Why Does Your Baby Sigh During Sleep?

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During their active sleep, babies make involuntary movements, such as laughing, smiling, or mumbling in their sleep. You may have also noticed your baby sigh during sleep. As there is a general perception that sighing means sadness, your baby’s sleep sighs might have made you wonder if your baby is feeling distressed or uncomfortable due to pain in some part of their body. Read this post to know why your baby sighs while sleeping and some facts about your baby’s natural sleeping pattern.

Understanding A Baby’s Sleep Sigh

Yes, babies do sigh a lot in their sleep. But a sigh during sleep is nothing to worry about as it indicates that your baby’s body is taking care of itself. In fact, it is a sign of a healthy sleep pattern (1).

There has only been limited research on baby sleep sighs and the role they play in the development of babies. These studies, however, indicate a few good reasons why babies sigh in sleep.

  • When babies sigh in sleep, this movement aids the lung airways to open up and absorb more oxygen. A baby’s lungs are still developing, and his tiny airways may need some support from time to time to work efficiently (1).
  • A sigh simply helps regulate breathing in babies. A baby’s sleep sigh may help form short-term memory patterns, which may affect his breath movements and the gaps between each breath (1). A sigh may also help a baby respond well to different noise levels and varied movements through this type of breath regulation.
  • A baby’s sleep sigh may also give a boost to his autonomic nervous system (ANS). ANS regulates many internal organs such as the heart and the digestive organs 2. It also controls many muscles and glands in the body. A baby’s sigh helps to reset the ANS (3). A healthy ANS can prevent many disorders later in life such as those that relate to the heart and the respiratory organs (4).

Some Interesting Facts About Babies’ Sleep Sigh

  • Preterm babies tend to sigh more than term babies (5).
  • Babies sigh more during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep (6). REM sleep is synonymous with an increase in the brain’s activities. During this ‘active’ sleep cycle, our bodies are immobile, and our breathing patterns and heart rates become irregular when compared with Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep or ‘quiet’ sleep cycle.
  • One important factor to consider for a better understanding of a baby’s sigh is to know about the apneic pause. The pause refers to an interruption of airflow for about a few seconds during normal breathing. A sleep sigh in babies can occur with or without apnea. During REM, sighs without apnea occur while the opposite is true for NREM sleep cycles.

Some Baby Sleep Facts

A better understanding of your baby’s natural sleep cycle will allow you to help him sleep better (6).

  • Newborns may sleep anywhere between 14 and 17 hours a day. Some newborns may even sleep for 18 to 19 hours a day.
  • Every baby’s sleep needs and patterns may differ. It is important to let babies enjoy their natural sleep rhythms. But this in no way means you can’t help your baby develop regular sleep schedules. Regular nighttime routines may help your little one to sleep more peacefully. But it is important to work them around your baby’s natural rhythms.
  • Babies’ sleep patterns may affect their growth patterns.

Connection Between A Baby’s Good Sleep Cycle And Health

A study indicates that a healthier sleep pattern during infancy may affect a baby’s mental and physical growth (7) So, if your baby sighs in sleep, rest assured that he is sleeping well. Healthier sleep patterns may indicate optimum growth spurts in babies. But it is important to always monitor your baby’s sleep patterns so that you may know in time if your baby needs to see a doctor. So, rest assured and take comfort in your baby’s sigh!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why does my baby make squeaky noises while sleeping?

Soft squeaky noises in the newborn period can be normal, and it goes away when the baby grows. However, loud or high-pitched squeaky noises can be signs of laryngomalacia in babies. The sound may often worsen during sleeping on their backs, crying, or feeding. You may seek medical care for loud squeaky sounds in babies (8) (9).

2. What does a congested baby sound like?

The sound of a congested baby or child is called stertor. This is more like a snoring sound. Stertor indicates that the airway is obstructed in the nose or mouth. It is common during colds, flu, and allergies (10).

If you have witnessed your baby sigh during sleep, it is an indication that they are sleeping well and healthy. It is a part of their sleeping pattern through which they regulate their breathing and internal organs, ensuring sound sleep and healthy development. The sighing allows the baby’s airways to open up, letting the lungs absorb more air. It can eventually help the baby sleep better. Moreover, sound sleep is the key to good health. So do not worry if your baby sighs quite often while sleeping.

References:

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. Infants Sighs May ’reset’ Breathing Regulation Mechanism As Well As Help Lungs Develop.
    https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/556011
  2. Neuroscience For Kids.
    https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/auto.html
  3. Is Sighing A Resetting Mechanism Of The Autonomic Nervous System
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/246297091_Is_sighing_a_resetting_mechanism_of_the_autonomic_nervous_system_158
  4. Autonomic Nervous System Disorders.
    https://medlineplus.gov/autonomicnervoussystemdisorders.html
  5. Different Patterns Of Sigh In Neonates And Young Infants.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9657665/
  6. Children And Sleep.
    https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep
  7. Infant Growth Spurts Tied To More Sleep.
    https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20110502/infant-growth-spurts-tied-to-more-sleep
  8. My Baby Makes Squeaking Noises When Sleeping.
    https://sleepbaby.org/my-baby-makes-squeaking-noises-when-sleeping/
  9. When Should a Parent Be Concerned With a Baby’s Noisy Breathing?
    https://healthier.stanfordchildrens.org/en/when-should-a-parent-be-concerned-with-a-babys-noisy-breathing/
  10. Stridor Versus Wheezing: When Noisy Breathing Is Something More.
    https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/stridor-versus-wheezing
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Jessica Albert

Jessica Albert is a passionate writer who seeks to connect with her readers through wit and charm. Her work aims to invoke curiosity and keep the readers engaged through and through. She has prior experience working with magazines and e-commerce establishments as a content marketer and editor. Being a mother herself, she puts all her knowledge into creating content about... more

Dr. Elna Gibson

(MBChB, MMed, Paeds)
Dr. Elna Gibson is a general pediatrician. She did her MBChB and specialization as a pediatrician in South Africa at the University of Pretoria. She obtained MMed Pediatrics (masters) with distinction in 1993. As a young specialist, Dr. Gibson spent some time in the Netherlands, and then settled in the Vaal Triangle where she has practiced for 25 years. She... more

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