Solving the Mystery: Why is My Baby Fighting Sleep?

Picture this: it’s bedtime for your little one, but instead of drifting off to dreamland, they’re fighting sleep with all their might.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Many parents experience this scenario and struggle to understand why their baby is fighting sleep. In this blog post, we’ll explore common reasons why your baby fights sleep and offer solutions to help you and your baby get the rest you need.

Short Summary

  • Babies often fight sleep due to overtiredness, undertiredness, overstimulation, separation anxiety & discomfort.
  • Establish a soothing bedtime routine with consistent schedule and calming activities like reading stories or rocking.
  • Take care of yourself while dealing with your baby’s sleep issues by sleeping when the baby sleeps & practicing self-care.

Common Reasons Babies Fight Sleep

A baby fighting sleep, looking tired and frustrated

Firstly, why do babies fight sleep? Let’s explore a few of the primary causes. These can range from overtiredness to feeling hunger or discomfort. The most common culprits are overtiredness, undertiredness, overstimulation, separation anxiety, and discomfort. By understanding these causes, you can better address your baby’s sleep challenges and help them (and you) get a good night’s rest.

So let’s dive into these reasons and see how they may affect your baby’s sleep.


Overtiredness happens when a baby misses their sleep window, leading to difficulty falling asleep and increased fussiness. This can be a vicious cycle, as an overtired baby may become even more resistant to sleep, making it harder for them to catch up on rest. Are you wondering if your baby is overtired?

Here are some signs to look out for to determine whether he/she is tired.

  1. Extra crankiness
  2. Unreasonableness
  3. Clumsiness

It’s crucial to recognize your baby’s sleep windows to avoid overtiredness and ensure they get enough rest. This involves attention to sleepy cues like yawning, decreased activity, and fussiness. If your baby is overtired, try adjusting their bedtime by putting them to bed 15-30 minutes earlier for a couple of nights. Calming activities such as rocking, walking, singing, or a warm bath may help your baby relax and get some much-needed shut-eye.


Undertiredness, on the other hand, occurs when a baby isn’t tired enough to sleep, causing them to resist bedtime or naptime. This can be especially frustrating for parents who have carefully crafted a nap and sleep schedule.

To address undertiredness, observe your baby’s natural sleep patterns and adjust their schedule accordingly. This may involve limiting daytime sleep to build enough sleep pressure for nighttime rest.


Overstimulation can make it difficult for babies to wind down and fall asleep, especially if they are sensitive to their environment. This can be caused by too much noise, bright lights, or even a busy day full of activities.

To avoid overstimulation, try to reduce noise levels in your baby’s sleep environment, use blackout curtains or a white noise machine, and establish a soothing bedtime ritual to help your baby relax before sleep.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a normal developmental phase that can cause babies to fight sleep, as they may become distressed when separated from their caregiver. This baby fight sleep phenomenon, sometimes referred to as “baby fighting sleep,” usually occurs between the ages of 10-18 months and can last for a few weeks to months.

To help ease separation anxiety, try incorporating a comforting item like a security blanket or a soft toy into your baby’s bedtime routine.


Discomfort from factors such as illness, teething, or an uncomfortable sleep environment can cause babies to resist sleep. To help your baby feel more comfortable, pay close attention to their needs and adjust their sleep environment accordingly. This may include changing their clothes, using a different blanket, or addressing health-related issues with your pediatrician.

Ensuring your baby is comfortable and content will make it easier for them to fall and stay asleep.

Establishing a Soothing Bedtime Routine

A baby in a calm and restful environment, ready for bedtime

Now that we’ve explored the common reasons babies fight sleep let’s discuss how to establish a soothing bedtime routine. A consistent and calming bedtime routine can work wonders in helping your baby relax and fall asleep more easily. This involves creating a consistent schedule, incorporating calming activities, and optimizing the sleep environment.

Let’s dive deeper into these aspects to help you and your baby enjoy a more restful night.

Consistent Schedule

An image of a tired baby rubbing their eyes

A consistent sleep schedule is essential for regulating a baby’s internal clock and reinforcing the association between certain activities and sleep. This means establishing a regular bedtime and nap routine based on your baby’s natural sleep patterns and age-appropriate wake windows.

Remember, a baby’s sleep schedule is usually based on how long it’s been since they last woke up rather than the time on the clock. Maintaining a consistent schedule can help your baby develop healthy sleep habits and minimize bedtime battles.

Calming Activities

Incorporating calming activities into your baby’s bedtime routine can help them wind down and prepare for sleep. Such activities may include reading bedtime stories, singing a lullaby, or gently rocking or swaddling. These soothing rituals can help create a peaceful atmosphere and signal to your baby that it’s time for sleep.

Experiment with calming activities to find what works best for your baby and helps them relax before bed.

Sleep Environment

A baby's bedroom

Creating a sleep-friendly environment is crucial for helping your baby fall asleep. This includes maintaining a comfortable temperature (between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit), using blackout curtains to block out light, and minimizing noise distractions with a white noise machine or soft music.

Additionally, ensuring your baby’s safe and cozy sleep space can contribute to a better night’s rest. By optimizing your baby’s sleep environment, you can support their ability to self-soothe and sleep more soundly.

Recognizing and Responding to Baby’s Sleep Cues

Understanding your baby’s sleep cues is essential for helping them get the rest they need. By identifying signs of sleepiness and adjusting their schedule based on their natural wake windows, you can better address your baby’s sleep challenges and ensure they get the right amount of sleep.

