Have you ever seen your baby smiling or moving its legs or hands while sleeping so adorably? It has always been a mystery whether babies dream or not.
Especially when we often see babies spend so much time wriggling and twitching in their baby sleep. It is not surprising to ask yourself, ‘what do babies dream about?‘ or do they even dream?
The possibilities are endless since the concept of a baby’s dream world remains ambiguous, even today. Baby dreams exist, and we can assure you that specific criteria need to be fulfilled to make babies sleep and dream.
The brain development of infants is an incredible and unique process, but we will get there. Let us first dig deeper into the theory of a baby’s little brain to decipher their little dreams.
1. The Brain of a Baby and an Adult
It is a general consensus that babies are incapable of dreaming. However, a lot of theories argue against this. Since a baby is not developmentally capable of communicating their dreams to other human beings or adults, it does not mean they do not dream.
Babies brains are wired differently from that of adults, and as they grow up and become old enough to be kids, their brain waves begin to change. The age of a baby vastly impacts the fact that whether they be dreaming or not.
Unlike an adult’s dream, babies cannot have vivid dreams since they do not have enough reality-based materials to create a dream from their self-awareness.
It is widely known that adults dream only when in the sleep phase of REM, i.e., Rapid Eye Movement Sleep.
During this rapid eye movement phase, adults spend their entire time dreaming. REM sleep is a kind of sleep that is directly associated with the dreaming section of our brains.
Now to the interesting part. In newborns, it has been found that babies spend about half or more than that of their sleeping hours in the rem rapid eye movement phase.
Here, the question lies. If adults dream only in their REM sleep, then there is a high chance that the babies are also dreaming because of the REM phase.
During the REM phase, infants and adults create and process long-lasting memories and help them learn languages or skills and even memorize them well for the next day.
It is still unknown whether babies dream or not when they are in their REM stage. You may find them smiling all the time, wriggling their small bodies, or twitching their toes, and you probably will wonder if they are enjoying their sweet dreams.
Newborns generally approach the world from various perspectives, which highly differ from adults. However, as they grow up into older children, they lose their ability to abstract thinking and overactive imagination since they start to resemble an adult closely.
The REM phase is responsible for building connections to your memory. It also helps develop pathways connecting a baby’s ability to create dreams.
1.1 The Experiment of David Foulkes
Psychologist David Foulkes studies the dreaming mystery in babies and young children. In his research on pediatric dreaming, he has conducted a study called, ‘Children’s dreaming and the Development of Consciousness.
In this experiment, he took a group of children and naturally made them sleep at night. There was no use of sleep medicine or anything; it was only an experiment under natural circumstances.
Whenever he found the babies having the REM effect, he would wake them nearly three times every night. He would ask the little kids whether they recall any of the happenings in their dream.
At other times, he would wake up the babies, even if they weren’t in the REM stage, to ensure the dreaming patterns in children if they even existed.
The results of the David Foulkes Findings were very reasonable. He concluded that nearly 1/4th of the infants did not recall any images or happenings in their sleep, which was expected.
However, the remaining kids stated that they happened to see a few static images or immovable characters in an unclear manner for a small amount of time.
It was confirmed that many of the kids did dream, but as their brain development is still ongoing, they are having trouble forming meaningful movable dreams.
2. When do Babies Start Dreaming?
Now, again back to the important question. The question of when babies start dreaming completely depends on their age factor. As newborns spend most of their sleeping which is about 12-14 hours or sometimes even more.
Babies’ ability to dream and imagine things visually kicks off when they reach when they are over 7 years old. Some babies start dreaming even earlier, when they are only 2 years above.
Generally, babies start dreaming about motion pictures from the age range of 5-9. They dream of rich images and become able to build dream characters that can move.
They usually dream about familiar sights that happen in their regular life. Suppose the previous day; they experienced a happy moment like a birthday. It will not be surprising if they dream about that, too, in their sleep afterward.
It is their age range that alters and adjusts the rem sleep rate and the quality of dreams they will have. So, now the question is, what do babies dream about if they start doing it?
3. What do Babies Dream About?
To crack open the mysteries about babies’ dreams, we must first start reading about their body behavior.
We all have seen babies smile so widely in their sleep, right? It could signify that your little one is watching a fun and cheerful dream in their own world. When babies are infants, they do not understand fear.
Since they are just born and have no conscious experience, they are unaware of negative feelings like fear, anxiety, guilt, and many others. So, it is concluded that babies generally never experience bad dreams.
Once they grow older, babies’ dreams stay directly linked to animals and the known people around them. Suppose your baby wakes up and seems happy and normal after its rem sleep; it can mean that they just had a wonderful, positive dream.
However, if your baby acts silent and grave, unlike their natural self, chances are they have just experienced an unpleasant dream during the rem sleep.
Since your baby is not used to communicating about dreams, it is unlikely of they to reveal them to you. So, to dig deeper into your baby’s dreams, you must observe their behavioral patterns and body language after the fresh rem sleep.
Sometimes, when your baby has grown up to be a kid, they may start having negative dreams similar to the adults. This beginning of negative dreams may be a consequence of their family life stress situations or from bad reality experiences and trauma.
4. 5 Shocking Facts About Babies!
As we have almost wrapped up our assumption theories of whether and what babies dream about, let’s move on to some of the most obscure and intriguing facts about a baby and their cycle.
- There is a valid theory about many infant deaths in their mother’s womb. Unborn babies still in the womb often face frequent rem sleep, which leads to higher heart beat rate and sometimes breathing issues too.
- While you often find babies crying loudly and screaming at the top of their voices at random hours of the day, have you noticed they do it all without tears? You got me right! They do not shed tears when they are crying. When they are older, they display actual tears in the process.
- Their Smile muscle is not under their control. Your little one may smile the whole day, but does it mean they feel like it? Well, your baby’s smile muscles remain involuntary until they grow older. It is like a reflex muscle in their body for that time.
- Babies are capable of sensing your mood. The babies will know if their mother is angry at them or feels remorseful! They can sense emotions since their head remains empty and acts like a good vessel to absorb others’ feelings.
- Babies possess way more taste buds than that of an adult. Surely they find hidden enhancements in food that even adults can’t figure out. But, unfortunately, they do not have the salt taste bud.
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So, can babies dream? The answer is yes! While there are babies who do not experience dreams, there are ones who do. Nothing is impossible, and everything is possible.
Especially since babies spend almost the entirety of their sleep cycle in the REM stage, there must be a major possibility that your adorable babies are wandering in the yet magical world.
Just because we have minimum proof of their dream world doesn’t mean it does not exist.
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Sampurna is a passionate writer of Icy Tales, with an obsession for words and poetry. Writing about restaurants, food & drinks is uniquely her cup of tea. But her writings are not just limited to those, she can bring out different perspective of life through her articles.
She writes about the topics that we generally do not hear. She will give you a unique way of finding extraordinary things in an ordinary life.