Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep?

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Why do babies cry in their sleep? It can be quite alarming for parents when their little one suddenly wakes up crying, and they don’t know why it happens. This article explores the answers to this question, what parents can do about it, and the typical sleeping patterns of young babies.

Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep?

There are a few reasons why babies might cry out in their sleep. When a baby starts crying, we typically assume that it’s having a nightmare or perhaps overstimulated from playing and interacting with others during the day. Another reason for its night cries might be teething or some other type of pain that’s making the baby feel uncomfortable. Still, other reasons babies cry in their sleep could include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), excess gas, constipation, or even ear infection.

What Can You Do?

First, try to figure out if there’s an underlying cause for your baby’s crying by checking its diaper and readjusting the room temperature. It may also help to simply keep your baby company for a while.

Other possible discomforts might be why your baby cries when sleeping at night. Try to eliminate potential causes of your baby’s pain or irritation by creating a safe and pleasant sleeping environment. For example, select suitable materials for your baby’s crib to make sure it sleeps comfortably through the night. You can consider some great quality crib mattresses for parents-to-be.

DID YOU KNOW? Almost 50% of one- to two-month-old newborns suffer from GERD, while 70% of three- to four-month olds also experience this reflux.

How to Calm Your Crying Baby

Once you’ve determined the cause of your baby’s crying, you can start taking the following steps to help calm your baby.

Soothe Your Baby

If you think your baby cries out in its sleep is because of a nightmare, try to comfort it by gently rubbing its back or chest and talking softly to the baby. Some parents find that giving their baby a pacifier can also help calm it. You can also try picking the baby up and rocking or feeding it until it falls back asleep.

Young babies are often overstimulated from interacting with others throughout the day. Try giving your baby a gentle massage before bedtime. You can also use a noise machine or white noise app to help soothe and lull it to sleep.

Ensure Your Baby Is Not Hungry

When parents hear their baby’s cries, the first thought that comes to mind is that it’s hungry. To most newbie parents, it can seem like their baby cries nonstop in sleep, and they often spend nights on high alert. Crying, however, is the last stage of hunger. If your baby is overly stressed due to prolonged hunger, it might be difficult to calm it down.

Some of the usual indications of a hungry baby include waving legs and hands, hands in its mouth, and moving its head from side to side. 

Babies need regular feeding during their growth spurts. So waking the baby for frequent feedings is a good idea. When you’re confident that the child’s basic nurturing needs are satisfied, you also eliminate possible causes for the baby’s cries. Introducing a regular feeding routine can help diminish the stressful thoughts of what to do when the baby cries and when sleeping.

Observe Your Baby’s Sleep Pattern

Babies typically follow a sleep pattern, which varies from baby to baby. It’s essential to observe the child’s sleep pattern and environment to determine what is normal for them. By paying attention to a baby’s sleep pattern, parents identify any potential problems with its sleep routine and learn how they are related to the child’s sleep problems.

One way to keep track of the baby’s sleep habits—even when you’re not in the room—is to add a baby monitor to your nursery. You might consider choosing one from some of the most popular baby monitors available on the market.

Ease Your Baby’s Teething Pain

Perhaps your baby randomly cries out in its sleep because its gums are sore and irritated. Fortunately, there are various ways to soothe a baby’s teething pains. You can give your infant a cooling gum massage using a teething ring or a washcloth that has been in the freezer for about an hour. And some parents often like to use white noise as a distraction.

If the child cries out in pain and your efforts don’t seem to ease its discomfort, you might need to give it medication or seek medical attention. This, of course, should be your last resort, so make sure to try all other options before moving on to this one.

It’s vital, however, not to get frustrated—even when it feels like your baby cries nonstop in its sleep. Night-time crying is quite common in babies, and with a bit of patience and effort, you’ll figure out what works best for your baby.

