If you have been wondering what do babies dream about, then read on to know the answer. We bet this will surprise you!
Is there anything more peaceful or innocent than a sleeping baby? Perhaps not. Their sweet little faces radiate serenity and calm, and just seeing them like this can make any mother’s heart skip a beat. But have you ever wondered, what do babies dream about?
When their little arms and legs adorably jerk in their sleep, are they dreaming about the activities they do all day? When their eyelids flutter and they sweetly smile, are they imagining an all-new world in their dreams?
What keeps them occupied during their extensive shut-eye sessions?
Well, psychologist David Foulkes seems to have uncovered the truth. An expert on paediatric dreaming, Foulkes has actually found out exactly what babies dream about.
What do babies dream about?
“If an organism gives evidence that it can perceive a reality, then we are prone to imagine that it can dream one as well,” he explains in his book Children’s Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness (Harvard University Press, 2002).
But considering that babies have a limited understanding of the world around them, owing to an immature brain and very little experience, Foulkes believes that babies do not dream while sleeping.
This revelation comes despite the fact that most babies experience a rapid eye movement (REM) cycle. A REM cycle is where your eyeballs move rapidly, occurring about 90 minutes into sleep. This is preceded and followed by a non-REM cycle. It is during the REM cycle that we dream.
From their birth onward, babies go through half of their entire sleeping routine in a REM cycle. So, how is it possible that they don’t dream? And what are they doing then, in this so-called dream state?
Dreamless sleep actually helps your baby develop
Experts believe that a dreamless REM sleeping cycle helps newborns in many ways. It helps them build pathways in the brain, integrate their neurological systems and also develop language skills.
Basically, when your baby sleeps, his brain development is being fuelled — and this is why sleep is just so important for your little one’s development.
However, experts believe that with age, dreams, as we know them, begin to take shape. Dreaming becomes a cognitive process as your baby grows up and absorbs and processes visuals.
How your child dreams based on his age
In his book, Foulkes takes you through the dreaming cycle based on age. This division can help you as a parent understand exactly how a baby’s sleep cycle works.
- Newborns. Foulkes describes that a newborn will typically have absolutely no dream in his sleep. That’s because — as explained before — he hasn’t yet seen much in his life. His imagination is limited by his visual capacity. Plus, he is yet to develop proper cognitive thinking.
- Kids aged 4-5. As children grow up and develop learning, motor as well their cognitive skills, they are able to pick up three-dimensional visuals. However, it doesn’t translate into their dreams. In his book, Foulkes mentions that children at this age still only reportedly see static or plain dreams. They are unable to see any moving characters and almost no emotions and memories.
- Kids aged 7-8. By this age, children are able to develop structured narratives and characters. Therefore, they might have vivid dreams. By now, the kids also develop an understanding of their self. So this becomes the beginning of their own insertion into their dreams.
From this age onward, as children develop a better understanding of themselves and their surroundings, their dreams become more vivid and lively. Sometimes nightmares can also be a part of the dream based on their memory or interaction.
So what do babies dream about? When it comes to babies, Foulkes, as well as neuroscientists, believe that babies don’t dream about anything. Simply because they cannot.
The next time you notice your baby in a deep REM cycle and wonder what do babies dream about, worry not. That is just his body’s reaction to his neurological development and you can rest assured that what you see is baby’s brain developing!