Do Babies Dream? What About? Newborn Sleep Questions, Answered

Do Babies Dream? Find Out What Happens When Your Little One Sleeps

December 17, 2020 Updated October 17, 2021

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Babies sleep a lot, so do babies dream a lot too? Catching your little one smiling or with their eyes fluttering in their sleep is the cutest thing — that much is undisputed. But while it’s a nice notion to think our little one is safe and snug off in dreamland when those things happen, the jury’s still out on whether or not they’re actually dreaming. With toddlers or adults, we can simply ask them about their dreams. We can’t ask a baby if they dream, though, which makes it a bit trickier to determine whether or not they do.

In adults, we’re most likely to dream during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Since babies spend most of their sleeping life in REM, it seems like a logical deduction that they must dream a lot. However, it’s believed by scientists that your baby isn’t actually dreaming at all. In fact, many scientists believe that when babies hit this cycle, their brain is actually developing. That makes a lot of sense, especially based on what we know about growing. Babies sleep and eat a lot during those first few months, and that’s largely in part to promote development. Baby milestones happen for a reason, and that’s because the daily itinerary for a baby doesn’t have much on it, aside from growing.

Happiest Baby points out that during this time, many babies also start comprehending language. If anyone has tried learning a second or third language as an adult, they know how difficult it is. Curious over how many kids seem to quickly and correctly piece sentences together? It’s all due to brain development.

So, read on to learn more and get all the answers to your newborn sleep questions.

Do babies dream?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, newborns spend about 50 percent of their sleep in REM (the dream cycle). That doesn’t mean they’re dreaming when they’re sleeping, though. Granted, some scientists do believe that babies must be dreaming about something. But others don’t believe that infants have the capacity to dream, since children need to acquire what it means to construct visually and spatially in order for dreams to happen.

In other words, they lack the abstract thinking and imagination to make dreams happen. That’s why it’s believed that when babies sleep in REM, it’s less about them dreaming and more about their brains growing, developing, and processing information.

What do babies dream about?

Since it’s less likely that babies are capable of dreaming, then your baby isn’t dreaming about anything. This also means that they probably don’t have nightmares either. What a relief! Nightmares often stem from daily stress, trauma, and an overactive imagination. Because your baby (luckily) hasn’t experienced any of those things, your little snuggle-bug can’t have nightmares. It’s nice to be a baby sometimes, isn’t it?

Once your baby becomes a toddler, it’s more likely they’ll start having “dreams” — but, instead of looking like what we have, it’s more like a series of snapshots. Think of it as your toddler having a viewfinder in their brain, filing through familiar sights like animals and the faces of their favorite people.

When do babies start dreaming?

Well, that’s almost like a trick question. While brain waves that closely resemble those found in REM sleep have been measured inside the womb between 25 and 28 weeks, the general consensus is that infants and babies start dreaming around the age of two. In terms of what kids are dreaming about, that depends on their age.

But do fetuses dream. Well it’s pretty debatable, but some scientists think fetuses can dream while they’re sleeping. Of course, they’re probably not dreaming about anything elaborate, like dragons or fairies. But some scientists believe they can dream of what they know and have experienced, like being inside the womb or the vibrations or sensations they feel from the outside.

A child’s world and imagination are limited at a young age, only expanding when they start to develop and grow and experience new things (unfortunately, this means their daily stresses grow too). For example, toddlers typically dream in short snapshots, as opposed to an adult’s dreamlike movie state. In short, little kids have little dreams.

So why is my baby smiling and twitching while they sleep?

Alas, your baby’s cute little movements during their slumber don’t mean they’re smiling at mommy or happily playing with their favorite toys in dreamland. Silver lining? It also means their brain is growing and developing new pathways, including learning how to use their muscles and limbs.

Don’t worry, though — just because your baby can’t dream doesn’t mean that they’re not enjoying their ZZZs. In fact, sleep is immensely important when it comes to your child solidifying memory and information so that they can learn more about the world around them. Over time, all that information they’re sucking up will play a part in their dream world. Just not yet.

Do babies have nightmares?

As mentioned prior, it’s improbable. That doesn’t mean that young people can’t have any sleep disturbances, but you likely won’t catch an infant waking up due to an elaborate nightmare they had. Both dreams and nightmares develop much later. Vivid dreams are said to happen more around ages seven and eight, since around that time, the brain has more opportunity to process thoughts and construe imagination.

Why is my baby crying in sleep?

As mentioned above, it’s unlikely your baby is having a nightmare or remembering something awful. It’s very normal for babies to be fussy during bedtime. While they may not dream, their sleep can still easily be interrupted. Newborns are restless sleepers, and it’s normal for a baby to cry during their sleep without waking up. It’s unlikely your baby even knows why they’re crying (unless they’re in pain, need changing, or are hungry).

Also, for very young babies, different cues — like hunger — often take over. Are you a breastfeeding mom? Then you may know that a little bit of food and physical contact can quickly put a newborn right back to sleep. Eventually, all parents realize that their babies have specific cries when it comes to different disturbances. A wet diaper cry may sound different than a hunger cry. If they’re cold, that may also sound different.

So, if your baby does cry out during their sleep or seems to be having a bad dream, the best thing you can do is make sure they’re safe. But if your baby seems to be crying consistently in their sleep, you might want to reach out to your doctor to rule out any underlying issues. Still, try not to worry too much, Mama! Remember, cries are one of the few forms of communication your baby has mastered so far.

What do babies think about?

Have you ever looked at your baby and thought, “What are you thinking?” Well, if you’re wondering what their dreams are like, it’s normal to speculate about their thoughts. 

Your baby may seem like just a cute face, but their minds are more complex than you think. Underneath their chunkiness, babies think a lot about the way objects work and interact with each other. They’re usually preoccupied with understanding the world around them. Babies spend most of their brainpower examining patterns, which is why they can usually tell the difference between a normal occurrence and something exciting.