Do Babies Dream? Infant Sleep Cycles and How They Work

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One of the things that babies do quite well is sleep. People often joke that all newborns do is eat, sleep, and dirty their diapers. That isn't a bad assumption, but babies are also doing many things that may not be apparent. So do babies dream?

Throughout the day when a baby is awake, he or she is learning about the world. A baby takes in everything he or she experiences, sees, hears, smells, feels, and tastes. It is a lot of stuff coming at your little one whenever he or she is actually awake, but when your baby goes to sleep, you might find yourself wondering "do babies dream?"

Do Babies Dream?

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This is a question that is not easy to answer. It might surprise you to learn there are many schools of thought about this question, and there is no one right answer.

There's no right answer because we simply do not know. There is no evidence or proof to say one way or the other that babies do or do not dream.

Plus, to complicate things, when it comes to the question "do babies dream?" there is very little we can do to find the answer. That is for various reasons but put simply put, we don't have the technology or knowledge to do this type of research.

A Closer Look into a Baby's Brain

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Part of the reason why there is no definitive answer to "do babies dream?" is that we can't ask them. Almost everything experts know about dreaming in older children and adults comes from asking them about their dreams.

In addition, there are scientific barriers to discovering about dreaming and babies. Before we get into that, let's first take a look at why some people might think babies do dream when they sleep.

When your baby sleeps

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According to Live Science, when babies sleep, they go through the same sleep cycle that adults do. They enter REM, which is the sleep stage where adults do their dreaming. They will exhibit many of the same activities, such as eye movement and twitching, that adults do when in this stage as well.

That can lead to assumptions that babies are dreaming just as an adult would do, but the REM of a baby is not the same. That is because a baby's brain is not the same as an adult brain. It does not function the same nor does it have the same knowledge with which to fuel dreams.

So, while babies have the same sleep cycle as adults, the chances are very slim that dreaming, if it occurs, is the same in babies as it is in adults due to the differences in the brain.

Unknown elements of the brain

There is also the issue with the unknown. The mind is really the last frontier when it comes to human anatomy. There is still so much experts in the field do not know about the brain. That is because it is very complex and studying it is very difficult since researchers cannot study it the same way as they do other organs.

Furthermore, when it comes to babies' brains, even less is known because studying the brain of a baby is very difficult. Many tests that researchers may do on adults, they simply cannot do on babies.

The only reason science knows that babies experience REM is from simple brain scans. Any further research has not happened due to technological limitations.

Disagreement among experts

With science really not on the side of those who want to find out "do babies dream?" it should not surprise you that there is disagreement among experts. Mainly, anything an expert in this area has to say is a hypothesis because no proof yet exists.

It is not likely, my friend

The side of the scientific community that says babies do not dream base this on the known elements of how babies sleep and their brains. The primary argument is that babies lack self-awareness and imagination, which are both elements required for dreaming.

This side explains that little ones just do not have the mental capabilities to form dreams. They explain that REM at this stage of life is more about growth and information processing to help the brain learn than it is for formulating a dream world.

Many on this side state that it is unlikely a child dreams in a way similar to adults until he or she is seven years old. Before then, dreams are very abstract if they occur at all.

Dream away little baby

According to The Atlantic, there are some experts who say, of course, babies dream. They say that the processing of information the brain does during REM allows a baby to see things in its imagination even if it does not know what those things are. Thus, the brain does produce dreams.

They say even more important, the dreams a baby has will help them process dangerous things. They will learn to recognize something that could hurt them, and the brain develops scenarios that play out to teach the baby how to deal with such situations.

So, these experts think babies do dream and that it is a part of the natural survival instinct. They point to the fact that even small children have nightmares, which are just like what they think babies experience.

Sleep Tips

Whether you side with a positive or negative answer to the question do babies dream, you cannot deny that babies need sleep. Sleep helps them grow and is a natural part of a healthy life.

If your baby is struggling with sleep, it affects them negatively, and let's be honest, it affects you adversely as well. The goal should be just to ensure that your baby is getting a night of good sleep each and every time he or she lays down to rest.

Here are some tips you can keep in mind to help your baby get the best sleep possible. Who knows? It may even help your baby to have happy dreams.

Comfort

It is essential to make sure your baby feels comfortable and secure wherever you lay him or her down. You should also make sure he or she is wearing something comfortable. Babies like to feel swaddled.

The world is a big, scary place, so swaddling makes a baby feel wrapped up in a secure bundle, much like when he or she was in the womb. There are special swaddling outfits, or you can try a sleep bag. Both of these will provide comfort to your baby as he or she sleeps.

Also, dim the lights to reduce stimulation. One last thing is ensuring the temperature is right in the room. It should not be too hot or too cold. Keep the temperature around 69 to 73 degrees for the best environment.

Safety

You also want to ensure safety. That means laying the baby on his or her back and removing any loose items from the sleeping area, such as blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals.

Soothing

Make sure that you feed baby before laying him or her down. A full belly is an instant ticket to dream world for many infants and adults.

You also should make sure baby does not have a dirty diaper. You don't want to leave baby wet or dirty, which is uncomfortable and can lead to diaper rash issues.

Finally, manage the noise in the room. You do not want it library quiet, though. Consider a white noise machine to provide light noise that is not stimulating but that introduces some sound to condition baby to be able to sleep around noise.

What Is Happening in La-La Land?

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Now that you understand why the question "do babies dream?" is not easily answered, you may want to develop your own hypothesis based on what you see and experience with your own baby. One thing the experts seem to agree on is that something happens when babies sleep. It is not just a void where all brain activity pauses.

That may make you wonder as you watch your baby sleep. Perhaps twitching while asleep will now seem suspect, making you wonder if your baby is struggling in a dream against danger. On the other hand, you may just chalk it up to normal REM movement.

Whatever side of the debate you tend to fall on, the bottom line is that your baby needs sleep and plenty of it to be healthy and to grow. So, even if you are okay not knowing about whether your little guy or gal is dreaming, you should make sure that he or she is getting the proper amount of sleep and that it is good quality sleep.

Do babies dream? What is your opinion? Have you experienced something with your baby that led you to think he or she dreams? Do you think the lack of scientific proof means babies likely do not dream?

Are you somewhere in the middle thinking that their brains do something when they sleep but you aren't sure it is dreaming? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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