Why Do Babies Fight Sleep?

Our brain needs sleep in order to recover from the day, and allow essential healing to occur in the body. It is also highly important to aid correct digestion, and circulation.

Sleep is even more essential for a developing baby because it allows them to digest the things that they have learned while they were awake, and grow correctly. So, why do babies fight sleep?

There are a lot of reasons why your baby might be struggling with sleep, and while it is a natural stage of development, it can be challenging if it becomes a regular occurrence.

Depending on their age range and current stage of development, understanding why your baby is fighting sleep can help you to implement a better relationship with sleep so that you and your baby can rest easy.

In this article, we will take a look at why babies fight sleep, and some solutions to resolve this issue.

Why Do Babies Fight Sleep?

Separation Anxiety 

Firstly, one of the most common reasons why your baby might fight sleep is due to separation anxiety. This occurs in most infants, and it is completely normal for 8-18 month olds to protest sleep for this reason.

They might not want you to leave them, which can be a sign that they have formed a strong attachment with you as their main caregiver. 

However, it can create regular difficulties putting them down for a nap or regular sleep. Try to be patient with your baby and understand that while you are taking care of them, you are seen as their safety figure and can cause babies to fight sleep.

As long as they feel safe and secure, it is something that can be worked through over time.

Over Stimulation

You might have tried your hardest to create a calm, quiet environment where your baby can drift to sleep easily, but they might be hearing noises from outside or even from within the house which can make babies fight sleep.

If the nursery is on the ground floor, then you could consider dimming the lights around the house and lowering your voices until they have fallen asleep. 

There might be too much going on which is why they could be protesting sleep, so try to remove toys that make sound, and nightlights for a night and see if that helps them drift off easier.

Change In Routine

Another reason why nannies fight sleep and not want to settle for the night is because of a change to their regular routine.

This can’t always be helped, for example when you are traveling or on vacation, but if you can, it is worth trying to stick to their routine to allow them to get enough sleep. 

Over stimulation goes hand-in-hand with routine changes, and your baby might want things to go back to the way that they are used to.

In their little heads they might be wondering why they are in a different bed that smells different and as such fight sleep. Routine is very important for babies’ developing brains, and you should try to stick to it as much as possible.

Over Tired

Why Do Babies Fight Sleep?

Of course, changing routines is essential as your baby grows and develops. You might be trying to get them out of the routine of a daily nap, or ensuring that they sleep through the night.

They can begin to protest sleep because they are over tired. Babies who are overtired are often babies who fight sleep.

Being unable to express how they feel can be especially challenging if your baby is overly worn out. They can become fussy and hyper once the window for sleep has passed, which can be particularly draining on you.

Over-tiredness is one of the most common reasons for babies to fight sleep.

Under Tired

While this is less common, your baby could be fighting sleep because they haven’t had the chance to get completely worn out. If you have had a quiet day with your baby then they might not want to fall asleep just yet.

Make sure that you are providing them with enough mental stimulation and enrichment to allow them to use up their energy and drift off that night and not fight sleep when it’s time for bed.


One of the most common reasons why babies fight sleep is because they are experiencing a developmental milestone. Teething can cause a great deal of discomfort, which might be why they can’t fall asleep. In addition, they might want to practice their new skills. 

Crawling, standing, and rolling can make your baby more mobile, and a lot of infants enjoy exploring their new abilities at night.


Finally, you might find if you have had multiple children that your babies differ in their sleep patterns.

This can be because some babies are more social than others, and they are less likely to want to settle if they think that there are other people in the house that they could be playing or socializing with. 

Some babies have different temperaments and this can be seen from a very young age. While some might find it naturally easier to drift off into a comfortable sleep, others will naturally be more inquisitive and want to know what is going on. 

For this reason, you should consider tricking them into thinking that everyone in the home has gone to bed too. This way, they will not think that they are missing out on anything, and that they will eventually drift off to sleep with little protesting.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Babies Fight Sleep When They Are Overtired

It’s usually because they are frustrated and cranky, but other times babies fight sleep even if they are tired because they have missed the sleep window of their natural routine.

They don’t really know how to communicate their discomfort or annoyance, which is why it’s typically seen in the form of crying and excessive clinging.

How Can I Create A Better Sleep Routine For Babies Who Fight Sleep

Depending on their age, you can create a better routine at the end of the day by giving your baby a calm bath after dinner. This can help them relax, because it is much easier to fall asleep in a clean, comfortable state.

Then, read them a story or talk to them when they are dry before getting them settled into their crib. Try to stick to roughly the same times when you do this each day. This is proven to minimize babies’ likelihood of fighting sleep.

What Is A Baby’s Sleep Cycle Like?

It is very different to adults, because babies are still developing. They usually take twenty minutes to reach deep sleep, and some find it difficult to stay asleep during the light sleep stage. A baby’s sleep cycle is around 45 minutes.


Hopefully, by now you understand a little more about why your baby might be struggling with sleep, and what you can do to make the process easier. So why do babies fight sleep?

Not wanting to be left out from a social situation that is happening beyond the doors to their nursery can be a big contributor to sleep protesting in social babies.

In addition, separation anxiety, over stimulation, and a disrupted routine are some of the main reasons why your baby might be fighting sleep on a regular basis. 

Hopefully, in this article, we have covered the main reasons behind why babies fight sleep, and what action you can take to reduce this happening for you and your baby in the future.

Joyce Bailey
Latest posts by Joyce Bailey (see all)