Infant Crying in Sleep: Causes and Tips to Soothe

Seeing your little one cry in sleep might make you worry. But, it’s a common thing, a part of growing up for infants. Babies just born and young ones might cry in their sleep. This happens as they get used to a sleeping routine. Remember, crying is how babies first talk. They might cry a lot, even when they sleep.

As babies get older, crying in sleep might happen in nightmares. But, this is not so usual and fits kids from 4 to 12 years old. It’s crucial for those taking care to know when to worry. Watch out for odd sleep habits or if the crying never stops. This could be bad for both the baby and the one care-giving.

Key Takeaways:

  • Infant crying during sleep is a common occurrence and often a normal part of development.
  • Newborns and young babies may cry, grunt, or scream in their sleep as their sleep cycles are still maturing.
  • Crying while asleep can occasionally be a sign of a nightmare or night terror, which are relatively rare in infants.
  • Caregivers should be aware of signs that may indicate a need for medical attention, such as sudden changes in sleep habits or persistent crying that interferes with the baby’s or caregiver’s ability to function.
  • Understanding the normal sleep patterns and developmental milestones can help caregivers better recognize when a baby’s sleep habits may be cause for concern.

Understanding Infant Sleeping Patterns

Newborns and young infants wake every 2-3 hours to eat. As babies grow, they start sleeping more at night. Yet, sleep is still tough because of infant sleep regressions. These can happen at 4, 6, and 8-10 months. They cause more night wakings. Baby sleep disruptions become common during these times.

Newborn Sleep Cycles

Babies spend a lot of time in REM sleep. This is the light, active sleep. It makes babies move and make sounds while they sleep. Knowing about newborn sleep cycles helps parents notice odd sleeping patterns.

These can point to bigger worries. Information on infant sleeping patterns is key for caregivers. It lets them know when to worry about sleep.

Sleep Regressions and Disruptions

As babies get older, they may start sleeping worse from time to time. Sleep can seem to go backwards. These infant sleep regressions are usual at 4, 6, and 8-10 months. They can make babies wake up more often and cry at night.

Knowing this is a natural part of growing up is important. It helps parents support their little ones through these hard times. They can make sure their babies get the sleep they need despite the challenges.

Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep?

Infant crying during sleep is common, with many reasons behind it. Knowing why they cry helps caregivers soothe and support them. This is key for their sleep.

Hunger and Feeding Needs

Infants often cry in their sleep due to hunger. They might need to nurse or have a bottle. This happens a lot with newborns. Their stomachs might also hurt because their digestion is not fully developed.

Nightmares and Night Terrors

Babies can have nightmares as their minds grow. This could make them cry in their sleep. Night terrors might happen too, but they are less common. These terrors happen in deeper sleep stages.

Teething Discomfort

Teething pain can wake babies up, causing them to cry. Their cries might sound different when it’s from teething. It can sound like a whimper or a whine. Caregivers should figure out what’s wrong to help their baby sleep.

infant crying in sleep

Babies sleep in a different way than grown-ups. They have more rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In REM sleep, babies might move, twitch, or cry, but they’re not fully awake. This is normal for babies.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep

REM sleep is when babies dream more than adults. They can make sounds like crying. But, they might not be just fully awake. Knowing this can help parents react better to crying during sleep.

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Overtiredness and Witching Hour

Overtiredness is a big reason for babies crying at night. If babies stay awake too long, they get hard to soothe and sleep. This can lead to more crying at the “witching hour,” late afternoon or evening.

It’s an important pattern to understand for parents. Knowing this can make it easier to help a crying baby at night.

Soothing a Crying Baby

When a baby cries in their sleep, staying calm is very important. First, wait and observe the baby. Sometimes, babies cry a little and then go back to sleep.

If the crying keeps going, you can try some comforting techniques. For example, gently rub the baby’s stomach or back. Wrapping them in a swaddle can make them feel safe. A pacifier might help too. If the baby still nurses, breastfeeding can be very comforting. The aim is to get them back to sleep gently. Being patient and soft in your approach is key.

