A common problem many parents face is an infant who keeps fighting sleep. No matter how tired and irritated they are, some babies just don't want to shut their eyes and snooze.
Not all babies have this issue — some fall asleep as soon as you put them to bed, whether day or night.
However, if your baby is one of those who can't seem to get any rest, don't despair. Once you understand the most common reasons that cause babies to fight sleep, you'll be able to fix them and help your child (and you) get some much-needed rest.
Read on to learn how to get your baby to stop fighting sleep.
Why Do Babies Avoid Sleeping?
So, what leads a baby to avoid sleeping? Usually, it's due to one of the following causes. Some are more obvious, while others are less so.
They Are Hungry
You likely find it difficult to fall asleep when you're starving, and your baby is no different. Even if you've fed them, they may cry or have trouble sleeping if they're still hungry. Some typical signs of a hungry baby include finger sucking and lip licking.
They Are Too Excited
Many things can cause an infant to get excited. Overstimulation can occur when you expose a baby to too much light, noise, people, etc. For example, if you've been playing with them or showing them a video, they could be overstimulated and may need time to calm down.
They Are Ill
It isn't always immediately apparent, but your newborn could be sick or otherwise in pain. Ear infections, colds, and a sore throat are common illnesses that affect infants. If your child is teething and hurting, they may have a tough time falling asleep too.
They Are Overtired or Not Tired Enough
Sometimes, babies just aren't tired enough to fall asleep. At other times, they are too cranky and overtired. Being overtired is tied to overstimulation. You might need to adjust their sleep schedule.
They Have Separation Anxiety
Many babies experience separation anxiety. This anxiety generally develops around the 8-10 month mark.
Separation anxiety is scary for young children. They're too young to understand that just because you're not with them now, that doesn't mean they have lost you forever. They may cry and wail, so make an effort to understand what they're feeling instead of getting annoyed.
Ways To Get Your Baby To Stop Fighting Sleep
So, what can you do to help your child get their rest? Here are some tips that will help.
Establish a Routine
It's critical to establish a pre-bedtime routine. That will help set your baby's circadian rhythm and soothe them so that they can fall asleep quicker.
That starts with establishing a set bedtime. You don't have to be exact to the minute, but your baby's body should start preparing itself to sleep around a specific time each night.
A pre-bedtime routine may include a bath, clothing your baby in pajamas, brushing their teeth, rocking their crib, singing them a song, etc.
In addition to settling on a bedtime routine, separate daytime from nighttime by performing different activities during each period. Daytime is playtime, but evenings are for eating, bathing, and relaxation.
Make Sure They Get Enough Sleep
To address possible overtiredness, ensure your toddler gets some rest when needed. If they're yawning, crying, or displaying irritated behavior, they might need a nap. If they're tired every day, a short daytime nap might fix the issue.
Skip the Daytime Nap
On the other hand, if your baby doesn't display signs of fatigue but still can't fall asleep at night, they might be getting too much rest during the day. Try skipping or shortening their daytime nap and see if it fixes the issue.
Feed Them Enough
Your child might not be getting enough food, or they might be thirsty. Newborns generally eat every 2-3 hours, while babies a few months older may only need to feed every 3-5 hours. Every child is different, so check with your doctor if you're unsure how much and how often to feed them.
In any case, watch out for signs of hunger, such as lip licking, sticking out their tongue, or sucking on their fingers.
Give Them Something To Teethe on
If your baby is teething, you can help them ease their distress by giving them a teething toy. A wet cloth or cold pacifier can also help relieve their suffering.
Avoid Too Much Stimulation
Your baby could be overexcited. So, how can you avoid overstimulating your child? Here are some things you might want to avoid:
- Having too many visitors coming in and out of the house
- Holding parties or drinking with friends
- Playing loud music throughout the day
- Letting your other kids play video games loudly
- Playing the TV loudly
- Keeping the lights on until late
- Giving your child too much screen time
Stimulation during the day is usually acceptable, but start cutting down on it as it gets dark.
Minimize Blue Light Exposure
Too much screen time can not only excite your baby but the blue light that digital screens give off can interfere with your baby's sleep rhythm. It doesn't just affect infants; many adults can't sleep because they spend too much time on their phones or laptops.
Blue light suppresses the natural production of melatonin, which is critical for sleep. All types of light can do that, but blue light is especially harmful.
Install Dark Curtains
There might be too much light in the room. Installing dark curtains can help your baby rest, especially during the summer, when their bedtime might be during daylight hours. Even at night, light from surrounding houses, streetlights, and cars can prevent your baby from slumbering.
Pay attention to light inside the room as well. Even a tiny light on a laptop or phone charger can be keeping your baby up.
Make Sure the Room Is At a Comfortable Temperature
As a general rule, babies should sleep at a temperature between 68° and 72°F. Depending on the season, your infant might be too cold or hot. During the summer, make sure you set the air conditioning to the right temperature.
During the winter, make sure the heating is on and your baby has warm pajamas. Check for drafts that might be coming in from a slightly opened window or door. There may also be cracks that you should seal in the window frames.
Use a White Noise Machine
A white noise machine can be incredible for helping babies sleep. They're inexpensive, and many parents find that they fix the issue of the sleep-avoidant baby altogether. White noise will soothe your baby and help them relax.
Take Them To a Doctor
As I mentioned, illness is a possible cause of sleep problems in infants. If you tried everything, but your baby still wails and cries at night, take them to a doctor for a quick checkup. There might be something you aren't noticing.
Show Them Affection
Remember, your baby might be suffering from separation anxiety. In that case, you want to relieve that anxiety — but you don't want to feed it. It's a catch-22; if you keep coming in to hug and kiss them whenever they cry, it might encourage more of the same behavior.
It's best to talk with your doctor about how to deal with separation anxiety. A professional healthcare expert can advise you on the best course of action.
You don't want to ignore your child, as it can lead to psychological problems later in life. It's important to show them love and affection, but you may also need to set some boundaries.
Get a Baby Monitor
A baby monitor can help you keep tabs on your infant as they sleep. Otherwise, it can be challenging to track when your baby is having difficulty sleeping.
With a baby monitor, you can continue your chores, eat, cook, do laundry, and clean the house while your infant is napping. You can watch out for signs of hunger, for example, with a split-screen video monitor. You can listen for crying, so you know when your child is in pain or experiencing separation anxiety.
Make sure you get a secure, hack-proof video baby monitor. Consider getting more than one monitor if you want to capture your child from many angles. Also, the monitor needs to have night vision, so you can observe your baby while they are sleeping at night.
If you move around a lot, consider getting a battery-powered monitor that you don't have to connect to the wall.
Above all, it is crucial to be consistent with what you do. For example, if your doctor advises you to deal with separation anxiety a certain way, keep doing that, even if you don't see results the first few days.
Also, once you've established bedtime and pre-bedtime routines (with input from your doctor), stick to that routine and bedtime — it can take some time until your child's circadian rhythm falls into place.