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

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 05/11/22 •  9 min read  •  Baby » Baby Sleep

So, why do babies fight sleep?

Surely they love it as much as we do!?

Well… it seems that some babies have decided that sleep is for the weak and they’d much rather stay awake and disrupt your sleep too.

Aren’t they just so kind and thoughtful?

The honest truth is that: your baby fights sleep for a huge variety of reasons…

And you’ve got to do a bit of investigating to figure out what is causing your baby to fight to sleep in order to help them get back into a consistent sleep schedule and sleeping through the night again.

Not only for their sake, but for yours too!

So before our sleep-deprived eyes drift closed, let’s get right into the question…

Why Do Babies Fight Sleep Infographic

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 because if they are missed then getting your little one to sleep will be an uphill struggle!

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!

So definitely keep an eye out for these subtle sleep cues.

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 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

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.

Always remember that SLEEP BREEDS SLEEP so do not worry if a long nap in the afternoon will impact their sleep at night, if anything it may help them settle down to sleep at night better!

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.

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 nighttime 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.

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

As I mentioned earlier, a common reason for babies fighting sleep is that they are not able to tell you if they are tired or have had enough of being offered a new stimulating toy. 

Therefore, it is up to us as parents to 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 kept dim, with low voices and no playing.

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

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.

A comfortable bassinet, crib or Moses basket will also help your baby to feel safe and cosy too.

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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 development.

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

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14. Dealing With Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is common in babies over 6 months of age (but 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!

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!

So if you enjoyed this post and know other parents who would enjoy this content, be sure to give it a share!

And if you have any further questions about why babies fight sleep or if you have any blog recommendations that you’d like me to write about then please drop me an email at [email protected] and let me know. I love to hear from you.

Thank you for your continued support and until next time, with love and support, Happy Parenting!

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Paula McLaren

Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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