This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.
I don’t know about you, but when I wake up, I rarely remember my sex dreams. It's a pity, since bed partners have told me I often moan and writhe around in my sleep. Scientifically speaking, you usually have wet dreams during your REM sleep, the sleep phase linked to vivid dreams – when your blood flow to the genitals increases and so does your horniness.
In many ways, dreams are still a mystery. We don’t remember most of them because our brain doesn’t want to mix them up with reality. According to psychologist and sexologist Laura Duranti, the quality and content of your sex dreams depend on who you are and your relationship to your sexuality. Duranti explained our brain doesn't completely detach from reality during sleep, but "integrates the external stimuli it receives”, like the temperature or the room we're sleeping in or what (or who) we're touching.
Sleeping position is important, too. “Some studies, like one by Calvin Kai-Ching Yu from Hong Kong Shue Yan University, suggest that sleeping on your belly encourages erotic dreams,” Duranti said. Sleeping on your stomach restricts your breath and puts pressure on your genitals, basically reminding your brain of the sensations you feel during sex.
When intense enough, this can give some people an orgasm. Some women report they actually can’t reach orgasm in real life but experience it (or something similar) in their dreams. “They might be perfectly physiologically capable of orgasming, but can’t find the stimuli they need in real life, whether from masturbation or with another person,” Dr Duranti said.
Psychologist and sexologist Marilena Iasevoli said that sex is “a release of energy" both in the dream world and in reality. “In our dreams it's much easier to rid ourselves of our inhibitions, and tap into our needs and desires without monitoring our bodies and thoughts – or our partner’s,” she said. According to Duranti, that’s especially true when our dreams can indulge the fantasies our real sex lives can't – whether we're in a relationship or not.
"Sex can be a way to let off steam, it can compensate or even repair unfinished business with a partner, an ex or a person outside of the couple," Iasevoli said. But we can also dream about kinky stuff involving people we’re not attracted to in real life. It's tempting to believe that our dreams always reveal subconscious desires we're not ready to accept, but it's likelier to mean we have an unresolved issue with someone. If you recently dreamed of having sex with a dear friend or someone you don’t like or wouldn't normally be attracted to, “the dream could also represent a strong bond we have with that person, a talent we envy in them or a feminine or masculine side of them we’d like to appropriate,” Iasevoli explained.
But our dreams aren't always as uninhibited as we'd like. Duranti says our insecurities can still hold us back in our sleep, especially if we experience a deep emotional block towards our sexuality or are afraid of losing power or letting go. Both experts agreed the only way you can live out your fantasies to the fullest is to figure out what's causing the block in real life.
It's important to remember that sex dreams aren’t always an expression of our deepest and darkest desires. Often, it's simply our brains making sense of what we've experienced that day. Movies we've seen, characters in books and even songs can all evoke sexual fantasies when we're asleep. So the next time your dream features the soft caress of a sexy alien – just go with it. It might not mean anything at all.
This article originally appeared on VICE IT.