Why does a child twitch in a dream: reasons

A good rest is important for any person. Especially when it comes to children, because during sleep they grow, and their nervous system and brain develop. Therefore, parents, noticing any violations in this area, begin to worry. Let’s find out why the child is twitching in his sleep and whether it is worth worrying about it.

Features of children’s sleep

If a child jerks his legs when falling asleep, this is called myoclonus. In fact, this phenomenon is natural and typical not only for babies, but also for adults, however, children’s sleep has significant differences. 

A person’s sleep consists of several phases: falling asleep and periods of superficial (fast) and deep (slow) sleep, which alternate with each other. Superficial sleep of an adult is about 2 hours during the night. The rest of the time, the deep sleep phase continues. In a child, deep sleep does not last long and is soon replaced by a superficial one.

During the fast phase, twitching occurs that bothers the parents, the baby can frown, sob, smile or talk.

Why does a baby twitch and wave his arms in a dream

The reasons why a small child jerks his legs and arms during sleep can be different, and most of them do not pose any danger.

  1. The kid is just dreaming. And he can twitch at the moment when superficial sleep is replaced by deep sleep. Because the phase rotations are frequent, it may seem to parents that the child is jerking and waving his arms all the time.
  2. The baby grunts and jerks his legs in sleep at the time of bowel movement or urination.
  3. A baby can be intimidated by loud, harsh sounds or a sudden bright light. From them, the baby shudders without waking up.
  4. Babies in the first year of life are often worried about colic or discomfort from teething. Unpleasant sensations interfere with restful relaxation. At the same time, the baby cries, twists and knocks with its legs, and, even having calmed down, often wakes up.

These phenomena are common to all babies.

The shudders of the newborn, with which he prevents himself from sleeping, pediatricians associate with the adaptation of the baby to an independent life outside the womb. To help him during this period, you can swaddle the baby or wrap it in a special sleeping envelope. So he will feel protected, calm down and quickly fall asleep. By sharply throwing up the arms, the baby will not wake himself up, since his movements are limited by a soft “cocoon” that mimics the placenta.

What to do for parents if the baby twitches in a dream

It is unlikely that adults will calmly watch how the baby begins to twitch when he falls asleep. If the doctor does not find any deviations in health and development in the baby, parents are able to help the child sleep peacefully all night, without waking up from the slightest twitching of the palm or foot.

  • It is necessary to provide a comfortable temperature in the children’s room (18-20 degrees). The room where the baby sleeps should be regularly ventilated. Place the bed away from heat sources. Every day, the children’s room needs wet cleaning. And when the baby is asleep, it does not need to be covered with lots of warm blankets.
  • The baby can only spin in the crib because it is in an uncomfortable position. To avoid this, you can teach him from birth to sleep on his stomach (always on a hard mattress without a pillow). For some babies, this position is not suitable, so parents should experiment with the pose and lay the baby in the way that is comfortable for him. Additionally, you need to remove all foreign objects and toys from the crib.

Approximately 1 time per hour, mothers are advised to change the position of the baby (slightly turn its head in the opposite direction or shift the handle).

  • The reason that in a dream the baby will wake up from twitching may be nervous overexcitation. To prevent this from happening, before laying down, you must not start active games with him or watch TV. It is much better to bathe your baby in warm water with herbs and read a book.
  • If the baby has colic and has a hard tummy, the mother can gently massage him clockwise and apply a warm diaper.
  • In the case when teething became the cause of sleep disturbance, you can use special gels that relieve pain during this period.
  • It is important to provide silence and dim lighting in the room where the small child sleeps.


  • An adult needs 5 minutes to plunge into deep sleep after falling asleep, a baby will need about 20 minutes. For this reason, the baby, who has fallen asleep in his arms, wakes up as soon as they try to put him in the crib: he is simply still in the phase of REM sleep and is sensitive to external influences.
  • Premature babies are in REM sleep most of the time, so they twitch more often than other babies. There is nothing wrong with this: it means that the child’s brain is working intensively, developing and growing.
  • Many babies sleep well with fairly loud, homogeneous background noise. This is because in the mother’s stomach, the baby constantly heard different sounds – the heart, the digestive system – to which he was accustomed and which soothed him.  

Possible deviations

There are situations when twitching speaks of diseases that need to be treated. Therefore, it is useful for parents to know what causes are deviations from the norm and what to look for. These include:

  • high intracranial pressure;
  • calcium deficiency in the child’s body;
  • disruption of the digestive tract;
  • hyperexcitability syndrome;
  • metabolic disorder;
  • epilepsy.

Such pathologies are rare in children. They can be detected by a pediatrician after examination, when physiological reasons are excluded.

Attention! Twitching during sleep can be a consequence of vaccination. This is especially common against the chickenpox vaccine and DPT. Also, the baby can twitch violently after falling.

Kid shakes his head

In addition to the fact that the child jerks the arm or leg when sleeping, he can swing and shake his head from side to side, frightening impressionable parents. Typically, this situation occurs in children aged 6 months to 3 years.

Sometimes this can be due to a lack of vitamin D in the body and the onset of rickets. The disease can be recognized by additional symptoms: the baby sweats profusely, the head rubs against the pillow, the muscles become lethargic, and sleep is restless. During the daytime, a nervous tic may occur.

If nothing like this happens, mom doesn’t need to worry. The only thing that parents should do is to take care of the possibility of injury to the baby, who is actively shaking his head in a dream. Special soft sides for the crib will help with this. All attachments must be secure, and the protrusions that the child is capable of hitting are removed.

Child jerking his legs in sleep (2-3 years)

If a sleeping child twitches, jerks his legs, most likely his nervous system is in an agitated state. If before going to bed, the baby participated in active games, watched an emotional cartoon, or there were guests in the house, then it is not surprising that he had difficulty falling asleep. 

When a child is sick and his temperature rises, then at night, in addition to twitching, seizures are possible. It is important to control the condition of the crumbs and monitor the temperature, since a strong increase in it is dangerous.

A 5-year-old child twitches while sleeping

From this age, babies are often worried about nightmares. A child can spin in a dream, flinch, mumble, wave his arms, wake up. To avoid the frequent repetition of frightening dreams will help:

  • clear mode;
  • limiting excessive evening activity;
  • good bedtime stories;
  • cozy night light by the bed.

Children from 12 years old

In older children and adolescents, twitching in a sleeping state can be the result of neurological problems, neuroses and fears, which often lead to depression. Here, consultations of a neurologist and a psychologist will be required, creating a favorable home atmosphere will help.

Twitching after sleep

Some children start to twitch when they wake up and stand up. Parents need to pay attention to this, since such a condition can speak of neurological pathologies. An urgent need to visit a neurologist if:

  • the child has seizures;
  • the baby often complains of a headache, pulling sensations in the limbs;
  • during the game, there is a sharp freeze.

In most cases, twitching in a dream in children is nothing to worry about. This is a feature of the development of their nervous system and by about 7-10 years, most likely, it will pass without a trace. But if active movements of the limbs or head interfere with the child’s full rest, it is better to consult a pediatric neurologist. He will be able to prescribe treatment for the baby or advise parents on how to improve the child’s sleep.

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