It's a known fact that babies spend more time than adults in REM sleep. REM means Rapid Eye Movement (if you notice your baby's eyes moving and twitching while they're sleeping, there is a good chance they are in REM sleep). It is also known as "deep sleep" and is the time when people are more likely to dream. Babies spend about 50 percent of their sleep in REM (compare that to 25% for adults), so you would think they do dream, but the debate is still out on that.
According to researchers, in order to dream, you have to have full self-identity. You have to have a wider range of experience and language to actually dream. They cannot be sure about baby dreams, but do think that REM sleep serves a totally different purpose than it does for us adults. For us, we dream. Dreaming helps us to go over problems we are dealing with, helps us come to conclusions and can be our subconscious' way of alerting us of things we're unaware of consciously. For babies, it seems to be one of the biggest developmental times. A time when the baby starts to process language, and when the brain rests so the body and mind can grow simultaneously.
What about night terrors? Aren't they dreams?
Night terrors, usually affecting toddlers, are an uncommon yet likely occurrence. They are called "terrors" because the baby "wakes up" and starts screaming like they're being terrorized, but any attempts to comfort will make them worse, not better. The only way to fix an episode is to let it go away on its own. Night terrors are not nightmares, they aren't caused by dreams, they are caused by stressful events/changes, fevers, medication affecting the brain, or sleep deprivation.
The episodes typically start when the toddler is around 3 years old and revolve around the teen years, but may start sooner and some adults may get them as well. When children wake up the next day, they have no recollection of the terror and no dream in memory.
My baby's eyes twitch and she'll even smile peacefully in her sleep, doesn't that mean she's dreaming?
Not necessarily. Eyes twitching is a sign of being in REM sleep — everyone does it and all it indicates is the stage of the sleep cycle your baby is in.
They believe that the smiling and other facial movements are simply reflexes that happen in the relaxed state of sleep. Another possible cause in early babies could be passing gas.
There are theories circulating about babies dreaming, but since they're too young to report it, there is no real way to know. They spend 50% of their sleep in Rapid Eye Movement sleep compared to 25% for adults — so they have a lot more time to dream. There are scientists looking for answers, but dreaming is such a broad subject it'll be hard to tell when they will figure it out so for now, if you see baby smiling and want to think they're having a happy dream, feel free to imagine the beautiful thoughts that may be running through their tiny little head.
READ NEXT: HOW TO HANDLE BABY'S FIRST THANKSGIVING