Why Do Babies Fight Sleep? 15 Tips to Get You Back on Track

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 06/08/23 •  Sleep / Sleep Tips

Are you a sleep-deprived parent struggling to get your baby to sleep through the night? It can be frustrating and exhausting when your little one fights sleep, leaving both of you feeling drained. But have no fear, we’re here to help! Join us as we understand why do babies fight sleep and provide some tips to help you get your baby back into a healthy sleep routine.

Why Do Babies Fight Sleep?

The Most Common Reasons For Babies Fighting Sleep

Knowing why do babies fight sleep will undoubtedly help you understand exactly what you need to do to get them back into a healthy sleep routine. As well as the more common reasons outlined above, your baby can also fight sleep because:

Why Do Babies Fight Sleep Infographic
  1. They are overstimulated,
  2. Your baby is overtired,
  3. They have day and night confusion (this is very common),
  4. Your baby is experiencing a sleep regression,
  5. They are hungry!
  6. They are teething,
  7. They are struggling with separation anxiety,
  8. Your baby is experiencing some form of discomfort,
  9. There has been a change to your daily routine,
  10. They are overcoming an illness,
  11. Your baby is hitting a developmental milestone.

How Do I Get My Baby To Stop Fighting Sleep?

The reasons why your baby is fighting sleep will ultimately dictate how you deal with it…

So whether you suspect your baby is overstimulated or overtired, has day-night confusion, is experiencing a sleep regression or hitting a big milestone, try the following 15 tips to get your precious sleep schedules back on track:

1. Learn Your Baby’s Sleep Cues And Grab The Sleep Window

When dealing with sleep and babies it is important to know what sleep cues to look out for during baby’s wake window because if they are missed then you will have a harder time getting your little one to sleep.

Common sleep cues in babies are:

I know… it sounds bizarre, but trust me… An overtired baby will resist sleeping more than a normally tired baby as their bodies will produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to keep themselves awake.

2. Establish A Healthy Bedtime Routine

I am always going on about a bedtime routine and that is because it is a true parenting life saver.

We all function better with sleep and instilling in our children that bedtime is a non-negotiable is the key to you all getting the sleep you need. 

Having a regular, well established evening routine allows your little one to learn the signals and sleep associations that bedtime is coming and they will be less likely to fight sleep.

3. Try Swaddling

While your baby is very young they will still have the Moro or Startle Reflex which can wake them abruptly as they are falling asleep.

Swaddling can prevent this from happening and also makes your baby feel more secure.

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4. Teach Your Baby To Self Settle

I know this one is hard as we all love to cuddle and hold our babies…

However, babies will need to learn to sleep alone at some point and teaching your baby to self-settle is very important if you do not want to be rocking your little one to sleep for months to come because they will only sleep when held.

Here’s a quick video I made to guide you through the self-settling process:

5. Re-Configure Your Baby’s Nap Schedules

When asking “why do babies fight sleep” you need to understand that as your baby grows their sleep patterns will change and your baby might be fighting sleep because they want to be awake more during the day.

Knowing how much sleep you should expect them to have during the day is important so that you can adjust their nap times accordingly.

Here’s a quick run-down of how much your baby should be sleeping by age:

0-6 Weeks:

6-12 Weeks:

3-6 Months:

6-9 Months:

9-12 Months: 

6. Adjust Baby’s Bedtime

Following on from adjusting nap times, your baby’s bedtime may need to change too.

In the first year, your baby’s bedtime will change from 10pm in the early months to no later than 7pm by the time they are 1 year old.

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

7. Make Sure Your Baby Is Tired Enough

I know this sounds like a contradiction to my last two points, but older babies tend to fight sleep because they are not tired enough.

Therefore, ensuring you get outside every day and expel some of that built up energy is a good way to ensure they are tired enough when night time comes around.

Also ensure that as they grow, you are offering them lots of new and stimulating things to do to keep their mind and body active (start off with small amounts and gradually increase as they get used to the new activities).

8. Don’t Let Your Baby Become Overtired Or Overstimulated 

As I mentioned earlier, a common reason why do babies fight sleep is that they are not able to tell you if they are tired, don’t want to be passed around or have had enough of being offered a new stimulating toy. 

Therefore, it is up to us as parents to be aware and recognise what baby has been doing, limit the amount of stimulation they receive and to know the signs they give when they have had enough. 

9. Make A Clear Difference Between Day And Night Interactions

Day-night confusion is a very common issue with young babies and can be fixed by making your interactions with them very different depending on what time of day it is.

Daytime interactions when your baby wakes up should be chatting and upbeat while waking up at night should be had with dim lights, low voices and no playing to further strengthen sleep habits and associations.

10. Make Sure Your Baby Is Comfortable

Making sure your baby is comfortable when they sleep may seem obvious but as they cannot tell you how they are feeling, you need to think for them.

11. Make Sure Your Baby’s Sleep Environment Is Conducive To Sleep

When asking “why do babies fight sleep” you must understand that baby’s environment plays a huge role in their ability to fall and stay asleep.

