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Helping You and Your Child Sleep

Sleep, Dreams & Nightmares In Children ​

Helping You and Your Child Sleep

Sleep, Dreams & Nightmares In Children

Sleep, Oh Glorious Sleep! Science Has Unanimously Confirmed That Every Single One Of Us Indulges In This Nocturnal Delight,

…Even If There Are Occasional Dream Amnesiacs Among Us Or That One Peculiar Friend Who Insists They Never Venture Into The Realm Of Dreams.

 What is sleep made of?   Sleep can be categorized into non-REM (NREM) sleep or synchronized sleep, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep or desynchronized sleep. NREM sleep consists of four stages, ranging from drowsiness to light sleep to deep sleep. REM sleep corresponds to the dream phase and includes a single stage characterized by rapid eye movements (REM).

NREM and REM sleep alternate cyclically, and children have a higher proportion of REM sleep compared to adults (50% versus 20%), especially between the ages of 3 and 5 years. At this age, they can have up to 8-9 periods of REM sleep per night.

Curious fact, we cannot neither create NREM and REM state of sleep, nor exclude one of them from our sleep routine: both are necessary for the well being of our mind and body as they even allow the brain to perform different but fundamental task during each stage.

Dreams in Newborns 

Babies start dreaming from a very young age:  dreaming is closely associated with the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stage, and newborns spend a significant amount of their sleep time in REM sleep.

Before the age of three, children lack the ability to recount their dreams, making it difficult to investigate. These dreams in newborns are likely to be influenced by their  life experiences,  sensory inputs and family – caregiver interactions.

Dreams in children 3 to 4 Years Old

Around the age of 3, children begin to report occasional dreams. These dreams may wake the child, but they have low emotional content and often revolve around animals or personal needs such as hunger and thirst.
They often have a rich imagination, which influences the nature of their dreams. Dreams at this age can involve familiar people, places, and objects from their daily lives, such as family members, pets, toys, or favorite characters from books or cartoons.
It’s important to note that children at this age may have difficulty accurately describing their dreams or differentiating between dreams and reality. Their dreams can be fleeting and quickly forgotten upon waking up. However, some children may have the ability to recall and share bits and pieces of their dreams.

Dreams in children 5 to 7 Years Old

Between the ages of 5 and 7, dreams and their descriptions become longer, similar in duration to those of adults. The dreamer takes on a more prominent role as the main character, and the ability to create simple scenarios and emotional content begins to emerge. Dreams often involve being chased, threatened, or unable to move and a lot of action!
During this stage, children may have a better understanding of the difference between dreams and reality, allowing them to recall and describe their dreams with more clarity.

Nightmares in Children

It is common for children, even very young ones, to have nightmares that they cannot even describe. In the world of children, a nightmare is like a super scary dream that can make them feel really scared, worried, or upset while they’re sleeping. These nightmares can have very clear and lifelike pictures in their mind, and it can make them feel like something dangerous or scary is happening. Sometimes, these dreams can be so intense that they make them feel terrified, panicked, or even very sad.
Encouraging open conversations about dreams can help children process their emotions, explore their imagination, and feel more comfortable with their dream experiences.

Additionally, using reassuring lullabies, reading funny stories together, and avoiding recalling negative thoughts before bedtime are effective ways to promote a positive sleep experience.
If nightmares become a persistent problem or significantly affect your child’s daily life, it may be beneficial to consult a healthcare professional or a sleep specialist for further evaluation and guidance.

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