Fever dream meaning is an enigma despite being researched by scientists for ages. Have you ever tried to relate your thought processes and feelings while you are ill? Why do freaky images start flashing as night visions when you are sick and tired?

This happens when our body temperature is elevated and we experience a bout of sickness. Such unpleasant experiences are unsettled and uncomfortable beyond words.

Fever Dream Meaning – Why Does Your Imagination Go Awry When You Are Unwell?
Fever Dream Meaning – Indeed a Freaky One!

Fever Dream Dreaming

Fever dreams are emotionally intense, bizarre nocturnal visions that are caused by elevated body temperature due to a viral or bacterial infection.

We all have experienced a fever in our daily living; while battling an infection caused by a pathogen in our body. Science backed research findings have indicated that dreams are more bizarre in times of an illness. 

It involves a series of thoughts, feelings, and mental sensations that symbolize various unpleasant and disappointing experiences of our waking life.

The dream often holds an unconscious element of fear, insecurity, and personal inadequacy of the dreamer.

Usually fever dreams occur in high body temperatures that are above 100.4 degree F; and you are experiencing a fever with other bodily symptoms such as chills, weakness, body ache, headache that usually accompanies a sickness.

High fever symptoms can be caused because of:

  • A viral or bacterial infection
  • Too much heat accumulation in the body due to hot weather
  • Inflammation or soreness along with pain in certain parts of the body
  • Inoculation
  • Tumor or fibroids
  • Side effects of certain drugs such as antibiotics
  • Low immunity leading to cold and cough
  • Pneumonia
  • Seasonal flu

Scientific studies supporting fever dreams

Fever dreams are intense, emotionally charged up nightmares that are negative and occur as a possible outcome of fever. 

Multiple studies on sleep and dreaming have indicated that fever dreams are vivid experiences that can affect cognitive functioning while sleeping. Some dreamers who experienced fever dreams never recall their dream content but others can even recall the theme years.

Fever dreams may occur during any sleep stage but it is most prevalent during the REM stage sleep (Rapid Eye Movement sleep). It has been found that people who wake up after an episode of REM sleep could easily recall dreams. 

As the cognitive theorists claim that dreams convey messages of our waking life, fever dreams are not an exception. It also contains frightening, scary, and unsettling experiences of our daily life that get conveyed through a subconscious mind during a sleep state.

In a 2013 study on “Patient fever symptom experiences”, scientists have found that fever causes nightmares that are extremely fearful and mysterious. From this study 11 dream themes emerged and participants who recalled dreaming reported having sweating, non-specific bodily sensations, headaches, achiness, and gastrointestinal problems.

In a 1968 study, psychologists studied the effects of fever on memory and cognition. They found that dream recall of fever nights (free recall in the morning) is lower than recall after a recovery night. 

Thus the data suggests that ability to recall decreases because of high body temperature. (Ref: Effects of fever on sleep and dream patterns – Karacan et al 1968). Another similar study was done by Smith, 2012a that suggests that fever dreams can affect encoding of new information, speed of working memory, and semantic processing.

Fever Dream Symptoms

When you dream of strange scenarios, it elicits negative responses after waking up. But the good news is, fever dreams are not long lasting. They tend to get better as the body heals from the illness and starts functioning normally.

The typical symptoms of fever dreams are:

  1. Heightened emotional instability
  2. Negative thoughts and disturbing images of the past
  3. Recurring dreams of childhood memories that were toxic and painful
  4. Hallucinations after waking up (visual images that are not present)
  5. Spatial distortions can occur while sleeping such as the person may see moving walls, melting of objects, falling from a cliff, snowy dreams, or scary scenes of murder etc.
  6. Participants of research work on fever dreams have reported that they saw insects biting them, or wild animals chasing them etc.
  7. The usual themes of such dreams are images of fire, lava, or even blood
  8. Feeling of being overheated
  9. Lack of social interaction by the dreamer because they remain preoccupied with negative thoughts
  10. Distorted figures of humans with long hands and legs (typical example of distorted cognitive functioning while having a fever)
  11. Unfamiliar and scary landscapes where dreamer may find themselves wandering aimlessly
  12. Claustrophobia is common symptom where dreamers may feel choked and unable to breathe
  13. Scary images of darkness and weird sounds

Types of Fever Dream

There are a few common types of dream that can accompany a fever and have been identified by participants in scientific studies in vivid dreams related to fever and sickness.

