By Aileen Dunbar
Has your baby been fighting sleep lately? As a mother of two and a baby sleep coach, I know how frustrating this can be so here are 4 possible reasons why this may be happening as well as related tips to help you navigate this challenging situation.
Reason #1: Baby is under/overtired
To understand why this can lead to baby fighting sleep, it helps to understand the concept of sleep pressure, which is what drives us to sleep. It increases the longer we are awake, and it builds up faster in babies and children than in adults. When your baby has a nap, the sleep pressure wears off a bit and will allow them to stay awake for another stretch of time. If not enough sleep pressure has built up, then baby will have a harder time going to sleep and will appear to be fighting sleep. Similarly, if too much sleep pressure has built up, then baby may have a harder time falling asleep due to the build-up of cortisol (stress hormone).
When your baby has a nap, the sleep pressure wears off a bit and will allow them to stay awake for another stretch of time
What to do? Spend a few days logging your baby’s sleep times, keeping note of when they become tired and when they fall asleep. This will give you a rough idea of their “wake window”, which is the amount of time they can be awake before becoming overtired. Another suggestion is to determine your baby’s unique tired cues, which are changes in their behaviour or specific actions that indicate it is time for them to sleep. Some examples are glossy eyes, pulling ears or hair, and wanting to be picked up.
Reason #2: Baby may not be calm enough to fall asleep
In order for babies to feel secure enough to fall asleep, they need to be in a relaxed state. Also, it is important to note that babies are not capable of calming themselves from an elevated level of stress and require the assistance of a caregiver to do so.
In order for babies to feel secure enough to fall asleep, they need to be in a relaxed state.
What to do? Determine what helps your baby calm down. For example, many babies find the sucking motion soothing so you could ensure their hands are free to allow them to suck on their fingers or feed them. Another aspect to tune into is which kind of movements help soothe them. Typically, repetitive, rhythmic movements provide calming vestibular input to babies’ nervous systems. For example, bouncing them on an exercise ball, using a rocking chair, swaying in arms, are all great ways of helping them go to sleep. It is completely normal that babies require parental assistance so do not worry about setting up bad habits. With relation to babies needing their caregivers to help them calm down from a heightened level of stress, it is important to try to remain as calm as possible. If you are feeling frustrated, it is best to take a break and try again later as baby may pick up on this stress and therefore, resist going to sleep.