A fever dream occurs when a high body temperature instigates vivid dreams or nightmares during sleep. Analyzing your dreams can be fun, but when they begin to become chronic or start interrupting your sleep cycle, it’s important to take a minute and investigate.
While 65% of the dreams you experience have some association with the things you encounter while awake, fever dreams tend to deal with more surreal, bizarre, or intensely frightening experiences. It is not uncommon to wake suddenly or experience an intense case of night sweats during a fever dream.
The important thing to know is healthy sleep hygiene practices and a lifestyle focused on your well-being can help minimize the negative impact of fever dreams. If you’ve ever wondered what fever dreams are, how to know whether you’re having one, and what to do about them, read on.
A fever dream is usually surreal, bizarre, or frightening, and often experienced when you are unwell. The healthy temperature range from most humans lies between 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. When your immune system is compromised, and your body begins to fight back against illness, you’ll find your temperature rises naturally between 2 to 7 degrees as a defence mechanism.
The reason this occurs is that many types of bacteria and viruses also contain temperature-sensitive pathogens, which means a hotter ecosystem prevents them from spreading. The discomfort you feel when having a fever, therefore, is just your body defending you from feeling worse.
In a study published by the International Journal of Dream Research in 2016, researchers found that participants who had high temperatures often experienced more emotionally intense, negative dreams than their healthy counterparts.
The average person has about four to six dreams every night. If that number seems way too high to be true, it’s because most people forget 95% of their dreams the moment they wake up.
Our most vivid dreams take place during the REM stage of our sleep. They can range from the fairly ordinary to the frightening or bizarre. Some of the more common types of dreams you might have come across in your sleep include:
Unlike fever dreams, which happen rarely and most often when you’re unwell, these kinds of dreams are common to experience at least once. If you’re concerned about the frequency of any one of these dreams, it’s worth talking to your physician about what you should do to reduce them.
While scientists still don’t know what the exact reason behind fever dreams might be, a few theories stand out. Higher temperatures can actually work to disrupt your brain’s typical processes, which translates to dreams that feel strange, bizarre, or nightmarish.
During REM sleep, your body also has a harder time regulating its temperature, which means a fever can add confusion to your internal systems, resulting in stranger dreams in the process. Another theory is that when you’re ill or have a fever, you’re also just more likely to be sleeping for extended periods of time, causing you to have more REM cycles than you would otherwise.
Higher temperatures can also cause ‘waking hallucinations’, which involves seeing something that isn’t there. You can also expect to experience sleepwalking or insomnia during a high fever.
Certain groups of people are more likely to experience fever dreams than others. These include children, pregnant women, and people in the midst of processing grief. Children are also more likely to experience night terrors as compared to adults.
Since fever dreams most usually occur when you’re sick, the best course of action is to treat your illness effectively.Some of the best ways to prevent a fever include:
It is also important for those with mental health conditions to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent these nightmares from being debilitating. Having a consistent exercise routine, practising mindfulness, and consulting your physician about medication can all contribute positively to a healthy sleep routine.
One last tip to keep in mind so that you minimize the negative impacts of fever dreams is to ensure you keep sleep as comfortable as possible. Your sleep hygiene plays an instrumental role in the quality of your rest and can help you experience the different cycles of sleep as peacefully.
If you’re not sure where to begin when it comes to improving your sleep hygiene, here are a couple of ideas:
It’s easy to get startled or overwhelmed by your fever dreams. It is helpful to remember that they’re totally normal, and most people experience them more than once in a lifetime. If you do experience dreams that are disruptive to your sleep, whether they’re recurring nightmares or a bad case of night terrors, be sure to talk to your physician about it so you can take steps to resolve this.
One of the most interesting things about our sleep patterns is that they can reveal underlying health issues that need attending to. If you’re feeling stuffy in bed, investing in the best mattress for cooling can do wonders. Can’t stop thinking about work moments before laying your head down? Try putting your phone away a couple of hours before bed.
Take your body’s different cues seriously - if you are unwell, be sure to take the time off, and nurse yourself back to health. You’ll be back to peaceful sleep and more active days before you know it!
Do you experience fever dreams? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.