Top 5 Reasons Why Your Baby Won’t Sleep

Your heart is beating fast. Is it really happening? You tip toe to the room like a stealthy ninja and sneak a peek. Aah! That heavenly sight – your baby is finally asleep. You thank your stars and turn around to slink away. Just then, you hear your baby whimpering… Oh no. You drop your shoulders and resignedly get back to your baby. Are you struggling with a baby who won’t sleep? Here are the 5 most common reasons why your baby won’t sleep and how you can resolve them.

1. He’s too stimulated

Some babies’ senses are very sensitive to what’s happening in and around them – Dadi’s serials, his clothes’ labels, room temperature or even his food digesting in his own tummy. If the last hour before bed time is spent in watching videos or roughing it out with daddy, your baby will not want to miss out on the fun and go to sleep.

What to do:

Cut off all labels and shift to softer bed sheets. Around bed time, turn down the lights and sounds. Massages, lullabies, stories (not on the mobile though) or swaddling younger babies can help your baby wind down. In a tropical climate like ours, chances are your baby may be over heated. If his neck and ears feel hot, remove a layer of clothing. Gas, teething or allergies may be other reasons your baby isn’t sleeping well.

2. She’s unaware about night and day

Our bodies have a hormone called melatonin that tells our internal clock when to sleep and when to be awake. This hormone relies on daylight to figure out night and day. Babies who do not get enough daylight exposure may have improper sleep schedules.

What to do:

Spend enough active time with your baby in the day, near the window, balcony or wherever you get good sunlight. That way, when you dim the lights an hour before sleeping, your baby will learn to associate light with day time activity and darkness with night time rest. 

3. He’s hungry

Your baby may wake up from hunger or thirst. On the other hand, if you feed your baby just before sleeping every time, that is what he’ll relate sleeping to. While that may not be an issue at 10 pm, it certainly becomes difficult when he wakes up at 4 am and cannot sleep without eating.

What to do:

Moving pre- bed time nursing just a little earlier may help. For example you can nurse your baby, change his diaper and then put him to bed. To ensure that your baby isn’t waking up from hunger, you can feed him every 1-2 hours in the evening and then again before bed time.   

4. She’s too tired

If your baby has been awake longer than her body can take, a stress hormone gets activated which makes it more difficult for her to settle down into a nap.

What to do:

Watch for signs like rubbing their eyes, heavy eyes, pulling their ears, clinging more, or the very obvious beginning of yawning. Once you notice any of these, do not wait too long to put your baby down while they are sleepy yet awake.

put baby to sleep

5. He’s become dependent

If your baby cannot sleep without you rocking or patting him or walking up and down with him, it means that he has become dependent on these crutches to fall asleep.

What to Do:

All babies go through various stages of sleep every night. In one stage of sleep (called the REM sleep), babies may have arousals or whimpering. You may mistake this arousal as awakening. Babies beyond 6 months of age are capable of learning to self soothe themselves back to sleep provided you do not get them used to the aforementioned crutches.

How much should my baby be sleeping?

In the first six months of life, babies do not usually have regular sleep cycles. While new-born babies may sleep only 1 to 2 hours at a stretch, they need less sleep as they get older. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine have issued the below guidelines:

Recommended number of hours of sleep according to age

When should I visit a Paediatrician?

Visit your Paediatrician if:

– Your baby is snoring, waking up with gasping breathing, adopting abnormal postures / movements while sleeping or is excessively sleepy in the day

– While crying / grinding teeth / walking / nightmares in sleep may not be a serious medical disorder, you may want to visit your child specialist if it is too frequent and disturbing.


Dr. Indu Khosla is a Consultant Pediatrician and Pediatric Pulmonologist with over thirty years of experience. For any queries, feel free to get in touch with Dr. Indu Khosla at (91)-22-26355829, 26300730

Expert Moderator: Dr. Indu Khosla | Blog Author: Dr. Amrita Sodhi

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