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Why your baby may be fighting sleep: What the experts want you to know

Why your baby may be fighting sleep

Struggling with a baby fighting sleep isn't easy, especially when you can't quite pinpoint a reason for it.

We know that inconsistent sleep patterns can be hard on your health and that sleep deprivation can make parenthood feel much tougher.

When babies sleep for the amount of time they need, vital brain development is nurtured and your baby's mood and behavior will likely see improvement. Not only that, but it also gives you a chance to fall asleep for longer and feel more healthy and rested.

baby fighting sleep

Figuring out the cause of why your baby fights sleep and taking action can have a huge positive impact on you and your family, and create a foundation for positive child sleep patterns in the future.

In this article we'll cover:

  1. Reasons why your baby could be fighting sleep
  2. Seven common causes of fighting sleep with seven solutions to try out
  3. How a consistent routine can help babies fall asleep
  4. Frequently asked questions about why babies fight sleep

Your baby's fighting sleep: What's going on?

baby sleeping

Fighting sleep can manifest in a range of ways, from tears and shouts to wiggles and alertness. Each of these signs could signal a different underlying problem, and we can help you work out what it is. After all, the first step to a better bedtime routine is understanding what obstacles might be in you and your baby's way.

If you've found yourself being woken up repeatedly by a baby without a wet diaper or an empty tummy, you can rest assured that you most likely don't need to be worried. In most cases, babies fight sleep for a totally normal reason that might not seem relevant at first. Even being too tired can cause your baby to fight sleep!

Fighting sleep: Seven common causes, seven things to try

So, why do babies fight sleep? Here are seven of the most common reasons babies fight sleep, as well as ways that you can help your baby to fall asleep easily and stay asleep for longer.

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is a normal part of child development that tends to begin at around six months. You might find that your baby starts to cry when being held by others, or when you put them down to sleep and leave the room. This can then become a barrier to your baby's sleep.

This is a completely natural part of your baby's development, and it's understandable to feel mean or guilty if you notice your baby getting upset in these situations. But with time, your baby will learn that they can feel safe and secure without your presence and that you will come back to them.

In the meantime, our Zen Sleepwear™ can be a great tool for calming your baby. The gently weighted Cuddle Pads are designed to mimic your touch and help your baby sleep peacefully even when you aren't holding them in your arms.


Surprisingly, this is by far one of the most common reasons for your baby to fight sleep! A lack of sleep can actually cause babies to become more cranky and agitated, leading to trouble settling at bedtime.

To avoid this paradoxical situation, you can try to keep an eye out for early signs of sleepiness. For example, if you notice your baby yawning or blinking more, it might be better to put them to bed sooner rather than later.


At the opposite end of the spectrum to overtiredness, we have overstimulation, which produces a similar effect: a stressed-out, unsettled baby.

This can occur when babies are overwhelmed by more sensations than they can handle. For instance, it may happen after a visit from lots of friends, or at an event with too much noise.

You'll know that soothing an overstimulated baby can be tricky and time-consuming, so prevention is the best way to go here when possible. To do this, you can try to keep your little one away from loud noises and discomforting places and keep the circle of people around them in a period of time fairly small.


None of us remember teething, but everyone has been through it, and it isn't always easy! Most babies start teething at around six months, but it's perfectly normal for this to happen as early as four months and as late as twelve months.

Though this may be a totally pain-free experience, many babies can experience soreness, rashes, and even a mild temperature - not easy symptoms to sleep through!

Teething pains can be managed with tools like teething rings, which can be cooled in a fridge (but not a freezer) for additional soothing effects. You can also rub your baby's gums with a clean finger, or if the problem is more serious, look into over-the-counter remedies.

Hitting a milestone

We love to hear from parents about the milestones their baby has hit! But for all of the excitement around a first step or first word, you might find that your baby is practicing their newfound talents when they should be falling asleep.

You can encourage your baby to engage with these new skills during the daytime instead, so that nighttime is reserved for sleeping. By establishing these actions as daytime behaviours, you can help to reinforce nighttime as a calmer time of day where your baby can self soothe.

Our gently weighted Zen Sleepwear can also help your baby know when it's time to rest, as the Cuddle Pads mimic the soothing Cuddle Effect your touch naturally provides. This lets you put your baby to bed while still giving them the comfort and security they crave.


baby traveling in zen footies

Many adults have trouble sleeping in unfamiliar places or during trips, and babies are no different. The stress of being on the move for a long time, or of being in a new environment with new, exciting things everywhere, can cause your baby to feel unsettled and fight sleep.

This is where a well-established bedtime routine can really be useful. Try going through these familiar behaviors in the order you usually do them - feed, storytime, bath, lullaby, for instance.

This can help your baby to feel more comfortable, and therefore more likely to stop fighting sleep.

Discomfort or illness

As much as you try to keep your baby happy and healthy, sometimes something like a cold or infection can slip in and make bedtime more difficult.

These illnesses usually go away with a little care and attention, but sleep is a vital part of getting better, and a baby fighting sleep may take longer to recover.

If your baby's health doesn't improve and it's impacting their sleep and general wellbeing, you should contact your pediatrician for specialist advice.

Fighting sleep: Consistency makes all the difference

baby crying fighting sleep in zen sack classic

No matter what the underlying issue is, sticking to your sleep routine can help your baby sleep at better times and for longer.

Not only can this improve your baby's mood and overall wellbeing, but it can give you a chance for some well-earned rest and self-care.

Here are a few ways you can help to maintain consistency and reduce the amount that your baby fights sleep.

Follow your baby's sleep cues

By keeping track of signs that your baby is ready to sleep - whether that's yawning, stretching, or shutting their eyes - you can keep to their body's natural rhythm.

Every baby is unique, so your baby's sleep cues might be totally different from another's - this is where your parental intuition can come in as you determine when exactly your little one is drifting off.

Stick to your feeding schedule

This contributes to the consistency of your baby's sleep schedule and can help to reinforce sleep time. For instance, if a feed is followed by a nap, this helps the baby understand when to sleep.

Of course, this is up to your baby's age and your own personal schedule - newborn babies won't have the same routine as 12-month-olds.

Maintain a soothing bedtime ritual/sleep training plan

Bedtime can be a source of stress for parents, but by ensuring that this is a relaxing, peaceful experience for all involved, your baby is more likely to fall asleep.

Try introducing elements like soothing bedtime stories, lullabies, and gentle music into your bedtime routine. Not only can this help you calm your baby to sleep, but you might find yourself soothed too!

Keep a consistent sleep routine

Whatever sleep training method works best for you and your baby, you want to make sure that you're consistent with it every night. This is to avoid any confusion for baby, and to gently reinforce that certain actions mean it's time for sleep!

To help baby self soothe when sleep training, you can try our Zen Sleepwear range! Our gently weighted products are designed to mimic your comforting touch, helping baby go to asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.

Keep the nursery conducive to sleep

By creating a peaceful atmosphere with dimmed lights, closed curtains, and no blaring screens, you can help your baby sleep by more clearly associating going to the nursery with going to sleep.

Making sure that livelier playtime stays outside of the nursery can also help to create this positive boundary and reinforce the idea that going to bed means going to sleep.

Making use of these tips could be the first step to calmer evenings, a steadier schedule, and most importantly, a happier baby.

Common questions about why babies fight sleep

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Paige Harvey

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