How To Prevent Insomnia In Babies

If your baby keeps you awake at night, don’t fret. It turns out, you are not alone. A lot of parents, especially moms, would have sleepless nights especially in the first few months of a baby’s life. This is pretty normal and nothing be worried about. It’s part of the so-called motherhood’s growing pains.

However, as much as you would love to play for hours with your little one, taking a break and getting some sleep is healthy for both of you. You cannot provide love and affection, if you are sleep-deprived, cranky, and lack focus.

A lot of parents can relate on how they would take turns just to rock baby to sleep and then catch some snooze time the moment that the baby falls into deep slumber. The house could be left in a mess or no home-cooked meal for days. All the clutter and chaos – it’s just an all-too-familiar ordeal.


Does Your Baby Have Insomnia?

If you imagined babies to be sleeping all the time – that is not realistic at all. Unfortunately, most babies just won’t sleep or at least stay asleep for hours. What happens in this scenario is that you get sleep-deprived, fatigued, and could be at risk for some diseases brought about by lack of sleep. While you stare at your active baby at 3am, you must wonder whether they could have insomnia or maybe just being sneaky and trying to prank mom and dad (kidding!).

Fact is, your baby needs more than 10 hours of sleep every day. They would need to sleep at least 15 to 17 hours spread on nap times during daytime and regular sleeping hours at night. However, some babies sleep less than they need to. Their sleep and wake times too are different from that of adults.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, around two-thirds of children actually suffer from some form of insomnia or other sleep problems. Pediatricians would not always check up or screen for possible sleeping difficulties in children unless you raise the issue and ask for their expert opinion on this. The struggles your baby has with sleeping could be rooted on some environmental conditions.


What is Infant Sleep Disturbance (ISD)?       

This condition is observed a lot especially in babies and toddlers who would wake up crying and are unable to return to sleep until they are held and rocked back to sleep. This is a rampant dilemma of parents and caregivers which is dismissed as common and natural for babies and little totes. These awakenings, as experts call it, are normal especially for babies who are in the state of transition.

For infants, having short sleeping cycles is normal and is also encouraged because of the need to feed frequently or to be breastfed. Newborns also do not follow quite as sharply as adults the circadian rhythm yet but parents can train them to develop sleep hygiene even at an early age. Infants are easily distracted even by the smallest sounds especially when they are in transition from light to deep REM sleep or delta wave sleep.

You can teach your infant bedtime routines by dimming the light and some white noise which could help encourage restful sleep.

Are you worried that your baby could be suffering from insomnia? What factors keep him or her awake at night? Here are some factors that could trigger constant wakefulness or insomnia in babies together with actionable tips on how to prevent this sleeping disorder:

  • Overstimulation. Some parents would often play with their babies in their bedtime rituals which could be contributing to your baby’s difficulty in falling or staying asleep. Overstimulating your baby by kicking in activities while preparing them for dreamland could be counterproductive. Creating excitement during bedtime could keep them active and engaged at night when they are actually supposed to be sleeping. Keep in mind that your little one is a social being which is stimulated by communication or by constant interaction. So, if you want your baby to be pre-conditioned to sleep then you must avoid engaging them too much in play or conversations. As you condition your baby for sleeping time, keep the environment dark, soothing, and quiet. Avoid artificial lights.


  • Feeding time. One of the most common or predictable reasons as to why your baby frequently wakes up at night or at any time in the day is the need to feed. Hunger can obviously force you awake. When your baby is hungry, the only way to communicate that is to rouse from sleep and cry to get mom and dad’s attention. Also, in the first few months of life, newborns or infants would need to feed frequently. Babies tend to have varying feeding schedules compared to adults who can plan meal times. However, a study on 26 breastfed babies show that you can train your babies to sleep better by choosing to feed them right before your own bedtime. The experimental study involved giving babies a big meal or milk feeding in between 10pm to 12 midnight. They were also instructed not to feed the babies immediately when they woke up and to offer other ways to soothe them like changing nappies or giving your baby a gentle and soothing back or chest rub to relax them. While the study may seem inconclusive at this point, it was regarded successful because eight weeks after, all 13 infants were sleeping soundly from midnight to 5am. Well, the results are astounding and this sure is promising. However, this is a small study which would need further validation from this point onwards. If you take into account feeding schedules, many breastfeeding moms would say that the baby sets the schedule. This is where feeding on cue per se comes in. You feed frequently or as much as your baby wants to. Some experts say that imposing a particular feeding schedule could put your baby’s cognitive development in jeopardy. Babies who are fed on time and on their desired schedule are able to cope with stress better. This is called spaced feeding and helps your baby fuel up or tank up as needed which could last them for a few hours before the next feeding.


