When Baby Smiles in Sleep But Not Awake: Should You Worry?

Confession time! Even to this day, I still can’t resist watching my girls sleep. They’re like precious little creatures, dreaming away in their beds.

When they were babies, I’d often check things out when they were too quiet. I’d worry, typical mom, of course.

And while we’re right to be worried, sometimes we overdo it a bit. Case in point: when you see your child laughing in sleep with eyes open. Is this something to call the pediatrician about?

What’s normal when it comes to baby smiles and laughing in sleep? Hold onto your hats, mamas, because I’m digging right in!

Why do newborns smile in their sleep?

You asked, and I’m answering. But get ready because I’m about to blow your mind. YOU can smile in your sleep too. And laugh!

I know this based on research, and I’ve seen it with my own eyes. My husband is a big sleep talker. He also laughs in his sleep, most recently the other night, and yes, he smiles in his sleep. 😴

The same is true with babies.

baby cute smile

Babies will smile reflexively without it having any reactionary meaning to a person or item. In wakeful hours and even while sleeping, your baby or toddler may pass gas and smile.

No judgment, but I sometimes smile, too, after that. I mean, it’s relieving.

Sometimes babies exhibit sensory responses to smells or tastes. So your baby may smell your perfume or lotion as you hover by the crib and instinctively smile because she knows that smell makes her feel good.

In sleep, though, it’s kind of hard to discern what is causing the smile. Some say it’s the dreams they’re having. Or even angels visiting (see below). But most researchers think smiling or laughing during active sleep is simply an involuntary reflexive action.

In other words, they have no control over it.

So, while it COULD mean that they’re smiling in reaction to a memory from their day or subconscious streams of pleasant thoughts, their tiny bodies are more likely reflexively smiling or even laughing for no reason whatsoever.

Is there anything to worry about with the baby smiling during sleep?

Mostly, I want to encourage you to relax and enjoy those moments you catch a baby or toddler sleeping and smiling away. However, gelastic seizures signify a very rare form of epilepsy.

But don’t go panicking just yet. Remember, this is quite rare, but it also comes with flushing, rapid heartbeat, and a change in breathing. So, if you notice those other things, get medical help immediately.

But if all you notice is a smile or laugh during sleep, it’s safe to say your little sweetheart is simply reflexively doing these things, and there’s no cause for concern.

If you’re wondering why they sleep with their bums, here are the reasons.

What does it mean when babies smile in their sleep?

Again, there’s not much behind the meaning when babies smile in their sleep. They could be passing gas and reflexively smiling at the relief. A pleasant memory could run through their developing minds and make them smile or laugh.

Even smells could elicit a smile in sleep.

baby in dream

Most researchers believe that smiling in sleep is a reflexive impulse and really has no meaning. However, many are inclined to think babies see angels, which may be the reason for smiling.

When babies smile in their sleep, do they see angels?

I remember my grandma always told me babies could see angels. I used to think that was something she’d just invented.

But as I got older, I heard this from many people from different backgrounds and walks of life. So there’s something to this.

However, there is no scientific evidence that babies see angels while sleeping. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It just means that no one can quite prove this theory.

What does Leslie think?

Well, I have to be honest. I think reflexes are the likely reason you see your baby smile or even laugh in sleep. But I have also had encounters that I cannot explain scientifically.

So, if you believe your baby has seen an angel in sleep, and it comforts you to think your loved ones that have gone are bringing joy to your baby, then keep believing it. No harm can come from such a precious thought.

I believe our loved ones who have passed on come to see us. Sometimes, we pick up on their presence, while other times, we are oblivious. Children are more in tune with these things, though.

Once when my youngest was a bit younger, she started talking about something only my grandma and I had discussed together. It was in regards to a family pet we had. I had never mentioned this to either daughter. Yet, my youngest recalled this conversation. It completely wowed me.

So, maybe they do see angels while they sleep. And those angels tell them how loved they are. And perhaps that makes them smile.

However, science is more on the side of these other reasons why your baby smiles in sleep but is not awake.

  • Emotions are developing

Every day is fascinating to a baby. That’s because everything is new. Every sound. Every sight. Every smell. EVERYTHING!

