What Age Do Babies Dream, or Do They Dream at All?

How often do we stand in amazement in front of sleeping babies, watch the twitching of a hand, the movements of the eyes below the closed eyelids, and wonder what they might be dreaming about! There will probably never be an exact answer to this question, because in spite of all the measuring equipment that is already available today, the possibility of visualizing thoughts and dreams remains a subject that will probably remain the exclusive preserve of science fiction writers in the future. What we already know about the function of sleep and about the world of dreams, however, can help us to speculate.  At what age do babies dream? Children need different amounts of sleep depending on the age group they belong to. For example, babies spend more than half of the day asleep and more than half of their sleep time in REM (deep sleep), which is actually a way for them to filter their experiences and store them in their memory. According to the age groups in which they belong, kids need diverse extents of sleep. While babies still sleep through more than half of the day, the amount of sleep needed decreases as they get older. The question of how much sleep is needed at what age is particularly interesting for parents whose children do not want to go to bed at night because they are “not tired at all.”

What Do Infants Dream About?

Every human being dreams. But children and babies do it much more intensively and they often remember it when they wake up. What do infants dream about, and can we understand the contents from their sleeping habits? During dreaming, in fact, the brain works on the impressions of the day. Children and babies use all their senses to subconsciously perceive many things during the day, which they then process during sleep. This happens mainly in the second half of the night, when the REM sleep phase takes place. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. Shortly after waking up, the memory of what was dreamed is usually still very strong and diminishes throughout the day. There are several articles on various topics related to dreaming in children and babies. These articles are essential in their peculiar ways to comprehend the growth of the child. For example, infants dream can also help children learn and improve certain motor skills. During phases in which children learn to walk or later practice new movements in physical education, they also move more in their sleep. This is because the brain then continues to practice, so to speak, and new connections are created, making it easier to memorize the movements and actively perform them later. What we learn from this is that a restful sleep and rest for the ears and thus for the brain is what our children need. For a better sleep experience, you can try having a life changing product: sleep buddy!

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How Far Do Babies’ Dreams Go and What Age Do Babies Dream Really?

What do infants dream about? And What age do babies dream? At what age do infants dream? We know from babies who are old enough to talk about their dreams that they do not often dream about long, complex stories as adults do. They either experience short plots, or even just single and still images. However, these single frames contain a wealth of feelings and emotions. If you listen, children can uncover amazing connections and backgrounds to their dreams. It can be assumed that babies do not develop plots either; they still lack the understanding of connections and the complexity of thought paths for this. Babies, in their first phase of life and presumably already in the womb, initially develop and discover the five senses that will accompany most of us throughout our lives. In psychology, the experience of a newborn is called, among other things, pre-linguistic space or primary process experience – perhaps babies experience their world and their dream world in a similar way to how we experience our dreams. Babies learn to perceive, to assign meaning to, to recognize and to integrate what they see, smell, hear, taste and feel. We also do not know exactly what babies perceive, because even the perception might be formed first. But probably it is rather pictures and feelings, moods and atmospheres.

Different Types of Dreams

As we emphasized at the beginning, it is not only children or infants who dream. They just do it much more intensively. But why has this way of dealing with impressions evolved? What is infants dream all about?  Why do children dream at all? And not only in a certain way. There are different types of dreams:

  • First of all, the phases of sleep: It is generally known that the colorful dreams that often present us with exciting, complex stories probably take place during REM sleep, which is easily recognized by the fact that our eyes move during this phase. This feature allows us to see, in the course of ultrasound examinations, that babies experience REM sleep phases even in the womb. Does newborns dream? Newborns spend a full 50-60 percent of their sleep in the REM phase, sleeping between 11 and 18 hours. By the second half of life, the REM sleep phase reduces to about 25% of sleep time, after which it rapidly reaches the adult proportion of 20% to 25%. Healthy newborn babies at least ¼ of the day are in daytime sleep and infants dream. The sleep duration of premature babies is shorter and their sleep-wake mechanisms are more irregular compared to full-term babies. In the post-neonatal period, sleep decreases gradually, especially during the daytime and decreases to 12-14 hours a day around 6 months, of which only 2-3 hours is daytime sleep. After the first 4 months, babies may not wake up at night to feed or they may wake up 1-2 times for breastfeeding but fall asleep in a short time. Babies who receive breast milk may wake up more often than babies who receive other foods. Even if they wake up, some babies may soothe themselves and fall asleep again. This ability to use their own internal mechanisms to fall back asleep usually develops by 3-4 months of age. In early childhood, sleep duration is usually 4-5 hours, while 6-month-old babies may sleep 8-10 hours a night. In addition, they sleep for about one hour between morning and noon and in the afternoon. After the habit of sleeping longer at night is established during the first year, there may be a period of wakefulness between 9 and 11 months. After 15 months, a one-hour midday nap is usually sufficient, and they do not sleep during the day after the age of 4 years. Night waking occurs in 25-50% of babies aged 6-12 months.
  • Deep sleep episodes essentially serve to detoxify and regenerate the body, while REM sleep episodes serve to filter experiences from the day and short-term memory while storing important elements into long-term memory.
  • Infants, unlike adults, begin REM sleep immediately after falling asleep. The REM sleep of babies and also that of toddlers has some differences from that of adults, which is why some scientists do not yet speak of REM sleep here, but of active sleep. The brain barrier that prevents movement during sleep in adults is not yet as pronounced here, which means that babies and toddlers move around a lot more during sleep and can also fall out of bed if they are not secured. Infants wake up quite easily from this sleep phase, while they are hard to get awake from the second sleep phase, deep sleep (only 3 sleep phases are found in babies), which seems to be easily explained by the enormous physical efforts of the growth process.
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 Overall, a sleep cycle in infants and young children lasts shorter than in adults, i.e. about 45-60 minutes. After this sleep cycle, babies can awaken quite easily from infants dream, which explains why they check in quite regularly in the early days, after two sleep cycles, i.e. every two hours. Newborns are not yet adapted to the day-night rhythm. Therefore, these sleep phases take place both during the day and at night. You must also choose the best methods for your baby’s sleep cycle and training. Theni you’ll find out better what age do babies dream…

What Happens in Babies’ Dream Worlds?

In general, we dream to process the day’s leftovers, to review what we have experienced in our short-term memory and to integrate the important elements in long-term memory; in short, dreaming helps us learn. We store complex relationships as individual images that represent the concepts. This serves to save memory space in our brain. Every experience babies have is new, each of which presumably needs to be converted into an image so that it can be stored. This happens during dreaming.

Imagine, we discover for the first time, everything that surrounds us. The intensity of discovering all these senses must be intoxicating and correspondingly intense also in the dreams. From observing babies, we know that the sense of touch is the main component of the learning process. Their infants dream may be their soft cuddly bear, or at the very least the sensation of holding it. They may also have infants  dream of more unpleasant things, like the needle of a vaccination, but they may also dream of the soothing, comforting voices of their parents. All these experiences will shape their future perception of the world, because every experience, no matter how small, is stored in the long-term memory via the dreams. This first learning process of an infant will be absorbed fully and unfiltered. It will also contain unpleasant things, but this also serves to ensure their own survival by recognizing dangers or learning to make the connection between sensory impressions and danger. The infants dream probably forms the baby’s reality. It is not until the age of three or four that children can distinguish between dreams and reality and by the age of twelve children’s brain waves are in a state that adults can reach only under mild hypnosis. This is what makes children so easily influenced, but it is also what enables them to learn so much and so quickly that any adult can only marvel.

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