What Are Fever Dreams?

What Are Fever Dreams?

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[♪ INTRO ] Being sick is the worst. Not only do you get the chills and a runny nose during the day, but your illness can chase you into your dreams as well. You might have experienced those bizarre and emotionally intense dreams some people have when their temperature skyrockets, AKA fever dreams. While lots of people seem to have these disturbing, illness-related nightmares, they haven’t received a lot of scientific attention. But most experts think they’re an unfortunate side effect of a slightly heated brain. Survey studies suggest that fever dreams feature things like feelings of spatial distortion, falling into darkness, or nightmarish creatures. So yeah, they’re usually considered negative. And back in 2013, a small study trying to
characterize all the symptoms that go along with fevers was the first to suggest that, when it comes to fever dreams, what you’re sick with doesn’t matter. When they asked 28 subjects about their symptoms, classic things like shivering and sweating showed up, but three of them experienced weird enough dreams to get researchers interested. The subjects didn’t share a diagnosis; the
fever seemed to be the only thing they had in common. That suggests it’s not the particular ailment you have that messes with your dreams, but the fever itself. Which is something experts have long suspected because we know way more about how increases in temperature affect your brain. Regardless of whether it’s because of illness, heat stroke, or certain drugs, higher temperatures can increase the speed at which neurons transmit signals. Which, in turn, increases their activity. And that can include neurons in the amygdala, the part of your brain responsible for handling fear and anxiety. Even in healthy people, the amygdala is activated during REM sleep, the part of the sleep cycle where you’re busy dreaming. And more intense activity in the amygdala
during sleepytime is associated with nightmares. So it’s possible that the increased heat from a fever ramps up the neurons in your amygdala, leading to those monstrous fever dreams. But a higher temperature’s likely not all you’re dealing with. Your fever probably came from being sick, which means a very complex immune system response is also going on. When your immune system goes on the attack, little chemical signals called cytokines spread the call to arms all around the body, including to the brain. The amygdala has been shown to respond to these chemical signals by increasing its activity even in the absence of a big jump in temperature. In rats and people, intentionally activating the immune system and triggering the release of cytokines increases anxiety. So during a fever, illness-induced chemicals and increased temperature likely work together, super-activating the amygdala to fill your head with all sorts of terrible things. And just when you had finally managed to get some rest. Sweet dreams I guess? Thanks to Jonathan M for asking, and to all of our other patrons who voted for this question in our poll. If you want to pose questions like this or help decide what questions we answer, or even just receive some cool rewards you can’t get elsewhere, go to patreon.com/scishow. [♪ OUTRO ]

100 thoughts on “What Are Fever Dreams?”

  1. It’s usually something really dumb that became extremely scary, legit 1 minute ago I woke up thinking that this other me will flip my world and put in a luggage bag, I ran to my dog and said “hey buddy please let’s go for a walk so I know we won’t be flipped.”

  2. Geometrical dreams during fever are the worst. Seeing all kinds of distorded shapes and forms refusing to leave you alone is horrible. Often occurs when not like 100% in sleep but like 95% or something.

  3. Has anyone been sick and you hallucinate. Everything looks far away, everything feels brittle, and it sounds like everyone is yelling at you.

  4. When I was about 8 years old I had a super high fever and fell asleep on my couch in the afternoon. I had the most intense dream that has still stuck with me to this day over 20 years later. It was like my body was made of heavy stone and I was falling through space while giant objects or big forces of extreme energy were flying at me. It was terrifying. I woke up standing in the middle of the room screaming at the top of my lungs and my mom trying to calm me down.

  5. I didn't even know a thing called fever dream existed. I heard it on the upcoming new Of Monsters And Men album

  6. My experience: I see everything in grey, black and white. And they always repeat some actions in the dream. Like i tried to run away from that unknown thing and it keeps repeating the action. I also have this feelings of something solid in my mouth (hard, rocky, dry) And something like im trying to bite something hard. And giant things trying to hit me

  7. i had a weird fever dream where every teams baseball jerseys were on the floor in a big room and in a certain time period i had to go pick my favorite one and i didn’t know which one i wanted so i was going crazy and freaking out in my dream.

  8. I usually get a reoccurring spatial unawareness dream where I'm in this white space and there are these marbles or orbs that I can only concentrate on. They grow in size, really small to really large. I also get this crushing feeling on my head, like it's in a vice. So weird

  9. i get a im in a house and the sky and everything is from black clay and me running at the speed at light when im a bout to hit a crocodile i wake up with a fever and and an extreme headace i think its from hitting my wall in the dream

  10. For me fever dreams are actually one of the best (or only good part) of being sick. They are always so surreal but never scary. Just creative, innovative, and very odd. Its something that I really really enjoy. Don't enjoy the other aspects of fevers though.

