It's creepy to see an adult sleeping with their eyes open, but it can really give you a startle if you gaze down at your sweet bundle of joy only to see their eyelids peeking open in their sleep. After you recover from the surprise of seeing your baby with eyes half open, however, I don't think it's at all unusual to start to wonder what in the world is going on. So, why do babies sleep with their eyes half open? Most importantly, is it OK and normal and not something to call your pediatrician about? Turns out you can rest easy. Your baby is normal, eyes open and all.
According to BabyCenter, open-eyed sleeping is actually called nocturnal lagophthalmos, and despite the pretty overwhelming name it "is harmless, fairly common in infants, and doesn't indicate that your child has a sleep problem." While doctors don't know exactly why open-eyed sleeping happens, it's most common during deep, REM sleep. Babies, especially newborns and as highlighted by the scientists at Stanford Health, spend more of their sleep hours in REM than adults or older children. In other words, there are actually more opportunities for open-eyed sleeping for babies than new parents might think. Yay? Yeah, we will go with yay.
Of course, because babies sleep more than the rest of us adults, and often in plain sight, we have more opportunities to see them with their eyes half open. If it bothers you, one solution to your baby sleeping with their eyes half open, you can "gently stroke their eyelids shut," according to Parenting.com. Easy fix, right? Well, at least for one nap.
If your baby's eyes are irritated or red, or if your baby never seems to close his or her eyes for hours at a time, you might want to seek a pediatrician's opinion. According to the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, open-eyed sleeping is a little less normal in adults, and can be a sign of other health issues, like facial nerve damage or thyroid issues. So if you're the one sleeping with your eyes open, instead of your little one, you'll want to seek the advice of a doctor, too.
As for the amount of sleep your baby needs on average, the Baby Sleep Site explains that from newborn and until they are 3 months old, your baby should be getting between 16-17 hours of sleep each day, and about half of that sleep is deep REM sleep that can sometimes lead to that odd eyes-half-open trick. Newborns will sleep 10-11 hours at night, and four to five hours during the day. As your baby gets older, they'll start to need less and less sleep over time. From age 4 to 5 months, babies need 10-12 hours at night, and three to four hours during the daytime.
By the time your baby is 1 year old, they will keep that 11-12 hours at night, but consolidate their naps into a morning and afternoon nap of about one to two hours. That's when, probably, your baby will stop sleeping with their eyes half open and, you know, sufficiently freaking you out.