Babies have trouble falling asleep for many different reasons, the common reasons are: exhaustion, overstimulation, separation anxiety, teething, and reaching a milestone…
When a baby won’t go to sleep, it can be difficult to figure out why.
Your health will suffer from irregular sleep patterns, and parenting may seem much more difficult if you are sleep deprived.
Your family will benefit greatly if you can identify the reason your baby won’t sleep and take appropriate action.
In this article, we’ll create a foundation for healthy baby sleep patterns by sharing information and resources about: why do babies fight sleep and what to do when a baby is fighting sleep.
Table of Contents
Why Do Babies Fight Sleep
For the majority of babies, a few tears before bedtime are normal. In fact, many babies find it difficult to fall asleep without first crying. But if the fuss goes on and on, even after you’ve ruled out hunger, a wet or dirty diaper and illness, consider these other factors:
- Overtired baby.It may sound a little crazy, but not getting enough zzzs can result in a baby who is so exhausted that she is wired and has trouble falling asleep at night.
- Overstimulated baby.A busy, bright home, screens, toys with beeps, or a crying fit can be too much to handle, causing overstimulation and the desire to fight sleep. At least an hour before baby’s bedtime, try to avoid engaging in stimulating activities.
- Sleep regression.Throughout the first year, your baby may experience this disruption to their regular bedtime routine, including at 4 months, 6 months, between 8 and 10 months, and once more at 12 months.
- Separation anxiety.This clingy phase may begin at around 8 months (though it can start a little earlier or later), leading to tears when you leave your baby alone in the crib.
- Teething.A baby may cry out in pain and struggle to fall asleep due to teething pain, which typically begins around the age of six months (although it may occur earlier or later).
- Hitting a milestone.Babbling, rolling, sitting up, crawling, and walking are all significant developmental milestones that some infants enjoy practicing at night.
- A baby may struggle to fall asleep during a vacation if the usual bedtime routine is changed or the crib is moved.
- Baby’s not tired.Babies sleep 11 to 14 hours between the ages of 1 and 2, down from the 12 to 16 hours they used to get. Your baby may not require as many zzzs right now if she is having trouble falling asleep.
- Baby dropped a nap.Babies typically stop taking their morning naps between the ages of 12 and 15 months, so if yours is refusing to go down, it may mean she will no longer take a nap.
What to Do When a Baby is Fighting Sleep
Regardless of the underlying problem, putting your newborn to sleep can be challenging. Here are our best sleep expert tips on what to do when a baby is fighting sleep:
The actions you take will partly depend on why your baby is having trouble falling asleep, but no matter what your difficulties, the following advice is helpful for fostering a conducive sleeping environment.
- Discover your baby’s sleep signals. When your infant starts rubbing their eyes, yawning, avoiding eye contact, fussing, or loses interest in play, you should put them to bed right away. Remember that some waking periods for young infants may be as brief as 30 to 45 minutes.
- Create and adhere to a relaxing bedtime routine.A child can fall asleep more easily by taking a bath, reading a book, or cuddling in a comfy chair. Be consistent by performing the same actions at the same times every night.
- Establish day-night behaviorsby playing and interacting with your baby during the day, exposing them to lots of sunlight in the morning and afternoon, but being less active and more sedate before bedtime.
- Eliminate rough physical play, loud noises, and screens at least an hour before bed.
- Create a nap and sleep schedulebased on your baby and your lifestyle. Make sure they have the opportunity to get enough daytime and nighttime sleep by taking into account their overall sleep requirements.
- Ensure your baby is getting enough feedswithin a 24-hour period. Every two to three hours, newborns typically take a feeding on demand. The intervals between feedings will extend as your baby grows.
- A sleeping environment for the baby should be provided.To promote a restful environment, use white noise machines, blackout curtains, or other elements.
- Try to respond to your baby’s sleep challenges with patienceand calm. Being at ease will help both of them calm down because they feed off of your emotions.
Your baby’s age, personality, developmental stage, and other factors will all affect how much sleep they require. However, there are some guidelines that can support your efforts to create a sound sleep schedule for your infant.
What Does “Fighting Sleep” Even Mean?
For starters, the term “fighting sleep” is a bit misleading — babies don’t really FIGHT sleep because when we’re ready for it and when we’re not under a lot of stress, humans naturally sleep. Infants experience the same thing.
When babies seem to be “fighting” that instinct to sleep, it’s almost always a sign of something else happening to them. They believe it is unsafe for them to go to sleep due to whatever is going on. It’s up to us to start wondering what’s causing the crying. Understanding what your baby is trying to communicate to you might take a few tries, but that is completely normal.
What Does “Fighting Sleep” Look Like?
Just like there’s no one magic sleep solution that works for every baby, there’s no singular sign of “fighting” sleep. From baby to baby, it can really differ. Usually, what is described to me and what I have personally experienced. — is a Baby is VERY upset, fussy, or even unconsolable. There may be a lot of sobbing or yelling, back arching, stiffening, pushing off of you, scratching, etc. Baby may *almost* fall asleep before jerking awake and becoming incredibly upset once more.
You might also notice that their schedule is changing; for example, they may be sleeping less soundly at night or skipping their morning nap altogether. For babies with an easy-going temperament, “fighting sleep” won’t necessarily look as dramatic, but you’ll notice them having a harder time going to sleep all of a sudden.
Why Do Babies Fight Sleep When Overtired?
When a baby has been up longer than what their tiny bodies can handle, it is said that they are overtired. This activates a stress response, including the release of hormones like cortisol, that makes it even harder for baby to settle.
Is It Normal for Babies to Always Fight Sleep?
It’s likely that they are experiencing some separation anxiety, which can manifest itself right before bed. Often seen anywhere from 8 to 18 months, your baby may fight sleep because they don’t want you to leave.