Baby Suddenly Won’t Sleep?

Sleep patterns in newborns and infants can be wildly unpredictable. Just when you think things are settling into a routine your baby suddenly won’t sleep. As a parent you want your baby to sleep well for a few reasons. A well-rested baby will generally be easier to get along with during his waking hours, and sleep is an important part of health. Beyond that, parents get frustrated when their baby suddenly won’t sleep because it means the parents are working with a sleep deficit as well.

When trying to determine what you should do when your baby suddenly won’t sleep you should first determine if anything is going on that could affect your baby’s sleep pattern. Illness and teething are two common problems that can have a sudden impact on sleep. Another thing to think about is whether your baby is tired when you are putting him to bed. Some signs your baby is ready to go to sleep include:

  • Yawning
  • Looking away from you
  • Rubbing his eyes
  • General fussiness

If you are unable to determine what has caused changes to your baby’s sleep pattern, you are left with the need to get him back on track.

1. Check the Temperature in the Room

When your baby suddenly won’t sleep, the first thing you should check is the temperature in the room where he sleeps. If it is warmer than he is accustomed to he will have trouble settling down to sleep. Even if the temperature in the room is the same as usual if you have begun putting him down in heavier pajamas than normal he may have trouble sleeping.

The urge to dress your baby in cuddly fleece sleepers when the weather starts to cool down is understandable, but it is unlikely that the temperature in your home makes it necessary. If you are trying to save time by dressing him in something warm enough to wear when you drop him off at the sitter’s, be aware that sleeping in too heavy pajamas will likely cause him to sweat overnight, which can then leave him chilled when you take him out in the morning.

When you keep your house at the same temperature year-round, you should not need to change what your baby wears to sleep in at night. If he seems cool, a pair of socks or pajamas with feet should be enough to keep him warm overnight.

Another way that your baby may be too warm to sleep properly is if you give him a very warm bath before bedtime. While a lukewarm bath can be relaxing, if the water is too warm he may come out of the bath sweating and fussy rather than relaxed and ready for bed.

Checking that your baby and his room are both comfortable before you begin the bedtime routine should be your first step in trying to solve the problem when your baby suddenly won’t sleep.

2. It May Be Time To Stop Swaddling Your Baby

Baby’s outgrow the urge to be swaddled at different ages, but many are ready to drop it by the age of two months. Once your baby starts to become mobile he may begin to feel constrained by the swaddling. Regardless of whether your baby objects to swaddling or not, you should stop swaddling for naps and bedtime when your baby can roll over. Rolling from his back to his front while swaddled can increase the risk of SIDS.

If your baby suddenly won’t sleep and you decide to stop swaddling you can replace the swaddling with gently stroking your baby’s limbs while talking or singing softly. These soothing behaviors can help get your baby in a more relaxed frame of mind and help him drift off to sleep more easily.

3. Modify the Bedtime Routine

You should think of the bedtime routine as something fluid and open to change as your baby matures. If your baby suddenly won’t sleep you should mentally go over the bedtime routine. Are there activities that seem to hype your child up? For some babies, bath time becomes much too fun once they become more mobile. If bath time turns into a time to kick and splash, you may want to move the bath to earlier in the day. Don’t discourage this fun, as plenty of physical activity is a great way to help work off energy so your baby sleeps better.

Other parts of the bedtime routine that you should review if your baby suddenly won’t sleep involve eating. If your baby’s break in his sleep schedule developed around the same time that you tried to drop a nighttime feeding, that may be what is to blame. Unless your child is having trouble gaining weight it is unlikely that this missed feeding is cause for nutritional concerns, it is more a matter of comfort and habit.

If you believe that the dropped meal is the reason your baby suddenly won’t sleep you can compromise by adding a bottle of water. Your baby will still get the comfort associated with the meal, but the lack of excitement he gets from water rather than formula or breastmilk means he will probably be happy to drop it on his own after a few weeks. Sometimes babies just need a little time for their ideas to catch up with ours.

Another thing to consider when you have a baby that baby suddenly won’t sleep is the timing of his final meal. If he is eating relatively early, you may consider making his dinner meal a little later, moving it to the beginning of the bedtime routine. This will have him headed to bed with a full stomach.

4. Look Closely at Naps

Some babies seem to think nighttime is the most fun time of all. If your baby suddenly won’t sleep at night but is fine during the day, keep an eye on the length of his naps. His naps should be getting shorter as he gets older, while the stretches he sleeps overnight should extend until he is sleeping through the entire night, from around eight or so until seven or so in the morning.

If his naps are staying consistent but he is refusing to go to sleep at a decent time, waking up very early or waking up in the middle of the night and wanting to stay awake, encourage shorter naps. You have to be careful here because shortening the nap without making up sleep at night will lead to an overtired baby who has even more trouble sleeping. An easy way to shorten the nap is to go into his room 10 or 15 minutes before he normally wakes up and gently starts moving around. If you have closed the blinds, go ahead and open them.

Let him wake up on his own. It generally works best to shorten the afternoon nap rather than the morning one. This helps ensure your baby doesn’t make up for lost time during the afternoon rather than overnight.

5. Manage Light Exposure

Babies are as responsive to light as adults. By the time a baby is three months old his circadian rhythm is developed and he will respond to environmental stimuli to wake up and go to sleep. To encourage this, open the curtains or blinds first thing in the morning.

If the weather is agreeable a short walk in natural light early in the day is excellent as well. Finally, when your baby suddenly won’t sleep, consider it may be your fault. Are you inadvertently exposing him to blue light late in the day? If you scroll through your phone while feeding or have the television on during the bedtime routine, readjust your habits. Put a stop to blue light exposure for at least two hours before putting your baby to bed.