With our prefrontal cortexes suppressed, we're not aware that it's all just in our heads. Picture: Pixabay

When you hear the phrase "wet dreams," you usually think of something that happens to men. But they can actually happen to women, too (though they're perhaps not quite as wet), and they're more common than we realise. 

The fact that many of us learn about male wet dreams as early as primary school sex education yet can go our whole lives without learning about female wet dreams just goes to show how sexist the education we receive still is. So, let's get to the stuff we didn't learn.

It might seem seem odd that orgasms can require quite a bit of effort in your waking life yet come so easily (no pun intended) in your sleep. But our bodies don't distinguish between dreaming and waking states. Some people can "think off," but "dreaming off" is much easier. 

With our prefrontal cortexes suppressed, we're not aware that it's all just in our heads. When we have a scary dream, our hearts race, and similarly, when we have a sexy dream, we get wet, and we may just orgasm.

Speaking of which, nocturnal orgasms almost always result from sexy dreams. They're not purely physical reactions. While dreaming of sexual activity, the brain sends signals to our nerve endings down there that sex is happening. So, it reacts as is it really were happening: blood rushes to the vagina, it contracts and pulsates and eventually - ba da bing! You've had an orgasm.

Usually, you'll know it if you've had a wet dream because the intensity of the orgasm - which tends to be just as high as waking orgasms - will wake you up.

Men are more likely to have them when they're younger, while women have more as they get older. You're also more likely to have them between periods, when you're ovulating and your hormone levels lead to a surge in libido.

However, sex dreams aren't all that common altogether. One study found that college-aged men dream about sex just nine times a year on average, and while it isn't known exactly how common wet dreams are, many people don't have them at all. 

When people do have wet dreams, though, one theory proposes that they come from an increase of activity in the dopaminergic system, the brain's reward center, and a suppression of the prefrontal cortex, which normally controls sexual urges.

Wet dreams can also have psychological roots, but don't read too deeply into them. They don't always reflect waking desires. 

Some people, for instance, dream about having sex with someone when what they really want is to be like that person. We most often dream of having sex with someone we would never touch in that way because sex in a dream isn't as much about a physical union you want as it is about a psychological union you need. 

When you dream of someone in that way, there is very likely something about them you need to incorporate into your own life or into your own behavior. Perhaps they are very laid back and never seemed to be stressed about anything. That may be the quality your dreaming mind wants you to "connect" or "unite" with.

A sex dream may also mean you've connected with somebody on some level, though not necessarily a sexual level. For example, you may have recently had a meaningful conversation with the person, or perhaps you united and did a project together for work. 

In these cases, the sex dream sort of "consummates" the successful real life connection or meeting of the minds. If that consummation leads to an orgasm, even better.

Visit Jenni's blog for more info