Hey everyone,

This is my second round of research with my question “How does dreaming vary with age?” . For this round I’m going to be comparing the psychological impacts of dreams in children versus adults.


Dreaming in children

Children, more specifically very young children can easily confuse dreams with reality.  In this article I read, the author talks about his own daughter’s(who was four years old) experience with this. She had a dream where her parents were in it and she woke up and started talking about the experience. She assumed her parents remembered everything as well and they had experienced everything she dreamt. Another story the author had was not so positive. His nephew(who was also four) had a dream that he was at a subway station, fell down the rails and only barely managed to escape. No matter what his mother said to convince him, he believed it was real and he was very traumatized. (1)

Image result for dreaming in children

In children, nightmares are really common. 24% of 2- to 6-year-olds, 41% of 6- to 10-year-olds, claim to have frequent nightmares. These nightmares usually occur in the second half of the night during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In the first half of sleep, it’s common for some children to have night terrors.Nightmares are made by the part of brain that is active during REM sleep, which includes the amygdala, parahippocampal gyrus, and anterior cingulate gyrus.(2)  

-The amygdala is the part of the brain that processes emotions.(3)

-The parahippocampal gyrus which plays an important role in memory encoding and retrieval.(4)

-The anterior cingulate gyrus is involved in emotion regulation and decision making, as well as regulation in some physiological processes like heart rate and blood pressure. (5)

Image result for parts of the brain active during dreaming

Nightmares can feel very real, especially to young children since they don’t completely understand which can cause a lot of distress. Although it is normal and natural for children to experience nightmares, they can sometimes cause other problems such as seizures, sleep terrors, post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), and sleep disordered breathing problems like sleep apnea.(2)

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Dreaming in adults

In adults, nightmares can be very spontaneous however they can be caused by multiple factors.(8)

Some people can have nightmares by having late night snacks because it increases your metabolism which can make your brain more active. Many medications such as anti depressants and narcotics can have an impact on chemicals in the brain which can have an impact on your dreams. Even non psychological medications such as blood pressure medications can cause nightmares. A symptom from withdrawal from alcohol and substance abuse can also cause nightmares.  Sleep deprivation can cause you to have nightmares, and having nightmares does reduce sleep quality as well, so those mixed together can have major impacts on sleep and dreaming. Since nightmares do often result in loss of sleep which could ultimately make sleep deprivation worse, which can cause various medical conditions such as heart disease. Mental illness can also have major impacts on how much sleep you get, sleep quality and dreaming, especially depression and anxiety and PTSD. They can also be caused by certain sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.(8)

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Nightmares become much more than bad dreams when they have an effect on your health. People who have anxiety or depression are more likely to be distressed about the experience and suffer even more psychological ill effects. (8)

When dreaming, your heart rate increases as well as blood pressure and our brain activity is actually similar to when we’re awake. In fact, if your body didn’t physically paralyze you, you would actually act out your dreams. (6)

Even though dreams can be forgotten sometimes, it can still affect your mood everyday.   Dreaming during REM is most common, but it can also happen during non-REM sleep(NREM) The NREM and REM sleep states can create different types of daytime social interactions because they happen in different parts of the brain. Dreaming in REM sleep can cause more aggression from the dreamer and dreaming during NREM can cause the dreamer to be more kind. (6)
There is a theory called the threat simulation theory which talks about how dreaming in adults can be a biological defense mechanism.  The whole idea is that dreams could be an evolutionary advantage because it can recreate potential threats. So when threats are seen in our dreams, it increases our cognitive ability to perceive them, and then help us avoid it while we are awake. (6,7)

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Pictures( in order in which they are placed in my research)







For my next research round, ,I’m going to be looking at some dream disorders that both can children and adults can get and how it affects the both. If you have any ideas or comments feel free to let know. Thanks for reading. 

Original Post

Hello Rhea,
I actually really like the way you started your round with the two stories from the kids, and what happened to the second one where he thought it was real. I generally never remember my dreams when I wake up, I either remember them like vividly or not at all, and when I sleep it’s felt like I just go to sleep and next thing I know I wake up and it’s morning, but I do remember this one dream from when I was little, maybe about 6-8 years old. It didn't really terrify me but it’s never actually left me either, and all it is a fountain in the middle of darkness, the thing is I remember thinking where am I??? cause as far as I remember that was the first time I ever remember dreaming, and it was just a fountain with black in every direction. It really did stick with me, what I wonder though is why do dreams effect children so much more than adults, is it just because we have had them so many times already that we are used to them now, whereas in kids it’s a new thing entirely? I also find it interesting how nightmares kind of create a loop, where they decrease sleep quality, which causes nightmares, where one causes the other so it’s just kind of a constant loop that’s hard to really escape. I can't wait to see dream disorders add to the mix of all of this!

Hopefully, these sites can help you:

Hey Rhea!

This was really interesting to read! I liked how you compared dreams from children to adult, including a lot of information too! Something that caught my eyes was how reducing quality of sleep can lead to nightmares. This just shows how daily lifestyle changes can impact our quality of dream at night! Once again, I really enjoy reading your posts about sleeps and dreams because it is something you are very passionate in discussing! Perhaps for your next round, you could list the most common dream disorders and least, so we can contrast and compare while associating them to child and adult. 

Here are some sources that might help you in your means of research: 



Good luck!

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