Unless they're picture perfect sleepers, getting a baby to sleep takes a Herculean effort. If your baby is a "bad" sleeper or goes through phases where they struggle to fall asleep, have nightmares, wake frequently, and the like, you might be convinced that whatever is plaguing them is a serious problem. There are, however, some relatively common baby sleep problems that aren't really a big deal, so you can worry a little less than normal.
It's true that some baby sleep problems or habits, such as snoring which can be a sign of sleep apnea, can indicate a much larger, more serious issue. But before you jump to conclusions (or, more realistically, fall down the Google rabbit hole), take a deep, slightly sleep-deprived breath and try to evaluate what's really happening with your baby. Of course, if you are truly concerned that your baby is dealing with a serious sleep disorder, talking to your baby's doctor or heading to a sleep clinic might not be a bad idea. That being said, there are plenty of completely benign reasons why your little one might be having difficulties sleeping. Addressing these sleep problems as best you can can help the whole family rest easier.
1. They Get Hungry In The Middle Of The Night
It can be hard to sleep when your tummy is empty. If your little one consistently wakes up in the middle around the same time, it could be because they're hungry. According to The Baby Sleep Site, newborns and very young babies tend to wake up hungry. Breast milk (if you're breastfeeding) tends to move through the system fairly quickly, so that could be the offending culprit.
2. They're Too Excited
If you actively play or excitedly chatter with your little one close to bedtime, it could make them animated and more likely to have difficulties falling asleep, according to Parenting Science. A 2004 study conducted by a Baylor University researcher found that a few hours of quiet time before bed help ease babies into a more restful and ready-to-sleep mindset. Calm and gentle bedtime routines are as beneficial to babies as they are to anyone else.
3. They Wake Up For Seemingly No Reason At All
Relatively frequent wakings might be exceedingly frustrating, but they're likely no big deal. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, University of Notre Dame psychology professor Darcia F. Narvaez said that since not even adults actually sleep all night long, it's not strange that babies don't either. Bouts of sleep followed by periods of being awake aren't as distressing as they may seem (or feel) when you're in the midst of a "sleepless" night.
4. They Want To Hang Out With You
Although sleep is important for your little one, if they feel as though they aren't getting enough time with you during the day, they might try to forego sleep to get a little more parent time at night. According to Kelly Mom, some breastfeeding babies feed more at night and on the weekends in an effort to eek out a little more mommy-baby time. You've got to admit it, that's pretty sweet.
5. They're Going Through A Sleep Regression
Sleep regressions are no joke, but they're nothing to be overly concerned about, at least not immediately. According to What To Expect, sleep regressions can happen because your baby is going through so much developmentally and learning that they can't or don't want to sleep as they usually do. Take heart, sleep regressions usually resolve themselves in about a week or two.
6. They're Fussy From Teething
Though I can't remember teething, I can imagine that it's probably not all fun and games. Babies certainly appear to be suffering from discomfort while their teeth are coming in. If you suspect your baby has started teething, which coincides with more frequent nighttime wakings, it might be the teething pain that's causing your baby to awaken, as the previously-mentioned article from What To Expect noted. Again, this will pass, though it might feel like not soon enough.
7. They'll Only Fall Asleep In Your Arms
If your baby will only fall asleep when they're being held, that's pretty darn inconvenient. According to The Baby Sleep Site, that's likely a parent sleep association that you'll have to consciously try to break. It might help to have someone else get your baby ready for bed or naps so that they don't associate sleep solely with you, or use some gentle sleep coaching techniques to relearn how to drift off without the help of being held closely by a parent.
8. They Don't Want To Sleep On Their Back
Some babies really resist sleeping on their backs, though, it's the safest position for them. According to the aforementioned article from What To Expect, babies feel more secure sleeping on their bellies, but swaddling can help them get that feeling of security on their backs, as well.
9. They Have A Food Intolerance
Food intolerances aren't as severe as full-blown allergies, but can still make you feel quite uncomfortable. Because food intolerances can cause you to feel bloated or gassy, it can make sleeping feel impossible, as The Baby Sleep Site noted. If you've recently introduced new foods to your baby, you might want to do some investigating related to food intolerances. Although you want your little one to eat lots of healthy foods, you don't want them to feel sick or in pain. They'll sleep sounder and so will you.