Your baby will sleep better if their sleeping environment is dimly lit, at the right temperature and is calm and welcoming. 

Many babies experience separation anxiety any time from 6 months onwards and making their sleep environment cosy and familiar will help with this. A favourite soft toy or musical toy playing a familiar tune and even a comforting nightlight will make separating from you easier.

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Its gentle glow makes it the best night light for feeding baby, diaper changes, or comforting your little one back to sleep.

As your baby grows the Cozy Starry Night Light's starry sky projection can provide comfort and gentle quiet time stimulation. Its soft lighting ensures a dreamy, peaceful environment, supporting your baby’s natural sleep cycle.

It really is a fantastic nightlight (at a very reasonable price!)

  • Eye-friendly warm lighting with adjustable brightness.
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  • Rechargeable battery, so it's very portable.
  • A USB adapter is not included for charging.
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  • Battery life varies based on the brightness settings.
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A comfortable bassinet, crib or Moses basket will also help your baby to feel safe and cosy too.

A white noise machine works wonders too for babies who are easily woken by loud noises or distracted when falling asleep. This is my current favourite white noise machine.

My Top Pick
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12. Make Sure Your Baby Has Had Enough To Eat

As I briefly touched on earlier, ensuring your baby takes a full feed and is burped before going to sleep is essential if you wish your baby to sleep for a decent length of time.

If you’re struggling to burp your baby, read this article for more advice.

13. Make Sure Your Baby Is Having Tummy Time During The Day

Just like us, very young babies need to exercise too.

And after spending a lot of time on their back, tummy time provides the perfect opportunity to have a different view of the world as well as expel a lot of energy (both physically and mentally) to boost their physical development.

Tummy time mats are the perfect investment for these exercise sessions.

Baby's First Tummy Time Mat
Bright Starts Tummy Time Prop & Play Activity Mat - Polar Bear

With this cushioned tummy time mat, your little one will have the cosiest space to support all their wiggles and kicks. Including a cute prop-up pillow, plush seal, baby-safe mirror and silk tags, this adorable mat will help every newborn love tummy time!

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If you’re baby is struggling with tummy time, read this article to help navigate this tricky situation.

14. Dealing With Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common reason for why do babies fight sleep in babies over 6 months of age (particularly between 8 and 10 months old).

However, separation anxiety is usually a passing phase so it is important that you stick to the established bedtime and evening routines during this time.

Along with making the bedroom environment safe, familiar and cosy, self-settling will help with your baby’s anxiety about being left alone.

And having a favourite soft toy and or a favourite musical toy will also help.

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15. Stay Calm And Be Consistent

When dealing with sleep issues it is important to stay calm and be consistent.

If your normally smooth and seamless bedtime and nap schedule has hit a bumpy patch, don’t think you have to change everything!

Consider the above issues regarding age or milestones and then stick with your plan.

Remember, the bedtime routine needs to be stuck to as much as possible for things to return to normal as quickly as possible.

Reassurance For The Parents

Sleep and getting enough of it is one of the biggest issues for parents of new babies.

Some will quite naturally be great sleepers… while others will put up more resistance and there is no one solution that fixes all the answers.

However, I can assure you that if you have a collection of great sleep remedies to hand and an understanding of how much sleep your baby needs, eventually you and your baby will get the sleep you need and deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions About Why Do Babies Fight Sleep

Looking for more information about why do babies fight sleep and what you can do to help? Here are the most common questions answered:

How Can I Help My Baby Sleep Better?

There are several things you can do to help your baby sleep better. One of the most important things is to establish a consistent sleep routine. This can include things like a warm bath, a lullaby, and a story. You can also try creating a calm and quiet environment, using white noise, and making sure your baby is comfortable.

What Are Some Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep?

Some tips for getting a baby to sleep include swaddling, rocking, and using a pacifier. You can also try putting your baby down when they are drowsy but not yet asleep, and using a consistent sleep routine. It’s also important to make sure your baby is not hungry or uncomfortable before putting them to bed.

Why Is It Important For Babies To Get Enough Sleep?

Getting enough sleep is important for babies because it helps with their physical and cognitive development. It also helps with their mood and behavior. Babies who don’t get enough sleep may be more fussy, irritable, and have a harder time learning and developing.

How Can I Establish A Good Sleep Routine For My Baby?

Establishing a good sleep routine for your baby can take time and patience. It’s important to be consistent and to create a calm and quiet environment. You can also try using white noise, a consistent bedtime, and a consistent sleep routine. It’s also important to make sure your baby is comfortable and not hungry before putting them to bed.

What Are Some Signs That My Baby Is Ready For Sleep?

Some signs that your baby is ready for sleep include rubbing their eyes, yawning, and becoming fussy or irritable. They may also become quieter and more still. It’s important to pay attention to your baby’s cues and to put them to bed when they are showing signs of tiredness.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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