What Is A Fever Dream?

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Have you ever had a very weird dream while you were sick? It’s possible you had a fever dream, which are more common than you might think.

But, what exactly is a fever dream? Read our to learn what they are, why we have them, and what they mean.

What Is A Fever Dream?

A fever occurs when your body temperature rises above 100 degrees. While your body does this to fight infection, it can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as excessive sweating, headaches, and body aches.

But, one of the strangest symptoms of a fever is a fever dream. Simply put, as your body temperature rises, you may have more intense, stress-inducing dreams. You may see odd images and, as one study found, your dream may switch quickly between very comfortable and uncomfortable situations.

What Does A Fever Dream Feel Like?

Fever dreams vary depending on the dreamer, but there are some common images and feelings you may experience. For example, temperature is a big component of many fever dreams. As your body overheats, you could have dreams about being extremely thirsty or hot.

During one study on fever dreams, a subject reported, “I was in my room sleeping and awakened because my body felt as if it was blazing. I tried to uncover my body and to drink something but I felt too weak to do so. My mother came in but she could not help either. I tried to move and pull off the bedspread but it didn’t work. The most intense feelings were weakness and helplessness.”

A woman sleep hots

Fever dreams often feature fewer human characters and human interaction. Instead, you may see shifting walls, large animals, insects, or beings with large arms and legs. And, finally, a fever dream may focus on health-related issues, such as your current illness or other worries about your health.

What Causes Fever Dreams

According to a recent 2020 study, fever dreams have a somewhat simple explanation. The study’s authors found that, when our brains overheat, our dreams are stranger.

In an interview with TIME, Dr. Michael Schredl, one of the researchers, said, “The idea is that the brain is not functioning well during high fever, and this somehow produces dreams with unusual and unpleasant qualities.”

What Do Fever Dreams Mean?

Fever dreams could be a reflection of how you are feeling during the day. The “continuity hypothesis of dreaming” states that our daytime emotion has a direct connection to the emotions we experience while we sleep. Feeling sick and miserable while awake could cause us to feel the same while asleep. Also, the fact that we see fewer people while we are sick could be the reason we are so isolated during our fever dreams.

Read our guide to what else your dreams may mean.

Are Fever Dreams Bad?

While fever dreams can be stressful and uncomfortable, they aren’t necessarily bad. Fevers are a sign that your body is properly fighting sickness or infection. However, if your fever persists for many days, or your condition worsens, see a medical professional.

How Do Fever Dreams Differ From Regular Dreams?

How do you know if you’re experiencing a fever dream and not some other type of dream? There are some clear differences that we outline below.

Fever Dream vs Regular DreamA woman sleeps on her side

Generally, fever dreams are more intense and negative than regular dreams. Regular dreams can range in terms of content and often have more interaction with human characters. Fever dreams, on the other hand, are more limited in terms of what you will see and experience.

Fever Dream vs Nightmare

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a fever dream and a nightmare. However, fever dreams are more specific with their focus on health, temperature, and strange imagery. Also, they are brought on by physical illness.

Nightmares can cover a wider range of topics and, according to the Mayo Clinic, are often caused by mental anxiety or stress.

Fever Dream vs Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming happens when you know you are dreaming. Some practiced lucid dreamers even claim they can control their dreams. This differs greatly from fever dreams, where you have no control over what you are dreaming about. Because of this, fever dreams are usually more negative than lucid dreams.

How To Stop Fever Dreams

To prevent fever dreams, you need to focus on treating your fever. Ibuprofen or Tylenol can lessen fever symptoms and possibly lessen your fever dreams as well. Doctors also recommend you drink plenty of fluids during the day and before bedtime. And, a soothing bath before bed could also do the trick!

Why We Dream

The exact reasons why we dream are unclear, but researchers have their theories. Dreaming occurs during REM sleep and, according to the Cleveland Clinic, we may dream to consolidate our memories. In addition, they say dreams could be a way for us to rehearse for stressful situations we are worried about.


Can fever dreams be good?

Fever dreams are rarely good. Rather, they are intense, stressful, and negative. There are moments in fever dreams that may be positive, but they don’t last long.

Can a fever cause bad dreams?

Yes, a fever can cause bad dreams. These are called fever dreams, and they are very bizarre and uncomfortable.

Are fever dreams nightmares?

Fever dreams may feel like nightmares, but they are slightly different. Fever dreams come about because of physical illness, while nightmares come about because of many reasons, including mental stress.

Why is it called a fever dream?

It is called a fever dream because your overheated brain and body temperature lead to stranger dreams.

Marten Carlson

Marten is the Lead Reviewer at Mattress Clarity. He is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and covers the mattress industry as well as sleep science news. He is specifically interested in the connection between sleep and overall health. Marten has written for media publications like Consequence of Sound and received a master’s degree in Film Studies from Emory University. He comes from Franklin, Indiana, and spends all the time he can writing, directing, and acting in films.