Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep?

Why do babies cry in their sleep? Have you ever wondered why?

It’s a puzzling and heart-wrenching experience for parents, hearing those tiny sobs and wondering what could be causing their little one’s distress. But fear not because there are reasons behind this curious phenomenon.

In this article, we’ll dive into the fascinating realm of baby sleep and uncover the secrets behind those nighttime tears. We’ll explore the various factors contributing to babies crying in their sleep, from dreams and sleep cycles to developing emotions and physical needs.

Whether you’re a new parent navigating the world of baby sleep or simply curious about the inner workings of our tiniest humans, we hope this guide will offer you insights and reassurance.

Introduction: Decoding the Mystery of Sleep-Crying in Babies

Crying is the primary way babies communicate their needs, whether hungry, tired, or need a diaper change. However, when your little one cries during sleep, it might leave you scratching your head. Is it a bad dream? Teething? Or is it just a normal part of their sleep cycle?

To quell these concerns and better understand your baby’s nocturnal narratives, it’s essential to know that infants, like adults, cycle through different stages of sleep – from light to deep and then onto REM sleep. During these transitions, especially from a deep to a lighter stage, they might cry or fuss momentarily. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re fully awake or uncomfortable; rather, it’s simply part of their unique sleep rhythm.

However, persistent sleep crying might indicate underlying issues, such as sleep regression or association problems.

Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep: Common Reasons Why

If you’ve ever found yourself bewildered at the sight of your sleeping angel letting out cries, rest assured that this is often a normal part of their sleep cycles.

Firstly, we should consider the transitions between sleep stages. Infants, like adults, cycle through various stages of sleep, and when transitioning, especially from deep to light sleep, they may cry or fuss momentarily. It’s their unique way of shifting gears in their sleep world.

Next, the phenomenon of “sleep inertia” might be at play. It’s the grogginess we all experience upon waking, and babies are no exception. If they partially awaken from a deep sleep, they might let out a few sobs before settling back into slumber.

Dreams could also be a potential reason. While science is still out on exactly when babies start to dream, they do spend more time in REM sleep, which is associated with dreaming. Some believe these dreams could trigger sleep-crying.

Lastly, physical discomforts like teething, minor illnesses, or a wet diaper can disrupt a baby’s sleep and cause them to cry.

But remember, every baby is unique, and these reasons might not apply to all. It’s about observing, understanding, and responding to your baby’s sleep patterns and cues.

Why Does My Baby Suddenly Cry in His Sleep?

Sometimes, as a parent, you might observe that your baby has suddenly started crying in his sleep, and it’s natural to feel concerned.

One potential reason could be a growth spurt or developmental milestone. Infants grow and change at an astonishing pace, and these stages of rapid growth or development can sometimes lead to restlessness and crying in sleep. Babies can also experience what’s known as “sleep regression” at certain ages, leading to sleep pattern disruptions, including sudden bouts of sleep crying.

Another common culprit could be teething, which can cause discomfort and disrupt a baby’s sleep. If this is the case, you might notice more drooling, chewing, and general fussiness, along with the sleep-crying.

The baby could also be experiencing minor discomforts such as gas or a diaper needing a change. These issues can cause sudden crying, even if the baby was previously sleeping peacefully.

Lastly, changes in the sleep environment or routine can also lead to sudden sleep crying. Babies thrive on consistency, and even small changes can sometimes unsettle them.

Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep Spiritually

While scientific explanations focus on developmental and physiological reasons for sleep-crying in babies, some cultural and spiritual perspectives offer different interpretations.

In some cultures, it’s believed that babies are more in tune with the spiritual realm than adults, given their recent transition from one plane of existence to another. Some suggest that babies might cry in their sleep due to spiritual encounters, such as dreams or interactions with spirits. These experiences might be overwhelming or confusing for them, resulting in crying.

Others believe in the concept of past lives and suggest that sleep-crying might be linked to memories or experiences from previous incarnations. According to this belief, as the baby grows and becomes more integrated into their current life, these memories fade, which is why sleep-crying decreases over time.

Regardless of these spiritual interpretations, it’s crucial to ensure your baby’s physical and emotional needs are being met. 

Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep Islam

In the Islamic tradition, there aren’t specific teachings or interpretations regarding why babies cry in their sleep. The faith emphasizes the importance of love, care, and nurturing towards children, and this includes responding to their needs when they cry.

However, in the cultural practices of some Muslim communities, it’s common to believe that babies, due to their purity and innocence, might be more susceptible to the ‘evil eye’ or ‘nazar,’ which is a type of negative energy or harm caused by others’ envy or malice. Some believe this could cause babies discomfort or distress, leading to sleep crying.

To counteract this, many Muslims recite prayers or ‘Duas’ for protection, such as Ayat al-Kursi (The Throne Verse from the Quran) or the Mu’awwidhatayn (the last two chapters of the Quran), and gently blow over the child. This is seen as a spiritual shield protecting the baby.

Nevertheless, these are cultural practices and interpretations, and they vary widely across different Islamic communities. It’s always essential to attend to your baby’s physical and emotional needs and consult with healthcare professionals if your baby’s sleep-crying is causing concern. Islamic teachings strongly endorse seeking medical help when needed, viewing it as a form of trust and reliance on God.

Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep Then Stop?

It’s quite normal for babies to cry briefly in their sleep and then stop on their own. This behavior is often linked to the baby transitioning between sleep cycles, as discussed. Sleep is divided into stages, including light sleep, deep sleep, and dream sleep. The transition between these stages can sometimes cause babies to stir, whimper, or even cry.

Another explanation could be that babies, especially newborns, have an immature nervous system. It means they have little control over their physical responses, and crying is one of the few ways to express themselves, even involuntarily, during sleep.

However, if the baby is not in distress, is breathing normally, and settles down quickly, there’s usually no cause for alarm. It’s best to avoid intervening immediately, as this can disrupt their sleep. Over time, as their sleep patterns mature and they gain more control over their physical responses, this sleep crying should decrease.

If your baby’s sleep crying is persistent, intense, or associated with other signs of discomfort or illness, it’s wise to consult a healthcare professional.

Separation Anxiety: When Your Baby Misses You

Yes, separation anxiety can manifest during sleep, contributing to your baby’s crying. As babies understand object permanence, they become more aware of their surroundings and the people in it. When they wake up in the middle of the night and find themselves alone, they may feel the pang of separation and cry out for comfort. It is especially common during 6-12 months of age, a period often referred to as the ‘peak’ of separation anxiety.

The effects of separation anxiety on sleep are often noticeable. Your baby may resist bedtime, wake frequently, or seem unusually distressed upon waking. They may cry until soothed by the familiar presence of a parent or caregiver. It’s worth noting that while this phase can be emotionally challenging for both baby and parents, it’s a normal part of a child’s cognitive and emotional development.

What Is It Called When Babies Cry in Their Sleep?

The phenomenon of babies crying in their sleep is often referred to as sleep crying or night crying. It’s a common behavior, especially among newborns and infants, and is part of their normal sleep cycle. You might also hear the term “night terrors,” a type of sleep disruption that can cause children to cry, scream, or appear frightened during sleep. However, night terrors typically occur in older children, not infants.

Sleep crying can be part of the baby’s transition between sleep stages. Babies, like adults, have different stages of sleep – light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. As they shift from one stage to another, they might briefly wake up and cry before settling back down. It’s important to note, though, that if your baby’s sleep crying is persistent, severe, or accompanied by other symptoms of distress or illness, it’s always a good idea to consult with a pediatrician to ensure there’s no underlying health concern causing the crying. In the next sections, we’ll discuss some strategies for comforting a sleep-crying baby and when it might be time to seek professional advice.


Colic is a term often used to describe severe, often fluctuating pain in the abdomen that occurs in babies. Characteristically, a baby with colic cries excessively, often at the same time of day, usually in the late afternoon or evening. This inconsolable crying often begins suddenly and may last for several hours. It can be distressing to both the baby and parents, but it’s important to remember that colic is not harmful or dangerous and typically resolves by the time the baby is 3 to 4 months old.

The exact cause of colic is unknown, although it has been linked to a variety of factors, including gas, indigestion, and a developing nervous system. During a colic episode, the baby’s belly may seem bloated, and they may alternately extend or pull up their legs and pass gas more than other babies.

