You’re at the office and everything is normal... Until you get up during a meeting to give a presentation and you realize you are totally naked.
It’s a dream many people have had in some iteration. But experts still aren’t entirely sure what it means.
Most psychologists agree it probably doesn’t represent a literal desire to be naked in public, but more likely is related to being embarrassed about something about yourself that other people don’t know about you.
Other psychologists have suggested this type of dream comes from harboring feels of guilt or inferiority ― or may be triggered by feeling neglected or deprived of attention in the past.
Of course some people think it means nothing at all. But neuroscientists and psychologists are convinced that, apart from meaning, dreams serve an important role in maintaining our mental and emotional health.
Decades of research suggest that dreams help us make memories, solve the problems we struggle with in our waking hours and process emotions ― even unpleasant ones where you accidentally expose yourself to everyone at work.
Yes, even our wildest dreams serve a purpose
Philosophers like Aristotle and Plato ― and later psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud ― are credited with laying groundwork for the theory that dreams are a way for us to act out our unconscious desires in a safe and non-real setting, rather than some place or time that would be unacceptable or harmful to us.
And a pivotal study from 1960 from the “father of sleep medicine” William Dement, professor emeritus of psychology and sleep medicine at Stanford University’s Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, documented the detrimental effects of not dreaming.
The study revealed that when individuals were awoken just as they entered REM sleep (thus being deprived of being able to dream), they had more tension, anxiety, irritability, increased appetite, less motor coordination and more feelings of emptiness and depersonalization than when they were able to dream.
“It is possible that if the dream suppression were carried on long enough, a serious disruption of the personality would result,” Dement wrote in his 1960 paper.
When the study participants were able to sleep normally again, they spent as much as 50 percent longer dreaming than they did before the experiment began ― and they continued to dream more than usual for as many as four nights to compensate for the single night of dream deprivation.
And in the decades since Dement carried out that experiment, more studies have shown the same results and continue to provide evidence dreams do affect our emotional health, serving an important psychological function.
Watch The Telegraph’s video above to hear psychologist and dream analyst Ian Wallace’s interpretation of what it means to dream about being naked in public.
Sarah DiGiulio is The Huffington Post’s sleep reporter. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.