Sleep plays an important role in your baby’s mental and physical development. Not to mention, any parent understands how precious those moments are when your baby is sleeping peacefully and you can finally relax or catch up on all your household chores.
But, when your baby is fighting sleep, whether it be naps or bedtime, it can be frustrating for both you and your little one—not to mention exhausting. If this sounds familiar, don't worry—you're not alone. Many parents go through this struggle.
But why does my baby fight sleep? Read on to learn more about the possible explanations and how you can help your little one get the rest they need.
Why Do Babies Fight Sleep? 12 Possible Reasons
There are actually a number of reasons why is a baby fighting sleep. Understanding why your little one is struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep can help you address the underlying issue and get them the sleep they need. Here are 12 possible reasons babies fight sleep.
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It’s easy for a baby to get overstimulated since everything is so new and fascinating to them. Overstimulation can stem from a variety of sources, such as loud toys, screens, bright lights, or lots of movement.
2. Separation anxiety
There is nothing quite like snuggling your sleeping baby, but if your baby is used to being held or rocked to sleep, they may resist going to sleep on their own in their crib.
3. Circadian rhythm
Just like adults, babies have their own internal clocks, known as circadian rhythms. Unfortunately, babies aren’t born with strong circadian rhythms—meaning your baby will need to establish a healthy circadian rhythm after they are born. Until then, it could mean your little one has their nights and days mixed up.
Babies have tiny tummies and need to eat frequently. As a result, it’s common for babies to have trouble falling asleep or waking throughout the night (and day) once their body starts to send those hunger signals.
5. Blood sugar spikes or crashes
Diet plays a big role in sleep. Once your baby begins eating solids, you may want to consider the types of foods you feed them. Sugary foods lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes that interfere with sleep,
In some cases, your baby may sleep more when they aren’t feeling well. However, just like adults can struggle to get restful sleep when they don’t feel well, your baby may have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep when they are feeling under the weather.
7. Sleep regression
As your baby grows and develops, fighting sleep may be more often. Seemingly out of nowhere, your once-good sleeper may start to resist nap time or bedtime. This is known as child sleep regression—and although it’s completely normal, it certainly makes it more difficult for mama and baby.
Not only can traveling affect your circadian rhythm, but your baby might also struggle with the change in surroundings. Babies are creatures of habit and they like predictable routines. If you're traveling or your baby is spending the night at a grandparent's house, they may have difficulty falling asleep because everything is unfamiliar to them.
Check out our 10 Tips for Traveling with Babies & Toddlers.
The teething process usually begins when your little one is around 4-6 months of age, although it’s not uncommon to start even sooner. Unfortunately, it can be uncomfortable and even painful for your baby, making it difficult to get restful sleep.
There are a number of things that can cause discomfort for babies, such as gas pain, teething pain, or an uncomfortable position. Any of these can cause your baby to wake up in the middle of the night.
11. Environment interruptions
There are a number of environmental factors that can make it difficult for babies to sleep. If the room is too hot or too cold, if there's too much light, or if there's noise coming from outside, it can all make it harder for babies to fall asleep and stay asleep.
12. Overtired or under-tired baby
Babies who are overtired (from being awake for too long) or under-tired (from not getting enough daytime sleep) can both have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep.
How Can You Help Your Baby Sleep?
Depending on the underlying cause of your little one’s refusal to sleep, there are several ways to help your baby stop fighting sleep and get a little more shut-eye. In fact, even if your little one isn’t fighting sleep, these tips can still help them establish good sleep habits, which may prove to be beneficial in the months and years to come.
Tip 1: Help your baby distinguish between day and night
Helping your little one develop a healthy circadian rhythm early on, will be increasingly important as they get older and begin sleeping longer stretches at night. Teach your baby that daytime is for playtime and feeding, and nighttime for calm and sleep.
During the day, simply take your baby outside, make sure your baby is getting plenty of light, and be a little extra noisy. As nighttime nears, dim the lights and focus on using soft, quiet voices to help calm them before bed.
Tip 2: Establish a nap and bedtime routine
A consistent nap and bedtime routine will help signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down for the night. Try a bath, some quiet time, and a story, followed by a few—and then a few more— kisses on those sweet little baby cheeks. Keep in mind that your nap routine may look slightly different than the bedtime routine, and that's okay—just stay as consistent as you can.
Tip 3: Identify signs that your baby is ready to sleep
Being able to identify when your little one is getting tired before they overtired, will make it easier for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. Keep an eye out for common sleep cues, such as flushed brows, staring more than usual, eye rubbing, and yawning.