  • Irregular sleeping schedule. Your baby could be sleeping too early or too late which could wreak havoc to his or her sleep schedule. You could also be wondering or confused as to when babies should ideally go to bed. Some parents could force bedtime on a baby that isn’t sleepy yet which could result to babies avoiding or resisting bedtime. This could often lead to sleeping difficulties like insomnia. There are also instances when the baby seems hyperactive or energetic even in the middle of night. You’d probably assume that they aren’t sleepy yet or won’t need to sleep right away. However, this hyper-reactive reaction is a signal that you have a fatigued or overtired baby.


  • Colic. If you baby is crying and appears to be in pain then he or she could be suffering from colic. Some common signs of colic are the following – flushed face, clenched fists, curled up toes, tense core muscles due to a painful tummy. Indigestion is a common culprit for colic and so are acid reflux, gas, as well as maternal stress and anxiety. It is then advised to allow your babies to burp after every feeding to avoid stomach upset. You can also change formulas to a hypoallergenic variant especially if your baby has a sensitive gut.


  • Teething. If your baby has been drooling a lot and irritable then chances are, he or she could be teething. If this is case, your baby would have difficulty sleeping and could wake up a lot of times during the night. You can try to soothe his gums by having him suck on a clean teether or give her pain medication like acetaminophen as prescribed by the pediatrician.


  • Sleep Cycles. Babies tend to have erratic and short sleep cycles as compared to adults. They also experience shifts or transitions form light to deep REM sleep which results to constant wakefulness. It is normal for infants to wake up at least 4 to 5 times during this stage of transitions. The key here is to allow your babies space to self-soothe and not to pick him or her right away. This teaches your little one to be more independent and to sleep through the night.


  • Sickness or infection. As your baby is able to learn how to sit and crawl, they would explore and even put so many things inside their mouth (for curiosity sake). This usually happens at 6 months of age wherein babies would suck their fingers which exposes them to risks of infection. They are exposed to the germs that cause colds or cough and other upper respiratory infections that could cause awakenings at night. Some babies could even develop fever or suffering from bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. Treating the symptoms, lots of TLC from mom and dad, as well as keeping your baby well-hydrated will help them recover fast and sleep better in the next few days.


  • Diet. If you introduce cow’s milk too early in your baby’s diet, the protein could cause constant wakefulness in your baby. You can go back to breastfeeding or giving your baby formula milk.


  • Environment. The sleeping environment or a baby’s bedroom plays a pivotal role in sleep. There are different factors that can interfere with a good night cap such as the temperature, light, and noise conditions. Make sure too that the bed and mattresses are clean and cushiony soft so the baby can sleep comfortably. Keeping the baby’s bedroom clutter-free and organized will also keep your little one and you stress-free.


Should You Use The Ferber Method?

There is a science toolkit that can help you teach sleep hygiene even to a baby. In 1985, Dr. Richard Ferber, author of the book “Solve Your Child’s Problems” has devised a scientific method that can guide your baby or child into a natural sleep cycle. This makes use of the progressive waiting strategy which suggests that you wait for it out when your baby is crying and avoid intervening right away. With this method in place, you can instill independence in your little one and allow your baby to manage his own sleep cycle. This teaches your little one to be able to sleep and wake up on his own with sleep hygiene in mind.

Tips on How To Train Babies To Sleep Through The Night:

  • Teach independence in your baby by training them to fall asleep in their cribs rather than on your arms.
  • Do not impose sleep as part of a discipline strategy or punishment because this will create trauma in your babies and make them dread going to sleep.
  • Do not try giving your babies or kids sleep-inducing medications unless prescribed by physician.
  • Establish a down time or sleeping schedule that your baby can get used to. You can dim the lights, turn the TV off, and keep everything quiet.
  • Train them to conform to a regular feeding schedule.
  • Establish a routine for sleeping schedule and stick to it.
  • Reduce stress in your baby’s environment by keeping the room quiet and fuss-free as much as possible. This may seem challenging to do especially if you have older kids but it is possible by ensuring that everyone follows a strict sleeping schedule.
  • Help promote better sleep in babies by using relaxing scents like lavender or jasmine.

While short-term insomnia may not be something to be worried of, long-term insomnia may probably require immediate medical attention because there could be an underlying medical condition causing the insomnia symptoms.

Insomnia in babies can be characterized as constant wakefulness or waking up too early. Bedtime resistance in babies though can be attributed to the baby’s desire for constant attention and also his or her dependence on mom and dad to satisfy basic needs.

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