why do babies cry in their sleep

Without a well-developed language and vocabulary, it’s difficult to communicate our needs and moods to others.

The same goes for babies and toddlers. Crying, whining, and fussiness are all ways babies and toddlers tell their caregivers what they need or feel using the only language they know: sounds. 

Unfortunately, though, these sounds can cause parental sleeplessness, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, or depression. These symptoms may compound with career or relationship stressors.

From 2019 to 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that among parents who have children under the age of 3, the unemployment rate doubled from 4.1% to 8%. This is, no doubt, because families needed to keep their children at home due to the pandemic.

But why do babies cry in their sleep? How can I soothe an infant or toddler crying in its sleep? How can I take care of myself as a parent of a constantly crying baby or toddler? We answer the whys and provide the hows below.

Why Do Some Babies and Toddlers Cry in Their Sleep?

For a newborn, it may take three to six months to get into a regular sleep pattern because they are accustomed to sleeping during the day in the womb. 

Toddlers might be on a more regular sleep schedule. However, some children experience night terrors that bring distress and cause them to lose sleep and get fussy.

What Parents of Babies Can Do

Do babies have different types of cries? Research says no. But scientists were able to standardize the definition of colic as a rule of threes.

  1. The baby is healthy and well-fed.
  2. The crying lasts for more than three hours a day.
  3. The crying happens more than three days a week.

Most infants reach their crying peak at around one or two months of age, but this usually subsides by the time the baby is three months old.

Beyond three months is when the colic is of concern to the baby’s pediatrician. 

What Parents of Toddlers Can Do

For toddlers, two-year-old sleep regression is common due to sensory overload and night terrors. Toddlers learn with their senses, and their brains are firing off millions upon millions more neurons than the adult brain. With brain activity on hyperdrive, many toddlers become prone to having night terrors. 

Trying to answer the question ”Why do babies cry in their sleep?” as a new parent takes trial and error. You can start by going through this check-list of questions when a baby won’t stop crying:

  • Is the baby hungry? Newborns eat frequently. A pacifier might also help.
  • Is the diaper wet or dirty?
  • Is the room too hot or too cold? Perhaps the baby is underdressed or overdressed.
  • Is the baby overstimulated? Dim the lights, and play soothing music.
  • Is the baby sick? Take the baby’s temperature. 
  • Is the baby lonely or afraid? Hold and rock the baby.

In the meantime, here are some tips to soothe a crying baby or toddler crying in sleep.

How Do You Put a Baby To Sleep?

Baby care specialists and moms recommend these tips to put a baby to sleep.

  • Use a blanket to swaddle the baby.
  • Sing or hum to the baby.
  • Use a swing, rocking chair, or your body movements.
  • Motion helps babies fall asleep. Go for a ride in the car or stroller.
  • Give the baby a warm and relaxing bath.
  • Use a sound machine or another kind of white noise equipment.

Now that your little one is — hopefully — asleep, here are ways to take care of yourself during this phase of your child’s life.

Do’s and Don’ts for Parents Dealing With Sleep Concerns in Children

It is incredibly debilitating for new parents to have a colicky baby for three months. Parents might develop conditions such as postpartum syndrome, insomnia, and fatigue. To help struggling parents cope, here are some do’s and don’ts of parenting a child with sleep problems:

Do: Take care of yourself, so you can care for the baby.

Do: Create a support system of friends and family for respite.

Do: Keep your child’s pediatrician informed of any changes, improvements, or digressions.

Don’t: Don’t panic. Babies and toddlers crying in sleep are more common than you think during the first three months.

Don’t: Wait too long to consult with your doctor about the state of your mental health. If you feel fatigued or disoriented, it’s best to speak to a professional who can help. 

See Your Little Ones Adjust and Thrive With Cadence Education

Dealing with a baby or toddler who frequently cries in their sleep is, no doubt, stressful. But you can take comfort in knowing that help is available when you need to take a break and focus on caring for yourself. 

With that said, when it’s time to choose a daycare for your toddler, consider a provider that truly cares about your and your child’s well-being. Cadence Education has trained teaching professionals who are equipped with all the skills and resources needed to help your baby or toddler acclimate into a new environment and succeed. In this way, your child grows in a positive learning environment that’s an extension of your loving home, eventually helping to reduce sleep issues. Contact Cadence Education to find a school near you.