You have a dream you're in a house — only, it's not your house, it's someone else's. You walk through a long hallway, and you eventually find yourself having dinner with your high school French teacher. You realize there's a test, and you haven't studied since the '80s. You wake up in a cold sweat.
What does that mean?
"Most of the dreams we have are due to anxiety," said Adele Nozedar, author of the book "Freaky Dreams: An A-Z of the Weirdest and Wackiest Dreams and What They Really Mean" (HarperCollins). "The highest proportion of dreams that we have is about things we are worried about."
Nozedar, who studied psychology in the U.K. and wrote two books about the meaning behind signs and signals, analyzed over 150 dreams for her book. They ranged from the bizarre — "I was throwing Phil Collins' chicken off a cliff"— to funny— "I dreamed of a children's story that features an amazing creature that's half butterfly and half mermaid. She's called 'Buttmaid.' " There were also the recurring themes such as losing your teeth, not wearing any clothes in public, being chased, falling, flying, and not being prepared for a test.
"All of the most popular recurring dreams have to do with some sort of anxiety — such as fear of exposure, loss of control, and not being prepared," she said. "The only one that doesn't is the flying dreams. If you're soaring above rooftops this is great. It implies confidence in yourself and satisfaction with your life."
Her background in studying signs and symbols led to her to include an alphabetical symbol glossary in her book.
"An acorn can be a sign for a new beginning, or a germ of an idea," she said. "If you're dreaming you're in a zoo, especially an animal in a cage, that could mean part of your personality is being held captive for some reason."
While some dreams may be helping us work through our issues, Nozedar said some dreams lead to discoveries while we are awake. Madam C.J. Walker, an entrepreneur in black hair care products, claimed to have developed the formula for a scalp conditioner from a dream.
"The thing that tied all the invention dreams together where people were finding solutions in their dreams is that they were obsessed," she said.
If you're having a hard time remembering your dreams, Nozedar said to interrupt your sleep patterns.
"The first phase of dreaming happens 90 minutes after you've gone to bed," she said. "Set the alarm and keep a notepad and pencil by your bed."
Another way, she said, is to eat food that is difficult to digest just before you call it a day.
"Those who ate stinky cheese, like a Stilton or blue cheese, just before bed had really wild dreams," she said. "You could also just have a baby, because guess what, rumor has it that new babies will keep you up at night."
Twitter: @jenweigelCopyright © 2015, RedEye