What to Look for and Do If Your Infant or Toddler Is Having Problems Falling Asleep
Have you found that your infant is “fighting” sleep lately?? Naps are becoming increasingly difficult, or the child’s irritability seems to have no end. Getting ready for bed and/or napping takes a long time and is fraught with tears. Even though this is a typical and frustrating experience, it doesn’t make it any easier for everyone involved. This is a common occurrence for babies as early as four months, in my opinion. There is a lot of growth and separation anxiety around the 6- and 9-month mark. If you can’t figure out what’s making you so irritable, you may want to just let it pass. Pain, discomfort, or difficulties feeding are the first things to rule out.
When a baby is unable to go asleep, it might appear in a variety of different ways. A fight is the most typical kind of conflict. When a baby is sobbing, wiggling out of your arms, or battling at the breast, it’s not uncommon for you to shed tears as well. This is not the only way to handle naps and bedtimes. Finding out what’s causing “fighting sleep” is the first step toward a solution While it may be difficult to determine the exact cause of a baby’s sleep deprivation, these are some of the most prevalent culprits.
What does “fighting sleep” even mean?
The phrase “fighting sleep” is a misnomer because newborns don’t really “FIGHT” to get some shut-eye. When we’re ready to sleep and our systems aren’t overworked, sleep comes easily to us. For babies, the same holds true.
When a baby appears to be “fighting” the urge to sleep, there is nearly always something wrong with them. Somehow, they don’t feel like they can sleep because of whatever is going on. Getting curious about what’s going on behind that tears is entirely on our shoulders. Even if it takes a few attempts to figure out what your baby is saying, don’t worry.
What does “fighting sleep” look like?
As there is no one-size-fits-all sleep solution for babies, there is no one-size-fits-all symptom of “fighting” sleep. It’s really possible that a baby’s temperament can differ greatly from one another. As a parent, I’ve heard many stories about how difficult it is to deal with an uneasy, fussy, or even an inconsolable baby. A lot of sobbing or screaming, as well as arching their back, turning stiff, pushing off of you, scratching, etc., could be involved. Baby may fall asleep, only to startle awake and start crying all over again after a little slumber.
You may also notice a difference in their sleeping habits, such as making it tougher or perhaps impossible for them to take their final nap of the day, skipping their morning nap, etc. Even if “fighting sleep” isn’t as dramatic for your baby, you’ll notice that they suddenly have a tougher time falling asleep.
Five Reasons Why Your Baby Might Be “Fighting” Sleep
Reason #1: Separation Anxiety
Having a baby means that they naturally want to be in our company. It’s! Finally!
It’s possible that your infant isn’t sleeping well because they’re trying to avoid being separated from you. There are times when a child can sense that a separation is imminent (like going to sleep in a crib), and their state of alarm is awakened, making it difficult for them to fall asleep.
It’s possible that baby will seek out a connection with you even more feverishly if they’re separated from you during the day (like at daycare!). We only get to spend a few hours in the evening with our baby if we’re both working full time. It can be difficult to truly connect with your infant while you’re rushing through supper, bedtime, and all the other home tasks. When we try to separate at bedtime, they can sense this and go into full alert.
Reason #2: Overtired / Under-tired Baby
It may seem counterintuitive, but a baby who is “overtired” will have a more difficult time falling asleep (and staying asleep!) than a baby who hasn’t been suffering from sleep deficit. Overtired babies have shorter sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) between sleep cycles, which causes sleep cycle transitions to be disrupted and fewer hours of NREM sleep to be obtained. As long as you don’t overanalyze the fact that your child is exhausted, you’ll be OK. True sleep deprivation or chronic overtiredness affects babies infrequently. If your child is having sleep or behavioral issues, it’s easy to point the finger at the crib. If your baby is fussy, it may be a sign that he or she needs more stimulation, or that he or she is simply not tired enough to go to sleep yet. Right, it’s a bit of a conundrum.
When I know I’ll be gone during her waking window, I’ll put her down early… just for her to reject the nap. This happens to me all the time with my own infant. Similarly, your infant may be overtired and cranky, or he or she may be undertired and ready for sleep. As long as it’s only an infrequent scheduling mishap, it’s no big deal! The longer the waking window or the later the nap, the less likely you are to get into an argument with your partner. That’s a possibility, isn’t it?
Reason #3: Environmental Disruptions
Observe how your baby sleeps and what might be causing them to wake up in the middle of the night. What if there is anything in the room that is too stimulating? You should take a look at their clothing and see if they’re wearing something that’s irritating them in any way. With a white noise machine, your infant will be able to sleep better.
Reason #4: Comfort
Often, a baby’s fussiness is a sign that something is wrong with their bodily well-being. Every now and then, a child simply has to go potty. There’s no need to freak out about things like this because they happen all the time. One caution, however: If your infant is feeding to sleep and is fighting you at the breast, please visit a lactation expert to rule out anything catastrophic. It could be the deciding factor!