  11. Last night, I couldn’t sleep because of really high fever, I was soaked in sweat sleeping on my bare mattress I pushed all the blankets off, and I had these weird thoughts and dreams while awake, where I could stop thinking about these weird theories on how the human race and culture, and meaning of life all came to be, I remeber crawling off the bed and getting on the ground, and then crawling to the door.
    Without even having a reason to do so.This was all at three in the morning and my fever went down eventually and I felt a lot better. Weird what the brain can make you do…

  12. I love fever dreams. It’s trippy. My eyes were closed but I can see thru them. I had heightened senses and had total control over them.

  13. my fever dreams are of a sprinkler ticking over and over and i literally feel like it never ends. another time i was being shoved under water and it was super hot under water but when i would come out it was freezing hold. i woke up in tears because it was so weird.

  14. Is it normal to dream about waking up and feeling hot and heavy and the room is spinning, and in the dream you vomit and in real life you vomit?
    It makes no sense

  15. The mind is probably just working harder in synch with the body to fight off whatever invasive bug it has with unusual dreams and hallucination when awake as the side effect,similar to extreme hyper or hypothermia,getting misdiagnosed or labeled with a disorder has become overrated when if someone is feverish the symptoms are not psychological but the bodies natural response to rid itself of toxin.

  16. About 3 or 4 times every time i had an intense fever, this exact dream came.

    I was in the middle of a plain, white smooth plain with only a strand of line that somehow reminds me of airport runway. Then suddenly into an abandoned slum/trash landfill. It doesn't look scary in retrospect, but every time i woke up in the night, i was very scared and my was fever gone by morning.

  17. I had a dream once where I was balling up my blanket but I made the ball so large and I felt the need to make it bigger and I woke up sweating. It was the weirdest dream that I ever had, I don't remember it well but it's still kinda weird to think about.

  18. omg ty! when I was around 8, i had a really bad dream. When i woke up i was crying and my mom told me i was screaming in my sleep

  19. I had a fever dream about the big trees surrounding our house and there was this one big tree that looked like a giant frog and I thought he was there to protect me and to help me get well because he didn’t leave my mind until I got better I thought that was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever experience being sick with the flu ?

  20. I once had a dream of jumping high and basically almost dying in my dreams when i was sick. I woke up and hit my head on the wall. Creeped out for the rest of the week.

  21. My most annoying fever dream is when I had to build a whole village using toothpick and when I was over some fat dragon sneezed and it all fell apart

  22. This wasn't a dream at all nor was I sick at the time but one time I woke up and I had sleep paralysis and I started to hallucinate and I saw this: imagine the zombie Nemesis from Resident Evil but with more melty skin. I looked at it with tears in my eyes and it was clinging to the top right corner of the wall and after a few seconds, which felt like hours, it growled really loud and jumped at me and I swear I felt a claw cut through my face but I jumped up and felt my face and I finally realized what just happened to me. I still have sleep paralysis to this day but the hallucinations are no where near as scary as that experience.

  23. My fever dreams always feel like reality but I know it's not reality. Also, my sense of time gets distorted.

  24. i had a fever dream once and i kid you not it felt like i was a ball, i was in third person view, and i kept rolling down these like ramps, just big enough for me to roll down. when the dream first started i for some reason remember thinking “i can’t wait to finally get to the bottom and see what’s been promised” but the ramps just keep going on and panic sets in as i realize the ramps will never end, and i’m going to continuously roll down forever. time felt really weird jn the dream too. i woke up my heart pounding and sweating profusely.

  25. I had this dream where a crane in the yards transformed into a creature and then missiles dropped from the sky

  26. I have dreams that my pets expand and explode like a balloon then I start eating soup in my sleep it’s wierd

  27. I always dream about a massive black hole that's on an empty cloud canvas that's expanding rapidly and I have to do something about it to fix it and I sometimes keep it under control and sometimes it devours the world and I wake up, go to sleep and have to do it again. sometimes it devours a tiny lego village and I get sad and I wake up.

  28. I’ve never had a “scary” fever dream, mine have always been very weird and somewhat creepy. For example, one time I had a very high fever and I had a dream about a murderer chasing me, while I was being chased I went from house to house (in my neighborhood) and each house got weirder and weirder as I went, from a polkadot wallpaper to clown paintings and cat statuettes.

  29. One time I had a bad fever and I was in a half awake half asleep state trying to convince myself that 2+2=5. It seemed like it went on for hours!

