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Unlocking the Mystery: 7 Medical Reasons Why Your Baby Won’t Sleep During the Day

This article explores the medical factors that can contribute to a baby’s inability to sleep during the day. Understanding these reasons can help parents identify and address any underlying issues, ultimately allowing their little ones to nap peacefully.

Common Medical Reasons for a Baby’s Daytime Sleep Troubles

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes interruptions in breathing during sleep. It can affect people of all ages, including infants. In babies, sleep apnea may be caused by anatomical abnormalities or underlying medical conditions such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids. These obstructions can lead to frequent awakenings and difficulty staying asleep during the day.

Signs of sleep apnea in babies include loud snoring, gasping or choking sounds during sleep, restless tossing and turning, and excessive daytime sleepiness. If you suspect your baby may have sleep apnea, it is important to consult with a pediatrician who can evaluate their symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Anxiety or Stress

Just like adults, babies can experience anxiety and stress that disrupt their daytime sleep patterns. Common triggers for anxiety in infants include separation from caregivers, changes in routine or environment, or exposure to loud noises or unfamiliar faces.


Signs of anxiety or stress in babies may include increased fussiness or irritability before naptime, difficulty settling down for sleep, and shorter nap durations. To help alleviate anxiety in your baby, try creating a calm and soothing environment for naps, establish consistent routines, and provide plenty of comforting reassurance and physical contact.


  • Sleep Apnea
  • Anxiety or Stress

How Reflux or Colic Can Impact a Baby’s Daytime Napping

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) is a common condition in infants where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This can cause discomfort and pain, making it difficult for babies to settle down for naps or stay asleep during the day.

Signs of GERD in babies may include frequent spitting up, arching of the back during or after feeding, irritability or crying during or after meals, and difficulty gaining weight. If you suspect your baby has GERD, it is important to consult with a pediatrician who can provide guidance on managing symptoms and recommend appropriate feeding techniques or medications if necessary.


Colic is a term used to describe excessive crying and fussiness in infants that lasts for extended periods of time. Colicky babies often have difficulty settling down for sleep and may experience disrupted daytime napping patterns as a result.

The exact cause of colic is unknown, but it may be related to gastrointestinal discomfort, overstimulation, or an immature nervous system. Signs of colic in babies include intense crying episodes that occur at the same time each day, clenched fists and tensed muscles, and difficulty soothing or calming down. If you suspect your baby has colic, consult with a pediatrician who can offer strategies for managing symptoms and provide support.


  • Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)
  • Colic

Respiratory Issues that Disrupt a Baby’s Daytime Sleep Patterns


Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways. In infants, asthma can lead to coughing fits, wheezing, and difficulty breathing during sleep. These symptoms can disrupt their daytime napping patterns and make it challenging for them to achieve restful sleep.

If you suspect your baby has asthma, it is important to consult with a pediatrician who can evaluate their symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment options. This may include medications to manage inflammation and bronchodilators to open up the airways.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections such as colds, flu, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can cause congestion, coughing, and difficulty breathing in infants. These symptoms can make it uncomfortable for babies to lie down for naps or stay asleep during the day.

If your baby has a respiratory infection, it is important to provide them with plenty of fluids and monitor their symptoms closely. If their condition worsens or they develop high fever or severe difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention.


  • Asthma
  • Respiratory Infections

The Role of Teething and Ear Infections in a Baby’s Difficulty Napping

Teething and ear infections can both significantly impact a baby’s ability to nap during the day. When a baby is teething, the discomfort and pain they experience can make it difficult for them to relax and fall asleep. The pressure and inflammation in their gums can cause irritability and restlessness, making it challenging for them to settle down for a nap. Additionally, the discomfort may worsen when lying down, further hindering their ability to sleep.

In the case of ear infections, the pain and discomfort associated with this condition can also disrupt a baby’s daytime sleep routine. Ear infections often cause sharp, shooting pain in the ears, which intensifies when lying down due to increased pressure on the affected area. This discomfort can make it nearly impossible for babies to find a comfortable position to sleep in. Furthermore, ear infections commonly lead to fever and general malaise, which can further disrupt their sleep patterns.

