There have been a number of different theories on when sleeping and dreaming actually begins, with most scientists concluding that dreaming was not possible before infants actually started to become conscious and aware of the world around them. But in recent years, as we have gained the opportunity to see into the womb through ultrasound and other technologies, we have learned that sleep begins long before we are born, and that REM sleep is present in babies long before birth.
The study of neonatal sleep is a relatively new science. We still are not sure when a developing fetus begins to alternate between being awake and being asleep, but we do know that babies that are born prematurely have a distinctive wakefulness pattern, and even though we know that a fetus is extremely active even when it is asleep, we still are able to discern that they spend between 16 and 20 hours sleeping. Continue reading