Why is My Baby Not Sleeping at Night?

10 Reasons Why Your Baby is Not Sleeping at Night

When baby doesn’t sleep, no one sleeps, and while it is natural for young infants to wake frequently during the night, many babies continue to wake through the night for months due to many reasons. Feeling sapped of energy and constantly tired as a result may make it hard to function. If you’re finding it hard to cope with the lack of sleep, it may be time to identify the issues and try something new.

1. Mixing up day and night

Babies are still adjusting to a regular sleep pattern as newborns, which means they generally sleep about 16-17 hours a day, and wake up frequently for feedings. Sometimes your baby may sleep all day, causing them to stay up all night long (which is unfortunate for you as the parent). You may want to try limiting daytime naps to 3 hours, and keeping the lights or blinds closed. You should also make daytime feeds lively and interesting, and night-time feeds quiet and boring. This will allow your baby to learn the difference between day and night, and also associate the dark environment with sleeping.

2. Overtired

It is a huge misconception that babies who are super tired will sleep better. They will sleep worse, wake more, and become fussier overall. There will be more tossing and turning and they will have more difficulty staying asleep. You should keep your baby on a schedule, put them down for regular naps and bedtimes, and put them to bed earlier than normal if they are showing signs of tiredness.

Older babies tend to nap less, and this is great if your baby seems happy with the new schedule and is able to sleep well at night. However, some babies may become more fussy or have trouble sleeping at night, which can be a sign that they may be overtired and need more nap-time during the day. You may want to try an abbreviated version of the bedtime routine to get them in the mood for their daytime nap.

3. Overstimulated

Similar to overtiredness, overstimulation makes it very difficult for a baby to get to sleep. Overstimulation occurs when a baby’s environment is so stimulating they are unable to calm down easily and end up hyper-alert, fussy, and even fidgety and anxious. Too many screens, noise, toys, books, scene changes, errands, and people talking in their faces will make them overstimulated. If they are overstimulated, they will have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.

Try keeping them on a good routine, guarding their rest, and giving them a proper wind down before nap or bedtimes. Encourage quiet time and turn off TV and electronics as those are known to overstimulate the brain before bed, making it harder for them to sleep.

4. Lacking routine

There is power in repetition and routine, especially when it comes to getting your baby to sleep. For babies, a consistent sleep schedule helps them feel safe. Bedtime should happen at the same time every night. Pick one time and stick to it as best as possible. Routine rituals could include a feeding, bath time, dimming the lights, reading a book in the nursery, and/or turning on white noise. The way you prepare your infant for bed each night with the same set of steps and rituals can not only give her a greater sense of security, but it also lets her know that sleepy time is coming and puts her in the mood for sleep. A predictable, no-surprises bedtime routine is an absolute must!

Sometimes sleep routines can get disrupted and this can wreak havoc on your baby’s sleep patterns. Factors that may disrupt your baby’s sleep could include illness, emotional changes with mom leaving for work, a new babysitter, or traveling. Even learning to crawl or walk could temporarily interfere. Whenever you ease into a new routine, you need to cut your baby some slack. Do what you can to comfort, but get back into a regular routine as soon as you can. Follow the same comforting pre-bedtime routines in the same order.

5. Dependant on Assistance

All babies naturally transition through active and passive sleep cycles (every 45 to 60 minutes or so) and will rouse lightly. If they know how to put themselves back to sleep, they’ll just keep sleeping. However, babies can often grow accustomed to needing a parent’s assistance to drift off to dreamland. This may mean nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep, singing to sleep, or even just being held. This causes sleep issues when they are unable to fall back asleep on their own during the night. Many experts recommend putting babies to bed drowsy, but not fully asleep, that way they can learn how to fall asleep on their own. As best as you can, try to weed out any behaviors that do the work of falling asleep for your baby.

