Fever Dreams – What Are They?


Have you experienced a particularly intense dream when you were sick? It may have been a fever dream.

We know that a fever dream is a dream that a person experiences when they are having a fever (or feeling feverish). But what makes this dream different from the other dreams? Is it also the same as a nightmare or lucid dream? Let’s find out.

An average body temperature ranges between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit (or 36 to 37 degrees Celsius). Anything higher than two degrees above the average body temperature is considered a fever.

woman measuring her temperature

A fever is usually your body’s response to any of the following:

  • Heat exhaustion
  • A bacterial or viral infection
  • Certain inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Certain medicines, such as antibiotics
  • A vaccine
  • A tumor

The common symptoms of fever include:

  • Cold or chills
  • Warmth
  • Rigors or severe teeth-chattering and shaking chills
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Dampness or sweating
  • Respiratory problems such as cough, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, or difficulty in breathing
  • In many cases, hallucinations or “fever dreams”

What is a fever dream? What are fever dreams like?

A fever dream is a dream that occurs when your body temperature is higher than normal.

Fever dreams are often quite vivid. People who have experienced fever dreams describe them as often bizarre or unpleasant. These vivid dreams happen similarly to other dreams. Although vivid dreams can happen during any stage of sleep, most of them occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Waking up right after or during an REM sleep can increase the chances of remembering your dream. Humans usually experience about two hours of dreaming per night, and each dream typically lasts from five to 20 minutes, although dream experiences can vary. While some people dream in black and white, others dream in full color.

In addition, dreams may play a role in processing emotions and memory consolidation. In fact, a study on 299 dreams suggested that half of these dreams had at least one element tied to a particular daytime experience. As a result, fever dreams may include feelings of heat, exhaustion, or illness.

There was a recent online study conducted on 164 individuals, 100 of whom experienced a fever dream. The study concluded that fever dreams were more bizarre, had a negative tone, and included more connections to health and temperature perception in comparison to normal dreams.

Why do we experience fever dreams?

The exact cause of fever dreams is unknown, but scientists have some theories.

One theory claims that high temperatures can affect the brain’s normal cognitive function. A 2020 study claimed that the basic idea of an “over-heated” brain is not functioning correctly, which caused these dreams to become more bizarre.

During your REM stage of sleep, where most of your vivid dreams occur, your body tends to have difficulty controlling your internal temperature. A fever may add to this already uneasy and difficult process that can lead to experiencing unpleasant dreams.

Fevers may also trigger hallucinations, irritability, and confusion.

How are fever dreams different from regular dreams?

Fever dreams differ from normal dreams in that they are often quite vivid and bizarre. Fever dreams also tend to have a negative tone and involve fewer positive emotions compared to normal dreams. In addition, the sleeper experiencing fever dreams interacts with fewer dream figures or characters.

Here are some specific elements of a fever dream:

  • Spatial distortion – It involves moving walls, melting objects, and spaces changing shapes and sizes.
  • Threats of danger – Participants in various studies report that their fever dreams involve threats from dogs, insects, stones, and terrorists.
  • Illness – Types of illnesses may vary. In one study, respondents report having dreams about pain, respiratory illnesses, and vertigo.

Do fever dreams mean anything? Like other dreams, fever dreams do not have a specific meaning, although they can be tied to the sleeper’s current situation. For instance, fever-related dreams more often involve a health-related situation and a sense of temperature than normal dreams.


How about fever dreams versus nightmares? 

Both of these dreams tend to have a negative tone. However, fever dreams result from (or are symptoms of) having a fever, while nightmares may stem from anxiety, stress, or trauma. Nightmares can also indicate a sleep disorder, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, or narcolepsy. No matter the cause, nightmares can negatively impact sleep quality. Reducing stress and practicing good sleeping habits can help decrease the chances of nightmares. You can use some helpful products to add to your bedroom for better sleep.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is recommended for more severe cases. In addition, a sleep study can determine if there’s a sleep disorder.

How about fever dreams versus lucid dreams, then? 

During lucid dreams, the sleeper is aware that they’re dreaming. They can even gain a certain amount of control over their dreams, such as control over narratives, characters, or environment. In a study conducted on fever dreams, over 40% were reported to be lucid dreams. This number is considerably higher than the 7.5% of dreams experienced as lucid dreams in healthy people.

Are fever dreams bad?

Fever dreams are not necessarily bad. Because most dreams occur during REM sleep and when arm and leg muscles become paralyzed for a time, sleepers are likely unable to act on their dreams. However, they may experience negative or unpleasant dreams and may wake up feeling upset or uncomfortable.

How can fever dreams be prevented?

While there is no sure way to prevent fever dreams, controlling your body temperature could lessen the chances of experiencing them.

But if you have a fever, make sure to:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Take antipyretic drugs, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, or aspirin.
  • Eat easily digestible foods
  • Bathe in lukewarm water

If you experience additional or worsening symptoms that persist with your fever, consult your doctor immediately.

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