Why We Dream About School

“Students who didn’t get high enough grades were silently executed”


The typical human being over the age of ten will dream at least four to six times per night. These dreams could be flying through the air, being the hero of your own story, doing mundane tasks or of school. In particular, dreams about school consistently rank in the top 3 most common topics based on multiple studies conducted in Canada, the US and Japan. Why is this? What does it mean? Will we ever be able to escape the institutional realm of education?

“I have a recurring dream that I’m in a biology test but all the questions are on french grammar and I keep failing”


Dreams are hallucinations that occur when you sleep and are strongest during certain stages such as the Rapid Eye Movement stage (REM). Researchers know a lot about the role of sleep in relation to your health but there is still no definitive agreement on the purpose of dreams. However, there are multiple beliefs and theories based on what we do know about dreams. When we are sleeping, our brain operates on a much more emotional level and may confront dramas that we normally wouldn’t do consciously. Due to less logical and restricted thinking, dreams can be very creative as well! Research also shows that sleep helps us store memories and if you study before going to bed, you will be able to recall it easier than without sleep.

We asked WCI students what their “whackiest” dreams about school were and accumulated numerous responses that include:

  • “I have SO many nightmares about all of my teeth falling out at school in front of everyone!”
  • “I dreamt about doing physics problems. I woke up really confused. This was the day of my test as well”
  • “I dream about school shootings all the time and we live in Canada.”
  • “Did chem before going to bed and tried to solve PV=nRT in my dreams”
  • “I had a dream in the ninth grade that the dungeon was where teachers went when they retired and they just slowly went insane”
  • “I had a dream where I was at the end of the hallway and everything was dark and thundering and really spooky but then Pavey showed up at the other end of the hallway and there was a bright light behind him and I tried calling Pavey’s name and getting him to stay but he kept on walking into the light until he left and I was all alone again”

The three main themes we see are dreams of doing schoolwork, dreams about teachers disappearing and rather unpleasant dreams/nightmares. Going back to the theories about why we dream, one popular belief is that it is a way for the brain to process information that has been absorbed throughout the day and it has been proven that studying material before you sleep helps you remember that material easier. That being said, it makes sense why you would dream about solving PV=nRT and physics questions.

Another belief is that in dreams, you are more likely to address emotional dramas such as emotions of stress and anxiety. We know that high school is one of the most stressful times in your life and to dream about facing certain fears such as a teacher’s support disappearing or embarrassing yourself in front of others are very probable scenarios. In fact, it is probable that these dreams will continue even when you have graduated. An Amerisleep survey that included 2,007 adults shows that 38% of respondents have recurring dreams about being back in school.

Of course, these are all based on theories and reading too much into dreams and believing them to be true or a prophecy can be harmful to you and your health. However, using dreams as a tool to better understand your emotional self can be useful. After a dream about school, or any dream, ask yourself why your mind thought of it. You may even discover certain truths about yourself.