It can be highly frustrating as a new parent when you can see that your child is suffering because they are overtired, yet no matter what you do, they still fight the urge to allow themselves to fall asleep.
So why do they do it? And, more importantly, how do you stop them without further escalating the situation?
For some babies, falling asleep is a breeze, but just like with adults, not everyone is the same, and for some, falling asleep can be a daily battle.
Before anything else, you need to try to narrow down the reasons that might be keeping your little one from drifting off because, like with anything, there are various possible causes. For example, it could be related to their sleep schedule or because they are suffering from a sleep condition such as sleep apnea, which appears in 1 in 5 children.
Other reasons for your baby struggling to nod off at night can be caused by something as simple as the environment they’re in or even something as simple as going through a period of teething or being hungry.
However, throughout this guide, I will talk you through all the possible reasons your baby may be fighting sleep and what you can do to try and stop them, whether by changing your habits or putting a new routine in place.
Reasons Babies Might be Fighting Sleep
There are more reasons than you might think for why your baby might be fighting sleep. You might be blaming yourself, or you may think this is the way your baby is. However, more often than not, there is a genuine cause for why your baby isn’t falling asleep when they’re tired, such as:
- Your baby might simply be at a stage where they are going through changes, disrupting their cognitive state and interfering with their usual sleep routine.
- Perhaps there has been a change in your life, such as a new pet, you’ve moved house, or someone new has joined the family household.
- Your baby might be overstimulated.
- Sleep regression is an unknown change in sleeping patterns that can happen at any stage in a child’s life.
- Teething, pain, discomfort, or illness.
- Day and night confusion.
- They could be overtired.
- They’re hungry or thirsty.
How to Stop Your Baby Fighting Sleep?
Because there are so many reasons your baby might be fighting sleep, you can also do many things to try and stop it from happening, but first, you need to try and establish the cause. Once you’ve narrowed it down, finding a solution will be much easier.
Whether your child is simply over tired or suffering from discomforts such as teething pain or colic, here are some things you can try that will get you on your way back to a regular sleep routine and improve your and your baby’s sleep quality.
1. Avoid Overstimulation
One reason your baby might be fighting sleep is that they are overstimulated, this could be because of distractions in the room, a new toy, bright lights, or too much activity before bedtime.
To avoid overstimulation, remove anything that you think may keep your baby’s mind active a couple of hours before bedtime, and try to create a calm and relaxing atmosphere.
2. A Comfortable Place to Sleep
Like adults, babies need a warm and comfortable place to sleep, where they feel safe and content. For instance, having a wet nappy or what they wear to bed can make them feel uncomfortable, as can the wrong bed sheets.
To ensure your baby is comfortable, check that you have provided the following:
- Cool, clean sheets
- A clean nappy
- A bedtime feed
- Suitable clothing or a sleeping bag.
3. A Calming Atmosphere
A baby can often sense if you are stressed or anxious, which can occur when you’ve had night after night of sleep struggles. However, it’s essential to remember that if a baby feels you’re tense, they will be too, making it difficult to relax. As hard as it might be, try your best to remain calm and speak in quiet, soothing tones when getting your baby ready for bed.
4. Sufficient Feeding
If your baby goes to bed feeling hungry, they will likely try their best to fight sleep, no matter how tired they might be, so making sure they have the necessary amount of food before bed is vital.
However, on the flip side, if they have overeaten, this can cause stomach aches and colic, so make sure you’re aware of the adequate amount of food your baby needs, and put them to bed on a comfortable belly full of food.
5. Sleep Environment
Just like when adults are suffering from sleep disorders, one of the first things recommended is an ideal sleeping environment. Your baby’s room should be cool (not cold). It should also be dimly lit and cozy. Some babies benefit from sleep aids such as musical lights or a cuddly toy. However, it’s important to ensure they’re not distracting objects such as activity toys or bright lights when purchasing such items.
6. Assess Your Baby’s Sleepiness
When trying to create a routine for your baby, it can be easy to become obsessed with making sure they go to bed at the same time every night. However, while your baby develops, forcing them into bed when they’re wide awake can adversely affect them, causing unnecessary stress and fretting.
If you can see that your baby is wide awake, and showing no signs of being asleep, spend some time in a calming space, using relaxing techniques such as singing, reading, or swaddling before even attempting to place them in their sleep space.
7. Identify When Your Baby is Tired
When you’re a new parent, it can be hard at first to recognize when your baby is showing signs of needing sleep. Therefore it’s essential to spend the first couple of months identifying these signs. These can be anything from rubbing their eyes, scratching behind their ears, restlessness, and yawning.
8. Put a Sleep Schedule in Place
Although I said before that sometimes you have to work outside of a sleep schedule to stop your baby from fighting sleep, it is important overall to have one in place. Adults and children have all been proven to get better quality sleep when they have a nightly routine.
Your routine can be whatever works for you, a warm bath, a bedtime story, or a lullaby. Whatever you find works for you. Over time, your baby will realize these routines mean it’s time to start preparing for sleep.
9. Self Soothing
Trying to cuddle your baby each time they cry or show signs of fighting off sleep can be tempting. Although cuddling has been proven beneficial in sleep, it can also sometimes hinder your progress in establishing a routine for your baby.
Try to allow your baby to self-soothe and see if they can fall asleep by themselves. In the long run, this will drastically improve your and your baby’s sleep quality, as they won’t expect to be held and rocked to sleep as their only way of drifting off.
A Final Analysis
Establishing a sleep-wake routine with your baby can be challenging, and you might feel that you’ve tried every tip in the book. However, it’s important to remember that these things take time and won’t happen overnight. Allow your new strategies a couple of weeks before you expect any improvements, and try to remain positive and patient, and remember, you will get there.
If you are concerned that an underlying health condition might be causing your baby’s sleep disorder, or you think that they may be in pain of any kind, always seek advice from a medical professional who can rule out anything concerning you.Lastly, it’s important to remember that no two babies are the same, whether you’ve had children before or this is your first time; different techniques work for some while they might not work for others, so don’t be deterred, after all, you’re doing your best for your baby. So try not to compare your experience with your baby to others.