So as their little brains develop, all this information runs through the brain and is processed as they sleep. Happy emotions may be reflected through this reel of replays from their days as new humans.

Many researchers feel that this may be why you see smiling or laughing from your baby while they are asleep rather than being an angel on a visit.

  • Farts are brewing

Since babies don’t smile socially until they’re in the 3-4-month range, that’s another reason why researchers argue for these sleep instincts. Newborn babies that smile most likely could be doing so because they’re passing gas.

baby passed gas

If your baby has colic, you may notice smiles during wakeful hours when they fart. This is because it’s such a relief. Remember, babies don’t know what farts or burps are or that these functions are normal. Their tiny digestive systems are still developing, which adds to the problem.

But in sleep, you may not hear that passing of gas, but they may have made it. And if so, they could instinctively smile even while asleep.

My friend Cassidy recently reported that her colicky infant son farted in his sleep while she had gone into the nursery to put something away. “It took me by such surprise! It was so loud, like his dad, I almost started laughing. And when I looked at him, he had a smile on his face, but he was clearly asleep!”

Probably one of the best baby messages I’ve received in a while!

  • Baby is in the REM cycle

REM sleep can trigger reflexes like smiling or laughing as your baby gets bigger. You’ll know this if you look at your baby and see rapid eye movements.

So, it could dream of doing it, but researchers aren’t sure what babies dream about. Likely, it’s all those new things they see daily playing in their mind, like a movie.

And guess what…that’s why you smile and laugh in your sleep too. Ok, maybe not you specifically, but watch your spouse. Yours could be like mine, laughing and smiling away in sleep.

Usually, there is no need to worry should you notice your baby smiling in sleep. 😌

Suppose the laughter doesn’t cease, or you notice other things of concern, such as irritable behavior, weight loss, or outbursts of uncontrollable laughing. In that case, it’s definitely something to have checked out promptly.

But for most of you reading this, it’s likely no concern. Medical problems related to this are so insanely rare.

What do newborns dream about that makes them smile?

Can you tell what your spouse is dreaming when you watch them sleep? Nope. Can you recall your own dreams? Maybe some of the time.

As such, it’s pretty impossible to know what, if anything, your baby is dreaming about. This is a reflexive and involuntary behavior. So, it may be less about the dreams if they have them or angels visiting and more about involuntary movements.

Technically, infants and babies don’t have actual vivid dreams until they are about 2 years of age. The brain is still developing, so they should have dreams by toddler age. And, of course, that means nightmares, too, something you’ll have to help them cope with in the middle of the night.

It’s most likely whatever is making a baby smile is not a dream, perhaps something they recall from the day, but not a dream.

Is it normal for babies to laugh randomly in sleep?

Yes! And it’s normal for you to do it too. No one really knows why it happens though the active sleep stage of REM is likely the reason. This laughter is a reflex, and since babies twitch or smile during this active sleep stage, laughter may follow suit.

Babies that are in this sleep stage make random involuntary movements. They have no control over it. So, smiles and laughs may come with the territory.

As I already mentioned, rare seizures could cause this, but please don’t be panicky and assume the worst. Unless you notice other troubling symptoms with breathing or heart rate, your baby’s laughter during sleep is most likely completely harmless.

Naturally, if you are ever concerned about behavior from your baby, take your camera and record it. Show it to your doctor and let them either assure you everything is fine or take a closer look at your child to assist with any conditions that could be causing it.

When should I worry about smiling and laughing in sleep?

If your baby has these rare seizures, you will notice uncontrollable giggles around the 10-month mark. The seizures last up to 20 seconds and often happen as babies fall asleep or while they’re already sleeping.

It will happen multiple times a day, often starting with a stare into nothingness, grunting, or weird body movements. Believe me, it is rare, but it also has more than laughing and smiling to distinguish it.

In other words, your baby smiling and laughing in her sleep is usually not a cause for concern unless coupled with other unusual behavior. So, enjoy those smiles and laughs, and get your camera to record the cuteness.

As your child grows, you may notice them still smile and laugh in sleep when you go check on them. And as I already mentioned, it will be evident if they have any other oddball symptoms that you should bring up to the pediatrician. Most likely, you’ll just have a collection of videos you can show them how cute they were as sleeping babies when they get older!

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