Why Do Babies Fight Sleep? 5 Reasons & 7 Ways To Win The Bedtime Battle

why do babies fight sleep

It can be very frustrating and confusing if you are experiencing your baby fighting sleep during what used to be a peaceful bedtime routine. 

Pinpointing why your baby fights sleep is the first step toward solving the problem.

This article is all about baby sleep, or lack thereof. Read on if you struggle to get your baby to fall asleep without a fight each night or if this is a new behavior that you’re currently struggling with. 

We’ll discuss why do babies fight sleep and what you can do about it.

Why do babies fight sleep?

Babies fight sleep at bedtime or nap time for several different reasons. The reasons babies fight sleep can depend upon several factors. 

Unfortunately, making your baby fight sleep at night can be a combination of factors or even a different reason on a night-by-night basis.

Why do babies fight sleep

1. No regular bedtime routine

Your baby fighting sleep may be due to a lack of a regular routine. Babies need a strict schedule if they are to be expected to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep through at least most of the night. 

We know that newborn babies wake every few hours to eat, but if you have an older baby fighting sleep who should be sleeping through the night by now, then you should consider your bedtime routine when trying to figure out why they are suddenly fighting sleep.

Stick to the same things at the exact times in the same order

When we say that babies need routine, we mean it.

If your baby is used to bottle, bath, pajamas, and bedtime, then you need to make that the routine that stays exactly the same every night.

Of course, life happens, and there will be the odd night here and there in which you won’t be able to prevent straying from this routine. But for the most part, you can’t just wing it. 

If your baby is fighting sleep because you are just now trying to establish a nightly ritual, it may take time for your baby to get used to it.

2. Separation anxiety

If your baby is fighting sleep, it may be linked to separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety can start as early as eight months old and go on for as long as your child feels uncomfortable. Usually, parents start to see a natural end to this anxiety around 18 months of age. 

If your child fights sleep in a room alone and is in this wide age bracket, separation anxiety may be the culprit.

To make your baby stop fighting sleep, you have to make it feel secure in its surroundings without you. Sitting with your baby until they are falling asleep for the night or holding the baby in place of a bedtime or nap routine will introduce more problems to the baby’s sleep process.

Most babies do well and develop healthy sleep cycles when they learn that they have an established sleep time in a cozy room that isn’t too bright or has too much noise.

Adversely, you don’t want the room to be too quiet. While loud noises may keep babies awake, younger babies are used to a little bit of noise, as they listen to it nonstop as fetuses. 

A white noise machine may help ensure that baby falls asleep and can beat the anxiety of being away from mom or dad.

3. Sleep deprivation

If you have an issue with baby fighting sleep, there’s a chance that they are simply too tired to fall asleep. We’ve all been there. When you’re so tired, you have trouble settling down and going to sleep.

If your little ones are fighting sleep but you know they are tired, you may be putting down your baby for a nap too late in the day or keeping them up past their wake window or wake time.

4. The baby isn’t tired

If your baby is fighting sleep and looks more like they’re fighting for playtime than they are overtired, it can be that you are letting your child sleep too much during the day or scheduling your baby’s bedtime too close to a nap.

5. Distracting environment

Your baby needs a restful environment to sleep in. For example, older babies who are permitted to stay up later than younger babies may play loudly, and regardless of how much sleep your little one needs, it won’t happen without a fight.

An overstimulated baby fighting sleep is rough because they want to play but are also tired. Creating a quiet time before your house’s earliest bedtime may help solve this issue.

Babies who fight sleep are smart

You may have heard the claim that if you spend time dealing with a baby fighting sleep regularly, it may simply be because your child is intelligent or gifted. 

While there’s no hard evidence, one UK university thinks this claim may carry some weight.

There is no need for your baby to be asleep through the night. Child development does not depend upon your baby girl or boy getting overnight shut-eye and having regular sleep patterns.

In the study, children who sleep less or experience “sleep problems” tend to be smarter.

Of course, you should always try to figure out if the sleep problems your baby is experiencing is due to other issues that need to be corrected. 

But if you can’t find any other plausible link to explain your baby’s sleep refusal, you can miss out on your good sleep thinking about your possible little genius.

What to do when baby fight sleep?

How to get a baby to stop fighting sleep

Making your baby sleep better may seem like a steep uphill battle. However, there are interventions that you can do to help increase how much sleep your baby is getting.

1. Provide sleep cues

Babies begin to associate sleep with routines that are familiar to them. They do this with food, play, and with many other things in life. Sleep cues are no different.

Turn on the white noise when you want your baby to sleep, or start playing Mozart quietly. Associate a calm bath with impending sleep. 

Bedtime works better if your child starts associating certain things with going to sleep.

Baby’s sleep cues can help them to settle down for a quiet period in which they can more easily fall asleep.

2. Understand wake windows and wake time

Your baby’s age is a huge indicator of whether they are getting enough sleep. Once you know how much sleep your baby should be getting and how many hours at a time they should be awake, you can more easily schedule things so that the last nap of the day is earlier or so that there is a slightly later bedtime.

Very young babies in the newborn stage, for example, don’t go by night and day to know when to sleep. Many babies simply start sleeping when their bodies tell them to. 

As your baby grows, however, it’s up to you to schedule activities for bed. Understanding how much sleep your baby needs will help you to do that.

3. Wind down when baby gets sleepy

Exciting play is excellent for the daytime. We can encourage creativity, new skills, and messy, loud play long before it’s time to go to bed. 

However, when you notice a whiny attitude or eye rubbing, it may be time to calm things down and start the soothing process of getting ready for bed.

Making it a part of the routine is a great way to make calming down a normal part of life for your whole family and may also help older children get to bed on time.

4. Make it dark

Babies are not generally found to be afraid of the dark. Having lamps, night lights, and light-up toys in the room with your little one can make it harder for your child to sleep.

If you live in a city where it’s bright, invest in some blackout curtains to keep the light out and make the room as peaceful and womb-like as possible. 

New moms often assume that all babies start crying in their room because it’s dark. This is not the case.

5. No eye contact

To help baby sleep better, don’t look them in the eye. That may seem a little silly, but it’s true. Looking at your baby will not help it sleep. 

Instead, put them to bed and then leave the room. If you are holding your baby, distract yourself and look away at a book or something else in the room.

6. Set and maintain a routine

Adopt a routine or ritual for preparing for bed, and don’t deviate from it. This may mean that you can’t go to a wedding reception past this time or that you can’t go out for late ice creams in the summer, but you’ll thank yourself for sticking with it when it’s all said and done.

You won’t have to miss out on evening activities forever. Your baby will eventually need a less early time for sleeping, and you can start doing more in the evenings at that point.

7. Change the bedtime

Don’t be afraid to adjust if you think bedtime needs to be earlier or later. The critical part is that once you figure out what that time should be, stick with it. Only a true emergency should prompt you to let your baby stay up later.

The Bottom Line

Your baby fighting sleep may happen for all sorts of reasons. Figuring out why yours is doing so is challenging. 

Assess your situation, what your routine looks like daily, and how long this issue has been going on to help you find the source of the problem.

The next part is fixing the issue and figuring out why your little one is struggling to fall asleep. Hopefully, this article has given you some good suggestions for how to look for your baby’s sleep cues, as well as what to do when your baby is fighting sleep.

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