Remember the term “sleep like a baby?” It’s probably coined from someone who’s never had kids because newborns make all kinds of weird sounds when they sleep. Here are the most common baby sleep sounds and their meaning. 

You knew that newborns would be adorable. You also knew they would cry, fuss, and need plenty of diaper changes.

What you didn’t know was that newborns make a ton of weird sounds.

Newborns grunt, snort, fart, cry, smack their lips, blubber, and make all kinds of gurgling sounds.

The good news is that all the sounds your newborn makes are perfectly healthy and usually go away with time. 

Let’s explore the most common baby sleep sounds, why newborns make them, and red flags to watch out for.

Babies don’t have a strong circadian rhythm

Babies are born without a circadian rhythm–they develop a circadian rhythm postnatally. An infant’s circadian rhythm begins to form around six weeks of age and is usually set between three and six months. Once a baby establishes a strong circadian rhythm, they will start sleeping for more extended periods during the night and shorter periods during the day.

baby making sounds in sleep

Newborns spend plenty of time in REM sleep

Researchers identify two sleep stages newborns go through: REM, which is active sleep, and NREM, which is quiet sleep. As newborns sleep around 18 hours every day, they spend 50% of their time asleep in REM, or nine hours. 

During REM sleep, your baby can experience dreams and can be seen making movements. He may also roll his eyes, his breathing might speed up, and his limbs and fingers might twitch and jerk. All this movement can be noisy. Some sounds might happen in conjunction with his dreams. 

Babies have many sleep transitions

If an adult’s sleep cycle’s average length is 60-90 minutes, a child’s sleep cycle is around 45-60 minutes long. And when they move from one sleep stage to another, they have partial awakenings. Some babies will fuss and cry because they’re not able to put themselves back to sleep. Others may make noises and move around before they sink into a deeper sleep. 

The most common baby sleep sounds

Snoring or whistling

Babies would often make snorting or whistling sounds when they’re asleep. Whistling can be due to your newborn’s narrow nasal passage or just boogers. As babies were submerged in fluid for a whole nine months, they’re born congested. Snorting, coughing, and sneezing may help them deal with the mucus. Snorting can also be related to smaller nostrils. 

Grunting

Newborn grunting usually has to do with digestion. Your little one may be getting used to the mother’s milk or formula. He may have gas or pressure in his stomach that is making him feel uncomfortable. If you hear him straining, it means he’s trying to strengthen the muscles needed to pass stool.

Coughing

You may often hear your baby cough in his sleep. He may be coughing the milk, mucus, or saliva. If you’re concerned, you may pick him up, burp him, or tap his back gently to help clear out the lungs. 

Lip-smacking or sucking on hands or fingers

If you hear your little one smacking his lips or see him sucking on his fingers, it may mean that he’s ready to be fed. 

Gurgling

Newborns may often gurgle up milk or saliva as their swallowing mechanisms aren’t perfectly developed yet. 

baby sleep sounds at night

Red flags to watch out for

If your little one is healthy, gaining weight, and reaching milestones, there’s no room for concern. However, there are a few red flags to watch out for, including:

  • Your baby has trouble breathing or is breathing very rapidly
  • Your baby won’t eat and is not gaining weight
  • Crying uncontrollably
  • Rhythmically grunting with each breath
  • Discoloration of the face or lips
  • Your baby is listless or lethargic
  • Breathing pauses that last longer for a few seconds
  • Heavy congestion that prevents breathing
  • Fever accompanied by breathing or digestive issues

How to get a good night’s sleep

Your nighttime strategy will depend on what works best for you and your family. You can take turns looking after the baby or move the bassinet farther away from the bed. Another option is to use a white noise machine to drown out your noisy newborn. 

Pediatricians recommend room sharing with your baby until he’s six months old. However, if his noises are really preventing your sleep, consider moving your baby to another room and using an audio or video monitor. 

If your baby is sleeping in a separate room, make sure you’re following all the safe sleep guidelines, including:

  • Place your baby to sleep on his back.
  • Don’t keep any excess items in the crib area, such as toys, blankets, loose sheets, or bumpers.
  • Use a firm, flat crib mattress. 
  • Keep the room temperature between 68° and 72°F (20° to 22.2°C).

Final word 

Who could tell that newborns can be such lousy sleepers? But even though they’re professional noise-makers, hearing them gurgle and snort is also an adorable part of newborn life.

And the best part is that it doesn’t last forever. Somewhere between four and 12 months, your little one will start sleeping more quietly. And when he starts sleeping more quickly, you can wave bye-bye to your sleep deprivation as well.