Why Do Babies Fight Sleep?

why do babies fight sleep

Understanding and addressing baby fighting sleep is a common concern for parents, as it can impact the overall well-being of both the baby and the family.

Sleep struggles in infants are a normal part of development, but they can be extremely challenging to navigate.

Factors such as age, temperament, and individual differences all play a significant role in how babies sleep, so it can be incredibly difficult to work out what is preventing sleep when they fight it.

While there is not necessarily any such thing as ‘normal’ when it comes to baby sleep, there are basic guidelines as to what constitutes regular sleep patterns in infants:

Newborn Sleep: Newborns sleep for shorter periods, typically 16-17 hours a day, with frequent waking for feeding. They have irregular sleep-wake cycles.

3-6 Months: As babies grow, they may start sleeping longer at night, with more consolidated sleep. However, they might still wake for nighttime feedings.

6-12 Months: By six months, many infants can sleep for longer stretches, and daytime naps become more predictable. Some may start sleeping through the night, while others may still wake occasionally.

Individual Variations: It’s essential to recognise that individual variations exist. Some babies naturally require less sleep, while others may need more. Factors like temperament and overall health can influence sleep needs.

why do babies fight sleep

Common Reasons Why Babies Resist Sleep

Sometimes, fighting sleep is just a natural part of a baby’s development.

Babies go through various developmental milestones, such as learning to roll over, sit up, crawl, or walk, and these milestones can lead to changes in sleep patterns as the baby’s brain and body are actively developing.

Some infants may be more restless or wakeful during these periods. Parents need to be aware of potential disruptions during developmental leaps and provide extra comfort and support during these times.

Overtiredness and overstimulation are other factors, and babies, especially younger ones, can become overtired or overstimulated easily.

When babies are kept awake for extended periods or exposed to too much stimulation, it becomes challenging for them to settle down and fall asleep. Overtiredness can lead to increased fussiness and difficulty in self-soothing.

Separation anxiety is a common phase that typically emerges around six to eight months of age and can persist for some time.

During this phase, babies become more aware of their surroundings and may become distressed when separated from their primary caregivers. This anxiety can manifest during sleep times, making it challenging for babies to settle into sleep without the presence of a familiar adult.

why do babies fight sleep

Environmental Factors And Sleep Resistance

A well-structured sleep environment and routine significantly influence a baby’s ability to sleep peacefully.

A conducive sleep setting and consistent routine contribute to reduced sleep resistance by providing comfort, signalling bedtime, and establishing positive sleep associations.

Here are some tips for creating a conducive sleep environment:

1. Comfortable Sleep Surface: Ensure a firm and comfortable mattress with appropriate bedding to support quality sleep.

2. Optimal Room Temperature: Maintain a comfortable room temperature, not too hot or too cold, to enhance sleep comfort.

3. Dim Lighting: Use dim lighting during bedtime routines to create a calming atmosphere, signalling that it’s time to wind down.

4. White Noise or Music: Consider white noise or gentle music to drown out potential disturbances and provide a consistent background sound.

5. Consistent Bedtime Routine: Maintain a consistent routine with calming activities like a bath, gentle rocking, or bedtime stories.

6. Limit Stimulating Activities: Minimize stimulating activities before bedtime to help the baby transition smoothly into sleep.

7. Safe Sleep Environment: Remove potential hazards from the crib, ensuring a safe sleep space free of loose items.

8. Positive Sleep Associations: Introduce comforting items, like a favourite blanket or stuffed animal, to create positive sleep associations.

Feeding can play a role in your baby sleeps – or doesn’t sleep – too:

1. Feeding Timing: Feeding too close to bedtime may cause discomfort and contribute to sleep resistance. On the other hand, allowing the baby to go to bed hungry can also lead to restlessness.

2. Overfeeding: Overfeeding, especially during nighttime feedings, can cause discomfort, leading to sleep disturbances.

3. Dependency on Feeding to Sleep: If a baby consistently falls asleep during feedings, they may develop a dependency on this association, making it challenging for them to self-soothe and fall asleep independently.

4. Introducing Solid Foods: The introduction of solid foods should align with the baby’s developmental readiness. Premature introduction or delay may affect sleep patterns.

5. Feeding in Response to Night Wakings: Responding to every nighttime waking with a feeding, regardless of hunger, can reinforce waking for comfort rather than necessity.

Tips For Overcoming Baby Sleep Resistance

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine serves as the most valuable remedy for addressing sleep resistance in babies.

A structured routine initiated well before bedtime, includes calming activities like a warm bath, gentle massage, and quiet play. Dim lightings and soothing activities, such as reading or singing, create a predictable and calming environment, signaling to the baby that it’s time to transition from wakefulness to sleep.

By maintaining a consistent sequence of activities, introducing positive sleep associations like comforting items, and avoiding stimulating activities close to bedtime, parents can foster a sense of security and promote healthier sleep patterns, reducing resistance and making bedtime a more peaceful experience for both the baby and the family.

Identifying sleep cues and patterns is also key to understanding a baby’s individualised sleep needs.

Observing subtle signs such as eye rubbing, yawning, or changes in behaviour can help parents recognise when their baby is ready for sleep.

Additionally, tracking the baby’s sleep patterns over time enables a deeper understanding of their natural sleep rhythms and preferences.

Get these things right, and your little one should stop resisting sleepy time quite so often – but don’t expect it to stop completely.

Seeking Professional Advice For Persistent Sleep Resistance

Recognising signs of sleep disorders can help you distinguish between when your baby is just going through a developmental milestone, and when there is a problem.

Signs of a sleep disorder in babies fighting sleep include:

1. Frequent Night Wakings: If the baby consistently wakes up multiple times during the night and struggles to go back to sleep, it could be a sign of a sleep disorder.

2. Difficulty Falling Asleep: Persistent difficulty in falling asleep, even with a consistent bedtime routine, maybe a red flag.

3. Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: If the baby appears excessively drowsy during the day despite what seems to be an adequate amount of sleep, it might indicate a problem.

4. Irregular Breathing Patterns: Unusual breathing patterns, such as pauses in breathing (sleep apnea) or heavy snoring, could be indicative of a sleep disorder, the reason your baby fights sleep too often.

5. Restlessness and Agitation: Excessive tossing, turning, or restlessness during sleep may suggest an underlying issue.

why do babies fight sleep

Consulting with a paediatrician is advisable when parents observe persistent or concerning signs related to their baby’s sleep, development, or overall well-being. Regular check-ups with a paediatrician are also crucial for monitoring the baby’s growth and development.

Overall, parents should trust their instincts and seek professional advice whenever they have concerns about their baby’s sleep challenges, but paediatricians are valuable partners in ensuring the well-being of both the baby and the family.