General Question

occ's avatar

Do babies dream?

Asked by occ (4083points) June 14th, 2007

what age do babies start dreaming? have there been studies that show if/how babies dream before they are verbal? do they just dream sounds and images?

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16 Answers

abherman's avatar

This is a controversial topic. Babies exhibit a huge amount of "REM" sleep,but it is unclear what's actually happening. The EEG patterns of baby sleep lack some of the complex structures that are characteristic of adult or even post age 5-6 sleep. Since the rate of connection-formation is high during the first two years of life, the dynamics on the those networks (the sleep brain rhythms) are rapidly evolving. And our technology is not good enough yet to be able to detect an electromagnetic signal that we can say corresponds to mental sounds or images, without a controlled experiment. Perhaps there is more known about sleep in newborn non-human animals. But, to conclude, researchers are not in complete agreement about the exact purposes of sleep and the different stages of sleep in adults, let alone in infants.

nomtastic's avatar

i asked a baby nurse about this once and she said that babies dream about angels. and food.

girlfriday's avatar

If they do dream, I don't think their dreams have the same quality that adult dreams have. When adults dream, their hippocampus (where memory is processed) and their limbic system (where emotions are processed) throw memories and emotions up to the frontal lobes (reasoning, logic, planning). The frontal lobes try to "solve" whatever they get thrown. They juggle the information, spin it around, spice it up and then throw it back to the hippocampus and the limbic system where the whole process starts again and where solidified memories eventually get stored. It's kind of like a giant game of ping-pong in your head.

Babies don't have very well-developed frontal lobes, so their dreams are probably very different.

lilakess's avatar

All I know is that I have seen my baby daughter laugh in her sleep just like adults do.

skfinkel's avatar

I've learned that babies tend to sleep lightly, and that is a good thing for their fast developing brains. The deep sleep that we think we want babies to get into, so that parents can finally get some sleep, is not as beneficial.

skfinkel's avatar

Here's a wonderful book on babies and brain development: "The Science of Parenting/How today's brain research can help you raise happy, emotionally balanced children" by Margot Sunderland. I have found this book to be very readable and well researched. She presents a thought out and a very sensible approach to babies and parents. I recommended this book in my parent infant class, and would suggest it for all those interested in child and baby development.

hossman's avatar

I have a theory the educational process is not a matter of humans expanding our brain's potential, but a process of limiting our potential. Inherent in the process of our neurons "hardwiring" connections as we develop is that other possible connections are not made. Most educational systems could be defined as learning more and more about less and less, until you develop deep but narrow capabilities. Certainly this could be an indictment of many graduate and doctoral processes.

Given that presumption, an inference could be drawn that babies, or in utero fetuses, perhaps have dream experiences not inferior, but rather superior to our own dream experiences, as their dreams are not preoccupied with the clutter many studies have shown affect adult dreaming.

This leads to an interesting ethical dilemma. From a philosophical standpoint, what makes a human a human? An opposable thumb? Not likely. Walking erect? Nope. I'd suggest as a philosophical, spiritual, religious, medical, ethical and legal question, the ability to think, reason, be self-aware, and DREAM may have a lot to say about this question. And if a fetus DREAMS, then I'd suggest that is an attribute of humanity that may entitle a fetus to some sort of representation or due process before their viability is terminated by anyone else, including their parents.

nomtastic's avatar

that sounds like a political stance disguised as (faux) scientific theory. i'm just saying.

hossman's avatar

Nope. I don't believe abortion is a political or legal question at all. At some point between their first meeting and the eventual death of the organism, a sperm and egg become a human being, and entitled to legal protection. At what point that occurs is a medical, spiritual, religious or philosophical question, or any combination thereof, depending on your approach, but the legal issue is clear, and the political issue should be clear. I can see disagreement on when zygotes become human, but unless you are going to go out on an ethical limb and say individual humans have a right to determine whether other individual humans have a right to live, then terminating a human being is murder. Unless we've entered into a political compact to allow certain people to endanger other people's lives, which we call war.

Now the whole thing about limiting our brains over time, rather than expanding them, yup, just my pet theory, but I don't really see any political applications.

Jill_E's avatar

We saw our son when he was a newborn laugh.

Love the comment about the nurse saying babies dream angels and food.

lucien's avatar

My baby smiles in her sleep. And her mouth moves like she is nursing.

Zaku's avatar

Animals dream. Babies do too, but you just can’t get them to tell you much about it until they are verbal.

babygalll's avatar

Of course they do. Have you ever watched a baby sleep? They smile, laugh and have the cutest facial expressions. If you ever get the chance…watch a baby sleep.

LouisianaGirl's avatar

they do because you know when they smile in there sleep? People say that they are seeing angels! And because they are humans just like we are and I think they picture and go off of what they have seen/heard already because being in the womb dont you think they got familiar to the sounds.

Val123's avatar

We dream about what we know. Until a certain age, babies can’t distinguish dreams from reality. I would imagine that a newborn would simply dream about being in the uterus again, and as they get older their dreams would get more complicated.

Val123's avatar

Wow. This is an old question!

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