Age-Specific Considerations

The reasons why babies cry at night depend on their age. For newborns, their sleep patterns are all over the place. They cry a lot during light sleep. Older babies cry more when they are going through sleep regressions, teething, or bad dreams.

Toddlers start crying at night a lot, too. They do this because they’re learning a lot and it can make them tired. Sometimes, they just don’t want to go to sleep. If your baby is crying a lot at night, it’s okay to ask a doctor for help.


Newborns wake up every few hours to eat. Their sleep patterns are very random. This means they will cry at night as they adapt to sleeping.

Older Infants

When babies get older, they might sleep longer. But sometimes, around 4 months, they go through a sleep regression. This disrupts their sleep pattern and can make them cry more at night.


Toddlers should sleep 12–14 hours a day. By 18 months, they usually take only one nap. Yet, toddler sleep and crying can still be hard. They might find it tough to go to bed or wake up at night because they’re so tired.

When to Seek Medical Advice

Sometimes, babies cry in their sleep, and that’s okay. It’s a normal part of growing up. But, if your baby cries in pain or their sleep changes suddenly, it might be time to see a pediatrician. Also, if sleep problems make it hard for your baby or you to do daily activities.

Problems with feeding, like trouble with breastfeeding or not liking formula, can cause sleep problems too. It’s a good idea to talk to a doctor about this. They can help figure out if there’s a medical reason. They can also give you tips on how to help your baby sleep better.

If your baby cries for hours and seems very upset, this could be colic. This often starts between 2 to 3 weeks after birth, or a bit later for babies born early. In such cases, seeking help from a professional is the best move. Nighttime crying could be from many issues, like colic or milk allergies. These might need a doctor’s care to fully understand and treat.

Watching for signs that show something might be wrong is important for your baby’s health. Don’t be afraid to call your pediatrician if you’re worried. They are there to help, especially with sleep and crying issues.

Establishing Healthy Sleep Routines

Developing healthy sleep routines for babies is key. It helps them sleep better. This way, they cry less at night. Bedtime routines are important. They include things like diaper changes, massages, and lullabies. These tell the baby sleep time is near.

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Bedtime Routines

Having a set bedtime routine helps babies sleep through the night. It includes activities that relax the baby. This makes it easier for them to fall asleep.

Sleep Environment

The sleep environment is very important. The room should be the right temperature, between 68-72°F. It should also be calm and quiet, without too many distractions. A peaceful place helps babies sleep longer.

A routine and a calm place help a lot. They make sure your baby sleeps well. This also means less crying at night.

Myths and Facts About Infant Sleep

There’s a lot of confusion around baby sleep. Knowing what’s true can help you handle nighttime fussing better. This way, you can give your baby the care they need.

Some think babies should sleep all night from birth. But, newborns wake often to eat and their sleep isn’t fully formed yet. Also, people believe babies cry from nightmares. But, babies start dreaming and having nightmares when they’re about 2 years old.

It’s key to know the truth about infant sleep. This helps you set real expectations and take the best care of your little one. Understanding common misconceptions can make you better at dealing with sleep problems and cries at night.

Babies should sleep through the night from a young age.Newborns and infants often wake frequently to eat and have less developed sleep cycles.
Babies who cry in their sleep are having nightmares.Babies do not begin dreaming and experiencing nightmares until around 2 years of age.

By sorting out the myths from the truth, you’ll know more about your baby’s sleep. And you can give the top care they need to grow up healthy.

Sleep Training Methods

After a baby is about 4-6 months old, parents look into ways to fix sleep problems. Two popular methods are the Ferber method and Cry-It-Out (CIO) method.

Ferber Method

The Ferber method, known as “graduated extinction,” is about letting a baby cry for longer periods, then soothing. This helps babies get better at falling asleep alone. Research found that gentle methods, like this one, cut sleep issues by 30% after five months.

Cry-It-Out Method

Cry-It-Out (CIO) lets a baby cry until they sleep without help. This way, babies too learn self-soothing. Keep in mind, though, about 20% of babies won’t take to this method well.

