Why do Babies Fight Sleep?

As an adult, when you feel tired you go to sleep. It seems so easy for us and that is why many new parents are baffled about why their babies fight sleep. All babies fight sleep at some point and it is usually because they are overtired.


The Window Before Babies Fight Sleep

Your baby has a ‘sleep window’ before he starts to fight sleep. That time occurs when your little one starts to become drowsy but is not sleepy enough to actually start crying.

At this prime time, it is best to put your baby to bed or your infant will start fighting sleep which means a lot of crying and fussing. New parents often have a difficult time determining the sleep window so they will miss the signs and their baby will start to grow cranky, fussy, and inevitably cry.

As your baby grows fussier, he will start becoming overtired and fight sleep even harder

Other Reasons Why Your Baby Might Fight Sleep

Although most babies have simply become overly tired and fight sleep, there are other reasons why your baby might not want to drift off into blissful slumber.

  • Not sufficiently tired: Maybe your baby just isn’t tired enough to fall asleep. Young babies require short wake times, but as your baby matures into toddlerhood his wake time lengthens. You should also evaluate how many hours your baby has napped during the day.
  • Separation anxiety: At about nine to ten months old many infants start to go through separation anxiety. At this point, your baby doesn’t want you to lay him down to sleep. He wants to constantly be held and close to you. This phase often peaks at 18 months old and can reoccur at the age of two.
  • Personality and temperament: It is not uncommon for an infant to simply fight sleep because he doesn’t want to miss anything. If your baby is extremely engaging throughout the day, he might not want to readily fall asleep because he just enjoys being awake too much.
  • Sleep patterns: Most babies initially fall into a light sleep for about ten minutes. During that time, if you attempt to place your baby into his crib he may wake up and start to cry. Each baby has his own unique sleep pattern but most average 10 minutes of light sleep before falling into a deep slumber that they have a harder time waking from.

Solutions for Sleep-Fighting

Once you understand why your baby is fighting sleep, you can work on solutions to fix the problem. Here are six solutions to solve sleep fighting.

Change Bedtime

If your baby is fighting sleep because he is too tired then you might want to adjust his bedtime so he is not overly tired. However, if your baby is fighting sleep because he isn’t tired enough to fall asleep then you will need to provide him with more wake time.

Eliminate or Shorten Naps

If your baby is awake at bedtime then you can shorten daytime naps. If your baby is taking two naps a day then you might want to eliminate one of the naps to help ensure he is tired enough at bedtime to fall asleep.

Create a Bedtime Routine

Often a soothing routine at bedtime will help relax your baby so he more readily falls asleep. A warm bath, a lullaby, rocking, or reading to your baby can create a relaxing atmosphere so your infant can more easily fall into a restful slumber.

Bedtime routines should always be at the same time each night consistent in order to be effective, according to says certified sleep consultant Christine Stevens of Sleepy Tots Consulting.

Darken the Room

Many babies cannot enter a restful slumber if the nursery is too bright.

Add Background Noise

White noise or a soothing lullaby often help your baby fall asleep. Many infants have a difficult time falling asleep in a completely quiet room.

Provide Comfort

During the separation phase of your baby’s life, you might want to provide additional comfort and reassurances. Checking in on your baby after you lay him down in the nursery to sleep or staying in the nursery with your baby until he drifts off are all reassuring to a restless, fearful baby.

What the Experts Say

“Babies need to be parented to sleep, not just put to sleep. Some babies can be put down while drowsy yet still awake and drift others need parental help by being rocked or nursed to sleep. The reason is that while adults can usually go directly into the state of deep sleep, infants in the early months enter sleep through an initial period of light sleep. After twenty minutes or more they gradually enter deep sleep, from which they are not so easily aroused,” says Dr. William Sears,  an American pediatrician and the author or co-author of more than 30 parenting books.

“For babies under 12 months, it’s typically a timing issue. You have to hit that exact moment — the beginning of the yawn, the heavy eyes — or you often miss the opportunity for a nap. At that point, they’re overtired and too wired to fall asleep,” according to Dr. Cathryn Tobin, MD, author of The Lull-A-Baby Sleep Plan.

“If parents rush their baby to bed, then you may get a baby who will cry and protest more because they might not be ready for bed yet, or they don’t know what is expected of them. The bedtime routine should be relaxing and pleasant to help increase melatonin – it should be at least 20 to 30 minutes long to allow them to get ready for bed,” according to sleep expert and parenting coach Zoe Chu of SG Supernanny.

“Getting into a good bedtime routine is simple. Whatever your bedtime routine is, make sure it’s consistent and at the same time every night,” suggests certified sleep consultant Christine Stevens of Sleepy Tots Consulting.

When your baby fights sleep it is never easy, but you can take comfort in knowing that virtually every parent suffers from the same dilemma. Babies fight sleep because they are overtired, not sleepy enough, scared of being alone or having their sleep pattern disturbed.

Figuring out why your infant is fighting sleep will help you effectively deal with the problem and instill good sleep habits in your baby that will last throughout toddlerhood.


Kimberly Sharpe

Based in Florida, Kimberly Sharpe has been a full-time writer since 2006. Her writing has a strong focus on travel, parenting, outdoor sports, gardening, health issues, pets (both domestic and exotic), home improvement, DIY, and business promos. Her work has appeared in USA Today, MORR Gear, Hipmunk, Travelocity, Livestrong, Hotels.com, Hydro Live, Maximum Yield, eHow, Yahoo News, SF Gate, Garden Guides, Whitefence, S.F. Gate, fixr.com, and numerous other publications. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, India, and Sri Lanka in an effort to expand her knowledge and enhance her writing skills.

About The Toddle

We’re a media company helping parents get clearer answers to questions about raising smart, healthy kids. Get in touch to learn more about our mission.

7119 E Shea Blvd #109-176, Scottsdale, AZ 85254
(623) 226-8142