To help their baby get some shut-eye, many parents devote considerable effort in the early stages of life. At some point during infancy, parents may be surprised by their child’s new habit of pounding their head or rolling around on the floor at night.
Head banging, despite its loudness and potential unpleasant effect on parents, is usually harmless. It is extremely rare for a baby to be injured as a result of head bashing. 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
In order for parents to better understand their infant, they should familiarize themselves with the basics of baby head banging before and during sleep.
What Is Head Banging?
Head thumping is a common occurrence at night or during sleeping. Depending on the child’s posture, it might take on several appearances:
- They bang their head and upper torso back down into the mattress when they’re lying face down in bed.
- They frequently knock their head on the crib, a wall, or another object when they are seated.
The head thumping continues at a steady pace, occurring once or twice a second on average. It can linger for a long time, but it’s more common for it to last for only 15 minutes or so. Head banging is frequently accompanied by vocalizations, such as a constant buzzing sound, which can be rather distracting. When confronted, a youngster may temporarily halt their head-banging, but it is common for them to return to it soon after.
In babies and children, most head pounding occurs prior to sleep, but it can also occur during sleep. Even during daylight naps, it may occur.
Babies and children may not be aware of head banging, according to popular belief. When children who are old enough to talk are asked the next morning, they usually don’t have any recollection of head banging the night before.
How Is Head Banging Related to Body Rocking and Head Rolling?
Repetitive activity before and during sleep is not limited to head banging. Some further examples of rhythmic movements are as follows:
- While on their hands and knees, a youngster can rock their entire body back and forth or just their torso if they’re sitting down.
- When a youngster is lying on their back, their head will frequently roll to the side.
- When a person is resting on their back, they might choose to roll their entire body or only their legs.
- Leg Banging: When a youngster is lying on their back, their legs are hoisted and then slammed back into the mattress.
The most common rhythmic movements are head pounding, body rocking, and head rolling. It’s possible that a child will display more than one of these gestures at a time.
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?
Exactly why babies hit their heads or engage in other rhythmic actions before or while they sleep is a mystery. Some theories have been put forward as to why head pounding occurs, such as the following:
- In other words, it’s a way for you to relax on your own. 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.
- The act of self-stimulating in this way is not uncommon. The vestibular system in the inner ear, which plays a critical role in early development, may be stimulated by head pounding and other similar activities.
- Anxiety triggers the behavior. Some studies suggest that very young children use rhythmic motions as a means of coping with worry.
Further research is needed to establish if any of these hypotheses can conclusively explain why newborns and early children head bang.
How Common Is Head Banging?
Head pounding, body rocking, head rolling, or a similar movement is prevalent in newborns; 59 percent of nine-month-olds engage in these activities.
Children’s tendency to bash their heads decreases as they get older. 33 percent of 18-month-olds exhibit rhythmic movements. At five years old, just 5 percent of children are affected.
Is Head Banging a Health Concern?
In most cases, a baby’s habit of pounding his or her head is not harmful. The regular movements of most infants and young children do not interfere with their sleep or development. Even though parents may be concerned about their child’s behavior, it is unlikely to pose a danger.
The exception is a condition known as Sleep Disordered Breathing. When a child’s skull banging or other comparable habits produce damage, sleep disturbance, or daytime impairment, this disorder is identified. Only 0.34 percent to 2.87 percent of newborns and toddlers have this disease, according to research. This research shows that the vast majority of children who engage in repeated, rhythmic behaviors are not suffering from Sleep Related Rhythmic Movement Disorder.
As long as basic safety measures are in place, even children with this illness are unlikely to damage themselves severely. In spite of this, they are more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances, a lower quality of sleep, and more daytime issues, such as memory or concentration issues.
Is Head Banging a Sign of a Bigger Health Problem?