While there’s no definitive cure for colic, some parents find certain strategies can help soothe their baby, such as holding them during a crying episode, using a pacifier, or trying a white noise machine. However, what works can vary greatly from baby to baby. 

What to Do if Baby Cries in Sleep

It’s important to understand that not all sleep crying requires immediate intervention. Babies often cry as they transition between sleep cycles, and this can sometimes be mistaken for distress. Before you rush to comfort your baby, take a moment to observe them. If they’re still asleep, they may settle down on their own without your help.

If your baby continues to cry, or if they awake and seem upset, they may need your attention. Start by checking for common issues, such as a soiled diaper, hunger, or feeling too hot or cold. A gentle pat or shushing sound can provide comfort without fully waking them.

Sleep crying can sometimes be a sign of an underlying issue like teething or illness. If your baby’s sleep crying is persistent, occurs suddenly after a period of peaceful sleep, or is accompanied by other signs of discomfort or illness, it’s a good idea to consult your pediatrician. They can help determine if there’s a medical reason for your baby’s crying or if there are other strategies you can use to help soothe your baby and improve their sleep.

Soothing Techniques: How to Comfort a Sleep-Crying Baby

Calming a sleep-crying baby can feel like a delicate art, but there are proven techniques that can be tremendously helpful. First off, try a gentle touch. Lightly stroking your baby’s back or belly can provide a soothing sensation that helps them settle back into sleep. If your baby is still in their crib or bassinet, a reassuring hand on their tummy can help them feel secure and loved.

Next, consider the power of sound. Some babies respond well to white noise or soft lullabies, which can mask disruptive noises and provide a comforting auditory backdrop. Apps and devices with pre-recorded sounds are readily available, but don’t overlook the simple power of your voice. A gentle lullaby or hummed tune can do wonders.

A consistent bedtime routine can also help soothe a sleep-crying baby. It could include a warm bath, a gentle massage, or a story. The predictability of the routine can create a sense of security and help your baby associate these activities with sleep.

Lastly, remember the power of patience. It can be stressful when your baby cries during sleep, but it’s important to stay calm and composed. Your baby can pick up on your stress, so maintaining a soothing demeanor can make a big difference. Remember, this phase is temporary; with time, your baby will grow out of sleep-crying.

When to Worry: Recognizing Signs of Illness or Distress

While sleep-crying is often a normal part of a baby’s development, it’s important to be aware of certain signs that could indicate a more serious issue. As a parent or caregiver, you should always trust your instincts. If your baby’s crying sounds different to you or they seem more distressed than usual, it might be time to seek medical advice.

There are a few key signs to look out for. Persistent and intense crying that does not subside with soothing efforts could indicate colic or another medical issue. If your baby has a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and sleep-crying, these could be signs of illness. A noticeable change in eating or sleeping patterns is also worth noting. Unusual movements, especially those that accompany crying, can also cause concern.

Keep an eye out for signs of discomfort such as excessive pulling at the ears (which could indicate an ear infection), drooling and gum irritation (which could signal teething), or a rash (which could suggest a food allergy or sensitivity).

Remember, it’s always best to consult your pediatrician when in doubt. They can provide guidance and reassurance, helping you navigate the often daunting but incredibly rewarding journey of parenthood.

Conclusion: Understanding and Addressing Your Baby’s Sleep-Crying

In wrapping up, it’s crucial to remember that while sleep-crying can seem alarming, it’s often a normal part of your baby’s development. Babies communicate their needs and discomforts through crying, so our caregivers’ role is to learn their patterns, respond with empathy, and seek to alleviate any distress.

Do keep in mind that while there are common reasons, like transitional sleep stages, hunger, or the need for a diaper change, it’s also possible that your baby could be experiencing something more complex, like colic. If their sleep-crying is persistent, unusual, or accompanied by other symptoms of illness, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional.

Practicing soothing techniques can be a wonderful bonding time and comfort for your baby. Remember, every child is unique and might require different approaches to comfort.

The journey of parenthood can be full of uncertainties and late nights, but rest assured, you’re not alone, and with time, you will understand your baby’s cues better. Here’s to peaceful nights and happy, healthy babies!