Parents of overtired children know the feeling all too well: your little one is cranky, fussy, and doesn’t seem to have enough energy to get through the day (how I feel on many days!). You may have tried every trick in the book to get them to sleep more, but nothing seems to work.
If this sounds like your baby, don’t worry, we’ve all been there and we have a few tried and tested ways to help an overtired baby break the cycle.
There are a few things parents can do to get their overtired children to sleep including creating a consistent bedtime routine, swaddling, giving a gentle massage, using a white noise machine, and many more.
What Causes Overtiredness in Babies?
There are many reasons why babies can become overtired. But two of the most common reasons are when babies are awake for too long, or if they are overstimulated.
If they are awake for too long, their bodies will start to fatigue and they will become cranky and irritable. This is because they have a natural need for sleep.
Babies can get tired when they are overstimulated. This happens when they see or hear too many things at once. It can make them feel overwhelmed and tired.
What Are the Signs of an Overtired Baby?
Babies who are overtired might have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep or breaking the overtired cycle on their own. Also, most overtired babies tend to sleep less.
If you notice any of these signs in your baby, it may be a sign that your baby is overtired.
- Excessive crying
- Poor ability to self-soothe
- Frequent night waking
- Wakes up about an hour after falling asleep
- Grumpy demeanor
- Difficulty napping during the day
- Constantly yawning and rubbing their eyes
- More prone to meltdowns
- Longer wake window
- Struggling with the transition between sleep cycles or sleep stages
- Daytime sleep is not going well
- Falls asleep at random times during the day
- Short naps with baby waking up fussy
- Regularly fight sleep pressure which happens when your baby’s body has reached the fight-or-flight stage of tiredness
- A vicious cycle of early bedtimes and early morning wakings
The intensity of these signs depends on the level of sleep debt. The more sleep debt, the more she shows these signs of overtiredness. However, keep in mind that each baby has a different stress response to overtiredness and read our guide to How To Put A Fussy Baby To Sleep
How to Help an Overtired Baby Catch Up on Missed Sleep
So, how do you break the cycle of overtiredness? Parents of overtired newborn babies know just how difficult it can be to get their little one to sleep.
A baby who is overtired may seem irritable and fussy, have a hard time falling asleep, or wake up frequently during the night.
Here are some tips for helping overtired baby sleep.
- Swaddling can help overtired babies fall asleep. It can be helpful because it makes the baby feel like they are still in the womb. This can help them relax and fall asleep easier.
- Some parents think that giving a gentle massage to a baby can help them sleep better. This is probably because the massage makes the baby feel relaxed and calm. It’s also a good way to bond with your child.
- Some overtired babies sleep longer when they have a pacifier or binky. This is because the pacifier or binky makes them feel safe and calm. It also helps them to not suck on their thumb as much, which can cause problems with their teeth. Can Baby Sleep With Pacifier?
- When you rock your baby gently, it helps her sleep better and possibly avoids sleep cycle transition issues. It’s like a lullaby that makes her feel calm and sleepy.
- White noise machines can help babies sleep. Babies usually like to sleep in a quiet place, and the sound of a white noise machine can block out distractions and create a calm environment.
- Have a temporary early bedtime for a few days, about 30-60 minutes earlier than your baby’s usual night sleep schedule. Continue for a few weeks if necessary.
- Darkness tells the brain it is time to sleep. Babies usually sleep better and stay asleep in a dark room. You can buy a small nightlight if your baby is afraid of the dark.
- Sleep training might help some children fall asleep independently and develop healthy sleep habits. But it doesn’t work on chronically overtired children. Even if you sleep train your baby, it would be difficult for her to self-soothe herself back to sleep if she is constantly overtired.
- Make sure your baby is getting enough daytime and nighttime sleep to combat overtiredness and catch up on lost sleep.
These are only a few ways to get her to sleep her usual sleep hours. Just be consistent and patient.
How to Prevent a Baby From Becoming Overtired
Babies can become overtired very easily, which can cause them to be cranky and difficult to soothe.
There are a few things parents can do to help prevent their baby from becoming overtired.
- Pay attention to your baby’s sleep cues or sleepy signs when she’s ready to sleep. You can watch for things like yawning, rubbing their eyes, or becoming fussy. This also helps limit the time your baby stays awake or her wake windows.
- Create a nap time and sleep time schedule around your baby’s natural sleep pattern and stick with it. This means putting babies down for naps and sleep at similar times each day.
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine that helps your baby transition from awake time to sleep time. This will also help your baby back on track if she is constantly fighting sleep.
- Set a morning wake time. This will make your baby awake at the exact time each day.
- Avoid overstimulation that can keep your baby stay awake, especially before going to bed. Keep things calm and quiet for an hour or so before sleep.
- Create a safe sleep environment. Make sure the crib or sleep space is free of pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals.
- Change wet or soiled diapers even if your baby fell asleep in them.
- Independent sleep skills are important for babies to learn. Sleep-trained babies know how to sleep independently which will help them overcome overtiredness.
Conclusion on Getting an Overtired Baby to Sleep
Overtiredness can lead to a number of problems for babies, including crankiness and decreased ability to learn. But with a few simple precautions, you can help keep your baby from becoming overtired.
If he does become overtired, there are many ways to help him get caught up with his sleep.
By understanding the signs of overtiredness and taking steps to prevent it or remedy it, you can ensure that your baby gets the rest he needs for healthy development.
If you’re still having trouble getting your baby sleeping well at night for over a week, you can always talk to your pediatrician or a sleep consultant.
FAQs on Helping an Overtired Baby Fall Asleep
What Happens to a Sleep Deprived Baby?
Babies need sleep to grow and develop properly. A baby’s sleep helps the brain to develop and form connections.
It also helps the body to repair itself and to grow. Babies who do not get enough sleep are at a disadvantage both mentally and physically.
Sleep deprivation can have a number of different effects on babies. Here are some of them:
- Decreased brain development: Babies who do not get enough sleep have a reduced ability to learn and remember information. They may also have difficulty paying attention and processing information.
- Learning problems: Sleep deprivation can interfere with a baby’s ability to learn new information.
- More frequent negative emotions: Babies who are sleep-deprived may be more irritable and have more difficulty regulating their emotions.
- Weight management problems: Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain in babies. This is because sleep helps to regulate the hormones that control appetite.
- Growth issues: Sleep is essential for proper growth and development. Babies who do not get enough sleep may have stunted growth.
- Increased frequency of illnesses: Sleep deprivation can make babies more susceptible to illness. This is because sleep helps to boost the immune system.
Should I Let My Overtired Baby Cry?
No, you shouldn’t let your baby cry it out if she’s overtired. When a baby gets to the overtired phase, she can become more tired and upset. If you need to let her cry for a short period of time, do so only when you are able to stay with her and provide comforting words or touches.
How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need?
As your baby grows, their sleep patterns will change. Newborns usually sleep for 14 -17 hours a day, broken up into small stretches. By the time they are school-aged, they will need around 9 hours of sleep each night.
How Does an Overtired Baby’s Cry Sound?
An exhausted baby will have a whiny, continuous cry, mixed in with yawns and eye rubbing. It can be hard to console an overtired baby, as they are often too tired to fall asleep.
This article was written by: Gian MIller – Full-Time Writer, Baby Whisperer & Dad of 3.
Gian spends a lot of his time writing. A self-proclaimed baby whisperer, Gian has been through it all with his own children and is passionate about sharing his hard-won wisdom with other parents. When he’s not writing or changing diapers, you can find him playing the guitar or watching baseball (or preferably both at the same time).