Head thumping isn’t usually a sign of something more serious. It’s fairly uncommon for parents to fear that their child’s behavior is indicative of a developmental abnormality or another problem. Head banging is a harmless and short-lived phase for most youngsters, and it has no effect on their cognitive, physical, or emotional development.
Research is ambiguous as to whether there is a link between a child’s Sleep Related Rhythmic Movement Disorder and an anxiety disorder or an attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As of now, there is no proven link between a sleep movement issue and a mental health disorder in youngsters.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and restless leg syndrome (RLS) have been linked to Sleep Related Rhythmic Movement Disorder (SRRMD). Research thus far has failed to establish a clear association between any of these illnesses and an interrupted night’s sleep.
When Should Parents Talk to a Doctor About Head Banging?
Parents should consult with their child’s doctor if any of the following applies to their child’s head banging:
- Injuries from head pounding or similar repetitive actions have not been found.
- Sleep deprivation, inattention, and decreased thinking are among the symptoms parents may see in their children.
- During the day, not only before or during sleep, the body moves.
- After a child is no longer a toddler, head banging continues.
You may be asked to keep track of your child’s sleep patterns, including how often they knock their heads as they sleep. 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.
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 a great deal of unanswered research into 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.
In order to understand why head banging persists into adulthood and how and why SRRMD differs between children and adults, a great deal of more research is needed.
Head Banging and Autism
It’s possible that children who bang their heads don’t have autism, but it’s not certain. Try to figure out when they typically do it. Children with simple head banging, as opposed to head pounding that is occasionally connected with autism and other neurological diseases, usually only do it at night. 2
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
An example of sleep-related rhythmic movement problem is head banging. Healthy newborns and children are almost universally affected by RMD. Both males and girls might be affected.
Body rocking is another typical manifestation of RMD. Your child may rock back and forth with her whole body. Anywhere from her knees to a seated position is possible.
Another widespread habit is to roll one’s eyes back in one’s head. Your child may roll his head back and forth while laying on his back.
Body rolling, leg pounding, and leg rolling are less common variants of RMD. As a rule, all of these operations occur at a breakneck pace. 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
However, there’s good news: RMD is usually completely non-toxic. 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’s common for RMD to be more disruptive to parents than children, like many other parasomnias. 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. AASM-accredited sleep centers can help your child if RMD episodes cause them harm or prevent them from getting a good night’s sleep.
Treatment for Head Banging
In most cases, no treatment is necessary because head banging is not hazardous and usually goes away 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.
Your pediatrician or a pediatric sleep expert may have some advice on how to reduce your child’s head pounding if you believe it is interfering with his or her sleep.
- Make sure your child can’t damage herself while slamming her head on a hard surface as she falls asleep. The cot should be strong enough to withstand a child’s violent head pounding and body rolling without breaking or falling apart. Make sure all of the screws are tightened to the maximum extent. Guardrails on beds may be useful for children who are too old for cribs.
- Provide a stuffed animal or blanket as an alternative bedtime comfort item.
- Keep to a strict bedtime and nap schedule.
What Should Parents Do About Their Child’s Head Banging?
For the most part, no action is required by parents if a child’s rhythmic movements don’t interfere with their sleep or cause harm. These tendencies tend to go away on their own with continued exposure to the environment. However, parents should consult with their child’s doctor if there are signs of damage or sleep disruption.
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 return to their normal rhythmic motions.
Basic safety measures can be taken by parents who are concerned about their child’s head pounding. Make sure their crib or bed is built to satisfy national safety requirements. Checking the crib for damage and tightening the screws on a regular basis will help maintain it sturdy during nighttime use. Infants younger than 12 months old should be placed on their backs, on a firm mattress, and with no soft bedding in their cribs in order to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The crib can be moved away from the wall if parents or other family members find the noise of head banging or body rocking annoying. With a white noise machine in the child’s room, they will be able to sleep peacefully and block out any noises that might disturb them. For parents who don’t want to physically check on their children as they sleep, a baby monitor is a great option.
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