Babies Laughing in Sleep: 5 Possible Causes for the Behavior

The first time you hear your baby laugh is an incredibly heartwarming moment that you will never forget.

However, you may wonder what makes a little one giggle, especially if they do it while they are sleeping. 

Although experts don’t quite agree on the reasons, possible explanations for babies laughing while sleeping include responses to dreams, reflexive behaviors, responses to outside stimuli, the brain processing experiences, and an immature central nervous system.

Here are the most common reasons your little one is laughing while he rests as well as some tips for helping your baby get the best sleep possible.

Why Babies Laugh While Sleeping – Possible Explanations

We can’t ask babies why they do the things they do, but we can make some guesses based on what we observe.

In Response to Dreams

Your baby may be able to dream in the womb, so it’s no surprise that they can dream as newborns. You may notice your child smiling or laughing during sleep as a reaction to a dream. 

Reflexive Behavior

Babies have certain reflexive behaviors, like a startle reflex and a rooting/nursing instinct.

Laughing during sleep may be another reflexive behavior. They may not know why they are doing it; they just are.

Response to Outside Stimuli

Your baby may laugh because something is funny. Maybe you touched your child’s foot while he was sleeping and it tickled. Perhaps he heard older siblings laughing in the next room.

Outside stimuli can make a baby respond in their sleep, whether that means laughing or crying.

The Brain Processing Experiences & Information

Your baby’s brain is developing in major ways during those early months and years of life. That could explain sleep laughing.

Brain development can lead to all kinds of external reactions, and a laugh may be one of them. 

Immature Central Nervous System

In rare cases, laughing in sleep can be a response to an immature central nervous system or an underlying neurological condition. If you suspect this for any reason, you should consult with your child’s pediatrician.

Understanding Baby Sleep Cycles

Your baby’s sleep cycle will likely follow a pattern that looks like the following:

  1. Drowsiness and sleep signs
  2. REM sleep
  3. Light sleep
  4. Deep sleep

Your baby won’t move as much during deep sleep, and it may be hard to wake them during this time. However, you may notice lots of movement during REM sleep.

When To Worry About Baby Laughing in Their Sleep

It’s very rare that a baby laughing in their sleep is anything more than an innocuous behavior. Rarely, there are other issues behind this otherwise cute habit. 

Laughing in Sleep Neurological Disorder

Neurological disorders, like epilepsy and Tourette’s syndrome, can cause your baby to laugh in his sleep. However, these are rare. 

Newborn Laughing Seizures

Gelastic seizures are probably not what you envision when you imagine someone having a seizure. These seizures cause babies or toddlers to laugh, and that laughing may take place while they sleep.

Laughing is common for babies, and this can keep parents from realizing that gelastic seizures are the cause of the issue.

Watch for a vacant stare or for your baby to have these episodes occur several times daily.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

If your baby has a REM sleep behavior disorder, you may notice that they physically move or act out in their sleep.

They may laugh, kick, or simply be restless. This can interrupt their quality of sleep and leave them exhausted upon waking.

A newborn baby smiling while asleep against a black background.

How To Encourage Restful Sleep for Your Baby

What most parents want more than anything else is for their child to get good, restful sleep. There are some things you can do to help encourage this. You will get better sleep if your baby is well-rested too!

Have a Routine

Babies respond to a routine, so it’s good to have a sleep routine in place for naps and nighttime sleep.

Your baby will start to associate certain things, like baths, dim lights, and songs, as being connected to sleep time, and this can help him settle down to get a good night’s rest.

Know the Sleep Signs

Ideally, you want to put your child to bed when they are just starting to show sleep signs, not when they are overtired.

Watch to see if your child is rubbing his eyes, yawning, or fussing. Start helping your child wind down before it is time for you to put him in his sleep place.

Create the Environment

Some people can sleep anywhere, and some need the right environment to rest properly. Assume your baby is the latter. Make sure your baby’s room isn’t too hot and that it isn’t overly bright.

If your child sleeps better with white noise or sound, cue that up before starting the bedtime routine. Create a restful place for your child, and see if sleep quality increases.

Ensure You Are Getting Enough Rest

As a fellow parent, I can tell you that you are going to be exhausted when you have an infant. Make sure you are resting when you can so you can help your baby get quality rest.

It’s hard to maintain bedtime routines and see sleep signs in your little one if you are overwhelmingly exhausted.

Ask for help, take naps, and make sure you aren’t too run down so you can help your baby rest.

When Do Babies Laugh From Being Tickled?

Your baby may not laugh when being tickled until he is about 6 months old. Though it’s possible for your baby to laugh earlier than that, he probably won’t laugh in response to things until later.

Just make sure you are always gentle when tickling your baby, and watch for signs that your child is getting overstimulated and wants you to stop.

When Do Babies Get a Sense of Humor?

Your baby may be able to understand humor as early as one month old. By the one-year mark, your baby may be attempting to entertain you with his own sense of humor.  

Scientists were shocked to find out that humor can develop this early, and they acknowledge that it can be different for every child.

Final Thoughts

When your baby is very young, it is often hard to determine what is causing those adorable fits of laughter, and chances are good that you might never pinpoint the exact reason.

Simply enjoy those baby laughs, whether your little one is giggling while awake or asleep.