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Sweet Dreams and Belly Laughs: The Hilarious World of Laughing in Your Sleep

a profile image of TSA author Andjela

Written By Anđela Rajković

Certified Sleep Consultant

Woman laughing while sleeping

1 April 2024 7 min read

Have you ever been awakened by the sound of your own laughter in the middle of the night, only to realize that you were still sound asleep? Let's find out why are we laughing in sleep after all.

Laughing is often associated with happiness and joy, but did you know that it can also happen during our sleep? Laughing in sleep is also known as sleep laughter. It is a phenomenon that occurs when a person laughs while they are still in a state of deep sleep.

It may sound strange, but laughing in your sleep is more common than you might think. In this article, we'll explore the science behind sleep laughter, what causes it, and whether it's a cause for concern. So, let's start.

Why are we laughing in our sleep?

Laughter is often considered to be the best medicine. It turns out that this may be true even while we are asleep.

To understand why we laugh in our sleep, we don't need to know all the brain basics nor the basics of the central nervous system, but we need to understand the two different types of sleep: rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). During REM sleep, our brain activity increases, and this is the stage where most of our dreams occur. NREM sleep, on the other hand, is a kind of deeper sleep where our brain activity is much lower.

It's during REM sleep (or light sleep) that laughing in sleep usually occurs. Our brain is still active during this stage, and it's possible for us to experience emotions and even laugh. However, since our body is in a state of paralysis during REM sleep, we don't physically move or make any noise while we laugh in our sleep. So, no, in this stage, you will not experience sleep talking or walking nor even screaming after having a night terror. But, still, this is where sleep laughing appears. You can giggle for a short second or have a burst of uncontrolled laughter for several seconds.

A woman laughing while sleeping.
Laughter in sleep is associated with emotions

But what causes us to laugh while visiting our dream world? The truth is, we don't always know. Sometimes we may be experiencing a funny dream while other times it may be related to our current state of mind. Laughter in sleep has been associated with a variety of emotions, including joy and happiness.

Interestingly, some research suggested that people who laugh more during waking hours are more likely to laugh in their sleep. This could be because their brain is more primed to experience positive emotions and react to them, even during sleep. So, if you turn around and see your sleep partner laughing during sleep, you are looking at a person who is most likely happy in his (her) waking life as well.

So, is laughing in sleep something to be concerned about? For most people, laughing in their sleep is completely harmless and not connected to any kind of sleep behavior disorder. However, in rare cases, this can be a sign of a sleep disorder, such as REM sleep behaviour disorder

Can laughing in sleep be associated with some neurological disorders or some underlying health condition?

Yes, laughing in sleep can sometimes be associated with neurological conditions.

One such condition is called “cataplexy,” which is a symptom of narcolepsy. Namely, narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden sleep attacks. Cataplexy is one of the symptoms that can occur during waking hours or during active sleep.

Cataplexy involves a sudden loss of muscle tone, which can cause weakness or paralysis in the muscles. During the sleep cycle, this can manifest as laughing, as the muscles responsible for laughing may be affected. People with cataplexy may also experience other symptoms, such as slurred speech, drooping eyelids, or difficulty moving their limbs.

Another condition that can cause laughing while sleep is called “REM sleep behavior disorder” (RBD). RBD is a sleep disorder that involves acting out vivid, often violent dreams during REM sleep, also called sleep terrors. In some cases, laughing can be one of the behaviours exhibited during RBD.

It's important to note that while laughing in sleep can be a symptom of these neurological disorders affecting the muscles on our face, it's not always indicative of a problem. In most cases, this is completely normal and harmless. However, if you think that you have some of the mentioned REM sleep behavior disorders, it's always a good idea to speak to a healthcare professional.

What about babies laughing during sleep?

Babies are known for their adorable giggles and laughter, but have you ever wondered why they sometimes laugh in sleep? While we can't know for sure what babies are dreaming about, there are a few potential explanations for why babies laugh in their sleep.

One theory is that babies may be processing new information and experiences they've had while awake. Laughter is often associated with learning and exploration, and babies are constantly learning and experiencing new things. So, it's possible that their brain is processing these experiences during sleep (as soon as they start falling asleep until they wake up), which could result in laughter.

Another theory is that babies may be experiencing positive emotions in their dreams. Even at a young age, babies are capable of experiencing a range of emotions, including joy and happiness. So, it's possible that their dreams are eliciting these positive emotions and causing them to laugh in their sleep.

An image of a baby laughing.

It's also worth noting that babies may be laughing in their sleep for no particular reason at all. They are just enjoying their sleep quality. Just like adults, babies can experience involuntary movements and vocalizations during sleep, and laughter may be one of them.

In most cases, laughing in sleep is completely normal and nothing to worry about – it is not a sign of a neurological disorder or some other sleep disorders. However, if you notice that your baby is laughing excessively or crying out in distress during sleep, it's always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider to rule out any underlying issues.

Spiritual meanings of sleep laughing

Understanding sleep is not easy. There are people who have been dealing with sleep physiology their entire careers and sleep laughter is still a common phenomenon among all of them.

Conclusion

In conclusion, laughing in sleep can be a fascinating and mysterious phenomenon that has been observed by people throughout history. While it can have various causes, including positive emotions, the release of tension, and unconscious processing, it's important to keep in mind that laughing in sleep can also be a symptom of sleep disorders or other medical conditions.

If you or someone you know is experiencing unusual sleep behaviours or other symptoms, it's always a good idea to seek medical advice. Ultimately, the meaning of laughing while sleep is highly individual and can be shaped by personal beliefs and experiences, making it a unique and intriguing aspect of human sleep and consciousness.

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About the author

Anđela Rajković
As a CPD certified Sleep Consultant and well-practiced sleep enthusiast, I find a lot of joy in bringing my expertise to our readers – preferably those who love to sleep. With a background in the English language and literature and a love of research, I'm always seeking new ways to share the latest sleep science and bed-related findings. And, when I'm not connecting with my readers, you can find me exploring the great outdoors, or, well, curling up in bed.
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