Everyone, including little people, often view life experiences by the first time they did or felt or saw something. Those firsts become landmarks – dealing with death, falling in love, first heartbreak. These are pieces of the past that aid us to navigate the present.
Dreams work the same way as real-life firsts: they’re rehearsals, prepping, shaping human’s future waking moments. Some childhood dreams become lifelong touchstones of emotion, feeling and identity.
All over the world, in different languages and different colours, children are dreaming. They are dreaming about families and monsters, loving and killing, flying and falling. Sometimes these children are masters of wild beasts, and sometimes they are running for their lives.
In case studies:
- Two year-olds – toddlers’ dreams tend to involve little more than a setting: a child taking in the scene, without action few characters.
- Ages 2 to 4 group had dreams that often involved sleeping in some other place, ie: next to a hot dog stand, or sleeping in a bathtub instead of their bed.
- Over the coming years, children’s dreams tend to become more complex, keeping pace with social understanding, moving beyond just simple settings. When something happens, it tends to happen to the child.
- Kids don’t begin acting on their surroundings in dreams until around age 7 or 8, when their feelings of control over actions and their consequences has developed, supporting them as protagonists in their own narratives.
There’s no way to know for sure whether babies dream.
Babies’ sleep cycles have proportionately more REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the phase where most dreaming occurs. Therefore, it’s a reasonable guess, since dreams map onto waking experience, that babies would be dreaming about the same objects, people and experiences that they have when awake.
As a kid, the world is a more threatening place. The leading theory is that children are more vulnerable. They’re in smaller bodies that aren’t as effective at saving themselves if some physical threat does come along. So nature has them a little more aroused and afraid of things. Kids are small and the world is big. that can be scary even in the most normal and healthy of circumstances.
The older you get, the harder it becomes to remember your dreams.
In teenage years, dreams are vivid and formative, grappling with teenage themes – identity and sexuality. But there are fewer of them. As childhood moves into adulthood, sleep becomes less deep, and dreaming less prominent. By late adolescence, the “heightened dreaming” that made up the earliest years of life has largely faded away. The basic patterns — how many characters appear, whether they’re friendly or aggressive interactions – start to settle into what we usually expect to find among adults.
As a grown-up, we just don’t care as much — remembering becomes less of a priority. That may be the greatest, cruelest irony of dream research. The more easily we can communicate our dreams to others, the more fragmented and less vivid they become. The richest ones, meanwhile, remain locked up inside our heads, forever inaccessible to all but the dreamer.
“Dreaming permits each and every one of us
to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.”
“Linda has published sixteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish. She has mentored many authors and edited their work.”