From taking tests you didn’t study for to being afloat on a raft at sea with your ex, bad dreams tap into our deepest fears.
So how early does this start in life? Can babies have nightmares? Let’s take a look.
Do babies have bad dreams?
The sleeping life of your baby is an interesting one. For the first few weeks of their lives, they do a lot of it, often boasting seventeen hours a day.
As they get older, the number of hours they sleep decreases—but the worth of their slumber doesn’t.
Babies are learning all the time, constantly digesting the banquet of information that is being fed to them over the course of their day. Sleep plays an important role in this.
As [this recent study]9https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200407131435.htm) tells us, sleep helps babies retain details of their waking experience and contributes significantly to memory and brain development.
Beyond this, they may even be learning as they doze. That’s productivity to the max.
But can babies have nightmares at four months? At five? At 18? Not a nice thought at all, we know—so let’s navigate this together.
Can newborns have night terrors?
There are two main types of bad dreams—nightmares and night terrors. The major difference between them is in the aftermath.
Nightmares generally wake you up and can often be remembered, sometimes in quite vivid detail.
Night terrors, on the other hand, don’t wake you up totally, and leave you with no recollection of them when you awaken.
Of course, this can make things even scarier, causing confusion about why you’re feeling so unsettled.
If your child shows signs of distress when they are sleeping, or they are jolted right out of their sleep into an upright position, they could be having a night terror.
Screaming, rapid breathing, and sweating are also signs to watch out for.
So are night terrors in babies possible in newborns? When they are very young, babies spend about half their sleep time in REM.
That’s the light sleep state where dreaming takes place. In this state, you might notice them toss, twitch, and even cry out—often without even waking up.
But this is not a sign that they are having a night terror.
The good news for your new addition is that night terrors tend to occur in older children.
And even then, they’re relatively rare, happening in about three to six percent of children.
When can babies have nightmares?
So at what age can babies have nightmares? There’s no hard and fast rules here, but toddlers generally start having nightmares from about the age of three.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 50% of children between the ages of three and six have nightmares—so know that you’re not alone in this experience.
Night terrors, on the other hand, usually start at about the age of four, but have been reported in babies as young as eighteen months.
There is growing evidence to suggest that night terrors may have a genetic link.
Other contributing factors are being overtired, taking medication, or a disruption to their normal environment.
Can babies cry from nightmares?
Crying is one of your baby’s primary modes of communication, so if they’re having a bad dream, this is one way they can tell you.
But there are other reasons your baby might cry in their sleep. They might be hungry, hot, or simply moving from one sleep state to another.
There is another possibility—confusional arousal. Similar to sleepwalking or talking, this is when your little one partially wakes up and talks or cries in a semi-sleep state. The peak age to experience this is between one and six years old.
It can be unnerving because, most times, they might seem quite distressed. Although it can be hard, it’s best not to try to wake them during this time, as this could add to their confusion.
While confusional arousal is often nothing to be concerned about, you don’t have to navigate this alone.
Talk to your healthcare provider so that you can navigate this together.
Whatever your child is going through, there are ways you can help them get a good night’s rest.
- Create a bedtime routine that helps them feel safe and secure.
- Try to ensure they get the sleep they need. We know this is not always possible. Having a sleep schedule can help.
- If you notice they have a night terror at the same time every night, try to wake them up before this happens.
And know that we can’t protect them from everything. What we can do is support each other through this.
Join us on Peanut. You don’t have to do this alone.
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