Can Babies Really Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

Can Babies Really Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

Have you ever wondered if babies can sleep with their eyes open? While it may seem like a strange question, this phenomenon is more common than you might think. Many parents have reported seeing their babies sleeping with their eyelids partially or fully open.

We will discuss what causes this phenomenon, how it affects the baby’s eyes, and what experts say about it. Understanding this topic is essential for parents concerned about their baby’s eye health or who want to learn more about this curious behavior.

So, why do some babies sleep with their eyes open? And is it something to worry about? Let’s dive in and find out.

Understanding the Sleep Cycles of Babies

Different stages of sleep in babies

Babies have different sleep patterns than adults. They go through several stages of sleep, including Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM).

REM sleep is when the baby’s eyes move back and forth under their eyelids, and NREM is when they are in a deep, restful state.

Babies spend more time in REM sleep during the first few months of life than NREM. As they grow older, this balance shifts, and they spend more time in NREM. By six months, most babies will have a similar sleep pattern to adults.

Duration and frequency of each stage

Newborns typically sleep 16-17 hours daily but wake up every few hours to eat. As they age, they require less sleep but still need around 12-14 hours a day until they are one year old. After that, toddlers need about 11-14 hours per day.

The duration and frequency of each stage vary depending on age. Newborns spend about half their total sleeping time in REM sleep; this decreases as they age until it stabilizes at around 25% by adulthood.

How sleep patterns change as babies grow

As infants become toddlers, their daytime naps become shorter and less frequent. They also tend to fall asleep earlier at night and wake up earlier.

By three years old, most children have stopped taking naps during the day altogether. However, some may nap until five years old or even later.

Establishing good sleeping habits from an early age is essential to ensure that your little one gets enough rest for optimal brain development and overall health.

Can Babies Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

Yes, some babies can sleep with their eyes partially or fully open.

Seeing a baby sleeping with their eyes open might seem unsettling, but it is not that uncommon.

Some babies are born with an underdeveloped muscle control system that leads to this condition. It can also happen due to the baby’s deep sleep state.

When babies sleep, they go through different stages of sleep. During the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage, which is the stage where most dreaming occurs, the muscles in the body become relaxed while eye movements increase. This state may cause partial or full eyelid opening during sleep.

Suppose you notice your baby sleeping with their eyes open. There’s no need to worry unless it affects their sleep quality or causes discomfort.

However, consult your pediatrician if you’re concerned about your baby’s eye health or development.

It is more common in newborns and infants than in older babies.

Sleeping with eyes open is more prevalent in newborns and infants than older babies because their muscle control system is still developing.

As they grow older and develop better muscle control systems, this condition usually resolves on its own.

While it might be alarming to see your baby sleeping with their eyes partially or fully open, it’s important to remember that it’s not always a cause for concern.

If you’re worried about your baby’s health or development, consult your pediatrician for further evaluation.

Causes of Babies Sleeping with Their Eyes Open

Underdeveloped Eyelid Muscles in Newborns

Newborn babies are known to sleep with their eyes open. This is because their eyelid muscles are underdeveloped, and they cannot fully close their eyes while sleeping.

As a result, the baby’s eyes may appear partially or fully open even when asleep. This condition is usually temporary and resolves on its own as the baby grows older.

Neurological Conditions that Affect Muscle Control

Sometimes, babies may sleep with their eyes open even after the first few months of life. This could be due to certain neurological conditions that affect muscle control, such as cerebral palsy or dystonia.

These conditions can cause involuntary muscle contractions and spasms that can affect the muscles around the eyes and prevent them from closing completely during sleep.


In some cases, genetics may play a role in why babies sleep with their eyes open. Some babies may inherit certain genetic traits that affect muscle control or development, leading to difficulties closing their eyes during sleep.


Certain medications can also cause babies to sleep with their eyes open. For example, antihistamines used to treat allergies can cause drowsiness and dryness of the eyes, making it difficult for a baby to close them entirely during sleep.

Differentiating Between a Baby Sleeping with Their Eyes Open and Other Sleep Disorders

Symptoms and Characteristics of Other Sleep Disorders like Night Terrors, Sleepwalking, etc.

Babies are known for their unpredictable sleep patterns. It is common for them to wake up crying or have trouble falling asleep.

In some rare cases, babies may even sleep with their eyes open. However, distinguishing between normal sleeping habits and other sleep disorders that may indicate an underlying health issue is crucial.

Night terrors are one such disorder that can be confused with a baby sleeping with their eyes open.

These typically occur during the first few hours of deep sleep and can cause the baby to scream or cry uncontrollably.

Unlike nightmares, night terrors do not involve any specific dream content but result from the baby’s inability to transition smoothly through different stages of sleep.

Sleepwalking is another condition that can be mistaken for a baby sleeping with their eyes open.

This occurs when the child moves around while still asleep, often in a dazed state without any awareness of their surroundings.

How to Tell if a Baby is Sleeping or Experiencing a Different Type of Disorder

The easiest way to determine whether your baby is experiencing a different type of disorder or simply sleeping with their eyes open is by observing their behavior closely.

Suppose they appear peaceful and relaxed while sleeping. In that case, it is likely just an instance of lagophthalmos (the medical term for eye sleeping).

However, if they seem agitated or distressed in any way, it could be indicative of something else.

