Originally posted here

By: Dad Goes Round


Babies are a bit like dogs when they are sleeping.  Periods of calm restfulness interspersed with moments of activity.  Dogs whimper and run in their sleep.  Babies – at least the one currently sleeping on my chest – go through periods of activity as well.  This particular one also whimpers in her sleep and instead of running in her sleep will move her arms around and exhibit an impressive array of facial expressions.  Her brow furrows, her eyebrows go up and down, sometimes her eyes flutter open briefly before closing and returning to calm.

So what is going on in her head and in her dreams?  She only has three weeks of life experience and isn’t really doing a lot other than eating when she is awake.  Plus she can’t see much yet. How can that form enough material for furrowed brown dreams?

According to reliable internet experts babies spend about 50% of their time in REM sleep, which is that magical time of sleep when dreaming occurs.  However, according to David Foulkes, a psychologist who researches paediatric sleep, babies are not actually dreaming during REM sleep unlike adults and older children.


The thinking is that babies don’t have enough experience to have structured dreams or enough material gathered during their waking hours to form dreams.  Neuroscientists believe that all that REM sleep is actually being used to build brains.  They need time to continue the brain development started in-utero and at this stage they are using what they do see and hear to help built those neural pathways that will enable them to understand and use language and make sense of their worlds.

Basically my daughter needs that REM time to get their brains all glued together so that she can figure out who that lunatic is who is holding her when she wakes up and why he keeps sticking out his tongue at her.

Frankly I am reassured to know that she isn’t re-experiencing the trauma of being born or the pain we inflict on her by taking too long to wake up and change her diaper before she gets fed in the middle of the night.  Although  I was a little sad to discover that she is not having dreams about chasing squirrels and finding bones.