Nothing is quite as peaceful and serene as a sleeping baby. It’s a beautiful sight to behold. But even babies having the most tranquil of sleeping experiences can become briefly disrupted mid-snooze due to what is known as sleep twitching. But the question is why do babies twitch in their sleep?
Twitching and jerking, also known as myoclonic jerks, are very common in babies and even adults. Parents often feel concerned when they witness newborn twitching as it can be worrisome and worrying – but it is usually quite normal. In some rare cases, this could be an early warning signal for an underlying medical condition.
What Is Myoclonic Jerk?
Sleep Myoclonus jerk is an involuntary movement of the body that can be described as a sudden twitch or startle. It is most commonly seen during the transition between wakefulness and sleep when the body relaxes, but it can also occur during light sleep. While most people experience these movements occasionally, some may experience them more often or severely enough to interfere with daily life.
Myoclonic jerk is common in infants who cannot control their movement. During REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which occurs more frequently in young children than adults, babies may twitch as their arms or legs suddenly contract because of changes in brain activity associated with REM sleep.
These twitches can range from mild to severe, but usually, last only a few seconds. It’s important to note that although these twitches may look uncomfortable for your baby, they are perfectly normal and do not cause any harm or medical issues.
If you’ve seen your baby displaying repetitive twitches during sleep, it may be a sign of benign sleep myoclonus of infancy (BSMI), also known as benign neonatal sleep myoclonus. Despite what it sounds like, its presentation is not considered harmful by most researchers and tends to manifest in episodes.
There is much more going on when a baby is sleeping than meets the eye. Research suggests that baby sleep could be a baby’s best teacher.
These baby movements are vital to their motor development – activating and developing brain circuits little by little that helps baby learn about their bodies and how to use each of their limbs from arm to fingertips. Neck twitches, for instance, are a sign that a baby is learning to support their head when they are awake. Later, as they start reaching for items, the twitching could become more pronounced in the wrists and fingers.
This behavior helps baby practice what they have been learning while awake. Scientists believe a baby must get plenty of quality sleep in the early days of life so that it can maximize learning potential and develop the connections between different muscles and body parts.
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How To Soothe When Baby Twitching In Sleep?
Check That Your Baby Is Comfortable:
Ensuring your baby’s comfort is essential for a good night baby sleep and healthy development. You can start by adjusting their position in sleep or using sleep devices like baby bassinets to ensure they sleep safely, while still providing excellent support.
You should also check that your baby isn’t too hot or cold as this can affect the quality of their sleep and cause sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia.
Additionally, gently massaging their limbs if they seem tense can help them relax and sleep better. Even minor twitching, while they are sleeping, may indicate discomfort, so monitoring them regularly is key to ensuring good sleep habits and preventing any potential issues.
Create A White Noise Environment:
Creating a white noise environment with a fan or air purifier can help reduce external noise that might be disturbing your baby while they’re sleeping which could trigger twitching episodes. Additionally, playing soft music in the background can create a calming atmosphere which could help prevent further disturbances caused by myoclonic jerks.
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Talk To Your Doctor:
If the baby’s sleep twitches persist or cause distress for your baby, it’s best to consult your doctor for advice as this could be caused by an underlying medical condition such as epilepsy which needs further investigation.
When Should I Be Worried About The Baby Twitching In My Sleep?
If your baby is showing unusually frequent or sustained twitching, it is best to consult with a doctor for advice about the next steps. This could be because of abnormal neurological activity that goes beyond standard baby movements.
To provide babies with the safest environment while they sleep, caregivers should always use an infant bassinet that meets all the appropriate safety requirements. Additionally, the baby should be placed on a firm mattress when sleeping and the bassinet should not have any items that could cause the baby to overheat, such as blankets and stuffed animals.
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Can Babies Have Restless Leg Syndrome?
While it is uncommon for babies to have Restless Leg Syndrome or Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, there are many cases where these conditions may cause night kicking and twitching. RLS is defined as an uncomfortable sensation that causes the strong urge to move one’s legs while awake, however, it can also influence sleep. PLMD is a disorder that happens while asleep and comprises repetitive leg movement. If concerned, speak with your pediatrician who can determine whether any further assessment or treatment may be necessary.
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What Are Infantile Spasms?
It is also known as West Syndrome, which is a rare form of epilepsy that affects young children aged around four months to one year. Symptoms of this Epilepsy syndrome typically include stiffening and jerking of the baby’s arms and legs, an upward flexing of the neck, as well as blinking or rolling of the eyes.
While infantile spasms usually end within two years from when they start, it is important to seek medical attention to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment. If left untreated, Infantile Spasms can cause long-term developmental problems such as learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, and intellectual disability.
Treatment typically involves anticonvulsants or corticosteroid medication taken orally or administered via injection. Additionally, physical therapy may be recommended to help your child’s development progress at an optimal rate despite underlying health issues.
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Twitching in babies is a common occurrence and generally resolves itself over time. However, if your baby’s twitching becomes more frequent, it is important to seek medical attention to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Additionally, creating a white noise environment, gently massaging their limbs, and ensuring the sleep environment meets appropriate safety requirements can all contribute to providing your baby with the best possible sleeping conditions.
It is important to remember that every baby is different and so it is advised to take note of any subtle changes in their behavior or movements as this could be indicative of an underlying medical condition. Therefore, if you are concerned at all, speak with your doctor for further advice.