Why Do Babies Twitch In Their Sleep?

Ahhhh! A sleeping baby, so peaceful. So serene. But you may have noticed how suddenly your little dream angel can go from tranquil to twitching while seemingly unaware. Arms flailing, legs shaking, and jumping with a start during sleep are a common phenomenon in children who are developing healthy sensorimotor skills.

What Causes Baby Twitching While Sleeping

Babies typically sleep 14 to 17 hours a day. You have, no doubt, noticed those jerky movements and twitches that most people assume are related to dreaming. This is what scientists call myoclonus. Myo is from the Greek word for muscle and clonus, meaning twitching. You may be familiar with another form of myoclonus called the hiccups. Simply put it is sudden involuntary muscle movement. When newborns are twitching while sleeping it usually occurs in the early stages, just as the child is falling off to sleep.  It may be caused by external stimuli such as noise, movement, or light sensitivity. Babies stop twitching in their sleep during the deeper phases of rest.

What to Know About Your Newborn Twitching While They Are Sleeping

Sleep myoclonus is common during the first week of a newborn's life and babies usually stop those jerky movements within a year.  There are no inherent consequences to the condition or reasons for concern. The good news is that researchers believe baby twitching may be a sign of the healthy development of circuits in the brain. 

It is lovely to imagine your child is having a pleasant dream when his adorable little lips twitch into a smile and his pudgy fingers grasp the air for some imaginary toy. The baby may give you a fright when she suddenly jumps in her sleep without warning. Most likely it is not a dream or a nightmare but a brain exercise. Scientists believe this may be a way of synchronizing and strengthening neural pathways.

Baby Twitching Has Meaning

There may be a link between the body part that is twitching and your baby’s new motor skills.  For example, neck twitches during sleep correspond to the baby developing the ability to support their head while awake. Later, the twitching may be more prevalent in the wrists and fingers as they begin to reach for things. Even while they sleep, babies are doing the important work of sensorimotor development.

What is Normal and When to Seek Your Doctor’s Advice

How do you know if your baby’s sleep twitches are a normal part of development or signal something that you should be concerned about? If the twitching stops immediately upon waking, it is probably myoclonic twitches. The uncontrollable movement should stop when the baby is awake.

If your baby is experiencing jerking movements or stiffening when awake, you may be dealing with a seizure issue such as:

  •  Infantile Spasms -These begin between 2 and 12 months of age. You may see a cluster of jerks followed by stiffening.
  •  Benign familial neonatal convulsions - These start within the first few days of life. They usually stop by 6 to 9 months of age.
  • Febrile Seizures -These take place during illness, accompanied by a rapid spike in temperature.
  • Epilepsy - Epileptic disorders can also cause seizures.

If you feel there may be a more serious issue, don’t ignore your instincts and make an appointment with your pediatrician. Record the movements on video so that your doctor can better evaluate what you are witnessing.

Keeping them Comfortable While Asleep Can Help

With all this twitching and jerking going on, why not assure your baby gets the best sleep possible? A Woolino Sleep Bag’s temperature regulating, moisture-wicking, hypoallergenic, silky softness will keep your little one comfortable so the important work of baby sleep can be done.


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