Watching your baby sleep peacefully is satisfying indeed! There is something so comforting about seeing the rise and fall of that little chest that can’t be put into words. Closing eyes to sleep is a baby’s instinct because it keeps their eyes moist and stops the light from stimulating their brain. However, a small percentage of babies tend to keep their eyes open by a few millimeters while sleeping. Your baby could be one of those sleepers who keep their eyes open a bit or more. It’ll definitely worry parents to see their baby fast asleep with eyes staring right back at them. Here’s what you need to know to ease your mind about the condition and its severity.
In medical sciences, the condition of sleeping with eyes partially opened is known as nocturnal or physiological lagophthalmos. Hereditary or medical reasons could cause this condition, but there is no certain explanation for it yet. This condition is normally found in infants but is harmless and does not affect your baby’s sleep in any way. There are two main reasons why your baby is sleeping with partially opened eyes: genetics or medical condition. Most babies having this condition get it in their genes from either one of their parents or both of them. If none of the family members have this trait, this could result from a medical condition. In extremely rare cases, this condition has been linked to having serious health issues like thyroid problems, damaged facial nerves, or some kind of tumor. If your baby has been sleeping with his eyes open for a longer period, then talk to your doctor or consult a health professional. Mothers can help their babies sleep with their eyes closed in various ways: make sure that there is no light in the room to disturb your baby’s sleep. Make sure to follow a feeding and sleeping schedule to help your baby sleep without any disturbance. Let your baby rest on the back to promote air circulation around them. If you see your baby’s eyes opened during sleep, try closing them gently with your fingertips. Most babies grow out of this condition after 18 months, but if that is not the case with your baby, then you should contact your doctor or a specialist to get to the root cause of your baby’s condition. This condition is normally harmless for babies and does not have any side effects on their sleep or health.
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Reasons why your baby is sleeping with eyes opened
Sleep holds extreme importance for newborns and babies. If your baby is an open eye sleeper then these could be the reasons for it.
The most common reason for this condition in your baby is hereditary. If your family has a history of sleeping with eyes opened, then your baby has probably got it in genetics from the ancestors. Your baby could have gotten this condition from you or your spouse as well. So, know that which one of your family members has this condition, and rest assured it’s normal.
This can come as a surprise to you that this condition could also result from some medical condition. If none of your families have a history of sleeping with eyes opened, this is probably an indication of a medical condition known as nocturnal lagophthalmos.
Worry not parents, as this condition is entirely harmless and normally lasts for a year and a half. If you find your baby not sleeping with eyes-closed for more than 18 months, then consult a medical specialist and get their advice on the matter.
REM and developing nervous system
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep patterns, along with developing nervous system, might be leading to partially opened eyes during sleep in your baby. Babies tend to have longer durations of REM than adults. Also, adults and babies experience more eye movements during REM sleep. So, this could be one of the reasons for your baby’s partially opened eyes.
Apart from genetics and nocturnal lagophthalmos, this could be the case of congenital abnormality. Though it’s extremely rare, it can be one reason why your baby is sleeping with open eyes. Specialists normally perform surgery to rectify congenital abnormality.
Side effects of sleeping with open-eyes for babies
Undoubtedly, parents want their baby to be healthy and normal in every way, which is why anything out of the ordinary can get them worried. Know that babies sleeping with eyes open are healthy and are sleeping soundly with no disturbance.
The most logical reason that researchers have found is associated with Rapid Eye Movement. REM is an active sleep cycle phase, and babies tend to go through this phase for a longer period than adults.
REM makes up almost half of a baby’s entire sleep, during which their minds are still active and growing. With time, babies start having better nighttime sleep with closed eyes.
How can I help my baby close his eyes during sleep?
As mentioned earlier, there is no problem with your baby sleeping with eyes opened, but if you are desperate to help your baby then here are a few ways to do that:
- Remove or switch off every light within the room to prevent your baby from waking up in the middle of the night due to stimulation from the light.
- Develop a routine of feeding and sleeping for your baby. This routine will help your baby sleep when it’s time without any delay or interruption.
- Make sure that your baby rests or sleeps on his back to promote air circulation around them. Also, make sure to remove stuffed toys, pillows, and quilts from the baby’s crib.
- You can use your fingers to close your baby’s eyes completely when he’s asleep, repeat the process until they are entirely closed.
- If your baby has a hard time sleeping, try relaxing him by bathing him in warm water, through a pacifier, singing, or gently rocking until he falls asleep.
- Ensure that your baby’s room is warm, cozy, and dark, or his sleep may get interrupted due to coldness or light.
- Take your baby to an eye specialist to ensure that his eyes have enough moisture and a healthy cornea. Use eye ointments, humidifiers or drops, to prevent your baby’s cornea from getting damaged.
When do I take this condition seriously?
Your baby is under no threat of having a serious health issue as long as he is under 18 months. It is completely normal for babies to sleep with partially or half eyes opened. However, if your baby has crossed that age limit and is still unable to close his eyes, then make sure to reach out to your pediatrician.
In rare cases, doctors have found this condition to be linked with malformed eyelids. Under no circumstances should you self-diagnose your baby; leave this in the hands of professionals. Malformed eyes are mostly the result of congenital ptosis, but your baby’s chances of having this condition are extremely rare. Even if you feel like that your baby has somehow abnormal eyelids, rest assured that your baby is completely healthy with healthy body parts.
If your baby is unable to close his eyes normally after waking up, is not active visually, and has dry, irritating, or red eyes, take this seriously and talk to your pediatrician.
Watching your baby sleep with open eyes can raise several questions in your mind but make sure to control your wandering thoughts, and rest assured that this is a very common condition among babies. Use above mentioned methods to help your baby sound asleep and uninterruptedly.
Do keep track of your baby’s condition and reach out to your pediatrician for help if the baby’s condition persists even after 18 months.
Do not hesitate to ask any related questions, in the comments below!
Hajira is a certified editor, an experienced and thoughtful writer, and a mother of two. Her deliberate passion for writing convinced her to become a writer along with her mom duties. Driven by her passion for writing, she takes pride in providing the best possible. She aims to incite and provoke enthusiasm in her readers.