Babies spend a huge chunk of time asleep – even if it doesn’t always feel that way! On average, they clock in around 12–-15 snoozing hours a day at the end of their first year, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
So, what’s happening when they’re getting their 40 winks? Do newborns dream? And if not, when do babies start dreaming?
Let’s find out.
What’s going on when your baby’s asleep?
It’s thought that newborns spend half of their time asleep in deep REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. In adults, this is the phase of sleep where we solidify memories, and when dreams usually occur.
But is the same true for babies? That’s hard to say, simply because a lot of your little one’s formative experiences (which will probably form the basis of their dreams in the future) are still to come.
And some neuroscientists argue that babies shouldn’t be able to dream because they still have to learn how to think imaginatively.
So while you’ll probably see your baby gently twitching or moving their eyes because they’re in REM sleep, it’s impossible to know exactly what kind of activity is going on inside their brains.
In a nutshell, we don’t know exactly what stage dreaming, as we adults know it, starts to happen. But it is pretty certain that this deep sleep is really important for babies’ developing brains.
➡️ Read more: What Do Babies Dream About?
So, when do babies start to dream?
The short answer is, once again, we don’t know!
There are different schools of thought about when babies start to dream — or whether baby dreaming happens at all. Some scientists believe that babies dream while they’re still in the womb and that cycles of REM sleep happen as early as week 23 in the second trimester.
But the answer to do babies dream in the womb? depends on how you define dreaming. If babies dream in the womb, it’s likely about physical sensations rather than imaginative musings, their emotions, or as a way of processing experiences.
Do newborns dream?
As you’ve probably already experienced, many newborns don’t have a set sleeping rhythm and often wake up searching for food, cuddles, and reassurance at different hours of the day and night.
Unlike adults, babies still need to get to grips with the concept of circadian rhythm (i.e. they have to learn the difference between day and night). While they’re still learning, they sleep in short cycles round the clock.
Some neuroscientists firmly believe that, whatever their sleeping and waking schedule, babies don’t dream.
In the 1960s, psychologist David Foulkes went as far as to say that children don’t have meaningful, story-like dreams until the age of seven.
And, since we know that it takes a while for a baby’s vision and cognitive functions to develop, some contemporary neuroscientists also think it’s tricky for young children to picture sheep jumping over a fence to lull them off to sleep.
However, that line of thought might be a little too literal when we think about just how broad the definition of “dream” might be.
Common dream-related FAQs:
At what age do you start dreaming?
In general, it’s thought that toddlers begin to dream at the age of two, which is when stronger connections start to happen in their brains and they start to form long-term memories.
This being said, there’s often a big difference between what you’d expect a toddler to remember, and what their brain actually holds on to.
This unpredictability extends to dreams as well, and it’s no easier to make sense of a toddler’s dreams than an adult’s.
Can a 4-month-old baby dream?
If babies dream, it’s probably during REM sleep. Some people believe that the most “dream-like” activity occurs during the first two weeks of life, as babies may still be dreaming of being in the womb.
By this line of thought, four-month-olds might actually have stopped dreaming, or at least paused it for the time being.
Do babies dream at 7 months?
Perhaps, in the future, we will be able to answer this question!
For now, we can only guess if your little one is dreaming about their favorite snack or hanging out with their buddy from baby group.
Either way, we hope that everyone gets a peaceful night’s sleep!
👶 More baby milestones:
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When Do Babies Lose Their Hair? And Why?
Baby Growth Spurts: What are the Milestones?
When Do Babies Start Talking?
When Do Babies See Color?
When Do Babies Start Smiling?
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When Do Babies Start Teething?
When Do Babies Stop Spitting Up?
When Do Babies Start Cooing?
When Do Babies Get Kneecaps?
When Do Babies Grow Hair?
When Do Babies Clap?
When Do Babies Walk? The Timeline for Toddling
When Can Babies Eat Baby Food?
When Do Babies Make Eye Contact?
What Are the Different Stages of Crawling?
When Can Babies Hold Their Head Up?
When Do Babies Start Laughing?