What is a Fever Dream?

Fever Dream

Intense. Vivid. Confusing. Weird.

These are a few words to describe the dreams we sometimes have during a bout of fever. In a study done in 2016, researchers listed the images found in the dreams of some people. These included creatures with oversized limbs, giant insects, and blackness slowly spreading all over.

Mostly, fever dreams have negative visuals, odder than regular ones. You may even be thinking of nightmares. So, what is this phenomenon? And why does it take on a different, unpleasant tone? 

Whether it troubles or piques your interest, you can learn more about this phenom. Science has answers to these questions, which we will delve into below. At the same time, it is not fun to be sick or have nightmares, no matter what age you are. So in this article, you will also come across a section that will help you deal with this situation.

What Is A Fever Dream?

Have you ever had a fever dream? A fever dream is a dream or hallucination that occurs when you have a fever. It’s usually all sorts of unpleasant, bizarre, and sometimes disturbing. It could be worse than your regular nightmare. Some people may remember well into adulthood their childhood’s worst nightmares, as well as their fever dreams.

Dream State

What happens after you drift into dreamland has fascinated scientists, sages, and artists (didn’t Dali say he dreamt in technicolor?) since the ancient times. So, let’s try to understand the dream state before we dig into the fever dream state. Read on.

According to WebMD, dreams happen at any time during sleep. We usually dream 4 to 6 times each night. But the most vivid images occur at the REM (rapid eye movement) phase. 

When it’s a bad dream, we call it a nightmare. Some nightmares can be recurring in both adults and children. These can be caused by stress, trauma, illness, or drug use.

Why Do We Dream?

The motion picture playing on our minds when we shut down has been interpreted, analyzed, and dissected for its message since time immemorial. 

Throughout the years, dream dictionaries have been built. These are supposed to explain why certain imagery appears on your mental widescreen. Indeed, different individuals, strangers to each other, have reported about dreaming the same thing. Teeth falling out, being chased, falling (think of the kick in Inception), and even dying are some of the most common dreams.

You may have wondered about why you had a specific dream and what it meant. 

However, recently, dreaming has been studied for its effects on people’s health and wellness. It may have to do with helping us figure out a solution to a problem or processing a difficult emotion. It may also have to do with the brain sifting through memories, deciding which ends up in the long-term memory bank.

Fever Dream State


As a child, you probably have had a fever a few times or frequently. It may be the same now that you’re an adult. Fever occurs when your body temperature rises above 36 or 37 degrees Celsius. It’s an inflammatory state that often tells you something else is wrong with your body.

With babies, a slight rise in temperature could mean a severe infection. As a grownup, you should only start worrying if your temperature reaches 39.4 degrees Celsius. If not, you should be okay in one to a few days. 

You need to take a lot of fluids and rest to recover. But sometimes, while sleeping, you may be visited by vivid, disturbing visuals. These are collectively called fever dreams. 

Fever Dreams

Fevers are said to suppress the REM stage of sleep. And as we already established that REM gives us our vivid dreams, the output may seem odder than usual when you’re sleeping off a fever. Elevated body temperature can also disrupt the functioning of the brain. That may lead to your dreams becoming bizarre, confusing, or disturbing.

Some experts also believe that fever is a stressor. So, as nightmares tend to happen because of stress, fever can bring them to the fore once again. This time, they can even be scarier or weirder or darker.

Here are some examples of fever dreams:

  • Size distortion of people, places, or objects. Some people report about seeing creatures with oversized arms and legs.
  • Regular events turn into something dreadful. For instance, a person finds themselves lying in their bed. Suddenly, they find a loved one or a pet in the bed, too. But the loved one or pet is dead in the dream. They eventually wake up and realize everyone’s okay, and it was just a nightmare.
  • Being chased by a giant hammer, insect, or any other form is another common type of a fever dream. The specific object differs, but the feeling of running away from something is similar across dreamers.
  • Being sick. People can dream that they have a terrifying illness.
  • Lack of social interaction. In a fever dream, the sleeper may be stuck in a room or an enclosed space where there are no other humans. Now, dreams may be a continuation of a person’s waking life. A person who has a fever tends to be isolated from others while sick. And their brain incorporates that detail into their dream.
  • This is not a visual per se, but the feeling of overwhelming panic or dread can be a typical feature in some fever dreams. 
  • Another quality of a fever dream is that it can recur. From childhood to adulthood, some people have the same content in their nightmares when fighting off a high fever.

How to Deal With Fever Dreams

They come at night. Fever dreams, we mean. And when you have elevated body temperature, there seems to be not much you can do but sleep. Your slumber may be induced by the medicines you’re taking. When you’re dozing off, you can’t really control what happens next.

But there are other things you can control and do. To stop fever dreams from occurring, try the following:

Drink Your Meds

Among the available forms of treatment today, over-the-counter drugs are the most common. But in the old days, elixirs and incantations were the go-to fever drivers. Fever was such a mystery back then. Yet, one thing remains the same: nobody still likes fevers. So, if you don’t want to be bogged down by fever dreams, pop a pill that contains acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

It’s quite crucial to stick with acetaminophen because other medicines can make you hyper and, thus, awake throughout the night.

Eat Chicken Soup

Not only does a piping hot bowl of chicken soup make you sweat. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can effectively counter your fever. So, ask a family member or friend to cook it for you when you’re sick. It should leave you feeling relieved. And that means you will go to sleep a bit better and less stressed.

Elevate Your Head

If your fever comes with a cold, which is usually the case, lay your head on a thick pillow or two pillows to clear your nasal passages. But don’t stack pillows too high as this can strain your neck. It’s important to find the level of elevation that feels comfortable for you. There is no one correct height as it differs from one person to another. 

Read: How to Choose the Right Pillow For You?

Make Your Room Sleep-Friendly

This step sounds like something you should do before you even get sick. Ensure your room is a pleasant place to sleep in. You can design the space so that the ambiance makes you sleepy at night. Your bedding plays a role here as well. Wrap yourself in a warm and cozy blanket, which can induce sweating. Further, try playing soft music before drifting off. 

Read: How to Sleep Well In the Age of Stress


After reading this article, you probably have a better understanding of fever dreams. They may have negative and upsetting content. But you can always remind yourself that dreams are not real. Some of them can be your subconscious trying to tell you a message, even a solution to a pressing problem. But others could be stuff your brain is trying to get rid of.

You should not also rely too much on dream dictionaries when you’re left with a vivid and disturbing fever dream. The images may be hard to brush off, but remember what we said about impaired cognitive processes when your body temperature is elevated. This state can disrupt both your waking and sleeping experiences.

More studies have to be done to demystify dreams, including fever dreams. For now, follow the things we shared in the previous section to avoid having nightmares or hallucinations when your temperature is high. 

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