Reason #5: Parental stress
This is a tremendous deal! You and your baby will be able to tell whether we’re concerned or anxious about bedtime or naps. Babies have a remarkable ability to pick up on our emotions, and they rely on this to help them regulate their own. Consequently, our anxiety affects our child. What’s worse is that it can become a habit, making people believe that sleeping is a dangerous or uncomfortable experience. Make a list of things you can do when you’re feeling overwhelmed or upset because your baby won’t go to sleep, and use them as coping mechanisms when you’re feeling that way.
Sleep problems vs. formal sleep disorders
The aforementioned types of sleep disorders in children are rather prevalent. One in two youngsters have trouble sleeping, according to the American Family Physician.
There is less of a prevalence of formal sleep disorders, such as newborn sleep apnea or bradycardia. Consult your child’s pediatrician right away if you feel a medical condition is behind your baby’s bad sleeping patterns. Medicine or other treatments may be required.
How much sleep does my baby need?
My next step was to determine if my son was receiving adequate sleep after ruling out a medical condition. I kept a sleep journal for a week. To my dismay, even though it appeared like the baby was always wailing, I learned that the baby was actually sleeping. My mood has improved greatly as a result of this!
When determining how much sleep your baby requires in order to be healthy and content, it is helpful to first consider the sleep demands of your infant in terms of age groups. The Department of Neurology at Columbia University has devised a handy chart to demonstrate how much sleep babies need based on their age. You’ll see for yourself:
- The total number of hours of sleep required
- The total number of hours of sleep required at night.
- Total number of waking hours required
Use a sleep journal to keep track of your baby’s sleep once you know how much sleep he or she requires.
Even if your kid is getting the recommended amount of sleep, they may still be experiencing a sleep issue. For example, despite the fact that my son was obtaining enough sleep, the interruptions to his sleep cycles caused him to have poor quality rest. In addition, it wasn’t acceptable for the viewer’s age group.
Babies who are three months old or younger sleep in spans of an hour or two at a time, depending on their size. Older babies, on the other hand, shouldn’t be crying as much. According to Columbia University, two-thirds of six-month-old newborns sleep through the night (six to eight hours) on a regular basis by the time they’re six months old.
How to Stop Your Baby from “Fighting” Sleep
When baby consistently resists going to sleep, it’s time to start asking questions and considering the possible factors I listed above. It all depends on your baby’s situation, but here are some ideas!
If your baby is fighting sleep because of over/under tiredness, try this:
Your kid may be over or undertired because their sleepy cues have changed or are being overlooked. They seem drowsy, but could it be that they’re actually tired? Perhaps a change of scenery or some time in the fresh air would be beneficial to them. Is it a new game or toy? Would you like something to eat? If you’re fidgeting and staring off into space, it could be a sign of sleepiness, but it could also indicate boredom.
Your infant may not be ready to go to sleep even though you think they are, because they were not yet exhausted enough. It’s good to take a break, come back in 15-20 minutes, and try again. Try increasing your wake times for a few days to see if that makes a difference! Many newborns require a bit of a jolt of energy before they go to sleep or nap. There are many ways to accomplish this.
Alternatively, your child may be overtired and require a slightly reduced waking time. Babies that are more sensitive or have a lower level of activity may require more time to relax and prepare for sleep. They may require additional time in a dimly lit area, a lengthy nursing session, or other similar circumstances. There are certain newborns that benefit from a shorter window of time before going to sleep, so keep this in mind when planning your schedule. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule.
Play with these things and see if you can pique your curiosity. If one approach doesn’t work, try the other for a few days. My blog piece about overtiredness has further ideas.
If your baby is fighting sleep because of separation anxiety, try this:
When it comes to sleep, many of our babies are battling a sense of separation from their caregivers. When you enter the nursery, they may completely freak out, or they may sleep well for contact naps, but you can’t put them down until you get them out of there. Playing in your child’s sleep room while they are awake can help them develop a positive association with sleep and separation, much like changing their diaper or nursing in your own bed can help you do.
As an alternative, you can “love bomb” your kid with lots of cuddles, kisses and stories. Prior to and throughout the bedtime ritual. When it’s time for your baby to go to sleep, try to include some rough and tumble play or cuddling with him. Also, go slowly when it’s time to go to sleep. It doesn’t have to take an eternity, but you should be aware of how fast you’re going. It’s possible for a baby to pick up on that energy and become even more resistant to it.
If your baby is fighting sleep because of parent’ stress, try this:
Young children are like a reflection in a mirror. They’re able to read our thoughts and feelings. Stress and anxiety, as well as wrath and rage, can be transmitted to your infant through your breath during a nap or bedtime. Because they’ll see that you’re anxious, which makes it difficult for you to sleep, they’ll come to believe that sleep isn’t something to look forward to, enjoy, or feel secure about.
Talking to a therapist is usually a good choice if you’re suffering with coping mechanisms. Check out my Instagram Highlight “Hard Night” for some support, and to hear from other parents who have been through the same thing.
What do you think?