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Sleep is incredibly important for babies, especially newborns, who should be getting at least sixteen to seventeen hours of sleep every day. As they grow older, they tend to sleep less, with one-year-olds getting approximately eleven to twelve hours a day. Babies are not exactly the most consistent in terms of regular sleeping and feeding habits. As a new mother, learning how to readjust your own patterns to fit your baby’s needs is essential and hard at the same time. While getting them to sleep peacefully is a task in itself, you might encounter unexpected behaviours such as sleeping with their eyes fully or partially open.
Reasons Babies Sleep with Eyes Open
Babies sleeping without their eyes fully closed is a somewhat common occurrence. There are two main reasons as to why babies sleep with eyes half open:
Many studies have shown that it could be hereditary. You can look into your and your spouse’s family history to ascertain if anyone else sleeps with their eyes open. If you, your spouse, or immediate family members shares this trait, it is very likely your baby will too.
If nobody in your family has a history of sleeping with 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 their eyes closed for extended periods of time, please consult your doctor.
Is Sleeping with Open Eyes 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 serious concern about your baby sleeping with eyes open, many new mothers wonder how to make their babies sleep with eyes closed. There are a few ways by which you can help your baby stop this habit:
- Gently close your baby’s eyelids with your fingertips until they are closed. Make sure they are in deep sleep while doing this.
- Establish a strict feeding/sleeping cycle so they get used to a routine and learn to sleep without breaks or interruptions.
- If your baby has difficulty sleeping, you can help them relax by bathing them in warm water, singing to them or gently rocking them till they fall asleep.
- Allow your baby to rest on their back while sleeping, as this promotes sufficient air circulation around them. Remove any extra objects from their sleeping area such as stuffed toys, quilts, pillows and so on.
- Remove all sources of lighting during the baby’s sleep time so they are not disturbed in case their eyes cannot close completely.
When to Worry?
As already mentioned, it is normal for babies to sleep with their eyes open until they are around a year and a half old. However, if your baby continues this habit after they cross eighteen months, you should talk to your doctor about it. There is a very small likelihood that your baby has 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 their eyes are open. Follow the tips mentioned above to help them discard this habit over time. However, if you’re genuinely worried for any reason, please talk your doctor or health professional about it. If they assure you that they are not concerned, then you shouldn’t be either.