Updated: Oct 24, 2020
We’ve all had those days where no matter how hard you try it’s just impossible to get your baby to sleep. You spend hours rocking, bouncing, shushing... just for them to have a 20 minute nap.
That feeling of anxiety that takes over as bedtime approaches because you know you’re in for a long night.
Your baby’s sleep is like a rollercoaster. Sometimes you take two steps forwards, just to take one step back. One day you think you’ve got it all under control, and the next it all seems to fall apart and you’re back to square one.
I get it! You’re exhausted, your baby is exhausted. So why won’t they just go to sleep?!
Here we look at the main reasons why your baby isn’t sleeping.
Too much light will block the production of sleep hormones needed to aid the process of falling asleep. Being able to see around the room of being able to hear all the exciting household noises can be a distraction and interrupt sleep. Temperature also impacts your baby’s ability to sleep well. Are they too hot or too cold?
This can be a common cause of sleep troubles, particularly in younger babies who are still exclusively milk fed i.e. breastmilk or formula. Put simply, a hungry baby won’t sleep. For the first six months your baby will need to be fed 3-4 hourly during the day to make sure they are not hungry at nap time and to prevent excessive feeding at night.
Once your baby is well established on solids they will need plenty of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats throughout the day to promote good sleep. At this point they will generally be ready to sleep through the night with just one or no feeds.
Find out more about how feeding and nutrition impact sleep here.
Over or Under Tired
Being overtired is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to poor sleep. If your baby has been awake too long, they will start to produce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones not only make it difficult for your baby to fall asleep, it also prevents them from linking their sleep cycles and entering a nice deep restorative sleep, especially overnight.
On the flip side, being under tired can also be a cause for sleep troubles. Over the course of the day, your baby builds up sleep pressure which is essential for sleep. If you try to put your baby down for sleep too early, when they are simply not tired enough, they may become frustrated with your settling attempts or just lay in their cot happily babbling to themselves, refusing to sleep.
Over the first few years your baby’s awake time gradually increases. This means their sleep needs are constantly changing and their routine needs to adjust to compensate.
For age appropriate routines from age 3 weeks through to 3 years, download this comprehensive Feed and Sleep Routine Guide.
Sleep Associations/Sleep Props
Does your baby rely on you or any other sleep aid to fall asleep? How your baby falls asleep at the beginning of a nap or at bedtime can make a big difference in how well and how long they sleep.
All babies have brief arousals during sleep when one sleep cycle ends and another begins. If your baby has been assisted to sleep then transferred to their cot, or they used a sleep prop like a dummy or music which was there when they fell asleep but is no longer there when they wake, their conditions of sleep have changed. When they wake, they realise something is different or missing and they cry out for the same conditions in order to go back to sleep.
By teaching your baby how to fall asleep independently in their cot they are more likely to to drift from one sleep cycle to the next without requiring any help from you.
If you feel you have ticked all these boxes and you are still having trouble settling your baby to sleep, get in touch for some help.
One on one consultations and downloadable sleep guides are all available online x