4 Simple Ways to Fix Your Baby’s Day and Night Confusion

baby sleep routine circadian rhythm day night confusion days and nights confused sleeping all day wake a sleeping baby Oct 27, 2022
4 Simple Ways to Fix Your Baby’s Day and Night Confusion

Do you have a newborn who sleeps great during the day, but seems to want to stay up eating and playing all night long? That’s probably because they have day and night confusion! This is a common occurrence for many newborns between the ages of 0-8 weeks. 

This day and night confusion stems from your baby’s underdeveloped circadian rhythm, and thankfully, there are a few simple things you can implement to fix the issue. Keep reading to find out more about fixing your baby’s day and night confusion and jump-starting their circadian rhythm.


And if you’re looking for the ultimate guide to help set a solid sleep foundation for your newborn to get them sleeping through the night more quickly, make sure to check out my Ultimate Baby Sleep Bundle for step-by-step, gentle tools! 


What Causes Day and Night Confusion?

When babies have their days and nights confused, it can lead to plenty of sleepless nights. These sleepless nights can be blamed on an imbalance in your baby’s circadian rhythm!

In fact, did you know babies’ circadian rhythm is developed postnatally? [1] This internal biological clock that determines your baby’s biological bedtime and wake time [2], is what sets the tone for sound, good quality sleep! 

However, it does take 8-9 weeks for your baby’s circadian rhythm to fully develop. A rhythm of cortisol first develops at 8 weeks of age, while melatonin and sleep efficiency develop at approximately 9 weeks [3]; Meaning, your newborn being extra sleepy during the day and then wide awake at night is not unusual.  

If your baby needs a little extra help learning the difference between day and night, you are not alone! 

How to Fix Your Baby’s Day and Night Confusion

The first few weeks of your baby’s life can be exhausting when they are waking up every 2-3 hours at night. The good news? This won’t last forever! Once your baby’s circadian rhythm has developed, it makes it easier to ensure your baby is sleeping more at night than during the day. This is essential for ensuring that our littles ones get enough calories and stimulated awake time during the day and learn to sleep longer stretches overnight as they grow!

Here are a few simple steps you can take in those first 8 weeks to help fix your baby’s day and night confusion:

  1. Have your baby take naps in the open.

While it’s true that a dark, quiet environment is best for baby sleep, you’ll want to do the opposite while you’re correcting your baby’s day and night confusion. Have your baby nap out in the open where it is bright and noisy. This will help them recognize that it is daytime. I also recommend not using a swaddle for naps (and reserving it for nighttime sleep) during these first few weeks. 

  1.   Cap your baby’s naps at 2 hours.

Newborns sleep A LOT, and you’ll quickly find out that their naps can easily go beyond 2+ hours. It may be tempting to just let them sleep as long as they’d like, but capping their daytime naps at 2 hours is best if they are struggling with separating days and nights. This will help them get more wake time during the day, so they can learn that nighttime is for practicing their longest stretches of sleep. 

After you’ve woken your baby up from their nap, following their wake window and paying attention to their tired cues will help you know when it’s time for their next nap! I recommend a wake window of 45-60 minutes for babies 0-8 weeks old.

Here’s a list of tired cues to watch for. Watching for these cues will help your baby get optimal rest AND avoid having them fight sleep due to being overly tired:

Early Tired Cues

  • Rubbing eyes/nose
  • Pulling ears
  • Zoning out/cranky
  • Less social/clingy
  • Red brows/eyes

Late Tired Cues 

  • Yawning
  • Crying
  • Difficult to calm
  • Turning away
  • Hyperactivity ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

It’s also important to note that many of these cues CAN look identical to hunger cues. Especially your baby turning their head to avoid stimulation, because it looks like rooting toward the breast. The easiest and best way to differentiate between hunger and tired cues is to follow an eat-play-sleep schedule! 

  1.   Feed your baby every 2-3 hours.

Just like capping your baby’s naps can help them learn the difference between day and night, so can feeding them every 2-3 hours (on the dot!). This will also help them get fuller feeds during the day and plenty of calories, helping them to sleep for longer stretches during the night.

  1.   Include a bedtime routine.

Including a bedtime routine before you put your baby down for sleep each night has been proven to result in more sound sleepers who sleep longer stretches during the night! I recommend starting this bedtime routine as soon as you bring your new baby home from the hospital. The steps in a nightly routine can act as a trigger to the body for sleep and encourage your baby to understand that the sleep that comes after the routine is different from daytime naps.

Here is what I recommend as a bedtime routine for your newborn:

  1. Warm bath (or warm washcloth to the face, hands, and feet if you don’t want to bathe every night)
  2. Massage with gentle lotion or oil
  3. Pajamas
  4. Feed
  5. Story or song (could just be 1 page out of a book!)
  6. Swaddle
  7. Kiss goodnight
  8. Into the crib awake

Check out this blog for more on why I recommend having a set bedtime for newborns (even though they’ll still wake to eat throughout the night), as well as the importance behind each step.

Once your baby’s circadian rhythm has developed, it’s likely that they still won’t sleep through the night for a few more months. Following these simple steps to fixing their day and night confusion though can help set the foundation for healthy and independent sleep habits as they grow!

If you find yourself still struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Download one of my comprehensive sleep guides for step-by-step advice on developing amazing sleep habits.


[1] [3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6175794/ 

[2] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsr.12918 

Need help transforming your child's sleep? Check out my sleep offerings for children 0-3 years old!


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