What do babies dream about?

Q: What do babies dream about? Do they have nightmares?

A: We may never know for sure. Dream researchers depend on study volunteers to tell them if, when, and what they dream -- and babies aren't quite up to the task. We do know, however, that adult dreaming occurs during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and that infants spend 50 percent of their snooze time in REM, which is almost twice as much time as adults spend. It would be a logical assumption that babies do dream and that it has something to do with their brain development since they spend so much time in this stage of sleep. But it's hard to imagine the landscape of your baby's dream world since he doesn't have language or clear concepts of people and things. Chances are he isn't having nightmares, though, since he probably doesn't grasp the meaning of fear yet. We suspect bad dreams don't happen until kids are 2 or 3 and have a better notion of being afraid and an active imagination that can conjure up bogeymen. --Hagar Scher

Originally published in Parents magazine, October 2006. Updated 2009


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