Why Babies Smile while Sleeping and What Does It Mean?

A baby girl smiling while asleep.

It is common to see a baby smiling or laughing when awake. But ever noticed your baby smiling or grinning while asleep? You may see it twitch and then instinctively break into a smile. Undoubtedly it can be the most special sight observing your baby smiling while sleeping. Babies smiling or laughing in their sleep may be quite unexpected but not unusual. Also, some babies are simply more smiley in comparison to others.

Why do Babies Smile/Laugh in their Sleep?

 A baby boy smiling while asleep.

People often question when babies smile in their sleep do they see angels. It is difficult to answer this question with conviction as not much scientific proof is available. Babies are likely to smile or laugh in their sleep because of the following reasons:

1. Developing Emotions

During their awake moments, babies may be continually getting exposed to new sounds and sights. Their developing brains may be recording all the daily experiences and information coming their way which possibly gets processed while they sleep. The happy emotions felt while dealing with the new knowledge and their understanding of it may get exhibited through smiles or laughter in their sleep. Smiling or laughing in their sleep may be a part of baby’s process of evolving emotions.

2. Passing Gas

Few experts believe that babies start displaying social smiles only after they turn 3 to 4 months old. But any occurrence of smiles in the first few weeks of baby’s birth may infer that the baby is probably passing gas. This notion is however not supported by any concrete scientific research. Nevertheless, it is a known fact that colic babies tend to remain irritable and farting brings relief and helps them feel better.

3. REM Sleep Phase

During your baby’s REM sleep he can experience certain physiological changes that trigger some reflexes and one of them maybe a smile. REM sleep phase may also result in rapid eye movements (REMs) and vivid dreams. In case you happen to notice your baby smiling or laughing in his sleep he may quite possibly be experiencing REM sleep recalling some funny episode that occurred earlier in the day.

4. Other Medical Causes

There can be certain very rare occasions when convulsions and fits may manifest as unceasing laughter. In case you perceive other symptoms like your baby losing weight or having trouble sleeping, frequent bouts of irritability or laughs for no apparent reason refer to a doctor immediately. The occurrence of convulsive laughter episodes can disrupt your baby’s rest times negatively impacting your baby’s health.

What does an Infant Smiling while Sleeping Mean?

Babies can display different types of smiles which may mean varied things. A newborn baby smiling in sleep can mean the following things:

1. Social Smile

Babies are likely to go through many emotional changes during their initial years of life. They may become more responsive, alert and involved in interacting with other people. Babies of 3 to 4 months often break into social smiles as a reaction to the attention and gestures of the mother.

Babies developing social smiles is an important developmental milestone and is indicative of intentional expression of warmth towards you. It means that your baby is bonding with you. Babies showing social smiles may mean that their brain development is progressing and communication skills are advancing. At this point, you may want to increase your interactions with the baby by way of cuddling, making comical faces or even simply talking to him to increase more instances of social smiles of your baby.

2. Reflexive Smile

You may notice that babies may demonstrate fleeting smiles in their sleep during their first few days. Experts are of the opinion that these episodes of early smiles in babies are reflex actions similar to other reflexes shown by newborn babies like sucking and rooting. Reflexive smiles while sleeping are supposed to be innate gestures often making new-borns more alluring. They do not have an emotional trigger but are usually nature’s way for a baby to begin practising different skills. In fact, reflex smiles may happen while the baby is in his mother’s womb during 25 to 27 weeks of gestation. After birth, reflexive smiles may typically occur during the REM sleep phase.

3. Responsive Smile

Responsive smiles may manifest around 6 to 8 weeks of baby’s birth. A responsive smile while sleeping maybe baby’s response to sensory experiences or things he finds enjoyable like familiar soothing voice, cuddles. Responsive smiles are not social reactions but simply a reciprocating action subject to what your baby senses. Responsive smiles can help you learn about your baby’s likes and dislikes, what amuses him or can produce a grin.

An infant smiling while sleeping is not only heartwarming but an important sign that the baby is developing emotionally and physically. It is essential for mothers to understand here that different babies can have varied learning curves and developmental milestones. So they should not unnecessarily fret in case their baby doesn’t display certain milestones. Let the baby develop at its own pace while you enjoy their spontaneous smiles and laughter knowing that your baby is happy and contented.

Also Read:

When Do Babies Smile & Laugh
30 Cute Baby Smiling Photos