Do babies have nightmares during the night? Throughout their development, babies go through different phases, including when they are sleeping. Sleeping is an essential part of growth and learning, and it allows the baby to process what has happened during the day and to continue to grow.
Sometimes sleep is disturbed, and a baby may cry or scream during the night for no apparent reason. Is he having nightmares or night terrors? That's what we'll find out in this article.
At What Age Can a Baby Start Having Nightmares?
Babies' sleep patterns change as they develop and are divided into two main phases: so-called restless sleep (when they fall asleep) and deep slow wave sleep. These two stages alternate during the night and there may be a slight awakening or restlessness between each.
Does your baby cry in his sleep for no apparent reason? Many parents wonder whether their baby is having a bad dream. After a baby is 12 months old, night-time seizures may be caused by night terrors and possibly nightmares.
Nightmares are important for a child's psycho-emotional development. They are part of the natural process of development related to fears and anxieties. So, can a baby have nightmares? Although the exact age of onset is uncertain, they tend to be more common from the age of 2 onwards.
When a baby starts crying for no apparent reason during the night, it could be a night terror. These can appear after the age of one, as early as 18 months. However, they are more common in older children (2 to 4 years old), and usually disappear after 5 years.
Babies Sleep Disorders: Nightmare or Night Terror?
When a baby over the age of one cries out in panic during the night, you can tell whether it's a night terror or a nightmare by several factors:
Time or Sleep Phase
Night terrors usually appear in the first sleep cycle, at the beginning of the night. They occur in the transition from deep to light sleep.
Nightmares in babies occur later in the night when the period of REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) is longer.
Identify the Symptoms
While a young child usually remembers a nightmare, a baby does not remember episodes of night terrors. Most of the time, they are more memorable for the parent who sees the child having a seizure during the night. However, they are harmless to the baby.
Night terrors are a type of sleep disorder that is similar to sleepwalking. The baby is restless and cries, sometimes with his eyes open, but he is really still asleep. Even if you try to comfort him or her, he or she will not respond to your presence.
Night terrors can be recognized by:
Night terrors usually occur only once a night and can last from a few minutes to 45 minutes.
Night Terrors or Baby's Nightmare: How to Respond?
A baby who has nightmares usually wakes up afterwards and will need comforting. In the case of night terrors, on the other hand, the baby will still be asleep!
If your baby is having a nightmare, comfort and soothe him until he falls back to sleep. If your baby is having a night terror, don't try to wake him up! Stay calm and wait for it to pass. Just make sure he or she is safe. The baby who has a night terror will go back into a deep sleep afterwards.
What Can Cause My Baby's Night Terrors or Nightmares?
While there is not always an explanation for what looks like baby nightmares or night terrors, there are several things that can disturb a baby's sleep, including:
Over-stimulation of the central nervous system
Lack of quality sleep
Change in sleep environment
Whatever the cause, the best thing is to try to support your baby's sleep quality.
How to Soothe Your Baby to Sleep?
Here are some tips on how to put your baby to sleep effectively and avoid sleep disorders:
Establishing a Bedtime Routine
Sleep habits are an important part of ensuring quality sleep and preparing your baby for sleeping through the night. At the same time each day, develop your own ritual. Brushing teeth, reading a story, singing, or cuddling, prepare your baby to know it's time to sleep.
Also, start this routine before your baby starts to show signs of overtiredness (rubbing eyes, yawning, etc.)
Provide a Safe and Soothing Environment
A baby's bedroom and sleeping environment has a big impact on the quality of sleep. Before bedtime, be sure to dim the lights, talk more quietly and avoid any sources of noise or stimulation.
Creating a safe place to sleep will also help your baby fall asleep more easily. Finally, make sure your baby doesn't get too hot or too cold at night.
Recognize the Type of Night-time Crying
Waking and crying in the middle of the night does not always require intervention. Try to recognize the type of crying to identify if your presence is required.
If your baby is crying because he's too hot, too cold, needs a diaper change, is sick, has a nightmare or is hungry... his crying may escalate quickly.
If a baby moans or cries in between sleep phases, it doesn't always mean he'll wake up. Wait a few minutes to observe his condition and check if he needs your presence before joining him.
Adjust the Routine for Each Age Group
There are many stages in a baby's sleep as he or she continues to develop and grow. To best support your baby through these stages, learn about the different sleep cycles of your baby, so you can adapt your routine to each stage.
If your baby's sleep disturbances continue, do not hesitate to talk to your paediatrician for medical advice or a childhood sleep specialist.
The Right Bedding for a Good Night’s Sleep
Whether it's a baby's nightmare or a night terror, you now have a better understanding of the possible reasons for disturbed nights and some ways to soothe them. In addition to your comforting presence, a healthy and safe environment promotes quality sleep for the baby!
To enhance your baby's bedroom, discover the Polysleep Baby Mattress. 100% made in Canada, this mattress is especially designed to ensure a soft, safe and comforting sleep for toddlers.