What are dreams for? A handful of theories predominate. Sigmund Freud famously contended that they reveal hidden truths and wishes. More recent research suggests that they may help us process intense emotions, or perhaps sort through and consolidate memories, or make sense of random neuron activity, or rehearse responses to threatening situations. Others argue that dreams have no evolutionary function, but simply dramatize personal concerns.
If human dreams sound bleak, bear in mind that even negative ones can have positive effects. In a study of students taking a French medical-school entrance exam, 60 percent of the dreams they had beforehand involved a problem with the exam, such as being late or leaving an answer blank. But those who reported dreams about the exam, even bad ones, did better on it than those who didn’t.
So the next time you dream about an education-related sexual experience in which you are both falling and being chased, don’t worry: It’s probably totally meaningless. Then again, your brain might be practicing so you’ll be ready if such an event ever comes to pass.