Let’s explore how to effectively recognize and respond to your baby’s sleep cues.

Sleepy Cues

Sleepy cues are signs that your baby is tired and ready for sleep. These may include yawning, decreased activity, fussiness, rubbing their eyes, tugging on their ears, avoiding eye contact, arching their back, and jerky flailing limbs. By recognizing these cues, you can help your baby settle down and get ready for sleep, making bedtime a smoother process for both of you.

By understanding your baby’s sleepy cues, you can create a consistent bedtime routine that will help your baby sleep.

Wake Windows

Wake windows are the optimal periods of time a baby should be awake between naps and bedtime, which change as they grow and develop. These windows vary depending on the baby’s age, with newborns having shorter wake windows than older babies.

Paying attention to your baby’s natural wake windows and adjusting their schedule accordingly can help them avoid overtiredness and undertiredness, making it easier for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Sleep Training Techniques

A baby sleeping peacefully after learning to self-soothe

If your baby continues to fight sleep despite implementing the strategies discussed so far, try sleep training techniques to help them stop fighting sleep. Sleep training can teach babies to fall asleep independently and improve their overall sleep quality, even when they are fighting sleep.

In this section, we’ll explore three popular sleep training techniques: self-soothing, gradual retreat, and controlled crying. Let’s take a closer look at each of these methods and how they can help your baby sleep better.


Self-soothing is an important skill that allows babies to fall asleep on their own, without relying on external aids or interventions. This can be achieved by creating a calming environment and routine that encourages your baby to develop their own self-soothing techniques, such as sucking their fingers or cuddling a stuffed animal.

By allowing your baby the opportunity to self-soothe, you can promote independent sleep and make bedtime a more peaceful experience for everyone involved.

Gradual Retreat

Gradual retreat is a gentle sleep training method that gradually reduces a caregiver’s presence in the room until the baby can fall asleep independently. This technique starts with patting or stroking the baby to sleep and then slowly moving away each night until you’re no longer in the room.

Gradual retreat can be a more comforting approach for both the baby and the parent, as it allows for a gradual transition to independent sleep while still providing reassurance and support.

Controlled Crying

Controlled crying is a more structured approach to sleep training that involves allowing a baby to cry for predetermined intervals before offering comfort to teach them to self-soothe. This method requires consistency and commitment from parents, but it can be an effective way to help babies learn to fall asleep independently and improve their overall sleep quality.

However, it’s important to note that controlled crying should not be used with babies under six months and may not be suitable for every family.

Tips for Coping with Sleep Deprivation

A baby being comforted by a parent while gradually retreating from the room

While addressing your baby’s sleep challenges, taking care of yourself is essential. Sleep deprivation can take a toll on both your physical and mental well-being, making it even more challenging to handle your baby’s sleep issues.

In this section, we’ll share some tips for coping with sleep deprivation, including sleeping when the baby sleeps, asking for help, and practicing self-care.

Sleep When Baby Sleeps

One of the best ways to cope with sleep deprivation is to sleep when your baby sleeps. This may involve napping during the day or adjusting your sleep schedule to align with your baby’s. By catching up on rest when your baby is sleeping, you can minimize the effects of sleep deprivation and ensure that you’re better equipped to handle your baby’s sleep challenges.

Creating a sleep schedule for your baby can also help you get more rest. Establishing a business plan.

Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when dealing with sleep deprivation or your baby’s sleep challenges. Reach out to friends, family, or a professional sleep consultant for support and guidance.

Having a support system in place can significantly affect your ability to cope with sleep deprivation and address your baby’s sleep issues.

Practice Self-Care

Practicing self-care is crucial for managing stress and improving your overall well-being. Engage in relaxing activities, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and prioritize your own needs alongside your baby’s.

By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to handle your baby’s sleep challenges and provide the care and support they need.


In conclusion, babies may fight sleep for various reasons, including overtiredness, undertiredness, overstimulation, separation anxiety, and discomfort. By understanding these causes and implementing strategies such as establishing a soothing bedtime routine, recognizing and responding to sleep cues, and considering sleep training techniques, you can help your baby get the rest they need. Remember also to prioritize self-care and ask for help when needed. With patience, consistency, and support, both you and your baby can enjoy more restful nights and happier days.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my baby to stop fighting sleep?

Create a consistent sleep routine, pay attention to your baby’s sleep cues, avoid electronics two hours before bedtime, and ensure your baby has a conducive sleeping environment to help reduce fighting sleep.

Have a warm bath, stick to a nap schedule and ensure there is separation from you during bedtime.

Is baby fighting sleep a phase?

Baby fighting sleep is likely just a phase that your little one is going through. You can work to identify the issue and help them through it, but you won’t be able to make it go away overnight.

It’s okay to take comfort in knowing that this too shall pass.

Why do babies fight sleep when overtired?

When babies become overtired, their body releases hormones like cortisol, making it harder to settle and fall asleep. As a result, they can fight sleep even when they are extremely tired.

What age do babies fight sleep the most?

Babies can start fighting sleep as early as 8 months when they begin to realize that they don’t want to be away from their parents. This age is when true separation anxiety begins, and it can last up to 18 months.

What are some common sleepy cues in babies?

Common sleepy cues in babies include yawning, decreased activity, fussiness, rubbing their eyes, tugging on their ears, avoiding eye contact, arching their back and jerky flailing limbs.