Consider this: at around your baby’s first week, she’ll be clocking up to 16 hours of sleep per day. After her first birthday, the number is not much different—13 hours of shuteye. That’s a hefty amount of time…so what do they dream about during these extended trips to dreamland?
According to paediatrics expert and author Dr Alan Greene, babies don’t just dream more than us because they sleep more, but also because their sleep cycles are shorter:
“When we first fall asleep, we’re in light sleep and during this stage, it’s easy for us to wake up,” explains Professor Greene. “Then we start to move into a deeper sleep, which is when our brain is resting and recovering, and then we go back towards light sleep again.” An adult sleep cycle is 90 minutes, whereas infant sleep cycles are almost half that—50 minutes.
Professor Greene adds: “Children dream more than adults, but babies dream the most.” And babies’ ability to dream plenty goes back to the womb itself. Light sleep—during which Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM) occurs—shows increased brainwave activity under measurement, which suggests dreaming. Foetuses’ brainwaves reveal a marathon 10 hours’ REM sleep each 24 hours.
So the bigger question—what could unborn babies possibly be dreaming about?
Professor Greene asserts that dreams help us make sense of our experiences, and because babies in the womb receive sensory input via sounds and smells, this constitutes as experience—something intriguing to be deciphered during slumber.
Post-birth, you can at least get a vague sense of the tone of your little one’s nocturnal sojourns; if she wakes happy, the dreams were probably pleasant, and if she’s fussy and upset, her sleep was likely filled with the processing of less comfortable stimuli from the day.
Major clues your baby is dreaming include twitching (usually linked to physical skill development), eye movement (thought to indicate ‘scene changes’), and, smiling. Aww. Who needs sleep when you can watch your bubs dream?