Dream laughter is not a very common phenomenon, so when this happens, a person involuntarily wonders what it means, isn’t it time to see a psychiatrist? But smiling through sleep babies can be seen much more often than adults. Adults can look at a laughing baby for a long time with emotion and wonder why the child is laughing. And what really lies behind laughter in a dream and whether it is dangerous – researchers know. Let’s just say that in most cases such laughter is harmless, although in rare cases there are exceptions.
Why dream laughter is unusual
To understand why the laughter of a sleeper is perceived more often as a phenomenon than as a common phenomenon, it is necessary to understand at least in general terms what sleep is and what happens to the body during a night’s rest.
In short, sleep consists of two phases – fast and slow, and during the night a person goes through several cycles of fast and slow sleep. In turn, the slow phase proceeds in three stages. During the first stage, the body is rebuilt from wakefulness to a calmer state. At this time, breathing and brain wave activity slow down a little, muscles begin to relax. The second stage is a deeper sleep. During this period, breathing and heartbeat slows down even more, brain activity decreases, and the eyes remain motionless under closed eyelids. The third stage of slow sleep is the most important, because it depends on whether a person wakes up rested. At this time, the heartbeat and breathing slow down as much as possible, just like the activity of brain waves.
The rem sleep phase is otherwise called the rapid eye movement phase, since during this period the eyes move very quickly under the eyelids. In this phase, brain activity is quite high – almost as much as during wakefulness. It is during this period that a sleeping person can dream. But since breathing is irregular in the rem sleep phase, heartbeat and blood pressure resemble the waking state, so that the sleeper does not harm himself, nature has provided one trick. During sleep, the body produces specific hormones that partially paralyze the body, so that the sleeper in reality does not repeat the movements that he does in his vision. This fact explains why, as a rule, people make a minimum of movements during a night’s rest. And it is for this reason that any manifestations of activity in a dream, be it walking, waving your arms, shouting, talking or laughing, cause surprise.
Experts have determined that most people laugh in the rem sleep phase and much less often, but there are also such cases during the slow phase. Doctors call it parasomnia – a phenomenon that occurs during sleep (not necessarily a disorder), which is manifested by movements, perception and demonstration of emotions.
What can cause a sleeping person to laugh
In ancient times, even a devilish trace was seen in such human behavior. But nowadays, researchers often call this condition a harmless physiological process. Today, using scientific facts, experts can say with accuracy what causes can cause laughter in a dream. And there may be several of them.
The wrong course of rem sleep
The first and most obvious explanation is that a person dreamed something funny, so he laughs. But let’s be objective: many of us see funny dreams from time to time, but not all of us laugh through sleep. This can happen if the REM sleep phase is not proceeding correctly.
As a result of the violation, the partial paralysis characteristic of the rapid phase does not occur, which is why the person actually begins to demonstrate his vision and emotions caused by it. If this is the reason for the laughter, then the sleeper can not only laugh, but also talk, shout, wave his arms. By the way, sometimes laughter can “make its way” from sleep to reality at the turn of the sleep phases – when the body rebuilds from a fast phase to a slow one.
It should also be taken into account that in some cases, a violation of sleep phases, including abnormal activity in the fast phase, can be a “side effect” of more serious diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia.
People suffering from sleepwalking can also laugh out loud in their sleep. Bouts of laughter and other activity in a sleeper can last up to 1 hour, but usually end in a few minutes. Sleepwalking is more common in children, although adults are not immune from it either.
It is important to know that there are some factors that increase the risk of sleepwalking. First of all, this is a genetic predisposition, frequent stress, chronic lack of sleep or irregular night rest (for people working in shifts), as well as uncontrolled sedation.
Release of emotions
Dream laughter can be the result of emotions accumulated during the day, which during a person’s wakefulness have not received a proper outlet.
It has been scientifically proven that dream laughter can affect the hormonal background. In particular, joyful emotions contribute to the production of endorphins – pleasure hormones that are responsible for good health and prevent early aging. Based on this, it can be assumed that in this way the body is trying to satisfy the need for endorphins.
Reaction to a hard day
One of the theories concerning the nature of sleep says that a person needs a night’s rest to “digest” the experiences and events of the past day. If the day was full of worries and anxieties, then night laughter can be regarded as a kind of protective mechanism. That is, in this way the body tries to balance negative and positive emotions.
Smiling, a person activates from 5 to 53 facial muscles. Thus, laughter can also be considered as a kind of physiological discharge, during which a large number of muscles contract and relax.
By the way, the famous psychoanalyst who studied the nature of night visions, Sigmund Freud, also gave his explanation for night laughter at the time. In his opinion, if an adult laughs through a dream, it means that at this moment he is experiencing an orgasm that did not happen in real life.
Why do children laugh in their sleep
Today, experts still continue to debate whether newborns can dream. Nevertheless, scientists are sure that the rem sleep phase in young children also exists. This fact allows many experts to assume that the causes of laughter in sleeping babies are in many ways similar to adults.
But there is another version: the laughter of a sleeping baby is a reflex, not a reaction to sleep. While some children may laugh in their sleep, others tremble. And the researchers also explain this by involuntary movements of the sleeping baby’s body.
In some cases, uncontrolled nighttime giggling of a child may be caused by seizures. Such attacks are more common in babies at about 10 months of age. The attack can begin when the baby has just started to fall asleep or in the middle of the night. As a rule, it lasts about 10-20 seconds, after which the child wakes up.
In most cases, a light laugh or a smile through a dream in a baby should not cause anxiety in parents. It is another matter if the laughter is repeated regularly, accompanied by unnatural writhing body movements or “grunting”. In this case, you just need to contact a pediatrician.
What to do if a person laughs in his sleep
The reasons that can cause laughter during sleep, for the most part, do not represent anything dangerous. The only unpleasant moment of such a situation is loud laughter can interfere with the rest of other people. If the giggling is repeated quite often, it can cause insomnia of the sleeper nearby.
People facing a similar situation, of course, want to know what to do if the “bedmate” laughs in his sleep. Before we tell you what can be done to prevent the situation, let’s say what absolutely cannot be done. Doctors warn that a sleeping person should not be abruptly woken up by loud noises, aggressively slow him down. All this can cause fright and severe stress with all the consequences that follow from this. But also experts do not advise waking a person in a milder form. In any case, interrupting sleep disrupts its phases. If you slow down the sleeper every time he laughs, in the end it will lead to sleep disorders and insomnia.
It is much more useful to try to prevent the recurrence of an undesirable situation. To do this, before a night’s rest, you should bring yourself into emotional balance, calm down. In the evening, you should not watch TV or surf the Internet, instead it is better to ventilate the bedroom well, take a leisurely walk in the fresh air, having quiet conversations with a nice person, take a warm bath. After such procedures, the body will no longer need to look for additional measures for relaxation during sleep, in particular in the form of laughter.
Although there are cases when laughing in a dream can indicate serious health problems, but more often it is quite a harmless phenomenon. Laughter for sleeping infants and young children is typical and should not normally cause concern. Especially if it is not accompanied by unnatural behavior. If night laughter occurs in an adult and interferes with rest, it is better to contact a specialist – he will be able to choose the most suitable solutions to the problem.