It’s key for caregivers to talk to their doctor before trying these methods. Picking the right one for your child and sticking to it is very important. Doing it right protects your baby and keeps them from getting too upset. Remember, being patient and staying with the plan is what makes these methods work for some kids faster than others.

Coping with Sleep Deprivation

Caring for a baby who wakes at night is hard on parents. It can wear you out, making you lose sleep. But, it’s very important to take care of yourself during this tough time. Work with your partner to share night duty. Take a nap when the baby does. Also, try to do things that help you relax like meditating or exercising.

Self-Care for Parents

To face the challenges of your baby’s sleep, you need to care for yourself. Having a good bedtime routine helps you sleep better. Try to avoid screens before you sleep. Also, doing things that make you calm, like deep breathing or easy yoga, can help you deal with stress.

Seeking Support

Getting help from family, friends, or a postpartum doula is a great idea. They can help out so you get some rest. Talking to a doctor or sleep expert can give you good advice on how to improve your baby’s sleep, which can help the whole family sleep better. Remember, taking care of yourself means you can cope with taking care of a baby who’s not sleeping well.

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Coping StrategyDescription
NappingTaking short daytime naps when the baby sleeps can help alleviate the effects of sleep deprivation.
Sharing Nighttime DutiesCollaborating with a partner to share nighttime feeding and soothing responsibilities can provide periods of uninterrupted sleep.
Caffeine ConsumptionConsuming caffeine in moderation (up to 200 mg per day) can help manage fatigue without negatively impacting overall sleep patterns.
Weekend Catch-upSleeping a bit more on weekends, about two to three extra hours, can be beneficial in recuperating lost sleep during the week.

It’s crucial to focus on self-care and reach out for support. This can help you deal with the challenges of a baby who doesn’t sleep well. It ensures you stay well during this tough time.


Infant crying during sleep is common and usually part of their growth. Parents might worry, but most times it’s not serious. Knowing why babies cry, like if they’re hungry or uncomfortable, helps you calm them.

Make a good bedtime routine and a cozy sleep place. If needed, ask a doctor. This helps your baby sleep well. With love and patience, you can handle night crying. Then, you both can sleep better.

Keep in mind the summary of crying at night and how to handle it. And remember, the ways to calm a crying baby are key. This journey is about helping your baby sleep well to be their best.


What are the common reasons for babies crying in their sleep?

Babies may cry in their sleep for many reasons. These could include hunger or being upset. Sometimes, they might be having bad dreams.Or, maybe their teeth are hurting. These things can make a baby cry at night.

Is it normal for babies to cry during their sleep?

Yes, it’s quite normal. Babies’ sleep patterns can be very different. They might cry as they move between deep and light sleep.

How can I soothe a baby who is crying in their sleep?

To comfort a crying baby, try gentle rubbing on their stomach or back. Using a swaddle can help, as can giving them a pacifier or breastfeeding. These things may make the baby relax and sleep peacefully again.

Are there any age-specific considerations for infant crying during sleep?

Yes, crying during sleep is different based on the baby’s age. Newborns sleep a lot but wake up frequently. As they get older, sleep might get better but then worse again during sleep regressions. Toddlers might cry if they’re very tired or don’t want to sleep.

When should I seek medical advice for my baby’s sleep-related crying?

If the baby is in pain, or if their crying suddenly changes, it may be time to call a doctor. Severe sleep problems that affect the baby or you a lot also need medical attention.

How can I establish healthy sleep routines for my baby?

Creating a bedtime routine is key. This might involve changing a diaper, massaging the baby, and singing calming songs. Make sure their sleep spot is cozy and safe.

What are some common myths about infant sleep that I should be aware of?

It’s not true that babies should sleep through the night early on. Also, crying doesn’t always mean they’re having bad dreams. This is especially not the case for babies under 2 years old.

What sleep training methods can I consider for my baby?

Two popular methods are the Ferber and Cry-It-Out. Talk to your doctor before choosing one. Pick the one that feels right for you and your baby.

How can I cope with the sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a baby who cries during the night?

To deal with less sleep, share night duty with someone. Sleep when the baby does. Relax by doing things you enjoy. Also, get help from loved ones or a doula.