Symptoms of Teething:

  • Irritability
  • Excessive drooling
  • Biting or chewing on objects
  • Swollen or tender gums
  • Disrupted sleep patterns

Symptoms of Ear Infections:

  • Pulling or tugging at ears
  • Fever
  • Irritability or fussiness
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
  • Fluid draining from ears

Neurological Disorders that Affect a Baby’s Resistance to Daytime Sleep

Certain neurological disorders can significantly impact a baby’s resistance to daytime sleep. Conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and cerebral palsy can all contribute to difficulties in falling asleep and staying asleep during the day.

For babies with ADHD, their hyperactive and impulsive behavior may make it challenging for them to wind down and relax for naps. Their constant need for stimulation and difficulty in self-regulation can lead to restlessness, making it difficult for them to settle into a nap routine.

Similarly, babies with ASD often struggle with sensory sensitivities and difficulties in processing stimuli. These challenges can make it hard for them to feel comfortable enough to fall asleep during the day. Additionally, their rigid routines and resistance to changes may disrupt their nap schedule.

Symptoms of ADHD:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Inattention
  • Impulsivity
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Frequent fidgeting or squirming

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder:

  • Sensory sensitivities
  • Rigid routines or rituals
  • Difficulty with transitions
  • Trouble with social interactions
  • Repetitive behaviors or movements

Allergies and Food Intolerances’ Impact on a Baby’s Daytime Sleep Routine

Allergies and food intolerances can have a significant impact on a baby’s daytime sleep routine. When babies consume foods they are allergic or intolerant to, it can lead to digestive issues such as bloating, gas, stomach pain, and diarrhea. These uncomfortable symptoms can make it difficult for babies to settle down and nap during the day.

In addition to digestive issues, allergies and intolerances can also cause respiratory symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, and coughing. These symptoms can disrupt a baby’s ability to breathe comfortably while lying down, making it challenging for them to fall asleep or stay asleep during their nap time.

Common Food Allergens in Babies:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Peanuts

Symptoms of Food Allergies/Intolerances:

  • Digestive issues (e.g., bloating, gas, diarrhea)
  • Rash or hives
  • Nasal congestion
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Irritability or fussiness after eating certain foods

Underlying Medical Conditions Interfering with a Baby’s Daytime Napping Schedule

Various underlying medical conditions can interfere with a baby’s daytime napping schedule. Conditions such as acid reflux, asthma, and sleep apnea can all contribute to disrupted sleep patterns during the day.

Babies with acid reflux often experience heartburn and discomfort when lying down due to the regurgitation of stomach acid into the esophagus. This discomfort can make it challenging for them to settle into a nap routine and stay asleep for an extended period.

Asthma is another condition that can affect a baby’s daytime sleep. Wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath associated with asthma can worsen when lying down, making it difficult for babies to find a comfortable position to sleep in.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux:

  • Frequent spitting up or vomiting
  • Discomfort or pain after eating
  • Irritability during or after feeding
  • Arching the back during feeding
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep

Symptoms of Asthma:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing (especially at night)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Rapid breathing

The Effect of Medications on an Infant’s Ability to Nap During the Day

The medications that infants take for various health conditions can have an effect on their ability to nap during the day. Certain medications may cause drowsiness as a side effect, making it easier for babies to fall asleep and stay asleep. On the other hand, some medications may have stimulating effects, leading to increased alertness and difficulty in napping.

It is important for parents to consult with their pediatrician or healthcare provider about any potential side effects of medications their baby is taking. They can provide guidance on how to manage these effects and adjust the baby’s nap schedule accordingly.

Common Medications Affecting Sleep in Infants:

  • Antihistamines (may cause drowsiness)
  • Steroids (may cause increased energy/alertness)
  • Pain relievers (effects vary depending on the medication)
  • Antidepressants (effects vary depending on the medication)
  • Antibiotics (effects vary depending on the medication)

Genetic Factors Influencing a Baby’s Tendency to Stay Awake During the Daylight Hours

Genetic factors can influence a baby’s tendency to stay awake during the daylight hours. Some babies may inherit certain genetic traits that make them naturally more alert and active during the day, which can affect their ability to nap.

