Why Do Babies Fight Sleep? (& What You Can Do)

Why Do Babies Fight Sleep? (& What You Can Do)

You know your baby is exhausted, but they just won’t sleep! Why why why do babies fight sleep? We’ll take a look at the causes and what you can do.
You know they are exhausted.

They won’t stop crying, they’re yawning, they’re rubbing their eyes.

But they just. Won’t. Sleep. Why oh why do babies fight sleep?

Let’s take a look at what fighting sleep means, why babies do it, and some tips that might help.

In this article: 📝

  • Why is my baby fighting sleep?
  • What do babies do when they fight sleep?
  • Why do babies hate falling asleep?
  • Why do babies fight sleep?
  • How do I get my baby to stop fighting sleep?
  • Babies fighting sleep: the final word

Why is my baby fighting sleep?

Trying to get a baby to sleep can be one of the most exasperating parts of early parenthood.

You’ve tried walking around and around the room, house, or block, with baby in your arms, carrier, or stroller.

Tried the pacifier, tried without the pacifier. Tried the car. And they still won’t sleep.

You’re not alone! It’s a really, really common experience.

What do babies do when they fight sleep?

A few tears before sleep are standard procedure when putting babies down in their cribs.

So what does it actually mean when an infant fights sleep?

“Fighting” sleep will look different for each baby.

Your baby may be fussy, squirming, very upset, or even inconsolable.

They might push away from you.

They might even kick and scream.

Basically, they are just resisting falling asleep even though they are clearly very tired.

Why do babies hate falling asleep?

Even though it feels like it, babies don’t hate falling asleep.

They don’t actually not want to sleep.

Sleep comes naturally to all of us, adults and infants alike.

But the conditions need to be right.

When it seems like they are resisting sleep, there is probably a reason for it. Let’s take a look.

Why do babies fight sleep?

There are a number of reasons that might cause your baby to resist going to sleep.

Sometimes — and this is the tricky part — it might be more than one.

Here are some possible reasons:

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is your baby feeling anxious when you leave them.

This phase often begins somewhere around 8 months.

Your baby might fight sleep because they don’t want to be separated from you.


At around 6 months (though this can vary from baby to baby), infants start cutting teeth.

This painful process can cause infants to fight sleep because they start to associate the crib with nighttime tooth pain.

Confused as to whether your baby might be teething?

Increased drooling and chewing on fingers are two common symptoms of teething.


For babies, the world is really exciting. It’s full of sights, sounds, smells, and so much to explore.

The result? An overstimulated baby.

And overstimulated babies often fight sleep.

Sleep regression

Sleep regressions are no joke.

Babies who are usually good sleepers will suddenly wake up multiple times per night and can be way more fussy than usual.

Sleep regressions are normal and can last anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks (sorry, mama).

Just remember: sleep regressions will pass.


We all sleep better with a full stomach.

Babies, especially newborns, need to feed frequently.

And sometimes they cluster feed.

So even if you feel like you have just fed them, they might be hungry again.

Which might be the reason they aren’t ready to sleep.


Overtired babies struggle to fall asleep.

Counterintuitive, right?

It’s because they are primed to fall asleep during a certain window.

If they get overtired, they can end up more wired than sleepy.

Not tired

Like adults, babies struggle to fall asleep if they aren’t tired.

Maybe they had a really long nap earlier in the day, and aren’t ready for their next nap yet.

Or maybe their sleep needs are changing, and so their routine needs to change.


Illnesses like flu or ear infections can disrupt your baby’s sleep.

Milestones and developmental leaps

When your baby reaches a new milestone, like learning to grab, roll, sit up, crawl, and so on, this is often associated with poor sleep.

They’re just too excited to work on their new skills instead of sleeping!

Medical condition

It’s rare, but sometimes, there might be a medical reason — like infant sleep apnea or bradycardia — as to why your baby is fighting sleep.

If you think there might be a medical reason for the sleep fighting, chat with your pediatrician.

How do I get my baby to stop fighting sleep?

Here are a few tips on how to create a positive sleep environment and prevent your baby from fighting sleep.

  • Keeping a bedtime routine is helpful. For some, that might be taking a bath, a bedtime story, feeding in the same place, or cuddling. And yes, it’s not always possible. Even if you are at a friend’s place, or traveling, try to keep that routine up.
  • Nearing nap or sleep time, creating a calm environment can help avoid over-stimulation. Again, this is not always easy, especially with an older sibling bouncing around. But it’s worth aiming for. Darkening the room and turning on white noise can help.
  • Know how to spot a sleepy baby. Think red eyes, ear pulling, eye rubbing, yawning. Try to put your baby down at the first signs of sleepiness, before they get overtired.
  • Babies’ sleep needs differ as they get older, so they might need fewer naps or a later bedtime. If your baby is resisting sleep for several days in a row, it might be time to drop a nap or shift bedtime later.
  • Sometimes it can feel like your baby never sleeps. Keeping a sleep chart can help figure out exactly how much sleep they are actually getting. It might be more than you think!
  • Make sure your baby is well-fed before trying to put them to sleep. Even if you just fed them an hour ago, topping them up before bed isn’t a bad idea.

Babies fighting sleep: the final word

Trying to get a fussy baby to sleep can drive parents to tears.

We hear you, mama. We’ve been there.

Remember to look after yourself.

Prioritizing self-care as a new mama can feel near impossible, but do what you can.

If you want to commiserate with other mamas about babies and sleep, head over to the Peanut community.

There is support available, day or night!

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