Tip 4: Shut off electronic devices two hours before bed
Electronic devices, whether intended for your little one or not, can be very stimulating for babies. Even the light from the tv or phone in a dark room is enough to disrupt your little one's sleep.
Tip 5: Create a restful environment
A dark room without environmental disturbance can encourage your baby to get a good night’s rest. Ensure the room is kept at a comfortable temperature. Use a white noise machine to calm your baby and drown out loud noises. Keep the room as dark as possible using blackout curtains and black tape of little device lights.
Tip 6: Feed your baby a well-balanced diet
Sugary fruit purees imbalances blood sugar and causes sleep interruptions. Once your baby starts eating solids, focus on providing them with a balanced diet that includes plenty of protein and healthy fats, like Serenity Kids purees.
Our Meat & Veggies Baby Food Pouch Variety Pack is made with only the best ingredients, such as organic veggies and high-quality, ethically sourced meats. Our purees are free from added sugar, artificial sweeteners, additives, and other filler ingredients that are commonly found in baby food products.
To learn more, check our 7 Reasons Why Meats and Healthy Fats = Healthier, Happier Little Ones.
Tip 7: Read a “sleep training” book
Sleep training has evolved WAY beyond the old “let them cry” idiom. Not all models work for all babies but any model helps add some structure and planning to the process. Find the model that works best for you and your little one. And, if you try one and realize that it’s not working for your family, don’t be afraid to try something different.
Serenity Kids founders, Joe and Serenity Carr, enjoyed Eat Play Sleep: The Essential Guide to Your Baby’s First Three Months by Luiza DeSouza.
Tip 8: Try baby wearing for contact naps
Baby wearing is a common practice to help babies fall and stay asleep as the positioning and closeness to mama mimic the womb. It’s also a great way to get your baby some rest, while allowing you to get some things done around the house or even go for a walk. As an added bonus, baby wearing is perfect for days when you are on the go. All you need is a comfortable and safe baby carrier that fits you and baby well, like the Ergobaby or BABYBJӦRN carriers.
Tip 9: Use a swaddle or sleep sack
Swaddling your baby before naps and bedtime can help your baby feel warm and secure, just like it felt in the womb. Keep in mind that once your baby begins to roll over, you can no longer swaddle them with their arms in the swaddle. This is a great time to transition to a sleep sack, which is another great way to help them feel warm and comfortable. Not to mention, most sleep sacks open from the bottom for easy diaper changes—a win-win in our opinion!
Tip 10: Recognize when your baby is ready to drop one of their naps
If your baby consistently doesn’t seem tired at naptime or has trouble falling asleep, it may be time to consider dropping one of their naps. As a result, your baby will have longer wake windows and should be ready to snooze when naptime or bedtime comes. But, be careful not to drop a nap too soon, as that could cause an overtired baby.
Tips for Tired Moms
Between juggling feedings, diaper changes, and attempts to get your baby to sleep, it's no surprise if you're feeling tired. But it's important to take care of yourself, too. Here are some tips for tired moms:
Give yourself some grace
Nobody expects you to do it all, even if you feel like you should. Cut yourself some slack and don't try to be perfect. At the end of the day, you’re the perfect mama in your sweet baby’s eyes, and that’s the most important thing.
For more tips, check out Mom Guilt: What Causes it and 5 Tips for Managing it.
Sleep when the baby sleeps
Easier said than done, right? With so much to do, it can be hard to sleep when the baby sleeps. However, sleep deprivation can affect both mental and physical health, so it's important that you get as much rest as possible—even if that means just closing your eyes to relax.
Practice self-care while your baby sleeps
It's important to make some time for yourself, even if it's just a few minutes each day. Take a break to read, take a bath, or just relax.
Ask for help
Don't try to do everything on your own. Ask your partner or other family members to pitch in, whether it's with childcare, housework, or simply giving you a break.
For more ideas on how someone can help, check out 10 Things a New Mama Really Needs.
It’s common for babies to go through phases where they seemingly refuse to sleep, no matter what you do. Fortunately, this is normal and will pass. In the meantime, there are solutions to help them (and you) get the rest you need. Keep in mind that every baby is different and what works for one, may not work for everyone. Don’t be afraid to try out different solutions until you find the one that works best for you and your baby. And most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself. It can be tough when your baby fights sleep, but just remember that you are doing amazing.