well, we feel a little closer to understanding our subconscious at night. 

Images: iStock


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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.