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3 Reasons Why Babies Sleep With Eyes Open

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If you are a new parent, you would probably agree that watching your precious little one sleep is soothing. Often, you may also find yourself watching them lie peacefully in their crib. But, what if one day you see your baby sleeping with their eyes wide open?

Although it may seem something out of the ordinary, it is quite common for some babies to sleep with their eyes partially or fully open. Of course, it will worry you, but you need not panic. Read this post to understand why your baby sleeps with their eyes open and what you can do about it.

Is It Normal For A Baby To Sleep With Open Eyes?

You might feel uneasy to see your baby sleeping with their eyes open. However, you need not worry much, as most of the time, sleeping with the eyes partially or fully open is common and may not be associated with any medical condition. The medical term for this condition is known as nocturnal lagophthalmos.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 20% of people experience it, and it even occurs in babies, and most of them outgrow it (1).

But why do some babies sleep with their eyes open? Read on to find out.

Why Do Babies Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Although it is a common and harmless condition, it could cause concern in some rare cases. The exact reason for nocturnal lagophthalmos is not known yet. However, here are a few possible reasons.

  1. Genetics: If someone in your family or your partner has this condition, there is a chance of your baby inheriting it (1).
  1. Rapid eye movement sleep (REM): Babies’ sleep patterns are such that they have a longer REM sleep than adults due to an underdeveloped nervous system. This could be one of the reasons your baby sleeps with their eyes open (2).
  1. A disorder at birth: In some rare cases, babies may sleep with their eyes open if they have a congenital disorder, such as a defect in their facial nerves nerve  (3).

If your pediatrician has ruled out any congenital disabilities, you need not worry about your child sleeping with open eyes as long as it doesn’t cause eye irritation. If you notice your child’s eyes becoming dry, you might want to check with your pediatrician to prescribe some eye drops or ointments to protect your baby’s cornea from drying up (4).

If you are uncomfortable watching your baby sleep with their eyes open, you can wait until they drift off to deep sleep and gently close their eyelids. However, make sure you do not wake the child or startle them.

When To Call The Doctor?

Usually, babies outgrow this condition and sleep with their eyes closed. But, if it’s been a while (one or two months), and your baby is still sleeping with their eyes open, or if you find additional symptoms such as wide-open eyes or eye redness, talk to your pediatrician.

In the case of congenital disorders of the eyelids, you need to work with your pediatrician to get the proper treatment.

Sleeping with eyes fully or partially open is common in some babies, and in most cases, it is not a cause for concern. But, if you are anxious about it, you can bring it up at your next doctor’s appointment. You may also make a video recording of this, so that your doctor gets a better idea of what’s happening when your baby is sleeping. Also, do not try to close your baby’s eyelids by force as you may startle them in sleep and cause additional problems, such as night terrors.

References:

MomJunction's health articles are written after analyzing various scientific reports and assertions from expert authors and institutions. Our references (citations) consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Can You Really Sleep With Your Eyes Open?; Sleep.org
2. Help! My Baby Sleeps With His Eyes Open!; Sleepbaby.org
3. Andrea Ciorba et al.; Facial nerve paralysis in children; World Journal of Clinical Cases
4. F. O. Mueller; Lagophthalmos During Sleep; Westminster Hospital