Sleep is crucial for infants, particularly for newborns. They typically sleep for 16 to 17 hours a day, while one-year-olds get about 11 to 12 hours of sleep each day. However, a baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule is not always predictable, and it can be difficult to get them to fall asleep calmly. Occasionally, you might notice unexpected behavior, such as your baby sleeping with their eyes open completely or halfway, which can be alarming. But, there’s no need to worry. You can learn why your baby might sleep with their eyes open and what you can do to prevent it.
- Genetics If your infant sleeps with their eyes open, it might be a hereditary trait. You can research your family tree to find out if anyone in your family has a history of sleeping with their eyes open. If you, your spouse, or close family members have this trait, it’s quite likely that your baby will exhibit it too.
- Medical Reasons If no one in your family has ever reported dozing off with their eyes open, it could be due to medical conditions like nocturnal lagophthalmos. This condition is harmless and typically lasts for no longer than a year and a half. However, in rare cases, it could be caused by thyroid issues, damaged facial nerves, or even tumors. If you notice that your child cannot sleep with their eyes closed for long periods of time, please see your doctor.
Is Sleeping with Eyes Open Harmful for a Baby? Although it may seem strange and unsettling, sleeping with eyes open is completely normal and harmless. Pediatricians often encounter this condition and are unconcerned about it.
Research shows that this type of sleep occurs during the REM, or rapid eye movement, phase of the sleep cycle. Compared to adults, newborns spend more time in REM sleep, which accounts for more than half of their total sleep time. As they get older, their sleeping habits become more closely resemble those of adults, resulting in fewer nighttime awakenings and calmer behavior during naps.
What Can You Do About It? Although it is okay if your baby sleeps with their eyes open, we understand that as a new mother, you may wonder how to get them to close their eyes. Here are a few methods to encourage your infant to close their eyes while sleeping:
- Gently squeeze your infant’s eyelids shut all the way using your fingertips. Make sure they are sound asleep when you do this.
- Establish a regular eating and sleeping schedule for your baby so that they become accustomed to it and learn to doze off without interruption.
- If your baby has trouble falling asleep, encourage them to unwind by giving them a warm bath, singing to them, or gently rocking them until they do.
- When your baby is napping, let them lie on their back so that there is enough air circulating around them. Remove any plush animals, comforters, or pillows from their bed or cot to make it more spacious.
- Make sure the room is dark and has a warm temperature when you put your baby to sleep. This way, they won’t be concerned if their eyes don’t close all the way.
- Bring your infant in for an eye exam to ensure that their eyes are properly moisturized and that their cornea is unharmed. In specific circumstances, humidification or the use of eye ointments and drops may be required to avoid causing corneal damage. However, eye ointments and drops are typically not required, although it is always advisable to consult a doctor first.