Mom’s Question: My Baby Sleeps With Eyes Open, Is It Normal?

Our babies are weird and adorable creatures. The first time that I had seen my baby sleep with eyes wide opened, I was surprised. Eyes unfocused with that faraway glaze on the face, it was unusual and amusing at the same time. Surely we vigilant moms are used to sleeping with one eye open, but it is a different thing if it’s our baby that sleeps like that. Is it normal that your child sleeps with eyes open? What causes it?


​“Zombie Kid”: Sleeping With Eyes Wide Open

Nocturnal lagophthalmos is the medical term used for babies sleeping with eyes open, also called as “Zombie Kid” syndrome. It may appear disturbing the first time that you see this but don’t worry, most likely your child is just fine. Nocturnal lagophthalmos is fairly common with babies and usually disappear on its own at around 12 – 18 months. Before this time, baby sleeping with eyes open is considered normal.

​What Makes My Child Sleep With Eyes Open?

sleeping baby on the mattress

Nocturnal lagophthalmos is fairly common in babies. They usually outgrow it in between their first and second birthday. This is not a cause for alarm for kids, but parents must manually close baby’s eyes as soon as you see this. Baby’s eyes can dry out and get scarred over time if the eyelids are always just partially closed. This usually happens due to at least one of the following factors:

# Baby is too tired - You will most likely observe your little one sleeping with eyes open during times when he/she is too tired. It may be past his bedtime, and he just passed out due to sheer exhaustion.

# REM sleep - Some babies open their eyes during their deep sleep phase, also called the REM sleep cycle. Your child might be actively dreaming during this time. You may also observe him/her smile or laugh, which is just alright. This is harmless and is fairly normal. If you are bothered by this, just gently put your fingers on baby’s eyelids and stroke it close.

# Hereditary - Ask your parents or your in-laws if you or your partner tends to sleep with eyes open at your baby’s age. This condition is usually inherited but is not a cause for concern.

# Short or weak eyelids - It is rare but also possible that your child is born with short or weak eyelids. Weak eyelids cannot cover the eyes entirely during sleep. Thus part of the eye is exposed.

​Sleeping with eyes open is considered normal for babies, but it can be a cause for alarm if this condition is observed in adults. They usually wake up with dry, gritty eyes, with the sensation of foreign body, redness or blurry vision. Nocturnal lagophthalmos in adults is usually caused by either one or a combination of these factors:

  • Facial paralysis or Bell’s palsy
  • Caused by a stroke
  • Infection or trauma to the eye
  • Using sleeping pills or sedating medications
  • Alcohol intoxication

​What Shall I Do If My Baby Sleeps With Eyes Wide Open?

As said before, this condition is considered harmless in babies. This is not a sleep problem and not a cause for concern. This usually resolves on its own as your baby grows. If baby wakes up with red eyes and seems to rub them vigorously, chances are your child has dry eyes due to this strange sleep habit.

You may consult your baby’s doctor if you are bothered because your baby sleeps with eyes open. Better seek advice from a pediatrician or an ophthalmologist if baby’s eyes appear irritated or if this condition persists longer than 18 months of age. Don’t ever leave anything to guesswork; seeking a doctor’s advice is still the best route.


Sarah Morgan

Chief editor of and striving mom-extraordinaire.Let me share and inspire you with my daily struggles to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.

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