Research has shown that specific genes related to circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles can play a role in an individual’s sleep patterns. Babies who have inherited variations of these genes may be more prone to staying awake during the day and experiencing difficulties in daytime napping.

Common Genetic Factors Affecting Sleep Patterns:

  • Clock gene variants
  • Melatonin receptor gene variations
  • GABA receptor gene polymorphisms
  • Serotonin-related gene variations
  • Orexin receptor gene mutations

Steps for Parents When Suspecting Medical Reasons for their Baby’s Lack of Daytime Sleep

If parents suspect that there are medical reasons underlying their baby’s lack of daytime sleep, it is important for them to take appropriate steps to address these concerns. Here are some recommended steps:

1. Consult with a Pediatrician:

The first step is to schedule an appointment with a pediatrician or healthcare provider. They can evaluate the baby’s overall health, discuss any symptoms or concerns, and conduct necessary tests or examinations.

2. Keep a Sleep Diary:

Keeping a detailed sleep diary can help parents track their baby’s sleep patterns, including the duration and quality of naps. This information can be valuable when discussing concerns with the pediatrician.

3. Rule Out Other Factors:

Parents should consider other potential factors that may be affecting their baby’s daytime sleep, such as environmental factors (e.g., noise, temperature), routine disruptions, or changes in feeding patterns.

4. Follow Recommended Treatment Plans:

If an underlying medical condition is identified, parents should follow the recommended treatment plans provided by the healthcare provider. This may involve lifestyle changes, medication, or other interventions specific to the diagnosed condition.

5. Seek Specialist Referrals if Needed:

In some cases, further evaluation from specialists such as pediatric sleep medicine specialists or allergists may be necessary. The pediatrician can provide appropriate referrals based on their assessment and initial findings.

6. Establish Consistent Sleep Routine:

Regardless of any underlying medical reasons, establishing a consistent sleep routine can benefit all babies. Creating a calming bedtime routine and ensuring a conducive sleep environment can help promote better daytime napping habits.

By following these steps and working closely with healthcare professionals, parents can address any potential medical reasons for their baby’s lack of daytime sleep and support their overall well-being.

In conclusion, babies may experience difficulty sleeping during the day due to various medical reasons. It is important for parents to consult with healthcare professionals to identify and address any underlying issues that may be affecting their baby’s sleep patterns.

What causes baby not to sleep during the day?

Being excessively tired is the most probable explanation for why your newborn is awake instead of taking a nap, as newborns have very brief periods of wakefulness and can become overly tired quite easily. When a newborn gets overly tired, it becomes extremely challenging to get them to fall asleep.

When should I see a doctor about my baby not sleeping?

Having trouble sleeping is usually not a cause for concern when it comes to babies. However, it is advisable to consult a pediatrician if the usual methods like establishing a schedule do not improve the baby’s sleep or if the baby consistently gets less sleep than is expected for their age.

How do I know if my baby has a sleep disorder?

Typical reactions of infants who encounter these nighttime awakenings or struggles with falling asleep may include the following: Waking up and crying multiple times during the night after previously sleeping without interruption. Crying when separated from the caregiver. Resistance to falling asleep without a parent’s presence.

Why does my baby wake up 30 minutes into a nap?

If you notice that your baby is waking up after 30 or 45 minutes of sleep, it is because they are transitioning between sleep cycles and briefly entering a lighter stage of sleep. This is commonly known as the ’45 minute intruder’.

Should I be worried if my baby doesn’t sleep?

It is normal for babies to not sleep for more than three hours at a time during the night. According to pediatrician William Sears, infants typically sleep for 14 to 18 hours within a 24-hour day from birth to 3 months old.

Is it unhealthy for baby not to sleep?

Insufficient sleep refers to not getting adequate sleep during the night, which can lead to various issues such as impaired brain development, difficulties in learning, and more frequent experience of negative emotions. It can also contribute to problems with weight management, hinder growth, and increase the likelihood of getting sick.

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