Do babies dream?
Whenever we watch a sleeping baby, we can’t help wondering if behind their serene expressions, do babies dream? What do they dream about? Are they watching scenes of unicorns and rainbows?
Explore with us as we delve into the dreamland of your little one to find out whether babies can dream.
Do babies have dreams and nightmares?
Adults spend about 25% of sleep in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Babies, however, spend between 50% – 80% in this sleep cycle, especially during the first two weeks of their life (although as a new mum you may feel otherwise.) Because your baby spends more time in deeper sleep, researchers believe that your sleeping cherub could be having dreams.
We can’t know what babies dream about, nor the types of dreams they’re having until they start talking. Only when they’re able to tell us what they’re dreaming about, will we be able to engage in the intimacy of their dreams.
What do babies dream about?
Neuroscientists believe that it is only once your baby can imagine things, visually and spatially, that they begin to dream as we do. This is because children at 4 or 5 years old recount their dreams as plain and immobile, without memory of characters or emotional feelings in their dreams (so no unicorns or rainbows, unfortunately!)
However, when your child begins to understand their own identity (around 7 or 8 years old), they start to express dreams with more vivid memories and storylines. Researchers believe that as children become more self-aware, they begin to feature themselves and others in their dreams – and even dream about themselves as babies. If children remember themselves as babies while they’re dreaming, it’s possible that babies are dreaming about their experiences long before they can tell us. Is this proof that babies do dream?
How do I know if my baby is dreaming?
For the first few weeks and months of your baby’s life, their sleep plays a pivotal role in the development of their brain and helps them process information. While they’re sleeping (and growing), their bodies respond in ways that can easily be interpreted as dreaming signals. Here’s what to look out for:
These slight, tiny movements may not be linked to a dream, but rather a physical skill your baby is mastering, like twitching their neck, arms or legs as they start to strengthen the muscles that will help support their limbs.
This is a sign of a dreaming baby. Scientists have found that when we play scenes in our dreams our eyelids are more likely to flutter. So if you catch your baby’s eyes flickering back and forth, it could be because they’re dreaming.
During sleep, your baby might spontaneously smile. This happens in all humans during REM sleep and is a sign of enjoyment. You can catch these special moments as early as when your child is one month old.
Babies sleep cycle and dreaming
You may not know what your little one is dreaming about, or even if they are, but during their sleep, their brain is still very active. As babies go through the process of making sense of the world, consolidating their memories and increasing their knowledge, the importance of sleep, and knowing what happens in a sleep cycle, can help you and your baby reach those everything-is-possible new-mum dreams.