As a parent, whether you’re a first-time parent or parent of multiples, you find joy in watching your little one sleeping peacefully.
Watching to make sure they are breathing, finding comfort in watching the rise and fall of their tiny chest, and simply soaking in every precious moment — are all things you do until your baby is sound asleep staring back at you.
But, if your baby sleeps with its eyes open, it can be a bit scary. There’s a long and technical term for sleeping with your eyes open — nocturnal lagophthalmos.
Keep reading to learn more about this condition, and perhaps have some reassurance for your child’s sleeping habits.
What causes a baby to sleep with its eyes open?
There are many reasons a baby sleeps with their eyes open, including:
- Genetics: If you have noticed your partner sleeping with their eyes open or have been told that you sleep with your eyes open, there is a big possibility that your child will experience sleeping with his or her eyes open.
- Normal development: Infancy involves extensive amounts of growth and development, both mentally and physically. As your baby grows, its nervous system is continually developing, as well as healthy sleep patterns of rapid eye movement sleep - the most active state of sleep. Babies spend significantly more of their sleep time in REM sleep than the average adult, meaning their little brain is more active during sleep than most.
- Medical conditions: Though uncommon, nocturnal lagophthalmos or sleeping with the eyes open can be the result of certain medical conditions including problems with the thyroid, facial nerves, or a congenital abnormality of the eye or eyelid.
My baby is sleeping with his eyes open. Is this normal?
Generally, babies with nocturnal lagophthalmos is actually referred to as physiological lagophthalmos, meaning there is no medical reason.
It can seem alarming to parents when their baby sleeps with their eyes open. However, it is considered normal and should correct itself as the child grows. It's fairly common in both infants and adults.
Because babies spend more time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, their eyes and brain are more active as they sleep. This means they are more likely to experience sleeping with their eyes partially — or even completely open.
What does it mean when a baby sleeps with its eyes open?
Though it is rarely the result of a serious medical condition, it is often caused by more active sleep patterns seen during infancy. A newborn and infant spend up to 15 hours per day sleeping and often experience longer periods of REM sleep than the average adult.
Treatment for sleeping with eyes open
For most, treatment is unnecessary for babies that experience sleeping with their eyes open. If you’re uncomfortable with your child sleeping with his or her eyes open, experts recommend closing them with your fingers. When you do this, you should be gentle so as not to wake your sleeping baby.
If your baby is experiencing dry or uncomfortable eyes as a result of sleeping with them open, experts recommend adding a humidifier to allow cool, wet air to enter the room in an effort to keep your little one’s eyes moist as they rest.
Ensuring your child is in a safe sleep space with no pillows, loose bedding, blankets, or stuffed animals will help them get better sleep and keep you relaxed. At Polysleep, we understand the importance of safe sleep for the entire family, which is why we strive to provide excellent memory foam crib mattress options such as The Baby Mattress.
When to consult your pediatrician
A baby sleeping with its eyes open should not cause much concern. It is understandable that parents might feel uncomfortable with the unknown cause of their child’s sleeping habits, especially if there is no family history of sleeping with the eyes open.
If you experience any concern regarding your child’s sleep habits, including nocturnal lagophthalmos, consult your pediatrician for a consultation to discuss your concerns.
Nocturnal lagophthalmos or sleeping with the eyes open is considered normal for most babies, specifically those that are born to a family with a history of sleeping with their eyes open.
Providing a comfortable sleep space such as a memory foam crib mattress like The Baby Mattress from Polysleep can help your little one attains better sleep and provides a breathable sleep material helping ease the worried mind of a parent.
If you are concerned with your child’s sleep habits, contact your child’s pediatrician for a consultation and to discuss your fears.