1. Heat or Fire imagery

In most of the content in fever dreams, people reported seeing fire. The fire may be a forest fire, lava from volcanoes, or even a heat wave. This happens because the brain is wired up and identifies the body heat as real.

2. Memories of stressful life events

Fever dreams are usually spooky and cause a lot of unease and fear. It’s actually a sneak peek to those fearful and repressed thoughts of childhood that remained undercover in the unconscious realm of the dreamer. 

Some people reported their personal information during a fever that they would have otherwise not done, they even visited childhood nightmares depicting scenes of violence, abuse, and maltreatment.

The images were hurtful and wounded; that induced fear and excessive worries. They also reported their unfavorable childhood images again showing up in adulthood. 

The common fever dreams are accident scenes, death, scenes of sexual abuse. The dreams are negative and lead to sadness and depression as well.

A general uncomfortable feeling pervaded in their ‘psyche’ that kept recurring whenever the body temperature shot up above normal levels.

3. Scary elements in the dream theme

Fever dream scenarios are negative dreams that are immensely scary, weird, and unusual. People may experience alien creatures, different environments, and darkness with a feeling of being stuck and lost in bewilderment.

Emotional Component of a Fever Dream

Being emotionally high, fever dreams symbolizes heated emotions that can burn you from within. It represents anger, fury, resentments, frustration and all those heated up states of human ‘psyche’ that usually gets repressed in the unconscious mind and never gets a chance to expose in waking life; primarily because of societal pressure. 

These dreams are not like regular dreams that can even consist of positive emotions without any negative tone in them. Fever dreams always make the dreamer feel awkward and uncomfortable.

Causes of Fever Dreams

The obvious question that may come to your mind is why does a fever dream happen in the first place? What are the probable reasons behind such a nightmare? Is it not annoying to see such disturbing images out of nowhere?

Though the exact reasons for fever dreams are not really known or are still under research scanner. Let us study the likely causes of fever dreams in this section of the article.

1. Thermoregulation

Thermoregulation is a process by which the body naturally regulates the body temperature under normal circumstances. The process keeps the body warmth at an optimal level for proper functioning of the organs. 

During a viral or bacterial infection, the normal body temperature shoots up causing a fever. Fever is a natural immune response that signifies that the body is fighting and recovering from an illness. 

The raised body temperature affects the quality of sleep. The impaired thermoregulation causes insomnia, somatic sensations of pain and lethargy; along with psychological restlessness, bouts of nervousness, anxiety, and overall discomfort.

Research studies have shown that fever dreams are caused due to heating up of the body; and as such the cognitive functioning of the brain gets hampered. Too much heat generation in the body leads to distortion in thought and memory. 

However, during a REM sleep, thermoregulation is less effective and as such most fever dreams occur in this stage. The hypothalamus is responsible for temperature regulation. 

2. Stressful life events

Stress can cause hyperarousal of the brain cells. It upsets the normal sleep function by disrupting the balance between sleep and wakefulness. 

Research findings showed that being stressed out is related to poor sleep because it generates real feelings of anxiety and nervousness often beyond control. Stress is something that disrupts the normal functioning of the brain.

It causes sleep disturbances and deprivation, difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night. During a fever dream the general discomfort caused in the body due to chills and aches disrupt sleep. It also creates a psychological feeling of numbness and a void feeling. 

The dreamer may feel confused and do not know whether it’s a dream or they are in a conscious state of being. Fever dreams symbolize stressful images of waking life.

3. Poor sleep health

Sleep is primarily composed of two states; NREM sleep (Non-rapid Eye Movement Stage) and REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement stage). Though NREM sleep covers most of the night sleep, we do get intermittent REM sleep also. 

In the REM stage, sleep sets into a stage of arousal and it has a great impact on your psychological health. Here, breathing and heart rate goes up and it is usually compared to a stage of wakefulness. 

Due to this hyper-arousal, most of the dreams occur in this stage. During fever, you may wake up several times in the night and the brain finds it difficult to maintain an optimal temperature and functioning. Thus, dreaming about weird images is not uncommon.

4. Continuity hypothesis

Research studies have claimed that fever dreams like many other types of dreaming follow the theory of continuity hypothesis. The theory means that fever dreams are intense and negative because it carries the negative emotions associated with various painful experiences of the dreamer’s waking life. 

