Understanding how we dream and why we dream is vital to proper dream interpretation and analysis, and one of the most fascinating areas of dreaming involves the study of babies and young children. Scientists have known for some time now that babies, and all other human beings, dream every night. Many studies have even suggested that babies begin dreaming before they are born.
What these babies dream about, of course, is still a mystery, but a recent study has shown that babies spent considerably more of their sleep time engaged in dream sleep. In the study, babies were found to spend approximately two thirds of their sleep time in the REM state, compared to an average of 15% to 20% for most adults.
In trying to understand the importance of dream sleep to young babies, scientists have theorized that REM sleep plays an important role in the development of the baby’s brain. One reason for this theory is that babies born prematurely have been seen to spend an even greater percentage of their sleep in the REM state than full term babies. Premature babies can spend up to 80% of their sleep time in the REM state.
As babies become older, and the brain matures, the amount of time spent in dream sleep begins to decrease. By the time the average baby is one year old, the percentage of sleep time spent in the REM sleep has dropped to 35%. This finding is thought to suggest that REM sleep is important to the baby’s mental development. It is known that adults deprived of REM sleep suffer from a variety of psychological problems, so it makes sense that REM sleep and mental development are connected.
As a matter of fact, many scientists and dream researchers believe that dreaming is a way that the mind is exercised and provided with much needed stimulation. Therefore, babies, who do not get as much stimulation as older people, need more stimulation thorugh the dream state. As babies get older and begin to experience more stimulation from the real world, they need less stimulation and mental exercise from the dream world.
Knowing that babies dream is certainly important to parents, just as understanding that young children often suffer from nightmares is important for parents to be able to soothe and comfort the fears experienced by their sons and daughters.
Dream research has revealed that babies can have bad dreams and nightmares as well as positive dreams. Therefore, when the baby wakes up crying in the middle of the night, it may be the result of a bad dream and not gas, hunger of the need for a diaper change. In most cases, comforting the child will help he or she to fall asleep.
As children get older, it is easier for parents to at least understand the nightmares they may suffer from. Nightmares usually begin to occur by the time the child is three years old, and they most often continue until the child reaches the age of six or seven. These types of nightmares often take the form of a fear of monsters in the closet, under the bed or in other hidden places.
No one knows for sure why we dream, but the fact that young children, and even babies, spend much of their lives in dream sleep is proof of the universal nature of dreaming and the importance of dream interpretation.