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Why Does My Toddler Jump in His Sleep?

A toddler, just like an adult, can twitch or jump while they are asleep. In most cases, it is a normal part of the sleep/wake cycle. There are other cases where it can be a disorder. We are going to look into the why and treatment of sleep twitching and jerking.

What Is Sleep Twitching?

When a toddler falls to sleep, they can experience “sleep starts.” The sleep start is where the toddler is falling into sleep but involuntarily twitches. It is very common in seventy percent of toddlers and adults. An arm jerk, leg jerk, or sometimes a whole body jerk can be seen. The transition of sleep/wake is a hypnagogic state of conciseness.

Outside Causes

Just like adults, toddlers can experience anxiety and stress. The twitching may be a reaction to stress if there is stress in the family due to a new move or new job. Toddlers can sense parents’ and siblings’ emotions. The act of communication is important to release some of the stress your toddler is feeling. The other factor to be aware of is poisoning. If a toddler has unfortunately got into something they should not, the twitching could be a sign of poisoning.

Medical Ailments

A neurological disorder known as Pediatric Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMB) can be a culprit. The disorder attacks the spine, brain, and connective nerve tissue. The movement usually lasts between twenty to forty seconds. It happens in clusters of movement and can go on for hours. In toddlers, it can lead to insomnia, and not getting effective sleep leads to other problems. There are no known causes for the disorder, but factors such as low iron have been attributed to the disorder. There have been studies that it is genetic related, pass down from one generation to the next. Caffeine can be a culprit as well.

The other disorder is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). The disorder affects adults and children. The disorder makes the toddler have strange sensations in the leg, and twitching is observed. It can make going to sleep difficulty as well as staying asleep. A specialist in child sleep can help diagnose and treat the disorder.

Can Sleep APNEA Cause Twitching?

The short answer is yes it can. If you notice the toddler snoring loudly, having long pauses in breathing, or struggling to breathe take notice. The condition is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. The twitching may be a result of the condition. The toddler subconsciously is not resting and so twitching or moving in the sleep will occur. The toddler will constantly move to get comfortable. It is wise to have a professional see your child for the condition.

The Toddler Body Learning

The twitching in sleep is very common. There have been studies that the twitching is actually the brain teaching your child. The twitching of the arms is a way to show even tho subconsciously how that part of the body works. The same can be said for the toddler’s legs and other areas. Sensorimotor development may be happening when the twitching occurs. Watching your child sleep is a great way of seeing what is going on.

Sleep Habits And Twitching

Just like adults toddlers have schedules. The body and brain can become accustomed to a start and finish of a day. A change in a routine can disrupt the body’s “internal clock”. The jerking or twitching of a toddler can coincide with a change. If the toddler has a ten o clock bedtime and there is a change the body may respond. The twitching and jerking is the brain and body trying to get use to the new schedule.

Dreaming Can Cause Twitching

Babies and toddlers do in fact dream. The movement or twitching you see can be associated with dreaming. When babies or toddlers dream it is more of a snapshot. A toddler’s dreams look like a slide show from a projector. When dreaming a twitch or moving of the legs can be observed. Depending on the development level of the toddler they can have nightmares. Making sure you are observant and always make sure you are supportive of your child in instances like these.

Toddlers And Seizures

There is a difference in night terrors and a night seizure. A night terror can be accompanied by screaming, sudden body movements, or even unresponsiveness. A seizure in a toddler can have jerking movements, twitching, loss of bladder, loss of consciousness, and awareness. A fever seizure has the classic signs of redness or flushing of the face. The toddler will be hot to the touch.

If there is no known reason for the seizure. Like having a high fever it could be benign rolandic epilepsy. The condition can have its onset as early as age three. In most cases, it starts around age five. To know if your toddler may have the condition a full exam from a professional is required. The symptoms generally in toddlers is the loss of energy, not sleeping fully, sleepwalking, and having night terrors. Most toddlers do not need medication but if the case is severe enough an anticonvulsant drug can be given.

If you are noticing behavior changes in your toddler it could be from lack of sleep. A toddler that has been full of energy and now seems listless may need observation of sleeping habits. The parent can simply do this by checking in on the sleeping toddler. Another idea is to hook up a camera to record your sleeping toddler. The twitches and jolts during sleep are very normal. It is when they become more intrusive of the toddlers sleeping patterns is when a parent should become concerned.

There are many great clinics that specialize in child sleeping disorders. The twitching and jerking may not be anything to be concerned about. A parent that feels concerned should always check with the pediatrician and follow steps that are given.

1 thought on “Why Does My Toddler Jump in His Sleep?”

  1. If your baby won’t sleep, check out the sleep method from – Thank you SleepBaby for this brilliant method! My daughter now sleeps from 7pm to 6 or 6:30am every night with almost no night wakings. And even if she wakes, it’s usually just for a second and then she falls back asleep all on her own.

    Most nights I get my 8 hours of sleep and it’s just wonderful! I really feel like I understand her little body and mind and can address her sleeping holistically. I can’t thank you enough, Kacey and the team!

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