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What to Know About Fever Dreams

by BetterSleep
Apr 25 • 4 min read
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Have you ever had a dream that felt more intense or vivid than usual and thought, “What just happened?” Well, you may have just experienced a fever dream. These intense, dramatic and out of the ordinary dreams usually happen when you have a high fever, hence the name fever dream. And unlike other dreams, people who experience fever dreams often report feeling upset or shaken when they wake up- not something you want from a calm night’s sleep.

Like most dreams, the science behind fever dreams is still new. But there are some theories about why these fascinating types of dreams happen. Today we’re diving into what a fever dream actually is, what happens in your brain when you’re dreaming and when you are more likely to experience them.

What is a fever dream?

To put it simply, fever dreams are the type of dreams one commonly experiences while they have a fever or higher body temperature. A study done by professor Michael Schredl at Germany’s Central Institute of Mental Health found that 94% of participants who experienced fever dreams said they were negative.

Common characteristics of a fever dream

Though everyone’s experiences are unique, there are some common characteristics/feelings people report after a fever dream.

  • Dreams are more vivid and intense
  • Dreams include imagery of threats/danger, illness and out of the ordinary surroundings (like walls that melt, objects that are abnormally large and more)
  • Dreams are usually negatively toned and can cause feelings of discomfort
  • Some people find their dreams have more references to health and temperature than regular dreams
  • Dreams can include less social interactions than other dreams

Why do I get fever dreams when I’m sick?

Some researchers think that the “overheated” brain can impact cognitive processing - resulting in stranger dreams. As well, fevers/high temperatures have been shown to suppress REM stages of sleep, the type of sleep associated with dreaming. When REM sleep is disrupted, it is possible that the nature of people’s dreams change as well. Some researchers have found that, “even small increases in body temperature induced by experimentally administered endotoxin can impair cognitive performance and increase depressive mood.”

But don’t worry, just because you have a fever doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily experience a fever dream. A 2013 study in Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that only 11% of people who had fevers reported having fever dreams.

How do I stop fever dreams?

Like regular dreams, it’s hard to actually prevent fever dreams from happening. Your best bet is to deal with the fever itself by taking care of your health not only while you’re sick, but during everyday life.

Remember, as uncomfortable as fever dreams can be, they will not harm you. Looking for simple ways to deal with stress and anxiety? Try some of our simple meditations from Better Sleep here.

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