6. Growth Spurt

Babies grow quickly, which is why they need so much sleep. It is important to keep in mind how much their little bodies are changing. Aching limbs, sore gums, and hunger pains can keep them up at night. Try changing up their routine a bit to allow them more of what they need. Maybe give them more milk and/or solids throughout the day.

If you notice your baby excessively drooling, biting, or becoming fussy or irritable during feeding, she is most likely teething. Teething pain can wake her during the night. Try to avoid picking her up and removing her from her sleep setting, and instead her a solution to the discomfort through a teething ring, words or pats, or maybe a lullaby. She may settle down on her own. When all else fails, ask your pediatrician about some baby acetaminophen for bedtime.

7. Physical Discomfort

Sometimes there are physical ailments a baby faces that are just passing through. Gas and acid reflux make it difficult for babies to sleep since they are in pain. If your baby is usually a great sleeper and then stops suddenly, it could be a physical ailment such as a sore throat or ear infection. Follow your pediatrician’s advice for how to bring your baby comfort.

8. Hunger & Feedings

Many babies will continue to wake for two, three, or even four feedings a night, long past the age of needing it, simply because either their bodies have become accustomed to those nighttime calories, or the feedings have become a sleep association they depend on to fall asleep. These feedings can become comfort nursing and perpetuate calorie intake when it isn’t needed. It may be time to start reducing the number of feedings a night, which is also referred to as “night weaning”. It is not a weaning from breastfeeding, but rather a reduction of nighttime calorie intake. You don’t have to stop anything cold turkey, especially if you notice your baby requires the feedings simply because of hunger, but you may want to try increasing her calorie intake during the day, and gradually reduce her feedings at night, one at a time. Eliminate gradually starting with the first one of the night. It is easier for her to fall back asleep at the beginning of the night since that is when deep sleep dominates, whereas in the early morning hours her sleep is lighter, so if you are keeping a night feeding that’s the time to offer it. Remember that night feedings can be sleep associations, so work on separating eating from falling asleep at bedtime as you reduce night feedings. If you want your baby to fall asleep on her own during the night, it’s important she’s learning that skill at bedtime.

9. Sleep regression

Sleep Regression is when your previously sleepy baby is now ready for anything BUT bedtime. This typically happens around 2 to 3 months, but could happen anytime and is perfectly normal. Your baby’s life and surroundings are just becoming more fun and fascinating and so it is harder to want to sleep. This is the perfect time to start (or stick to) your baby’s bedtime routine (https://woolino.com/blogs/blog/how-to-establish-a-perfect-bedtime-routine). Baths, stories, and dressing in the proper sleepwear can all play into helping your baby get into a habit of sleeping at night. You also want to make sure your baby is getting enough sleep during nap time throughout the day to compensate for loss of sleep at night, otherwise the lack of sleep will create an overtired baby who is more difficult to settle down.

10. Too hot or too cold

An important factor to consider is that very young babies are unable to regulate their body temperature. It’s important that your baby’s sleeping environment is adjusted to accommodate this. You should first try to check for possible signs that your baby is overheating or too cold. Signs they are too warm may include: frequent waking, sweaty back, damp hair, shallow or rapid breathing. Some signs they are possibly cold might be: moving around more than usual, rolling onto their tummy, catnapping in the day, or waking at around 5am (because of a natural body temperature dip just before dawn). You can also feel your baby to make sure they are not too warm or too cold. Cold hands and feet do not mean that your baby is cold; it is more a sign of their newly developing circulatory system. You are better off feeling their tummy, chest or back to get an idea of their overall body temperature.

Room temperature and sleepwear choices can really make all the difference. It is difficult for parents to gauge the temperature of the room just by feel, so the use of a room thermometer is useful in this instance. Woolino merino wool sleep bags are not only made of a naturally temperature regulating and moisture wicking material, but they also come with an attached room thermometer tag to help determine the best way to dress your little one for the night. Woolino sleepwear will help take the guessing work out of your nightly routine, and help keep your baby safe and comfortable throughout the night. And merino wool socks will keep your baby's feet warm.