do babies dream

Do babies dream? Right now, experts aren’t quite sure if babies dream, and if they do dream, what those fantasies might look like. 

We do know that babies spend a lot of time in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.

With adults, dreams typically occur during REM sleep.

While adults spend roughly 25 percent of their sleeping in REM sleep, babies spend about half of their time in REM.

This might suggest that babies dream more than adults, if anything.

Still, some neuroscientists believe that infants and babies’ brains are too underdeveloped to form the abstract thoughts and images needed to make dreams.

This doesn’t mean that REM sleep isn’t important. Far from it.

REM sleep may allow your baby’s brain to develop the more complex pathways and connections needed for advanced cognitive thinking.

Whether infants dream is still an unsettled debate.

You can’t blame parents for drawing their own conclusions based on their baby’s behavior.

And indeed, whether infants dream may come down to the individual child.

And even if infants don’t dream, your baby likely will start dreaming by the time he or she is 18 months to two years old.

At this point, many children can communicate with their parents and may start describing their dreams.

It’s smart to pay attention to your child’s dreams as you may pick up insights into how their mind works.

As your child does start to dream, nightmares and night terrors may become a concern.

Let’s take a look.

Understanding Nightmares and Night Terrors

Do babies suffer nightmares? How about toddlers?

And how about night terrors?

Unfortunately, nightmares and nightmares are common for small children.

Thankfully, they seem to be rare among infants.
Even if infants are dreaming, most experts think that nightmares aren’t a major concern yet.

Infants likely aren’t capable of dreaming up abstract fears, such as the monsters and demons that plague older childrens’ dreams.

That said, even if infants don’t have nightmares, that doesn’t mean that he or she can’t experience other fears.

If your baby is crying at night, it may be because he or she is afraid.

Babies do have basic instincts and may instinctually fear being left alone.

Eventually, your child will start to have nightmares.

Think about the worst nightmare you’ve had as an adult.

It was probably pretty scary, right?

With children, nightmares are often more vivid.

And since children understand less about the world, the fears may seem more grounded.

An adult knows that the demons and monsters found in horror movies simply aren’t real.

A child has a difficult time understanding this.

Fearing witches and goblins may seem silly to the modern adult.

However, fearing such creatures is pretty understandable as far as kids are concerned.

Understanding Night Terrors and Nightmares Among Small Children

Even if your child isn’t experiencing dreams as an infant, he or she will start to dream.


This too is a point of contention, but by 18 months to 2 years, it’s safe to assume that your child is experiencing vivid dreams.

And along with those dreams may come nightmares.

Nightmares occur during deep sleep, or REM sleep.

Your child may have nightmares and may sleep through them.

You may not even know.

Or he or she may wake up, cry, but then quickly settle down. 

With night terrors, however, you may struggle to get your child to calm down.

Night terrors are especially worrisome.

If a small child is suffering from a night terror, he or she may struggle to calm down.

Generally speaking, night terrors don’t start showing up until a baby is typically about 18 months old.

A night terror typically occurs as your child goes from deep to light sleep.

Your baby may start screaming, crying, or thrashing about.

Yet he or she may not respond to your attempts to provide comfort.

That’s because your child is likely still asleep.

A defining feature of night terrors is that your child will remain sleeping.

Even if his or her eyes are still open, she may be stuck in the sleep cycle.

As such, your attempts to provide comfort may go seemingly ignored.

Night terrors last up to 45 minutes or so.

As your child grows, he or she will typically outgrow night terrors.

Researchers believe that excessive stimulation to your baby’s growing and developing Central Nervous System (CNS) may cause night terrors.

Why is My Infant Moving While She Sleeps?

There’s a good chance that your infant moves quite a bit while he or she is sleeping.

If she’s kicking or thrashing her arms around, you might think that your baby is suffering from a nightmare. It’s possible, but not necessary.

Experts generally believe that kicking and movement isn’t the result of bad dreams among infants.

Instead, it’s just your baby’s motor instincts and muscles developing.

The arm and leg movement may help your baby’s motor skills and muscles develop.

Take Away: Babies and Uncertain Dreams

Researchers still aren’t sure if infants have dreams.

While we know newborns spend a lot of time in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, we don’t know if their brain is yet capable of forming complex dreams.

Regardless, as your children grow, they’ll start dreaming.

By 2 years of age, most children are likely to dream most nights.

Nightmares and night terrors can plague small children.

Many children largely grow out of night terrors, and nightmares become more manageable.

Still, some people struggle with bad dreams into adulthood.

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