Last week, I wrote a post talking about how babies dream and what they dream about. I think every parent probably thinks a lot about those little details of our own lives, and when their baby is going to start experiencing them.
I did a little bit of research and came to the conclusion that, basically, babies dream in emotions. Bad dreams are definitely possible, but your baby experiences them as negative emotions.
When Do Babies Start Having Real Dreams?
According to one book I’m reading on the subject, babies can start dreaming as early as four months, about 1-4 hours after they fall asleep. Our baby is only about a week away from his six-month half-birthday, so his recent late night screaming definitely could have been his first nightmares.
That doesn’t necessarily mean your child will definitely start having nightmares as soon as they hit six months. It could be years before they show any sign of having had a bad dream. Most books on the subject put the starting point of regular dreaming at 4-12 months though, so just hope your baby continues to have sweet dreams.
Night Terrors in Babies
If you’ve never personally experienced a night terror, count yourself lucky. Don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m talking about “nightmares” here either.” “Night Terrors” are pretty much as terrifying as the name implies.
“Nightmares” take place completely while asleep and begin to dissipate as soon as the dreamer wakes up. “Night terrors” on the other hand take place in a state of partial waking. You (or your baby) open your eyes up in bed and still see the lingering images of your nightmare floating in front of you. Sometimes you can even hear the continuing sounds of whatever was going on in your dreams.
“Night Terrors” can develop into a serious sleeping disorder that continues to plague some people well into adulthood.
How To Know If Your Baby Is Having Night Terrors
Your first instinct on hearing your baby wake up from a sound sleep with a bloodcurdling scream would probably be to run to their side, picking them up, and letting them hear your voice.
This is generally pretty great advice, but night terrors make things more difficult. Because your baby is still experiencing the night terror, they may have their eyes wide open, but it will be as if they’re staring right through you. You may notice that their heart is beating very fast, they feel hot and sweaty. Your child may even try to push you away if you try to hug or touch them because they honestly don’t recognize you.
What To Do About Night Terrors?
This is going to seem counter-intuitive, but the best solution to your baby’s night terror is simply to leave them alone for a few minutes.
The thing is: night terrors are normal. It’s just a part of the process of your child’s body figuring out how to effectively regulate their sleep cycles. Basically, their brain is learning to sleep and be awake separately. If they’re exhibiting signs of a night terror and you can’t do anything to console them, you need to just let their brains figure out what they’re doing, and eventually, they’ll go back to sleep.
If things escalate to a point where your baby’s sleeping habits worry you, consult your pediatrician to for alternative methods.