The Complete Guide to Why Babies Fight Sleep

sleepy baby

You know your little one is tired and ready for bedtime, but still she fights sleep. Even after a nice warm bath and doing your familiar tucking-in routine, your baby might still end up fighting the sleep that you know she’s ready for.

As a parent, you’re probably asking yourself a million questions: did she eat enough? Is she just overtired? Is this a sign of separation anxiety? 

Instead of thinking up all of the possible reasons behind your baby’s insistence to stay awake, read on to discover why most babies fight sleep and what you can do when it happens.

Why Do Babies Fight Sleep?

Is your baby arching their back, crying, fussing, kicking, squirming around, and generally protesting bedtime? These are all signs of fighting sleep. If this sounds like your baby and sleep is always a battle, there are several potential reasons behind it.

In general, the following three causes are usually to blame for your baby fighting sleep:

1. Under Tired

A baby who isn’t quite ready for bedtime is certainly going to protest! As a parent, it’s critical to understand your baby’s sleep cues and understand her needs. Her body language, mood, and level of fussiness will tell you what you need to know about her sleep needs. For instance, if she seems wide awake and happy even though it’s her usual time for a nap, chances are she isn’t quite ready yet. Being under tired is less common in babies and more common in toddlers, but an under-tired baby is most definitely going to fight sleep.

2. Overtired

An overtired baby is a true disaster waiting to happen. This scenario can transpire quickly, and often you won’t recognize it until it’s too late. If you fail to read your baby’s sleep cues or miss their usual sleep window, she will become overtired and unable to fall asleep due to sheer exhaustion. As adults, this can be difficult to comprehend at first; when we are tired, we find it easier to fall asleep. But for babies, being overtired can mean that falling asleep is that much harder to do.

3. Separataion Anxiety

This usually occurs around eight or nine months of age when your baby starts to realize that she wants to be close to you at all times. When this happens, sleep is simply not a priority. For first time parents, resolving separation anxiety can be really hard work, and this behavior often resurfaces again around 18 months of age, too.

What to Do When Your Baby Fights Sleep

So, what can you do? Perhaps you know that your baby is overtired? Perhaps none of the above seems to fit what you’re dealing with? 

There are a lot of appraoches to guiding your baby to fall asleep. Don’t forget that your baby’s temperament can have a lot to do with how she sleeps as well, and she might fight sleep simply because of her personality. But even with this in mind, there are several things that parents can try to fix the issue.

Tweak Your Baby’s Naps.

Sleep breeds sleep. If your baby sleeps well during the day, she’s likely to sleep well at night, too. If she hasn’t had any good naps in the daytime, take this into consideration for bedtime. And if naps are consistently hard work for her, then consider how this affects her bedtime routine, too. You need a good nap routine so that your baby is not overtired when it comes to the last part of the day. For an under-tired baby, trim down their naps a little, or even move toward ditching one of them if she normally takes two per day.

Change Up Your Baby’s Bedtime.

If your baby is overtired at bedtime, start your nighttime routine a little earlier. Thirty minutes is usually a good length of time to spend winding down for bedtime, so if you find that your routine tends to run past this, try to cut it down a bit. If your baby is under tired, make bedtime a little later than usual. Adjusting their typical bedtime by just 15 minutes can have a huge impact on your baby’s likelihood to fight sleep.

Alter Your Baby’s Entire Sleep Routine.

If your baby is always overtired at the end of the day, your whole routine might need an overhaul. How much awake time does she have between naps? The issue might be that she needs to be awake for shorter periods of time, which will keep her from burning out before bedtime. For under-tired babies, longer periods of awake time could be the answer.

If your baby is still fighting sleep and you feel like you’ve run out of potential solutions, it’s best to talk to your doctor. Considering the setup of your baby’s sleep environment and what she’s sleeping on may also be worth your while!