Dreams of Babies: What Do We Know Exactly?
It’s hard to know what goes on in a baby’s head during sleep! However, it seems that dreams are part of his rest from a very young age.
Let’s take a look at the dream world of babies: when and what does a baby dream about?
Sleep and dreams in babies
An infant sleeps a good part of the day, usually 16 hours out of 24, in periods of 3 to 4 hours. Sleep is important for two reasons:
– It allows the maturation of his brain.
– It is during this period that the hormones necessary for its growth are secreted.
The sleep of the baby: when do babies dream?
The sleep of a newborn is composed of different cycles of a shorter duration than in the adult: each cycle lasts 50 minutes instead of 1 h 30. Each of these cycles is divided into two periods:
– A phase of agitated sleep where the baby is in movement: it makes mimics and emits small sounds and dreams. This phase corresponds to the REM sleep of the adult and lasts 8 hours per day, enough time to have many dreams!
– A phase of calm sleep where the baby is immobile.
These phases of sleep appear as soon as the uterine life:
– Restless sleep begins around the twentieth week when rapid eye movements are visible.
– Quiet sleep appears around the thirtieth week.
– The sleep cycles become progressively longer and will gradually take on the structure of adult rest, composed of cycles with 5 phases.
Note: we do not have the technical means to determine if the fetus dreams during sleep.
Dreams of babies: what do we know exactly?
Every parent probably wonders what their baby dreams about. If the phases of the sleep of the infant are well known, the answers of the scientists are still rather evasive as to the contents of its dreams:
– It is difficult to know precisely what babies dream about, for the good reason that they do not yet have the language to tell us.
– The dreams of babies are certainly rudimentary, mixing sounds of their daily life, images, sensations, and perfumes, without real constructed history.
– They will become more complex as their mental capacities develop and with the acquisition of symbolic thought.
Good to know: children do not begin to tell their dreams until they are about 4 years old.
Baby’s nightmares: differentiating between bad dreams and night terrors
A baby who wakes up in the second half of the night, very agitated and crying, is probably a victim of a nightmare. This situation should not be confused with night terrors, which are much rarer:
– The first bad dreams usually appear around 1 year old and represent a way to externalize the fears of toddlers. The comfort of an adult is essential in this case because the baby has difficulty making the difference between his dream and reality. They may remain agitated for a short time after waking up.
– Night terrors occur in the first part of the night: the child seems to be awake, restless, and crying with his eyes open. However, this is not the case: the child is in the middle of a deep sleep and has no memory of this episode when he or she wakes up.
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