Crying during sleep

My 8 month old will often (almost every night) cry in his sleep. This has been going on for a couple months now. Sometimes it stops with a pacifier and/ or a gentle back rub but sometimes it does not. It will happen 2-5 times/ night. It has never happened during nap times. Any idea why this is happening?

Hopefully some of our sleep expert members can help.

Is he still sleeping when he’s crying? If you leave him without offering a back rub, will he stop crying on his own?

@ViaGraces @DreamComeTrueSleep @SleepSoundly

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Most of the time he is still sleeping while crying.
I try not to go in right away for a pacifier or back rub. Sometimes he settles and goes back to sleep. Sometimes he soothes himself -find pacifier or sucks on his hand or just stops crying. If it continues for a min or so I go in and offer pacifier/ back rub. Usually this helps right away. On occasion I do have to pick him up, rock him for a bit and that stops the crying.

I am happy yo try to help. If you feel he is still sleeping when he cries out, it is usually best to give him some space and leave him. It is great that he can find a pacifier or his hand to suck on! You can always sprinkle a few pacifiers in the crib, so he has a better chance of finding one. If the crying does escalate, try to pick one way to handle the waking. You can continue to do a quick check and give him some reassurance, but try to let him fall back to sleep on his own. You could go in, do a quick check, and leave before he is sleeping again. Repeat this process until he falls asleep. Give him some time between each check to let him practice self soothing and falling back to sleep. You can check after 1 minute, then after 3 minutes, then after 5 minutes. Then you can hold at 5 minutes that night and keep checking every 5 minutes. The following night try to space your checks out even more. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are consistent each night so that he knows what to expect. It is all about consistency and patience. I am happy to answer more questions. Just let me know!


There could be a few different things going on! Some kids seem to just be noisier when they transition between sleep cycles (my 14.5 month old is!), so if you hear him wake or stir in the night, I always suggest waiting 10 minutes to see if he’ll fall back to sleep.

A few other things:

  1. What does his schedule look like? I wonder if he has any overtiredness or not enough sleep pressure to get through the night. His schedule should look something like:

7 wake up
9:30-11:00 nap 1
2-3:30 nap 2
6:45/7 bedtime

  1. How does he fall asleep at bedtime? We want to make sure he’s falling asleep independently, not even going down drowsy. If his feed is toward the end of the bedtime routine, I’d move it up first. First, then bath, jammies, books, etc.

  2. If he relies on a pacifier to both fall and stay sleep, this could actually be getting in the way of his sleep. Some kids are able to use a pacifier, replace it through the night, and have no issue, but I find that for a lot of babies, sucking on a pacifier keeps them in a lighter sleep through the night, making it easier to more full wake between sleep cycles, or when it falls out. So even searching for the pacifier, or needing someone to come replace it, is causing much greater of a night waking (or much more awake of a night waking) then we like to see!

Let me know if that all makes sense!

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Thank you for the suggestions! I have added a couple pacifiers which has helped him find one. I will work on spacing out the check in time to allow for self-soothing. Thank you!

Thank you for your response!
I do think that there is work that we need to do still for him to learn to fall asleep independently because right now he does feed while being held which he often falls asleep during, pacifier, put down.

He recently dropped his morning nap so his schedule now looks something like this:
7 wake up
11 nap -usually 1 hour
4pm 2nd nap- 30-45 min
730 bedtime

I find that his naps are really short and always have been. Since he dropped his early morning nap, his first nap has increased in duration and will sometimes be as long as 2 hours but rarely. He is often refusing nap when I try to put him down earlier for naps/ bed time (doesn’t want to be rocked, doesn’t want pacifier (onky used for sleep) gets up and cries when I out him in his crib).

His bedtime routine is short which right now includes a bottle, song while being held in a laying position with pacifier and then crib.

He definitely relies on the pacifier to fall asleep but will take it out while in his crib when he falls asleep.

Thanks for your help! All your suggestions are welcomed!

Looking at his schedule, my guess is that overtiredness is a big piece of it. I would aim to stick more closely by the schedule I outlined in my first response!

So his schedule plus learning to fall asleep independently will likely solve those wakings! Both adults and babies, as we’re sleeping throughout the night, experience natural wakings switching from one sleep cycle to the next. For babies who rely on help getting to sleep (i.e. feeding, rocking, pacifier), they often wake in the cycle switch looking for that same sleep prop to get back to sleep. When he is able to fall asleep independently, however, he will be able to slip right back into sleep!


Thanks! I will give it a try and see how it goes!

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