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8 Reasons Why Babies Fight Sleep (And How to Help!)

Do you spend awake nights with your baby asking yourself, Why? Why do babies fight sleep? Here are some reasons they’re fighting the Z’s, and what you can do about it!

mom holding crying baby fighting sleep

Babies (especially newborns) are naturally inclined to get a lot of sleep! That’s why it feels so frustrating when they fight it!

You know your baby wants sleep. You know they need it! So why do babies fight sleep?

The truth is, your baby doesn’t hate going to sleep. There’s just some obstacle standing in the way of them and those precious Z’s!

You might have to do some investigating to pinpoint the problem. But through a little bit of observation and trial-and-error, we can get to the bottom of this!

It turns out that there could be plenty of potential factors at play. Let’s talk about some possible reasons that your baby might be fighting sleep and how you can help.

Why do babies fight sleep?

Why Do Babies Hate Going to Sleep?

Your baby does not hate sleep!

I actually hear this a lot as a sleep consultant. Parents think their baby just doesn’t like sleep or just doesn’t need as much sleep as other babies.

But let me tell you, it’s not the case.

There could potentially be lots of things that are keeping your baby from getting the rest they need!

Here are some of the most common reasons why babies fight sleep.

1. Day/night confusion

If your baby is a newborn, chances are pretty good that they’re fighting sleep at night because they still have their days and nights mixed up.

This is completely normal, since the more natural circadian rhythm develops between 6-12 weeks. Your newborn will grow out of this, I promise!

Babies fight sleep when they're sick

2. Health issues

If your baby is struggling with reflux, colic, or illness they may have a harder time going to sleep. There are things you can do to help your sick baby sleep as well as ways to help a reflux baby sleep.

If their medical problems persist, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician to see if there are some treatments or medication that can help!

3. Inability to self-soothe

If you haven’t taught your baby how to sleep on their own, they may not have the skills yet! Learn how you can stop nursing to sleep if you want your baby to be able to fall asleep without a bottle or breast each time!

If you need help teaching your baby independent sleep habits, check out The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System, my sleep guide designed for babies 4 months through 2.5 years old who are still in a crib!

Babies fight sleep because of separation anxiety

4. Separation anxiety

With every day that passes, your baby is growing more and more bonded to you. Separation anxiety means that your baby starts to miss you when you’re not near!

This can become a real issue when your baby is around 9 months old and can be the cause of the 9-month sleep regression, because their brains begin to process that when you’re not around, it means you’re somewhere else.

5. Physical growth and developmental milestones

The whole point of parenthood is to help your baby thrive by developing and growing, but sometimes it’s that growth that throws a wrench in their sleep routine. Doesn’t seem fair, but it’s true!

It turns out that a lot of the common sleep regressions are triggered by your baby hitting new milestones. They’d much rather be practicing their new skills than sleeping.

baby boy awake

6. Not tired enough.

There’s a chance that your baby is fighting sleep because they’re not tired enough yet. I know that can feel frustrating, especially if you’re exhausted and trying to keep a schedule.

Your baby needs enough sleep pressure before a nap or bedtime in order to fall asleep and take a decent nap!

Overstimulated babies fight sleep

7. Overstimulation

Your baby needs physical and neurological stimulation to learn new things. But not everyone realizes that there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to stimulation for your growing baby!

If your baby is overstimulated, bed time will be a struggle. Learn how to spot an overstimulated baby and what you can do to avoid it.

8. Overtired

Sometimes being a new parent feels like dealing with Goldilocks—you’re frequently balancing on the line between too much and too little.

If you can believe it, it is possible to tire your baby out too much!

Why does an overtired baby fight sleep?

It mostly has to do with hormones: when a baby is overtired, their body’s stress response releases adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) into their system, creating dysregulation and making relaxing for sleep that much harder.

Why do babies fight sleep during the day?

Why Do Babies Fight Sleep During the Day?

Listen, I get it. Naps are hard!

Any number of the sleep-fighting reasons we discussed earlier could be at play during nap time, too.

While it’s pretty much a universal truth that most tiny humans will sleep for longer stretches at night, naps during the day are super variable.

The hardest part about naps is that your little baby’s sleep schedule is going to change many times during their first few years of life!

Just when you feel like you have a handle on things, they hit a new developmental milestone and things change all over again!

One of the best things you can do for your baby to help them with napping is to develop a solid nap routine.

Something you should keep in mind is that your baby’s quality of naps during the day has the ability to impact how well they sleep at night. In other words, sleep begets sleep so it’s important to get a handle on napping!

How do I get my baby to stop fighting sleep?

How Do I Get My Baby to Stop Fighting Sleep?

Babies will be babies, and that means they’re going to have some off days when sleep just isn’t going well. A few sleep hiccups every now and then is a natural part of the process!

But when it feels like every nap and every bedtime is a battle, it’s time to make some adjustments.

Let’s talk about how to get a baby to stop fighting sleep by following these tips!

Make sure your baby is tired enough to sleep

I followed an eat-play-sleep routine when my daughter was younger, and it always helped me tire her out before it was time to rest.

I also made sure to follow age-appropriate wake windows, because a baby’s ability to stay awake will increase as they grow.

mom and baby reading a book

Establish a strong sleep-time routine

Babies thrive on routine and predictability. They also learn to understand our signals that it’s time to sleep, even when they’re too young to understand our words just yet.

Babies as young as three months old can begin to recognize and follow routines! It’s our job to help them develop strong sleep associations, because they will make the routines more effective.

As you’re thinking about what to include in your routine, remember that simple can be most effective. Even better, the more simple your routine is, the easier it will be to take your sleep routine on the go—like when you’re traveling!

Babies fight sleep when nursery isn't conducive to sleep

Create an environment that is conducive to sleep

I recommend you make your baby’s nursery dark as possible. It will be easier for your baby to fall asleep (and stay asleep!) in a darkened space with limited noise.

I am a big fan of using blackout curtains in the nursery and a white noise machine to achieve an ideal sleep environment in your little one’s room.

Learn about common sleep regressions

If your baby has been sleeping pretty consistently and then all of the sudden their sleep changes drastically, you could be dealing with a sleep regression. These typically come on quickly and last for 2 to 6 weeks!

If you’re ready for your baby to stop fighting sleep and start loving sleep, check out my Baby D.R.E.A.M. System. I’ll walk you through the process of getting your baby the sleep they need!

Amy Motroni
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