01/26/2012 05:10 pm ET Updated Feb 21, 2012

5 Tips For Battling Benign Neonatal Sleep Myoclonus

Benign neonatal myoclonus is a common sleep disorder. It usually affects newborn babies. We spoke to Beth Malow, M.D., professor of pediatrics and medical director of the Vanderbilt Sleep Center in Nashville, Tenn., for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think your baby might suffer from benign neonatal myoclonus, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Shellie Braeuner

Benign neonatal myoclonus is a jerking behavior seen in newborns when they sleep. It may involve only a single limb twitch or a jerk of the entire body.


"The first word of 'benign neonatal myoclonus' is the word 'benign,'" says Dr. Malow. This means it is harmless. While some parents may be disturbed to see their newborn's body twitch in sleep, benign neonatal myoclonus does not indicate any serious problem.

Comfort The Baby

If the twitch from benign neonatal myoclonus wakes the baby, offer comfort to reassure the infant. "Be reassured as you reassure the baby," says Dr. Malow.

Record Any Pattern

Notice if the twitching behavior related to benign neonatal myoclonus occurs in response to loud sounds. Pay attention after feedings especially. "Newborns can have reflux," says Dr. Malow.

Watch The Baby

"Myoclonus is a short twitch," Dr. Malow says. It is common sleep behavior for people of all ages. But if the jerking goes on longer than a single twitch, the behavior may not be benign neonatal myoclonus, she adds.

Seek Professional Help

"If anything disturbs or worries you, talk to your pediatrician," Dr. Malow warns. If the doctor diagnoses benign neonatal myoclonus, you can be completely reassured.

Beth Malow, M.D., received her BS from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in 1984 and her M.D. from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. She then did her internship in medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York from 1987 to 1988. Her residency in the Harvard-Longwood Neurological Training Program in Boston from 1988 to 1991 was followed by a fellowship in epilepsy, EEG and sleep at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., from 1991 to 1994.

Have you ever suffered from a sleep disorder?