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Sleep is incredibly important for babies, especially for newborns. Newborns sleep at least sixteen to seventeen hours every day. And as they grow older, they tend to sleep less, with one-year-olds’ getting approximately eleven to twelve hours of sleep daily. A baby’s sleeping pattern and feeding habits are not exactly the most consistent. To get your baby to sleep peacefully will be a task in itself, but you might encounter unexpected behaviour in him at times, such as he might sleep with his eyes fully or partially open, and of course it will worry you. But you need not panic – find out why your baby may sleep with his eyes open and what you can do about it.
Reasons Why a Baby Sleeps With His Eyes Open
If your baby also sleeps with his eyes open, it could be because of the following reasons.
If your baby sleeps with eyes open, it could be hereditary. You can look into your and your spouse’s family history to ascertain if anyone in the family sleeps with their eyes open. If you, your spouse, or immediate family members share this trait, it is very likely your baby will too.
2. Medical Reason
If nobody in your family has a history of sleeping with their eyes open, it could be due to medical conditions, such as nocturnal lagophthalmos. It is quite harmless and does not continue for more than a year to a year and a half. In rare cases, it might be because of thyroid problems, damaged facial nerves or even some tumours. If you find that your baby is unable to sleep with his eyes closed for extended periods of time, please consult your doctor.
Is Sleeping With Eyes Open Harmful for a Baby?
Sleeping with eyes open might look odd and worrisome, but it is completely normal and harmless. In fact, your child’s paediatrician will even tell you that they see this condition regularly and it does not concern them at all. Research suggests that this mode of sleeping is during the active phase of the sleep cycle, known as Rapid Eye Movement or REM. Newborn sleep consists of long periods of REM than adults, making up over half of their entire sleep time. As they grow older, their sleeping patterns become more like adults, meaning they wake up less during the night and are less fussy during nap time.
What Can You Do About It?
While there is no need to concern if your baby sleeps with his eyes open, we know as a new mother you will wonder how you can make your baby with his eyes closed. There are a few ways by which you can help your baby sleep with his eyes closed:
- Gently close your baby’s eyelids with your fingertips until they are closed. Make sure he is in deep sleep while you do so.
- Establish a strict feeding/sleeping cycle so that he gets used to a routine and learns to sleep without breaks or interruptions.
- If your baby has difficulty sleeping, you can help him relax by bathing him in warm water, singing to him or gently rocking him till they fall asleep.
- Allow your baby to rest on his back while sleeping, as this promotes sufficient air circulation around him. Remove stuffed toys, quilts, pillows (if any) from his bed or crib – and make it spacious.
- Make sure the temperature of his room is warm and the room is dark when you put him to sleep. This way he won’t be disturbed in case his eyes cannot close completely.
- Take your baby for an eye examination to make sure his eyes are sufficiently moist and that his cornea is not damaged. In some cases, humidification or application of eye ointments and drops may be necessary to prevent corneal damage. Usually, the need for eye ointments and drops does not arise, but it is best to check with the doctor.
When to Worry
As already mentioned, it is normal for babies to sleep with their eyes open until they turn a year and a half. However, if your baby continues this habit even after he crosses the eighteen months mark, you should talk to your baby’s doctor regarding the same. There is a very small likelihood that your baby may have congenital ptosis, which causes malformed eyelids. This cannot be self-diagnosed and requires professional medical attention.
Even though it looks strange or abnormal, you can rest assured that your baby is sleeping quite soundly even if his eyes are open. Follow the tips mentioned above to help him discard this habit over time. However, if you’re worried for any reason, please talk to your doctor or health professional about it. Once your doctor assures you there is nothing to concern, then you don’t need to worry!