Normal Sleep Pattern in Babies by Age

As previously noted, a baby typically tends to follow a specific sleep pattern. These patterns, however, are bound to go through various changes as your baby grows. Consider the following sleeping habits of infants during their first year.

  • Newborns (0–1 month)

A baby’s sleep during its first month is unpredictable, and nighttime crying is expected. Babies often confuse night and day because they sleep for extended periods, interrupted by brief waking sessions.

It’s normal for newborn breastfeeding babies to wake up every two to three hours and for babies to cry in their sleep during this period.

Within the first two weeks of its life, a baby is expected to return to its birth weight, and during this time, you might need to wake the baby up for its regular feeding. Their sleep pattern during the first month includes 15 to 16 hours of sleep.

  • Older Newborns (1–3 months)

Parents-to-be should keep in mind that a baby is still adjusting to life outside the womb during its first three months. Don’t be alarmed if your baby suddenly cries out in its sleep.

  • Infants (3–7 months)

During this period, parents might find that their baby has longer waking stretches and starts developing a sleep cycle. Some young babies can enter deeper phases of sleep that can last up to six hours at night.

This period is perfect for developing night-time routines because the baby develops sleep regression and developmental leaps. Regression can often be why a  baby cries out in its sleep. It’s typical for babies going through sleep regression to suddenly wake frequently during the night and take shorter naps during the day.

  • Infants (7–12 months)

Around the six- to eight-month period, infants drop one of their naps. And by the time they reach nine months, they can sleep through the whole night.

It’s common for young babies to develop separation anxiety around the age of seven months, which could be why your baby cries aloud in its sleep. But separation anxiety depends on the baby’s temperament—not all babies cry out during the night. The best way to deal with your baby’s stress is to let it fall asleep independently.

Older babies (over nine months old) typically have regular day and nighttime routines. They sleep between nine to 12 hours a night and spend about four hours a day napping.

  • Toddlers (12 months and older)

Most toddlers drop to just one nap a day by the time they reach 18 months. But shifts in the sleeping patterns of toddlers are possible if their routine is interrupted, which could be why your baby randomly cries out in its sleep.

Why Is Baby’s Sleep Pattern Important for Parents?

By observing their baby’s sleeping pattern, caregivers can better understand how much sleep their baby needs and when it’s most likely to get tired. If you’re too anxious about your baby not getting enough sleep because it doesn’t follow its usual sleep pattern, you can always consult with your pediatrician.

Parents must remember that a baby cries in its sleep for many different reasons. But with a bit of patience and effort, you can find what’s causing its discomfort and help your little one doze off.

Key Takeaways

Check your baby’s diaper, readjust the room temperature, or keep your baby company for a while to see if it comes down.
Common medical sleep-related issues include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), excess gas, constipation, and ear infections.
By observing their baby’s sleeping pattern, caregivers can better understand how much sleep their baby needs and identify why their baby cries in its sleep.
Night-time crying is normal for babies. Patience and effort will help your baby establish a healthy sleeping routine.

Conclusion

Crying is the primary way that babies communicate. Parents must observe their baby’s sleeping pattern and environment to determine what’s normal for their baby and identify potential problems. But most importantly, if a baby suddenly cries out in sleep during late-night hours, don’t panic or become frustrated because babies continually adjust to the changes they experience every day. Crying is just a normal part of their development.

FAQ

What should I do when my baby starts crying when sleep?

A parent should first try to determine the reason behind their baby’s crying. And while doing so, you can comfort it by talking softly to the baby, putting on some soothing music, giving a gentle massage, or breastfeeding it if necessary.

Why do newborn babies cry in their sleep?

Why do babies cry in their sleep is a common question. Reasons vary from infant to infant. But some of the most common causes for babies crying at night include nightmares, teething, or other pain. Other causes include prolonged hunger or thirst, constipation, excess gas, or GERD.

ABOUT AUTHOR

I've loved writing since I can remember, and back in high school, I started loving psychology as well. So I majored in it while dabbling in spirituality and yoga on the side.

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