What parent hasn’t struggled with a baby fighting sleep? For some, it’s an occasional occurrence. For others, it can feel like a daily struggle. But it doesn’t have to be.
Many parents accept long-term sleeplessness as a natural part of parenthood, and might even label their baby as a ‘bad sleeper’, which can set the entire family up for future sleep struggles.
The truth is, all babies have the potential to be great sleepers if given the opportunity and assistance to learn the necessary sleep skills. There are a variety of factors that could contribute to sleep struggles, but all can be overcome if they’re recognized and addressed by working to instill healthy sleep habits.
Baby Fighting Sleep? 6 Reasons Why and What You Can Do About it
Identifying why your baby is fighting sleep can help you overcome sleep struggles, and get you on your way to developing better family sleep habits. Here are six reasons why your baby might be fighting sleep.
Reason #1: Your Baby Is Overtired
Babies tell us when they’re getting sleepy by giving cues. Early signs to look for include quieting down, decreased activity and decreased concentration. Missing those early sleepy cues will result in overtiredness.
Babies who are overtired will fight sleep because their bodies have produced an excess of cortisol, the stress hormone. They become wired—they are tired, but their bodies are fighting it. Excess cortisol causes excess crying. By learning to recognize their baby’s sleepy cues, parents can avoid overtiredness by getting their baby down at the prime opportunity.
Reason #2: The Environment Isn’t Right
There are conditions that increase our drive to sleep. Those conditions are:
Dark—we recommend cave-like dark. Darkness stimulates melatonin, the sleep hormone, which increases our drive to sleep. A recent study on light and sleep showed that the shape of babies’ eyes allows more light to get in. So, what we consider to be a dim light might appear much brighter to a baby.
Quiet—we recommend a quiet room or consistent white noise. A white noise machine can help if you live on a busy street, have a pet, or want to get some work done around the house without having to whisper and tiptoe.
Cool—18 to 20 degrees is about right.
Reason #3: A Lack of Routine
A sleep routine is an easy way to help your baby get ready for sleep by providing cues that sleepy time is coming (it also works wonders for us parents). For naps, a five-minute routine is all it takes. At bedtime, 20 to 30 minutes works well, beginning with a bath to help cool the body down, a process that naturally occurs when our bodies are preparing for sleep. Finish off with a story, song, and loving wishes for sweet dreams.
When there is no sleep routine in place, babies don’t know what to expect. They have no control and are jolted from one environment to another. The routine offers a soothing transition while also facilitating sleepiness.
Reason #4: The Timing Is Off
There are times during the day and night when our babies are primed for sleep. We call these times sleep windows or sleep waves.
You want to catch the wave at the right moment to ensure baby can ride that sleep wave. To do this, pay attention to both the clock and baby’s sleepy cues. A bedtime that is too late or naps that happen after 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. for babies over six months of age often results in poor or less than ideal sleep.
Reason #5: Baby Expects Someone Will Come to the Rescue
If a baby is unable to fall asleep independently—if he needs someone to hold, rock, nurse, or otherwise soothe him—he will likely fight sleep if he is put down to fall asleep alone and expected to settle. Sleep is a skill, and skills take practice.
Reason #6: Baby Isn’t Tired Enough
We can wake a person from sleep, but we can never force a person to be tired. That’s why babies who are topped up on sleep may fight it because they have all that they need.
Babies might be topped up on sleep if:
- They are sleeping 11 to 12 hours a night and taking an appropriate number of naps.
- They are waking happy and rested from naps and in the morning.
- They manage emotions easily.
If your baby is simply not tired because the sleep tank is full, he may take longer to fall asleep. A slight adjustment to naps or bedtime can help with this.
Minimize the Fight with Help
If your baby is fighting sleep regularly, Sleepwell Baby’s sleep experts can help by setting you up with a customized sleep plan, personalized support, and the tools and information to make lasting changes.