Other signs to look out for include rapid eye movement (REM), which occurs during deep sleep and can cause the eyes to move back and forth quickly under closed eyelids.

Suppose your baby appears disoriented upon waking up or has trouble falling back asleep after being disturbed by external stimuli like noise or light.

In that case, there may be an underlying health issue at play.

Effects of Light and Darkness on Baby’s Sleep Patterns

How light affects melatonin production

Light plays an essential role in regulating our sleep-wake cycle. It influences the body’s production of melatonin, also known as the “sleep hormone.”

Melatonin is responsible for making us feel sleepy and helping us stay asleep throughout the night.

When exposed to light, especially blue light emitted by electronic devices, the body may not produce enough melatonin, causing difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Babies are more sensitive to light than adults because their eyes are still developing. They have a higher risk of experiencing nocturnal lagophthalmos, a condition where they sleep with their eyes open.

This condition can result in exposure to more light and interfere with their natural sleep patterns.

The role darkness plays in promoting healthy sleep habits.

Darkness is just as crucial as light. A dark environment signals the brain that it’s time to produce melatonin and prepare for sleep.

It helps regulate circadian rhythms and promotes more profound, more restful sleep.

Creating a dark sleeping environment is especially important during daytime naps since babies need more sleep than adults.

Using blackout curtains or shades can help block out any excess sunlight that may enter your baby’s room.

Tips for creating an optimal sleeping environment for babies

To create an optimal sleeping environment for your baby, consider implementing these tips:

  • Keep your baby’s room cool (around 68-72°F) to promote better quality sleep.
  • Use white noise machines or fans to drown out any outside noises that may disrupt your baby’s sleep.
  • Keep your baby’s crib free from anything that could suffocate them (e.g., blankets, pillows).
  • Avoid using electronic devices before bedtime or during nighttime feedings.
  • Implement a consistent bedtime routine that includes dimming lights and calming activities such as a warm bath or reading a book.

Tips for Parents Dealing with Babies Who Sleep with Their Eyes Open

Keeping the baby comfortable during sleep

Babies are known to be restless sleepers, and it can be challenging to keep them comfortable throughout the night.

If your baby sleeps with their eyes open, you may need to take extra steps to ensure they remain comfortable.

One effective way is dressing them in loose-fitting clothes made from breathable fabrics like cotton.

This will help regulate their body temperature and prevent overheating, which can cause discomfort.

Another way to keep your baby comfortable is by using a lightweight blanket or swaddle that allows them to move freely while keeping them warm.

You should also ensure that their sleeping surface is firm and flat, as this can reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Creating a safe sleeping environment

Creating a safe sleeping environment for your baby is crucial, especially if they sleep with their eyes open.

One essential step is placing your baby on their back when putting them down to sleep. This position reduces the risk of SIDS and ensures that your baby’s airway remains clear.

You should also avoid placing any objects in the crib with your baby, including toys, blankets, or pillows. These items can pose a suffocation hazard and increase the risk of SIDS.

Finally, ensure your baby’s room is dark and quiet during naptime and bedtime. This will help promote better sleep quality and reduce distractions that could cause your baby to wake up more frequently.

Monitoring the baby’s breathing patterns

If your baby sleeps with their eyes open regularly, it may be worth monitoring their breathing patterns during sleep.

While it’s normal for babies’ breathing rates to fluctuate during sleep, prolonged pauses or irregularities could indicate an underlying health condition like sleep apnea.

Consider investing in a video monitor equipped with sound sensors or movement detectors to monitor your baby’s breathing patterns effectively.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Babies Who Sleep with Their Eyes Open

In conclusion, it is normal for babies to have unusual sleeping habits, including sleeping with their eyes open.

However, suppose this behavior becomes frequent or is accompanied by other symptoms such as difficulty breathing or excessive drooling. In that case, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately.

Understanding babies’ sleep cycles can help parents better understand why their babies may be sleeping with their eyes open.

While babies can sleep with their eyes open, it is not common and may indicate an underlying issue.

Causes of babies sleeping with their eyes open include genetics, neurological conditions, and medication side effects. Parents must differentiate between a baby sleeping with their eyes open and other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or night terrors.

Light and darkness can also affect a baby’s sleep patterns. Keeping the room dark during naptime and bedtime can help promote better sleep.

Some tips for parents dealing with babies who sleep with their eyes open include creating a consistent bedtime routine and monitoring your baby’s breathing patterns while they sleep.


Can my baby suffocate if they sleep with their eyes open?

No. Sleeping with the eyes open does not increase the risk of suffocation.

Is it safe to let my baby continue sleeping with their eyes open?

While it is generally safe for babies to sleep with their eyes open occasionally, frequent episodes should be discussed with a pediatrician.

Will my baby outgrow sleeping with their eyes open?

It depends on the underlying cause. Some babies will outgrow this behavior, while others may require medical intervention.

Should I wake my baby if they sleep with their eyes open?

No. It is best to let your baby continue sleeping unless accompanying symptoms require medical attention.

Can sleeping with open eyes indicate a more serious condition?

Yes. Sleeping with the eyes open can be a symptom of neurological conditions such as seizures or cerebral palsy. It should be evaluated by a pediatrician if it occurs frequently.

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