My Child Bangs His Head in Bed as He Sleeps. How to Treat Head Banging in Kids? Update 05/2024

To help their baby get some shut-eye, many parents devote considerable effort in the early stages of life. During infancy, parents may be surprised by their child’s new habit of banging their head or rolling their body at sleep, which is a common occurrence.

Head thumping, despite its obnoxious nature, is usually harmless to children and their parents. Head banging is quite rare in newborns. There are no known health or developmental issues that are associated with this type of conduct in most toddlers.

If a child’s sleep is disrupted or they are injured, even if head banging is typically regarded normal, it can be categorized as a disorder called Sleep Related Rhythmic Movement Disorder (SRRMD).

Parents can better comprehend their baby’s head banging before and during sleep and when to bring it up with their child’s doctor if they grasp the basics about it.

What Is Head Banging?

Head thumping is a common occurrence before going to bed or while you’re asleep. According to how a child is positioned, it may look different:

  • They bang their head and upper torso back down into the mattress when they’re lying face down in bed.
  • Sitting, they slam their head against the crib wall, a piece of furniture, or any other object that is close.

Every one to two seconds, the beat of the head thumping can be heard. It can last for a long time, but it usually lasts no more than 15 minutes. Humming or other vocalizations can be heard in many cases of head banging. When a youngster is spoken to, the head banging may stop for a brief time, but it will almost always recur.

Babies and children frequently knock their heads before going to sleep, but it can also happen while they are sound asleep. Daytime naps are not exempt from this phenomenon.

Babies and children are said to be unaware of head thumping. Head bashing is typically not remembered the next morning by youngsters who are old enough to talk about it.

Body-rocking, head-rolling & head-banging | Raising Children Network

How Is Head Banging Related to Body Rocking and Head Rolling?

Before and during sleep, other types of repetitive activity might occur, including head banging. Here are a few more examples of rhythmic movement:

  • Body Rocking: While on their hands and knees, a youngster can move their entire body back and forth, or they can just move their torso.
  • Head Rolling:When a youngster is lying on their back, this is a common side-to-side movement of the head.
  • Body or Leg Rolling: When a person is resting on their back, they may move their entire body or only their legs side to side.
  • Leg Banging: As a youngster is lying on their back, the legs are lifted and then slammed back into the mattress.

Some of the most prevalent include head pounding, body shaking and head rolling. Some children may display more than one of these actions at once.

Body rocking often begins about six months of age, whereas head pounding typically begins around nine months of age.

Why Does Head Banging Happen in Babies and Infants?

As far as we know, no one knows why babies pound their heads or engage in other rhythmic actions before or while they are sleeping. There is a dearth of study into why people engage in head banging, although the following hypotheses have been advanced:

  • It’s a means of self-soothing. The repetitive quality of the movement may aid a youngster in falling asleep, despite the fact that it appears to be everything from restful to parents.
  • It’s a form of self-stimulation. Vibrations in the inner ear, such as head banging, may stimulate the vestibular system and help children learn how to understand movement and their surroundings.
  • It’s a response to anxiety. Some studies suggest that very young children use rhythmic motions as a means of coping with worry.

Research into these theories is needed to discover if any of them can explain why newborns and young children smash their heads.

How Common Is Head Banging?

Baby head banging is prevalent; 59 percent of nine-month-olds do it at some point in time.

Head bashing becomes less common as children become older, especially in the toddler years. 33 percent of 18-month-olds exhibit rhythmic movements. Only 5% of children are affected by the disease by the age of five.

Is Head Banging a Health Concern?

In most cases, a baby’s habit of pounding his or her head is not harmful. Sleep and development are not adversely affected by the rhythmic movements of most newborns and young children. It is understandable that parents may be concerned about their child’s behavior when they see or hear head banging or body rolling.

Sleep Rhythm Movement Disorder (SRRMD) is an exception to this rule. When head pounding or other related habits injure a kid, disrupt their sleep, or affect their ability to function during the day, this disorder is identified. Only 0.34% to 2.87% of newborns and toddlers are affected, according to research. Sleep Related Rhythmic Movement Disorder affects just a small percentage of children who exhibit rhythmic, repetitive behaviors.

As long as basic safety procedures are in place, even children with this disorder are unlikely to inflict major self-harm. They do, however, experience more sleep problems, poorer sleep quality, and daily difficulties, such as poor focus or short-term memory loss.

Is Head Banging a Sign of a Bigger Health Problem?

Head banging isn’t often a sign of something more serious, like an anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder. Even if parents are concerned about their child’s development, this is rarely the case. Head banging is a harmless and short-lived phase for most youngsters, and it has no effect on their cognitive, physical, or emotional development.

Researchers are split on whether or not difficulties like anxiety or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder are associated with children who have been diagnosed with Sleep Related Rhythmic Movement Disorder (ADHD). There has been no conclusive proof of a link between sleep movement disorder and mental illness, and this is only true for some children.

SRRMD may be linked to OSA or RLS, both of which are sleep disorders in which the body’s ability to breathe is disrupted. All of these illnesses have the potential to produce sleep disturbances, but there has been no conclusive proof of a connection between them.

