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Can Babies Have Nightmares? (Here’s What You Probably Didn’t Know)

When a baby suddenly wakes up in the middle of the night and starts crying for no reason, you may be left wondering: can babies have nightmares? You’ve probably gone ahead and checked on feeding, fever, changing, and everything looks fine. So is your child simply having a bad dream?

Often, nightmares are associated with unlocking the brain’s subconscious part during sleep. Typically, bad dreams may be about people we’ve met before, our fears, or the day’s encounters. 

But babies haven’t encountered such experiences yet. We often expose them to comforting and positive stimuli. So, can babies have nightmares or night terrors?

Keep reading to learn more.



The term ‘nightmares’ refers to scary or disturbing dreams. So you might be wondering: how can babies have nightmares? According to sleep experts, babies don’t dream at the early stage of their brain; therefore and therefore, it’s safe to say they don’t experience nightmares or bad dreams.

Why? Because nightmares originate from an overactive imagination, trauma, and life’s everyday stresses. Babies aren’t undergoing these experiences yet.

Here’s the thing: Babies may cry at night for various reasons, such as hunger or wet diaper. Sometimes, they may also cry but are utterly unresponsive to you with their eyes closed.

If this is the scenario, then it’s what’s known as confusional arousal, which is akin to sleepwalking or sleep talking. Aptly put, the baby does something that makes them seem awake, but they’re asleep.

As tempting as it might be, try not to pick the baby up when they seem restless or even half awake. If you do that, the child may start depending on you to help them whenever they want to go back to sleep. 

If a baby genuinely needs you to comfort them, they’ll wake up normally and let you know by the tone and pitch of their cry that they do need you.

In children, nightmares start at the age of 2 to 4 years. You won’t quickly notice whether the child is experiencing a night terror or a nightmare until they are old enough to speak about the details the following morning.

Can babies havYou’retmares?

Night Terrors

You’re asleep at night, and you hear the baby screaming out of terror. You get up from your bed to where they are. Although they seem awake, they continue screaming. You try soothing them, but that doesn’t help.

If this happens, the baby might be going through night terrors. While uncommon in infants, a baby as young as 18 months can experience them.

It’s confusing to watch your little one scream and thrash. But here’s the thing: night terrors are scarier for you than for the baby. Matter of fact: the baby may not remember anything by morning.


How Do I Know if My Baby Is Having Night Terrors?

Night terrors often begin early in a night’s sleep cycle, during non-random eye movement (before dreaming starts). A night terror may last anywhere between a couple of minutes to 45 minutes. Your baby may remain asleep before and after the episode.

Here are the symptoms to show that your baby is experiencing night terrors:

  • Sweating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Screaming
  • Restlessness and thrashing
  • A racing heartbeat
  • Open glassy eyes

Besides, the baby might not respond to your efforts to soothe them. And that’s because while their eyes are open, they aren’t fully awake.

After the terror is over, the baby will go back to sleep and won’t be able to remember the episode by morning, even if you remember everything.

What May Cause Night Terrors?

Doctors aren’t still sure about the exact cause of night terrors in children. However, the known fact is, on their own, night terrors don’t imply that your child has a psychological issue or is upset by something.

That said, some factors increase the possibility of babies experiencing night terrors. First, a baby may be more prone to night terrors if this condition is more prevalent in the family. For example, a sleepwalking family history may increase the risk of experiencing night terrors. Babies who encounter night terrors might ultimately sleepwalk.

Other factors that make it highly possible for a baby to have a night terror are:

  • Sickness
  • Stress
  • Fever
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Excessive physical activity | being overtired
  • Certain medications
  • New sleep surroundings
Can babies have nightmares?
Can babies have nightmares?

At What Age Do Night Terrors Start?

It’s typically rare for infants to experience night terrors. Often, the crying witnessed in your babies isn’t associated with night terrors. However, when a baby is about 18 months, you may start noticing these occurrences.

Night terrors are very common among preschool-age children between three to four years old. However, they might occur until your child is 12 years and should stop in teenagehood when the nervous system is fully developed.

What to Do If Your Child Has a Night Terror

An alarming fact about night terrors is that you may not do much for your child whenever they strike. Sure, watching the little one undergo the symptoms can be tricky, but tell yourself that they won’t recall anything when they wake up.

Try not to wake up your child when they are having a night terror, as it might confuse them and make it difficult to sleep again. While that isn’t the easiest thing to do as a parent, it’s the only way to help.

Also, ensure the baby’s crib doesn’t have objects that may cause harm. And if the night terrors start after your toddlers have moved from the crib to a bed, ensure they don’t get up and injure themselves during the occurrence.

The child will calm down after a short duration and get back to their normal sleep cycle.

Does your baby have a history of night terrors? Be sure to inform all the caregivers about it and provide them with guidelines on what to do if you won’t be available at night.

Can I Prevent My Baby from Having Night Terrors?

A well-rested child might be less likely to experience night terrors. But getting a baby to have a good night’s sleep is among the great mysteries in parenthood.

Despite the difficulty, you can do a couple of things to let your baby sleep more.

To begin with, know how much sleep the little one needs.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants aged 4 to 12 months need to sleep for 12 – 16 hours per day, including naps. On the other hand, 1-to-2-year-old toddlers need to sleep between 11 – 14 hours a day.

But how do you achieve such sleeping hours if the baby is unwell, teething, or experiencing FOMO sleep aversions?

Easy: Introduce a consistent sleep routine. Ensure the routine is simple enough that you or a caregiveHere’sfollow it each night.

Here’s an example of a baby’s routine: 

Brush the baby’s gums or teeth, read them a book or sing them a lullaby, and tuck them in at the same time each night. For outstanding results, start the routine before the baby begins to rub their eyes – What’s that they are tired.

What’s the Difference between Nightmares and Night Terrors in Babies?

The table below summarizes the differences between the two:

Night Terrors Nightmares
Occur during non-rapid eye movement (the first few hours of sleep) Occur during REM (later at night) when dreaming is common.
Children don’t remember the details Children remember the details and may talk about it
The parent is more upset The child is more upset
Occur in babies from 18 months upwards Common in toddlers aged 2-4 years

Final Word

Can babies have nightmares? Well, infants rarely have nightmares, but they may have night terrors, which may be disruptive and scary. But, they aren’t dangerous, as they typically go away on their own

If you think your baby has frequent night terrors that make you uncomfortable, create a consistent routine that will calm the baby and make them sleep well.


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