Gender, Sex Ed

People Say That 1 in Every 5 Dreams They Have is About Sex

November 18, 2019 by Justin Lehmiller

Most people report dreaming about sex from time to time. For example, one study found that 93% of men and 86% of women said they’d had sex dreams before [1]. But just how often do people dream about sex anyway? And who dreams about sex most often? A recent study published in the journal Psychology & Sexuality offers some intriguing insight [2].

In this study, researchers surveyed 2,907 people in Germany ranging in age from 16 to 92. Participants completed an online survey in which they were asked to estimate the percentage of time they have erotic dreams.

Similar to previous studies, most participants (83%) reported having had sex dreams before. On average, participants said that 18% of their dreams (about 1 in 5) were sexual in nature; however, there was quite a bit of variability across persons:

· 36% of participants said that 5% or less of their dreams were erotic

· 17% of participants said that 5-10% of their dreams were erotic

· 19% of participants said that 10-20% of their dreams were erotic

· 17% of participants said that 20-40% of their dreams were erotic

· 12% of participants said that more than 40% of their dreams were erotic

So who had the most erotic dreams? Age seemed to matter. For example, among 16-30 year olds, they reported that 23% of their dreams were erotic. By contrast, for adults age 60+, the number was 13%.

Gender seemed to matter, too. Specifically, whereas men estimated that 21% of their dreams were sexual, the number for women was 16%. Thus, it appears that men tend to have sex on the brain more often than women both while they are asleep and while they are awake.

It’s important to note that although these findings came from a large and diverse sample, it wasn’t representative of the population. Also, people were asked to estimate how often they have sex dreams and these estimates might not be a perfectly accurate reflection of how often sex dreams actually occur. It’s possible that these numbers overestimate how often sex dreams happen, perhaps because sex dreams are more memorable than other kinds of dreams.

In previous studies in which people reported on their dreams each day over a period of time (i.e., dream diary studies), the proportion of sex dreams has typically been under 10%. However, people had to write out the content of their dreams in those studies and they may not have been comfortable reporting on sexually explicit dream content that they knew other people were going to be reading (especially dreams about sexual taboos). Thus, it’s possible that the diary studies were underestimating sexual dream content.

As always, more research would be useful; however, these results suggest that, on average, people say that about 1 in every 5 dreams they have is about sex.

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[1] Schredl, M., Ciric, P., Götz, S., & Wittmann, L. (2004). Typical dreams: Stability and gender differences. Journal of Psychology, 138, 485–494.

[2] Schredl, M., Geißler, C., & Göritz, A. S. (2019). Factors influencing the frequency of erotic dreams: an online study. Psychology & Sexuality.

Image Source: 123RF/Anton Estrada

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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