All babies, at some point, will experience some level of difficulty sleeping. This is to be expected and perfectly normal, however some babies may struggle with this more than others, even with the best sleep habits in place.
In the majority of cases baby sleep resolves with time, particularly once parents implement consistent schedules and routines. However unfortunately in a few cases, sleep challenges continue for weeks and months. Baby insomnia can be a frustrating experience for both you and your baby.
This article uncovers exactly what baby insomnia is, baby insomnia symptoms and how best to cope with, support and improve insomnia for your baby.
What is Baby Insomnia?
Baby insomnia, also known as infant sleep disturbance, is a condition in which a baby has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. It is a common problem that affects many babies, especially those under six months of age . There are many reasons why a baby may experience insomnia, including discomfort, illness, hunger, or overstimulation.
Babies require a significant amount of sleep to support their physical and cognitive development, and any disruption to their sleep can have a negative impact on their overall well-being. So it is important to identify the cause of your baby's insomnia and address it accordingly to help your baby get the rest they need.
There are several factors that can contribute to baby insomnia, including medical conditions, environmental factors, and developmental changes. Medical conditions that can contribute to baby insomnia include acid reflux, allergies, and sleep apnea. Environmental factors such as noise, light, or temperature can also disrupt a baby's sleep. Additionally, developmental changes, such as teething or growth spurts, can affect a baby's sleep patterns.
What is Infant Sleep Disturbance? Is it Different From Baby Insomnia?
Infant Sleep Disturbance (ISD) is a term used to describe any sleep problem or sleep pattern that is abnormal or disruptive to an infant's sleep – it is often used interchangeably with Baby Insomnia.
Signs of Baby Insomnia or Infant Sleep Disturbance
It can be challenging to tell if your baby is experiencing insomnia, especially if you are a first-time parent. However, some signs that your baby may be struggling with sleep include:
- Waking up frequently throughout the night
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Crying or fussing during sleep
- Refusing to nap or taking short naps
- Showing signs of tiredness or irritability during the day
- Difficulty staying awake during feedings
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty with feeding and growth
If you suspect your baby is experiencing insomnia, you should consult your pediatrician to rule out any underlying medical conditions. If you need to develop a plan to help your baby establish healthy sleep habits, start our free sleep consultation and get on the path to better sleep today!
What Causes Baby Insomnia or Infant Sleep Disturbance
There are many possible causes of baby insomnia. Some of the most common causes include:
Hunger: If your baby is hungry, they may struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. Make sure your baby is well-fed before bedtime and offer them a feeding if they wake up hungry during the night.
Discomfort: If your baby is uncomfortable, they may have trouble sleeping. Check to make sure your baby's diaper is clean, they are dressed appropriately for the temperature, and they are in a comfortable sleeping environment.
Illness: If your baby is sick , they may have difficulty sleeping. Look for signs of illness, such as a fever, coughing, or congestion, and consult with your pediatrician if you are concerned. If your baby is under two months old and has a fever, make sure to call you pediatrician.
Overstimulation: If your baby is overstimulated, they may struggle to relax and fall asleep. Try to create a calm and quiet sleeping environment for your baby and avoid overstimulating activities before bedtime.
Developmental changes: As your baby grows and develops, their sleep patterns may change. They may begin to have more frequent night wakings, shorter naps, or have difficulty falling asleep on their own.
There are also some more serious medical conditions that can cause Infant Sleep Disturbance (ISD) or baby insomnia including:
Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER): A medical condition in which the stomach contents flow back into the esophagus, causing discomfort and sometimes pain. This can make it difficult for babies to sleep, especially when they lie flat on their backs.
Colic: A condition characterized by excessive crying and fussiness in babies, often for no apparent reason. This can make it difficult for babies to settle down and fall asleep.
Allergies: Be it to food, pets, or environmental factors, allergies can cause congestion, itching, and other uncomfortable symptoms that can interfere with a baby's sleep.
Sleep Apnea: A condition in which a baby's breathing is interrupted during sleep. This can cause them to wake up frequently throughout the night and have difficulty getting back to sleep.
Ear Infections: Can cause pain and discomfort, especially when lying down, making it difficult for babies to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Eczema: A skin condition that can cause itching and discomfort, which can make it difficult for babies to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Asthma: Can cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, which can make it difficult for babies to sleep.
NOTE: If you suspect that your baby is experiencing sleep disturbances due to a medical condition, it's important to consult with a pediatrician. They can help diagnose and treat any underlying medical conditions and develop a plan to help your baby get the sleep they need.
Tips for Helping Your Baby Sleep if they have Insomnia
As a parent, you play an important role in helping your baby establish healthy sleep habits. If your baby is experiencing sleep disturbances or insomnia, there are several things you can do to help them get the sleep they need. Here are some tips to help your baby sleep:
Establish a consistent bedtime routine to help your baby feel calm and relaxed and make it easier for them to fall asleep. This routine can include a warm bath, a lullaby, and a bedtime story.
Create a sleep-conducive environment: Make sure your baby's sleeping environment is pitch dark, quiet, and cool. This can help them feel more comfortable and promote better sleep.
Offer a pacifier: Pacifiers can help soothe babies and promote better sleep . Just make sure to follow safe sleep practices and never attach a pacifier to a string or anything else that could pose a choking hazard.
Respond to your baby's cues: Pay attention to your baby's cues and respond to their needs promptly. This can help them feel more secure and comfortable, promoting better sleep.
Consider sleep training: If your baby is having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, sleep training may be an option . This involves teaching your baby to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own, which can promote better sleep in the long run.
It's important to keep in mind that establishing healthy sleep habits takes time, patience and consistency. If you’re struggling with being consistent or would like step by step support on how to help your baby become a strong, independent sleeper, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ By taking steps to promote healthy sleep habits, you can help your baby get the rest they need to grow and develop into healthy, happy individuals.
Meltzer, L. J., & Mindell, J. A. (2007). Sleep and sleep disorders in children and adolescents. Psychiatric Clinics, 30(4), 773-788. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1978319/
National Sleep Foundation. (2020). How much sleep do babies and kids need? Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.