Why Do Babies Roll Their Eyes While Sleeping And When To Worry?

check_icon Research-backed

Image: Shutterstock


Eye rolling is a common phenomenon that many people do involuntarily. However, when you see a baby rolling eyes, you may feel concerned about a possible health problem. Nevertheless, most babies and infants may roll their eyes on a normal basis without any underlying causes of concern.

However, you may seek medical care if your baby’s eye-rolling movements become too frequent and they begin to display any signs of neurological disorders.

Explore more about the possible causes, signs and symptoms, warning signs, and facts to remember about eye-rolling in babies.

Why Do Babies Roll Their Eyes While Sleeping?

Babies may roll eyes since their eye muscles and the visual system are not yet completely developed. Eyesight and control over eye muscles gradually develop in babies over time (1).

Eye rolling tends to happen during the transitional time between sleep and wakefulness. You may often notice eye-rolling when your baby falls asleep or while breastfeeding. It can be slow, repeated opening and closing of the eyes. While breastfeeding does not cause eye-rolling in babies, most moms often observe their little ones close their eyes during nursing sessions.

Neurological disorders, head injuries, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), fever, etc. may cause seizure-related eye-rolling in many babies. Younger babies may roll their eyes since they have poor eye muscle control and developing brain functions. Whereas, it couldbe more likely due to pathology in a ten-month-old baby who has developed reasonable control over the eye muscles.

Warning Signs And Symptoms In A Baby Rolling Eyes

Eye rolling can be normal in many circumstances. There won’t be any signs of behavioral or physical changes in babies who have normal eye movements. But, pathological eye roll may also be associated with other symptoms depending on the brain’s affected area or the problem with the visual system.

If you notice your baby rolling eyes often, look for signs of neurological disorders such as infantile spasms (West syndrome). You may also look for any warning signs of serious illnesses that may cause eye-rolling in infants. These warning signs may include (2):

  • Limb stiffening
  • Shivering
  • Irregular breathing
  • Increased irritability
  • Jerky body movements or convulsions
  • Prolonged crying

These can be symptoms of seizure in babies, and they may often require special care to avoid head injuries or other traumas during the seizure. 

Eye movements not seen as normal include eyes that look only to one side and seem to be ‘stuck’ that side or eyes jerking from side to side constantly and not just associated with falling asleep or feeding.

What To Do If A Baby Rolls Eyes?

Frequent observation is required to determine whether eye-rolling is severe or not. You may keep a log of the number of times eye-rolling occurs and any associated symptoms. Daily records on the baby’s eye-rolling habit can be useful for diagnosis.

If possible take a recording of the event on your phone. It sometimes comes in handy when the healthcare provider is seeing the baby when the eye movements are not happening.

A seizure can be due to fever, infections, or epilepsy disorder in babies. Seek immediate medical care to diagnose the cause.

When To Consult A Doctor

Consult your baby’s pediatrician if you notice abnormal eye-rolling in your baby. If you are concerned or suspect infantile seizure, discuss with your doctor to diagnose the causes.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do babies move their eyes from side to side rapidly?

Babies may move their eyes side to side in the initial months after birth for diverse reasons. However, in rare scenarios, repetitive and rapid side-to-side or circular eye movements could be seen in babies with nystagmus, which may be congenital or acquired (3).

2. Do newborns have weird eye movements?

Yes, sometimes a newborn may display various eye movements, such as rolling or rotating their eyes. Moreover, in some cases, you may notice that your baby’s eyes may seem crossed or atypical during the first three months after birth (4). Though this could be normal, you may consult a doctor if you persistently suspect any abnormalities in your baby’s eye movements.

Eye rolling in babies may not always be serious. You may find them rolling their eyes when they are sleepy or breastfeeding. So, the behavior may be a transition phase between sleep and wakefulness. However, eye rolling might also be seizure-related. It may sometimes indicate head injuries, neurological disorders, or hypoglycemia. It may also indicate poor eye muscle control or still-developing brain functions. Irrespective of the cause, the condition should not be ignored. If they exhibit symptoms such as shivering, limb stiffening, or irritability, consult your doctor for treatment options.

Key Pointers

  • Underdeveloped eye muscle control or gradually falling asleep while breastfeeding can prompt babies to roll their eyes.
  • It is a normal phenomenon, but additional symptoms such as body stiffening, abnormal breathing, or convulsions may indicate a neurological issue.
  • Observe the pattern and alarming signs, if any, and consult your doctor for timely diagnosis and treatment.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references 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. Infant Vision: Birth to 24 Months of Age; American Optometric Association
2. Infantile Spasms Symptoms and Diagnosis; The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
3. Nystagmus; NHS Foundation Trust.
4. Looking at Your Newbornl: What’s Normal; Kids Health
Was this article helpful?
The following two tabs change content below.

Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made... more

Dr. Wayne Hough

(MBChB, MMed, FC Paeds)
Dr. Wayne Hough is a pediatrician currently based in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town in South Africa. He got his medical degree from the University of Stellenbosch. He then worked at the Tygerberg Children's Hospital before completing his pediatric training and qualification from the South African College of Medicine. Dr. Hough also holds a MMed degree in pediatrics from... more