Reichenberg et.al, 2001 showed that “negatively toned dreams might reflect negative waking emotions.” In another study published in 2021, findings suggest that fever dreams are scarier, attached with negative emotions as compared to normal dreams. 

This shows that fever dreams continuously carry the negative element into the subconscious state. It reflects the not so good experiences of everyday life. The dreams can cause irritability and confusion after waking up.

How to stop fever dreams?

There is no full proof and one size fits all methods to stop fever dreams. Some theorists believe that controlling the body temperature may help to reduce the occurrence of such dreams. 

Usually the pattern of fever dreams are such that it happens involuntarily; you cannot do much to prevent or control it.

Few self-help remedies to reduce the occurrence of fever dreams are:

1. Proper hydration

You are to increase the fluid intake and stay hydrated always during an illness. This helps to keep the body cool and an optimal temperature can be maintained for healthy functioning of the body and mind.

2. Healthy diet

If you are sick and down with high fever, you should eat a healthy diet that is easy on the stomach and energy boosters as well.

3. Rest

Get enough rest whenever possible. If your night sleep is disrupted because of a raised body temperature, you may try sleeping at some other time during the day as well; whenever feeling tired or fatigued.

Try to follow a biphasic sleep pattern. A good amount of sleep helps the body to recover from the illness. 

4. Medication

You may take medication to lower down the fever as prescribed by the physician.

5. Warm bath

In times of high fever, one may try to have a lukewarm bath to thermo regulate the body heat at appropriate levels in a natural way. 

6. Stress at bay

Fever dreams can be reduced if you can stay cool and keep your stress triggers away from you. When you are not well, it is advisable to stay aloof from anxious situations. It helps to remove negative thoughts and feelings and makes you feel better.

7. Build healthy bonds

You should connect with positive people who will help you to recover well. They will emanate positive vibes around you and you will feel positive and in tune with your good emotions also.

8. Follow a healthy lifestyle

You should follow a healthy lifestyle with a preset routine when you are unwell. A routine helps your body to recover well from an illness.

It energizes the body and heals it from within. When you live a balanced life, fever dreams may not bother you that much and you may know the right art of dealing with it.

Fever Dreams and Nightmares – Are They Same?

Though fever dreams and nightmares are scary dream themes and induce a lot of fear and emotional suffering, they are not the same.

Fever dreamNightmare
Fever dream occurs as a result of fever.Nightmares are not related to any external or physical factors. They can just happen as a figment of an imaginative mind.
It is caused due to excessive heat in the body that leads to cognitive distortions and dreaming.Nightmares can occur due to stress and anxiety or sleep disorders like sleep apnea and narcolepsy.

Why are fever dreams always bad?

Fever dreams are usually stressful and uncomfortable because they are strange and meaningless as far as the weird content present in the dream theme is concerned. As the body is sick and tired due to fever, the mind also appears fatigued and sick.

Such dreams contain emotional images of waking life and the worst and painful experiences that the dreamer usually tries to avoid and ignore. 

Thus these dreams are considered bad and unpleasant. The good news is that fever dreams are short and subsides as the body heals.

How long does a fever dream last?

Though fever dreams are upsetting, yet not harmful at all. These dream themes often go away as the body recovers from the illness. 

When the infection dies out, the body starts its usual process of thermoregulation (optimum heat levels) and the brain also gets back to its routine workings. 

The dreaming happens for a short duration of a few days; maybe for 3 to 5 days until the body recovers from the infection.

Can you get more nightmares when you are unwell?

If you are down with a viral infection, it may become difficult to sleep well due to high temperatures, body aches, headaches, or a general ailment. 

Disturbed sleep schedule brings back images from the unconscious mind and the person starts dreaming about unusual and weird things. 

The tired mind and body fatigue may lead to more nightmares than under usual circumstances but this is still under the scanner and more scientific evidence is required to substantiate the claim in coming times.

Parting words from ‘ThePleasantDream’

Fever dreams are puzzling, peculiar, and uncanny occurrences that also symbolizes the deep-seated conflicts and poor emotional mastery of the dreamer. The mystifying nature of the dream images may make you go awry at times.

The health of the body and the health of mind are interconnected. The positive thoughts allow the healing process to work well.

If you get dreams about Volcano then check its meaning here.

If you get dreams about pus then check its meaning here.