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Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep?

by BetterSleep
Apr 26 • 4 min read
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A crying baby is both frustrating and heartbreaking for a parent. Babies have limited means of communication, so when they feel bad in any way, they often cry. This holds true, even when they are asleep or should be sleeping. Crying in sleep is normal for babies, but you can take steps to soothe and comfort them to stop the tears.

The Reason Why Babies Cry in Their Sleep

A typical newborn makes noises while sleeping. They might grunt, cry, or even scream. In most cases, this is a phase, not a problem. Babies don’t have the same regular sleep cycle as adults. They wake up more frequently and are more easily disrupted, which can make them cry.

Babies use crying as their primary form of communication. Without words, they have to tell you somehow that they are scared, hungry, uncomfortable, or in pain. This usually means they start crying, and it doesn’t matter what time of day it is.

If your child continues to cry in their sleep after they have begun to talk, it could signal a bad dream or night terrors. Nightmares are not unusual, but night terrors are unusual. If your child has unusual symptoms along with nighttime crying, talk to your pediatrician.

How to Soothe a Crying Baby

Because babies get disrupted from sleep so easily, they might wake up, cry a little, and then fall asleep again without your intervention. Give your baby a few minutes to settle before you act. Picking them up now for soothing could disrupt their sleep further.

If your baby continues to cry, they are awake and might be uncomfortable or need soothing. Consider what might be making them cry. Are they hungry? Is it too hot or cold in the room? Have they soiled their diapers? If you can correct the discomfort, they will settle back down to sleep.

Often, there is no apparent reason for your child to be crying during sleep, and they just need some comfort to relax again. Before picking your baby up, try resituating them on their back and providing some gentle tummy strokes. Use a soft voice to talk to your baby.

It’s best to provide the least disruptive comfort possible so that your baby can get back to sleep sooner. If it becomes unavoidable to pick them up, try a swaddle. Newborns feel calmer when swaddled. If your baby is a little older, try a sleep sack for a similar sensation.

If they still don’t settle, spend some time holding your baby and rocking. Read them a story or sing a lullaby. The BetterSleep app is useful for such occasions. It’s not just for adults and has soothing kids’ stories and songs.

You’ll also find a large library of sounds that may help your baby sleep better throughout the night. White noise and similar sounds block out environmental noises that can disrupt a baby’s sleep. Try creating a mix your baby responds to and enjoys. A baby crying during sleep is not likely a major concern, but it’s important to give them comfort and to help them get back to sleep as soon as possible.

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