  30. It's not my dreams it's me hallucinating. I was in my bed talking to Optimus prime about why Saturn had rings ???

  31. I had a fever dream when I was sick but it was so realistic my mom woke me up and told me to go get my oatmeal and she was rubbing me and calling me my nickname “chunky” and I fell asleep, but then I actually woke up to my mom saying she was leaving for work and I said thanks for the oatmeal and she didn’t know what I was talking about

  32. when i was a kid and had a fever i used to always dream big white spheres chasing me but when they caught me they would turn small and id feel them hitting my teeth it was a really bad discomfort feeling. Now when i get a fever i just dream repeated things over and over still quite shitty.

  33. Most of my fever dreams usually involve something repetitive, somewhat outlandish but of course very realistic, my most recent one was last night, I was setting up this business city/company thing but I had minimal control over everything and it just got more and more intricate, I woke up multiple times over the course of 8 hours and each time I’d be right back in it, even more confused, frustrated and bored than I already was ? the real bummer was that in my dream I sold my business for £400,000,000 and I was CONVINCED id actually done it, in my dream I was ready to quit my job and deciding what to do with the money, I checked my bank when I woke up and needless to say it was soul-crushing ?

    oh! and the night before I had one where I was just stacking spiked boxes from one corner to the other for hours on end.

  34. My dream becomes so bizzare…it feels like "a group of pizza ordering men with extra people on top"(reference: R & M)(only R &M fans will get it)

  35. I had a fever dream that combined the temple from Indiana Jones 4 and assassinating Caesar while I was balancing on a giant wheel while naked

  36. When I was a kid and had fever nightmares, I had this dream where there were smaller and larger objects, all shorts of shapes and things like balls, cubes, triangles, spaceships, haystacks, beings.
    It scared the hell out of me as a kid.

  37. Just had one that I was golfing on a cliff and it was like shaking and feared I would fall off… Felt like I was sleeping for like 9 hours instead it was like 30 mins.. then the fever just broke and now I feel ok .. so weird

  38. Last night I had a fever and I knew I was gonna have a fever dream lmao. Idk why but my dream was of a gigantic sphere and my dream made me scared of it for sum reason where I was actually scared it was like comparing small spheres to a gigantic sphere. It made me feel like I was half awake half sleep because I can still see my bed and all

  39. My weirdest fever dream I had was when I’m not even sleeping (does that count as a dream?); I’m on a front of a table because my mother gave me a dinner, a hotdog on a plate, then suddenly, I was semi-unconscious, I’m aware that I’m awake but I don’tknow that I’m dreaming. I remembered that I was a small person in my dream jumping around the hotdog in my plate and when my dream ended, my mother told me that I even spoke English, but a weird one, because English is not my first language. I realized how weird that was.

  40. When I have a fever dream its just TONS of blocks cancelling out each other sometimes while fat giant men are shouting

  41. I hallucinated when I was severely sick with tonsillitis once at 14. I was sleeping and then got woken up at 2:08 am by a lady robot voice telling me that if I don't get into the safety zone, everything (as in people and objects) would turn into metal poles by 4 am. I distinctly remember the time because I remember getting extremely s t r e s s e d out about how I had less than 2 hours to find the safe area. Then a purple dragon flew over my head directing me where to go. So I go out into the hallway and I just have crazy visuals of hologram/robot crabs and other animals walking around and through walls. The dragon then guided me to the area where it was safe and it was this hologram line near my older sister's room. I go into there and felt the strongest feeling of relief of my life, like I just escaped death lol. I climbed into her bed and apologised for waking her being like "sorry, i gotta sleep here tonight otherwise I'll turn into a pole" she turns on the light and is like "-What?" and I start to drift off and I said "It's fine in here don't worry the dragon told me it's safe in here" and she went "……. WHAT?". Needless to say she went and got dad and he guided me back to my room. By that time all the visuals were gone and I went back to sleep hahaha.

  42. when i have a fever dream i usually have the feeling that i need to get somewhere, like the cornor of my bed, a random hole in my floor that isnt there, i actually just crawl around in a panic o-o and no, thats not very positive XD

  43. the last time I had a fever dream, was when I had sinusitis. The only thing I remember was that it had something to do with sex.

    Yea….nothing really scary though

  44. I've had something like that before but the dreams are more unusual, I had a cold one time and had this unusual dream that I was strolling through the streets of Paris and I was like "What the hell am I doing here, I don't even remember planning a trip to Paris" woke up, fell back asleep and it was the same dream except this time, i was on a boat on the Seine passing the Eiffel Tower, lol

  45. My fever dream is really different. My vision kept seeing everything far away and it keeps zooming into a cone. Also I still kept seeing it when I woke up. This happened several times ever since I was like 7.

