Babies sleeping with eyes open – is this normal?
The short answer is ‘Yes’.
Although most babies sleep with their eyes closed, some babies do sleep with their eyes fully or partially open. If you have a baby that sleeps with their eyes open, you will be happy to know that it is not a cause for concern.
It may look strange or be a bit off-putting to see your baby fast asleep yet still have their eyes fully or partially open. However, you can rest assured that your baby is sleeping peacefully.
Sleeping with your eyes open (open-eyed sleeping) is medically called nocturnal lagophthalmos (quite a mouthful). Despite its long name, it is harmless in babies and by the time, your baby 12 – 18 months old they will have outgrown this.
What Causes Babies to Sleep with their Eyes Open?
No-one knows the reason why some babies sleep with their eyes open, but there are suggestions that this is hereditary. Have you noticed your partner sleeping with their eyes open or has your partner ever mentioned seeing you sleeping with your eyes open?
Sleeping with your eyes open is less common in adults, so if you or your partner do sleep with your eyes open, it is best to seek advice from your doctor to rule out any health issues.
Sleeping with eyes open is thought to happen in the REM sleep stage, which is the active stage of sleep. During this stage, our eyes do flicker and move even as adults. The reason that open-eyed sleeping is far more common in babies is that babies spend about 50% of their sleep in the REM stage of the sleep cycle. Babies, especially newborns, sleep about 15-17 hours a day and often where we can see them. Therefore, we have more chance of seeing them sleeping with their eyes open.
What can you do about it?
There is nothing you really can do. Your doctor will even tell you that open-eyed sleeping in babies is quite common and no cause for concern.
If you want, you can gently close your babies’ eyelids once they are asleep. This is not necessary as sleeping with their eyes open is not harmful.
You can also ensure that your baby has a good bedtime routine as this will help your baby learn to fall and stay asleep. Finally, you can keep the room where your baby sleeps as dark as possible so that they are not disturbed by the light.
When to Worry
As mentioned earlier, your baby should outgrow sleeping with their eyes open by around 18 months.
If you observe that:
- Your baby does not sleep with their eyes closed for extended periods.
- They have dry and irritated eyes or
- They are over 18 months old and sleep with their eyes fully or partially open.
Then consult your doctor to rule out any medical condition, although this is exceedingly rare.
Try not to worry (there are plenty of other things that as a Mum you will find to worry about), this is one thing that you can cross off your worry list. Enjoy your little open-eyed sleeper.