When Should Parents Talk to a Doctor About Head Banging?

Parents should consult with their child’s doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Repetitive head bashing does not appear to have caused any harm.
  • They’ve noticed that their child isn’t sleeping well at night or is acting erratically during the day, such as being unfocused or having trouble paying attention.
  • During the day, not only before or after sleep, the body moves.
  • After a child is no longer a toddler, head banging continues.

For the most part, a pediatrician would request that parents keep a sleep diary for their child, which should include how often the child bangs his or her head on the pillow. A doctor can request additional tests to rule out the existence of other sleep disorders and arrive at a definitive diagnosis if this is not adequate to identify if a kid has Sleep Related Rhythmic Movement Disorder.


Head Banging in Babies & Toddlers: Causes, Signs & Remedies

Does Head Banging Happen in Adults?

SRRMD can persist throughout adolescence and adulthood, however it is extremely unusual.

Because it is so unusual, there is still a great deal of mystery around this condition in adults. Daytime symptoms have been observed to be more prevalent in people with Sleep Related Rhythmic Movement Disorder (SRRMD). Adults appear to be more likely to suffer from the condition if it is passed down from generation to generation.

Other problems like ADHD, mental health issues, autism, or central nervous system impairment have been seen in adults with Sleep Related Rhythmic Movement Disorder. However, the same relationships have not been found in other investigations. Other than shortly before and during sleep, repeated motions are common in patients with aberrant behavior linked to these other diseases.

Much more research is needed to figure out what keeps kids’ headbanging throughout adulthood as well as the differences between children’s and adults’ sleep REM movement disorders.

Head Banging and Autism

In some cases, children who frequently smash their heads may be autistic. Try to figure out when they typically do it. Children with simple headbanging are more likely to bang their heads at night than those with autism or other neurological abnormalities.

If you suspect that your child has autism, you should expect to see him or her pounding their heads or engaging in other rhythmic movements throughout the day.

Head Banging and Body Rocking in Sleep

A common symptom of a sleep-related rhythmic movement disorder is headbanging. Healthy newborns and children are almost universally affected by RMD. Both males and girls might be affected.

Body rocking is another typical RMD technique. Your youngster may sway back and forth with her entire body. Anywhere from her knees to a seated position is possible.

It is also usual for the head to roll backwards. Your child may roll his head back and forth while laying on his back.

Body rolling, leg pounding, and leg rolling are examples of RMD that are less commonly used. All of these things happen extremely quickly. Up to 15 minutes is possible for each episode. Rhythmic humming sounds may be heard from your youngster during the motions.

Head Banging in Sleep Tends to be Harmless

There is good news, however: RMD is generally safe. While children are still developing, their brain and body are constantly growing and changing.

RMD is frequently initiated between the ages of six and nine months. As children get older, the condition normally fades away within the first two to three years of life.

It is common for RMD to cause more distress to the parent than the child. In most cases, the child will have no recollection of what happened the night before.

If you’re concerned about your child’s RMD, talk to his or her doctor. Your child’s sleep may be disrupted by RMD episodes, and you should seek help from an AASM-accredited sleep facility as soon as possible.

Treatment for Head Banging

For the most part, head pounding is not hazardous and often disappears on its own.

Head pounding is a common method of comfort for many youngsters, therefore attempting to stop your child from doing it may actually make them more inclined to do it.

It’s possible that the pediatrician or a pediatric sleep expert can provide you advice on how to reduce the head-banging in order to get your child to sleep more peacefully.

  • Make sure your child can’t damage herself while slamming her head on a hard surface as she falls asleep. You want the crib to be strong enough to withstand any extreme head bashing or body rolling. Make sure all of the screws are tightened to the maximum extent. Guardrails on beds may safeguard older children who are no longer in need of cribs from falling out of their beds.
  • Offer a stuffed animal or blanket as a substitute for a sleep comfort object.
  • Establish nighttime and naptime routines that are pretty rigid.

Head banging (12 to 24 mo.) | BabyCenter

What Should Parents Do About Their Child’s Head Banging?

In most cases, parents don’t need to take any action if a child’s rhythmic movements don’t disrupt their sleep or injure them. These habits usually fade away on their own with time. Any indicators of injury or sleep disturbance should be discussed with the child’s doctor, though.

In most cases, parents don’t need to act in order to stop their children from head-banging. The child’s sleep may be affected, and parents may be frustrated because many youngsters rapidly revert to their normal rhythmic movements.

Basic safety measures can reduce the danger of injury for parents concerned about their child’s head pounding. As a result, parents must ensure that their child’s crib or bed is sturdy and compliant with all applicable safety regulations. Checking the crib for damage and tightening the screws on a regular basis will help maintain it sturdy during nighttime use. Babies under the age of 12 months should sleep on their backs, on a firm mattress, and without any soft materials in their crib in order to avoid the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The crib can be relocated away from the wall to reduce reverberations if parents or other family members are bothered by the loudness of head pounding and body rocking. The use of a white noise machine in the child’s room can assist calm them and block out noises that might otherwise wake them awake. Without having to step into the bedroom, a baby monitor is a convenient way to keep an eye on things while they’re going on at night.

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