  46. My fever dream was me laying on a beach moving my legs and arms around feeling amazing it wasn’t bad at all. In fact it was probobly my favorite dream I’ve ever had. It was trippy though.

  47. I had these dreams when I'm sick that there's a bunch of balsd hitting a different walls and it gets faster and it gets so annoying. The weird part is I start feeling a certain feel I can't explain and I want it to go away. But I can't.

  48. Dear SciShow – PLEASE quit editing out all of the breaths. My students complain about your videos because they are "too fast". They are only too fast because you guys edit out whenever anyone inhales. As a Science Show I would think you would understand our brains are programmed to enjoy those little breaks in the speech process and allow our minds to fit the ideas into a sizeable and later digestible chunk. When all the inhaling parts are cut out we never get to section the ideas and it's like drinking a soda in one non-stop gulp, or the same with a meal. Please, put them back so we can assimilate the ideas properly in a human fashion.

  49. My fever dreams are the only nightmares I really get but they're almost realistic emotional trainwrecks where I lose people I care about and it's torture lmfao

  50. For me fever dreams are uncomfortable weird annoying headache inducing things.
    Edit: like insomnia WHILE SLEEPING

  51. I dreams like some circle and i'm playing with it and then 2 big side of circle fighting eachother and it made a mess i tried to clean the mess it makes me feel disgusting and when im thinking like do a backflip i become a big triangle that floating it happens to me 2 days lol

  52. reading comments makes me conclude i have the weirdest fever dreams of all. but these dreams happened when i was young.

  53. When i have fever i usualy dream balls eating other balls
    And halucinations: oh boy
    During fever i usualy halucinate
    objects getting smaller and then fliyng fast in the air.
    when i close my eyes during fever, all the time i feel like i am floating in the air and then sudently falling fast to the ground again.
    Ah forgot to mension. Once i had fever, the sorounding got so small i couldent get up for a cup of water, so i started criyng and i had to ask my dad to get me a cup of water.

  54. when i have a fever and i dream i always sleep talk or sleep walk and when i wake up i feel like i'm about to throw up but i don't and sometimes i cry, i kinda forgot the dream though lol. Like if you have a fever right now because i do and i really am COLD RN!

  55. Yes i do get this kind of dream when im having a fever when im still a kid. Dreams about shapes zooming in and out, being irrationally afraid of how the shape morphs spatially. I also remembered this dream happening on some rusty warehouse or factory of some sort but it's too vague to describe and it feels also like a half awake half asleep experience. It's interesting to note as well that it seems this dreams only occur when we're still on our younger years?? I dunno.

  56. Ive been having the same fever dream since i was like 6 years ild, it was until like 3years ago that i stopped having them,

  57. I get a dream when im sick its like its calm at the beginning then it will get intense and kinda disturbing anyone else gets this?

  58. sometimes when i have a fever dream i have this one where i’m like on millions of toothpicks and my dad is telling me something repeatedly and i feel super scared for some reason, or sometimes i feel like i’m bouncing in a ball and everything’s getting smaller and my family’s really old jeep leaving without me and i’m scared. super weird

  59. I can't remember my fever dreams, they have something to with a large man and his family playing a game which I can't remember anything about except it has to do with plucking hair and bowling balls.

  60. My dream is stick figures saying "it's unstable" and "something's wrong" followed by quiet mumbling while a circle slowly gets smaller while I'm bouncing around in the room I'm in then it explodes in a super nova type of way and i know what's going to happen next but it always scares me well now I'm deathly afraid of quiet mumbling

  61. I had a fever dream that there was a zombie apocalypse and my sister died & I woke up feeling like having a heart attack & I went back to sleep & woke up for reals at 6: am

  62. I once had this ( https://images.app.goo.gl/2DDin1cvTGVwXPf87 ) M.C. Escher painting as a fever dream.
    Only it was in blinding Technicolor and it hurt my brain SO much.
    I got more sick from the dream than from the sickness itself.

  63. My fever dreams are repetitive. I am usual doing some random boring or pointless activity in a cartoon like world over and over, and I have a terrible feeling too, usually a head ache feeling. Drives me nuts.
    No nightmares though, just an sick anxious feeling.

  64. I was ill once as a kid and had an evil voice in my head all night. My thoughts were there still but drowned out by an evil swearing possesion like I had two minds. Truly scary and tiring, at the time, now unforgettable and I'm now 57.

  65. I've been overthinking this subject, and came to a horrifying conclusion that being sick leaves you alone only when your body destroys it. You can't run away from it, even while sleeping. My first fever dream was running in an endless desert, with nothing around me, and no matter how fast I ran, I got more and more lost, and it felt so bad.

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