Are you wondering what your baby may be dreaming about as they sleep? Or maybe you’re wondering if we’ll ever know what babies dream about — or if babies even dream.
This is all still unknown, given the elusive nature of dreams and how little we know about the way a newborn’s brain processes things.
But as you see your little one’s eyelids flutter, it may appear they’re engaged in an active dream. So, it’s hard not to wonder what goes on in their brains as they grow and absorb more information each day.
From what we know about the sleep cycles of newborns, it seems that if they’re actively dreaming, they could be dreaming the most during the first two weeks of life. This is because of their sleep time spent in rapid eye movement (REM).
The REM stage is when the body is completely relaxed and the brain is active. It’s also the stage associated with dreaming.
Adults spend approximately 20 percent of their sleep in REM. Newborns spend about 50 percent of their sleep in REM, estimates the American Academy of Pediatrics. This is why it’s thought that new babies might dream more than the rest of us.
But just because it’s known that older children and adults dream primarily during REM sleep doesn’t mean that infants do, too.
In order for dreams to occur, neuroscientists believe children must have acquired the capacity to imagine things. In other words, they must be able to construct visually and spatially in order to experience dreaming the way we know it.
That’s why it’s not until a baby starts talking that we can understand what really happens when they sleep. They need to put into words the intimate world of their dreams.
Newborn babies’ sleep doesn’t follow a defined circadian rhythm.
A baby’s complete sleep cycle is approximately half that of an adult. Short sleep bouts ensure that a hungry baby gets fed and checked on regularly. This helps reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Melatonin is the hormone responsible for inducing drowsiness, and it influences a baby’s rest patterns before birth. But circadian rhythms don’t start to emerge during the first days of life outside the womb.
Once babies become accustomed to sleeping most of the night, their time spent in the REM stage will gradually shorten, and they’ll have longer bouts of deep sleep.
Sleep during the first weeks and months of life helps your baby’s brain grow and process information. At any age, sleep helps consolidate memory, which helps us integrate our experiences and increases our knowledge.
As babies go through the process of solidifying information about the world, the importance of sleeping can’t be overstated.
You may not know what your little one is dreaming about, or even if they are, as you hear sighs and grunting or see their eyelids flutter. But now you know that while they may be asleep, their brain is still very active.