Why My Baby Scratch His Head in Sleep?

As a mom of three kids, I am not easily ruffled. So, when I saw my third baby scratching their head in sleep, I didn’t bat an eye. Until it got to a point where the scratching messed up with their sleep and by default, mine.

But what really sprang me into action were those red angry scratch marks on the scalp. So I set out to find some answers.

If your baby also loves scratching their head in sleep, hop on along to learn why they do this. Should you be concerned? And how you may put a stop to this once and for all?

Why do babies scratch their heads and ears in sleep?

The reasons for babies to scratch their heads can be as many as blueberries. Not all scratching is a sign of concern. But you should never put your guard down because you never know when it can get serious.

Now let’s get into the types of scratching that your baby might be indulged into.

Accidental scratching:

Sometimes, there’s no reason for your babies to scratch their heads. It may be completely normal.

Due to babies’ uncontrolled movements, also known as reflexes, the babies may accidentally scratch themselves. This may happen when your baby is startled by a loud noise while sleeping.

So you need not worry about accidental scratching as it may occur from time to time without being a cause of concern.

Deliberate scratching:

Deliberate scratching is when your baby intentionally and with a purpose scratch their head. Whenever there’s an itch, all it takes is some good scratching to alleviate it. 

This is also normal. Your kid may scratch his head to help him sleep or to soothe themselves.

Scalp disease:

One reason that your baby is scratching their head in sleep may be a scalp disease.

According to wonderbaby, the culprit for all the scratching may be a Cradle Cap. This refers to the patch that is an oily, scaly, and sometimes itchy area that can form on the scalp and even the face of your baby.

It can heal on its own, but it may take a few weeks and often even months to clear up.

But it is a harmless condition. It doesn’t keep your baby up at night and it shouldn’t also keep you up at night.

Eczema worsens at night:

When the rash becomes dry and scaly, then it may be a sign of eczema. It is not only itchy but also uncomfortable. Eczema can disturb your baby’s sleep.

The triggers of eczema are many, it may be genetics playing a role or environmental factors such as dry products being used on babies or just dry weather.

Eczema worsens at night due to a drop in the body temperature and a drop in the production of cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone, making the scalp more itchy and irritable. This causes babies to scratch their heads uncontrollably.


If your baby is being robbed of the much-needed moisture, it may lead to dryness. Dry skin can become itchy and hence begins the scratching.

Dryness is not a symptom itself but it may lead to the baby developing eczema.

So making sure that your baby stays hydrated is the key point here to help him sleep comfortably at night without him scratching his head off.

Also, there is nothing that a good fragrance-free moisturizer cannot do. 

Irritated skin:

Irritated skin can also cause your baby to scratch their head in sleep. It may be caused by allergic reactions to certain foods. Or infections resulting from the use of unsafe baby products.

What is getting into and onto your baby’s fragile and sensitive body can help determine how sound your baby’s sleep is going to be.

Why do babies scratch their heads while sleepy?

Be it, adults or children, we all love a little scratching on our heads to soothe ourselves.

But it may be a little overwhelming when the cause of the scratching is not really to soothe yourself. Especially babies, if they are scratching their heads at night and getting little to no sleep, it can be a little concerning for the parents.

Babies may scratch their heads while sleepy, accidentally, or out of a general habit that may not do them any harm. Or it may be an indication that they are tired and need to sleep. But some serious conditions like eczema or dry scalp or some infection may be the reason.

Tips to help reduce scratching at night:

The first and foremost thing that a parent can do is to work on the environmental factors. 

  • Providing a clean environment for your baby can save him from many problems, including scratching.
  • A good moisturizer is all you need to prevent that dry and itchy scalp. Applying it a little before night will do the trick.
  • Using a humidifier at night can work wonders if your baby has dry skin. It can also provide some health benefits and allow your baby to peacefully sleep at night. 
  • Make sure that your baby’s nails are filed properly to minimize the damage caused by scratching. Or use mittens for your baby’s hands.
  • Avoid any products or foods that may cause irritation, allergy, or infection.
  • Bathing your baby before sleeping using a mild shampoo can really help reduce the scratching at night.

Cause for Concern?

Scratching may become a cause for concern when:

  • It lasts for more than a few weeks.
  • Despite taking precautions or using medications, there is no improvement in the condition.
  • The baby suffers from other conditions along with scratching like flu or fever.
  • The scratches result in an infection that may worsen over time.
  • The rash becomes sore or the scalp starts to bleed.
  • It is visibly affecting the health of your child and making him sleepless and restless.

In a nutshell:

If your baby is scratching their head at night, it may be a pretty normal thing for them to do. But if the scratching is causing them to lose sleep at night and be irritable, then you need to put your protective gear on and get to work.

Make sure that your baby is comfortable with what is wearing on his head and body. Using moisturizers and mineral oils can also help soothe the dryness of the scalp. 

But if it’s eczema or some serious scalp condition and it is persisting, make sure to visit the Doc’s.


How do I stop my baby from scratching her face at night?

Mittens for your little one can be a great way to prevent all that scratching.

If you live in a dry and hot area, make sure that your baby’s nails are always trimmed and filed.

Why does my baby keep rubbing their head?

It may be a sign of tiredness, sleepiness, or being overwhelmed. Babies are somewhat familiar with their bodies and rubbing the head might be comforting for them.

Why do babies scratch their heads and pull their hair?

When toddlers get upset, angry, or overwhelmed this can occur. But it is just their way of dealing with it when they can’t use words to demonstrate those feelings.

Some babies might have developed a habit of head scratching and hair pulling when they are stressed.

Why do babies scratch their heads while breastfeeding?

Babies tend to get sleepy while breastfeeding and they may scratch their heads to get more comfortable.

Sometimes babies enjoy practicing their reflexes during nursing and would scratch, pull and smack anything they can get their hands on.




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