Why You Cry In Your Sleep

Posted by Darian Dozier on Sep 6, 2023 9:46:00 AM

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Have you ever woken up in the morning to find tears in your eyes? While crying in your sleep is actually not as abnormal as you may think that it is. There are many different types of situations in which crying in your sleep does happen. This can be upsetting to wake up with tears in your eyes, however knowing what the causes are may help you feel a little bit better whenever it happens again in the future. Continue reading to learn why people cry in their sleep and what you can do about it.

What causes people to cry in their sleep?

One of the most obvious examples of crying in sleep our babies. Babies cry in their sleep all the time and new parents constantly tried to find ways to soothe them back into a quiet slumber. Normally babies cry in their sleep because they are not used to transitioning from one stage of sleep to another . However as they continue to grow and develop, this is a skill that they naturally learn I was they experience less nighttime awakenings.

Adults however are normally emotionally drained and may even suffer from mental health conditions or have recently suffered a very traumatic experience. Normally these tears happen whenever they are transitioning from sleeping to wake.

Older adults may cry do the physical changes, dementia symptoms, and just coming to terms with the realities of aging. The stress of life transitions and dealing with these situations that become more common (e.g. death) as they age can also be very overwhelming for them.

Transitions in sleep

Sleep happened in about four stages. There are three stages of non-rapid eye movement and one stage of rapid eye movement, or REM sleep. Whenever you are transitioning from one stage to another, that is when you are most likely to shed tears. Babies spend more time in REM sleep than adults, and REM sleep is the stage of sleep in which you dream. It also is the stage of sleep that is closest to being awake. Babies may cry in their sleep because they're not used to transitioning from the deeper stages of sleep to light sleep. This can be upsetting to them, but eventually they will settle in.

Night terrors and nightmares

Night terrors and nightmares are upsetting dreams or visual disturbances that happen throughout the night. The most important difference between them is that night terrors normally happen in children and are not remembered whenever the sleeper awakes. Also while the persons experiencing night terrors commonly do not wake up from sleep. Nightmares on the other hand are very upsetting dreams that the sleeper normally does remember, and can be so upsetting that it actually awakens the sleeper. Individuals can cry while experiencing night terrors and they may wake up and have no idea why their face has dried tears on them. Nightmares can seem so vivid and surreal that they can evoke an emotional response and thus tears when you wake up from them.

Grief and suppressed emotions

Grief is a period of sadness following a very sad incident, most commonly death. Everyone grieves differently and some can deal with their emotions openly and easily, while others tend to shut them away. However, these suppressed emotions normally do bubble to the surface at some point. Even though they may keep themselves busy at during the day to make sure that they don't feel those feelings, at night there are no distractions to keep the individual from experiencing some of those emotions that they have pushed down. Therefore they may have these emotions at night when they are trying to sleep. Crying may be the only natural way for the body to release some of the negative emotions that it is feeling, and if you are actively suppressing them during the day then at night you increase the risk of those emotions finally coming into the surface.

Mental health disorders

Mental health issues like depression and anxiety can evoke tears throughout the night. Stress is a common part of the day, but when you spend your entire day worrying about every little thing, you may begin to develop an anxiety disorder. Outside of this, normal daily stressors such as money, financial problems, family issues, and anything else that is causing stress in your life can be so overwhelming that it actually invokes tears throughout the night. Depression is a mood disorder that involves extreme periods of sadness. The link between sleep and depression is by directional where they both affect to the other and both positive and negative ways. One of the main symptoms of depression is crying for absolutely no reason which is why you may be crying in your sleep if you do have depression.


Dementia is a cognitive disorder that involves memory loss and atrophy of the brain as one ages. It can also negatively impact the sleep wake cycle due to the degeneration of the brain structures that control these items. Those with dementia often have trouble going to sleep, and they do nap more during the day. There's also causes them to become more irritable during the day and waking up frequently throughout the night. A motion regulation may also be another function that is impaired by dementia, thus increasing the possibility of one crying throughout the night.

Medications and medical conditions

Changes to your medication and certain medical conditions are also sources of crime during sleep. If you have started taking a new medication, stops taking a medication, or change your dose in any way, this may lead to emotional changes that can increase tears shed throughout the night. Some medications include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and those that are used to treat cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Other medical conditions include allergies, conjunctivitis, which is irritation of the eye, or even a blocked tear duct. Treating these conditions will not only help you solve the mystery of the night time tears, but can also just improve your quality of life during the day.

If crying during the night is disruptive to your sleep, or you're unable to sleep due to some other cause that is causing the crying, then it's important to get help as soon as possible. Please click the orange button below to talk to one of our sleep health experts as soon as possible.

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