Does My Baby Dream? Understanding REM Sleep in Babies
While you watch your little one sleep, you may be wondering—is my baby dreaming?
While we may not know what they’re dreaming about, the answer is yes! In fact, your baby is dreaming a lot more in their first few months of life than they ever will at any other time.
Learn more about your baby’s dream sleep, and why your child needs it for healthy development.
Dreams happen during a phase called REM sleep.
REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. It’s called this because their eyes move quickly in different directions during this sleep phase, do to activity in the brain, which is how dreams happen. Dreams can happen in other phases of sleep, but are most vivid in REM.
Newborns get a lot of sleep—and more than half of that is REM sleep.
It’s estimated that newborns spend about 40%-70% of their sleep in REM. That translates to, on average, 8-11 hours per day in REM.
As we age, REM sleep lessens. Children spend about 25%-30% of their sleep in REM, and adults spend 15%-20% of their sleep in this stage. That translates to only about 90-120 minutes of REM per night.
REM sleep is important for everyone to get—but it’s especially important for baby.
While it may not sound restful, REM is an incredibly important phase of sleep, especially for infants. REM benefits:
- Learning and memory: Studies have shown that humans have trouble retaining information in their short and long-term memory without the support of REM sleep. As baby learns so much every day, it’s important that their brain has time to process it all.
- Brain development: Neural connections are incredibly important for your baby’s development. Research indicates that the REM sleep stage is when neural connections go into overdrive, meaning that REM promotes development.
- Mood: There is believed to be a link between REM sleep and coping mechanisms. Coping skills are particularly important for your newborn to develop, as they will aid in everything from communication development to executive functioning.
It’s hard to keep track of your baby’s REM sleep, but parents can monitor the quantity and quality of their child’s sleep.
Learn more about the benefits of sleep to see how much sleep your baby should be getting depending on their age, and our tips on helping your baby get the best sleep possible. If you suspect any issues, consider contacting a healthcare provider.