Many parents are very concerned about, do babies have nightmares? We can get a specific understanding of the following dimensions.

What is a dream?

Dreams are the images, sounds, thoughts or feelings that people imagine during sleep. Dreaming is related to rapid eye movement sleep (REM, where the eyes move quickly under the eyelids), which is a common sleep stage in the animal kingdom. Adults usually have 4-5 REM stages in one night's sleep, at this time they will dream; and between eye movement sleep is slow-wave sleep, at this time they will forget the dreams they had previously. If you wake up in eye-moving sleep, you will remember the content of the dream, and those people who advertise that they don’t dream, 80% is because they wake up in slow-wave sleep.

Does the baby dream?

The answer is that it is very likely, but we cannot confirm it. Dreaming is a subjective experience. Through scientific observation, only eye movement can be detected. As for whether there is a dream or not, only the person who sleeps has the final say. Because the baby cannot communicate with us, we cannot confirm this. However, we can infer the high probability of a baby’s dream from two things, the first is that when most children start to learn to speak, they will indicate that they are dreaming. The second is that children’s eye movement sleep takes up 50% of the total sleep time, while adults only take up 25%, so babies should have more dreams.

For parents, there is no need to worry about too much baby’s dreaming or eye-moving will cause poor sleep. Dreaming itself is a very good process of consolidating memory. There is a hypothesis, which is that the supporting scientists believe: individual development and R eye movement sleep are highly related, so as the human body matures, the proportion of eye movement sleep will decrease. An interesting example supporting this hypothesis is that terrestrial mammals have eye-moving sleep phases during their sleep, while dolphins and whales cannot be observed, because deep sleep can suffocate the marine mammals. And due to they do not have eye movement sleep to help the larvae mature, the baby dolphin is born more mature than the terrestrial animal.

What will the baby dream about?

When you see your baby smiling, dancing, or frowning while sleeping, you must imagine that your baby is having a particularly wonderful dream. The facts may disappoint you. Dreams are based on the exertion and imagination of your actual experience. No matter how absurd the dream is, it is also a combination of fragments and abilities in your memory. If you have never learned Arabic, you will not communicate with people in correct Arabic in your dreams. The baby's actual experience determines that their dreams must be very simple.

Most adult dreams are in color, although many times we don't pay attention to the color in our dreams and only pay attention to the plot so that we don't remember the color when we wake up. But the baby's dreams before 4 months should be black and white, because at this time he has not developed his own color vision ability. Similarly, as Dr. Jodi Mindell from the Vision Center of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said, the baby’s dream is likely to resemble a silent movie, because he has no language skills, so his dream is an image without dialogue. Fortunately, the baby lives in a simple and happy life. Even if he can only dream of images within a few tens of centimeters in black and white without dialogue, but seeing the faces of his parents or drinking milk in his dreams is enough for him to be extremely happy.

Why do babies have nightmares?

The nightmares are negative emotions that people experience during sleep, so first of all, there must be negative feelings to have nightmares. Babies under 3 years old have no fear, so they will not have nightmares; children under 5 years old rarely have nightmares; about 25% of children between 5-10 years old have nightmares once a week; the rate of nightmares for teenagers in their 10s is the highest; it declines after adulthood.

By the way, it needs to be explained that night terrors and nightmares are not the same thing. Night terrors occur during slow-wave sleep. At this time, the baby is not dreaming.

What to do when baby is having a bad dream?

For an inaccurate age group, please refer to below:

At the age of 0-3 years old, there is no need to worry about newborn or infant having nightmares. Even if he makes threatening gestures while sleeping, 80% is struggling to grab a toy or drink more milk in his dream. You don't need to do anything.

At the age of 3-5, it is still rare for children to have nightmares, but they may happen. Children at this stage cannot clearly distinguish the difference between dream and reality. In addition to comfort them, parents need careful guidance and explanation. Not only after the nightmare, but parents can also talk to the child about the dream in normal times so that the child gradually understands that the dream is false, which can alleviate the fear after the nightmare.

At the age of 6-12, a child at this time can basically understand that a nightmare is just a dream, but if he wakes up from the nightmare, the memories and images in the dream are still very clear at this time, which will still make him very scared and disturbed. Parents also need to give comfort, listen to the children's dreams, find out the source of the children's fear and do some explanation.

In addition to listening, comforting, and explaining the falsehood of dreams, the other skills you can use are:
Give the child a soft toy that he likes;
Turn on a night light
Tell a happy story;
Check the place under the bed and closet etc, of the room, so that the baby can be assured that there are no monsters and bad guys;
Put a little soft music that your baby likes;

How to reduce nightmares?

Improving the sleeping environment will make the child sleep more comfortably, but it is not a solution to the source of the nightmare. It is more likely that the temperature or weather in the dream world will be better. The most reliable sentence related to nightmares is: nightmares are directly proportional to the fear in reality. If you want to reduce or avoid nightmares, you need to reduce your child’s premature and excessive exposure to things that scare him in reality:

  • Whether all kinds of learning, tutoring classes and skill training in life put too much pressure on the child;
  • Changing the environment, such as going to school or moving house, may cause anxiety to the child, and more communication is needed at this time;
  • Whether the family relationship is harmonious, or whether it gives her too much insecurity when criticizing the child;
  • Various picture books and cartoons full of monsters and negative typical;
  • Scenes of disasters, fights, and quarrels appearing in TV programs;

  • But especially in the current environment, there are too many uncontrollable factors, we can only try to avoid bringing fear to children in reality. As a personal experience, when the TV is turned on, the war movie or the video website that the station is playing by default, and the horror movie propaganda before the cartoon will be the source of children's nightmares. However, choosing more active and positive cartoons, movies, and picture books that are suitable for children's age is our more effective preventive measure.