overtiredness for baby

Overtiredness in Babies

Overtiredness is a baby’s worst enemy. And their parents’ worst enemy too. 

I know this is kind of a big claim to make. But I bet any parent who is dealing with an overtired or worse, a chronically overtired baby knows what I’m talking about. 

What is Overtiredness?

Overtiredness is when our body gets beyond the point of tired and ready to sleep. Since we stayed awake through this window of tiredness, our bodies assume we need to stay awake and flood our systems with stimulating hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol to give us a second wind. Basically, your body’s stress response kicks in because you are so exhausted. 

It may seem like this second wind may be a good thing. Or at least now baby doesn’t seem to feel as tired anymore but it’s actually the opposite. 

Now, these fight or flight hormones have flooded baby’s body. This makes it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. This then perpetuates the cycle causing more sleep struggles and more overtiredness. It sets our systems into overdrive and becomes a cycle that is hard to break. 

How do I tell if my baby is overtired?

Often parents say it’s like their baby hates going to sleep. They assume baby hates it or doesn’t need to sleep because baby seems to be fighting going to sleep so dang hard. 

Understandable that when you see someone fighting so hard against something you would assume they don’t want to do that something. However, with sleep and overtired babies, they aren’t fighting sleep because they don’t want to go to sleep. It is because it can feel like their body isn’t allowing them to do what they want to do, which is to fall asleep and shut off the stimulation from the outside world for a bit. Almost as if their body is working against them.

In a sense, their body and the stimulating hormones pumping through their system are working against them, making it much harder to go to sleep. And then harder to stay asleep once they are asleep. Hence, when parents report it took hours to get their fussy, fighting-sleep baby down for a nap just for baby to wake up 27 minutes later screaming again. 

baby sleepy signs

What does Overtiredness in babies look like?

Ideally, you want to watch for baby’s tired signs and get them to sleep before that window of tiredness turns into overtired. But this isn’t going to happen every time because, well, life happens. Also, younger babies in the newborn phase don’t typically show reliable or distinguishable tired signs and with their very short awake windows, it can be easy to miss. The line between tired and overtired can be a very fine one. 

Super fussy or inconsolable crying

You’ve got a fussy baby on your hands and you can tell they are very tired. The normal tricks and strategies you use to calm and comfort your baby just don’t seem to be working. It seems like nothing will help baby calm down and it feels like you are working extra hard to get baby to sleep because their little bodies seem to be fighting it so hard. This can often go on for a considerable amount of time as babies struggle to have their drive to sleep overcome that stress response from overtiredness.

Fussy eating

When my newborn hasn’t had a good nap day, towards the end of the day we struggle through feedings. I like to say that she’s “mad at the boob”, which is what it seems like. It looks like she wants to nurse, but it is hard to nurse and cry at the same time so she keeps latching and unlatching. Each time she seems to get more and more upset.

Your baby may experience feeding struggles like this when they are overtired. Especially when these struggles occur towards the end of the day or after a day of poor naps.

Baby seems uncomfortable

Sometimes you look down and it appears that your baby seems super uncomfortable like they are trying to escape from something, it may be that they are overtired. Their body parts may seem to be flailing around, keeping them awake even more. They may be arching their back so it looks like they are in pain. Or sometimes you see babies start pulling on their ears, their clothes or even scratching at their faces.

You can’t immediately see something making them uncomfortable or in pain, so you wonder if it is gas or an ear infection or something worse. It could be that baby is so exhausted they just want to turn off and escape the stimulation of the outside world but it feels like their body isn’t letting them. Understandably a frustrating and uncomfortable situation for them.

They seem to fall asleep but then jerk awake quickly

This can be so frustrating for both you and your baby. You think they have finally given up the fight and are going to get some sleep (and you will get some peace). Then just as quickly as they fell asleep they jerk awake again.

It looks very similar to a hypnic jerk or a sleep start, which is feeling like your falling and then you jerk awake that we sometimes have as adults. While the jury is out on whether or not babies really have these, no one knows for sure what causes them but it has been observed by scientists that sleep deprivation can be a trigger for them. This shows another possible example of how overtiredness can make it seem like their bodies are working against them.

overtired inconsolable baby

What to do when you see these signs of Overtiredness

Act fast! That whole “baby will sleep when baby needs to sleep” saying is utter nonsense. It doesn’t work like that or overtiredness wouldn’t even be a discussion we would be having. When you see the telltale signs of overtiredness you want to act fast in order to keep the cycle from churning and making it even harder to recover from.

Use early bedtimes or shorter awake windows

Allow baby to make up for missed sleep by going back to sleep earlier than normal. This also helps prevent baby from getting another “second wind”. The line between tired and overtired is narrow so even 15 to 20 minutes can make a big difference.

Help baby reset

Overtiredness ultimately results in lost sleep which creates a sleep debt. Our bodies basically have us repay that sleep debt in order to reset our systems. It can take some planning and effort to make sure you are very, very closely watching tired signs and awake windows while also monitoring stimulation. Your goal is to make sure you are getting baby back to sleep before another second wind kicks in. 

So, if some calm days at home and canceling activities is what needs to happen in order to focus on sleep for a few days, it is likely worth it so you don’t dig yourself and baby deeper in the hole of overtiredness and a bigger sleep debt. 

take steps to avoid getting into the cycle of overtiredness again. 

Make sure your baby is on an appropriately timed routine for day and night sleep. Because the thought that keeping baby up all day will help them sleep better at night is a complete fallacy.

Here is a helpful chart based on age (adjusted) to know about how long your baby can handle of awake time before needing to go back to sleep.

awake time by age to avoid overtiredness

Track baby’s sleep

Whether it is with an app or a little notepad, track your baby’s sleep for a couple of days. In the whirlwind of life and motherhood and trying to keep track of and do all the things, you don’t want to let something as important as your baby’s sleep get overlooked.

Tracking your baby’s sleep will allow you to see their total sleep and patterns in their naps and night sleep. This allows you to be better able to see when baby is possibly getting ready to dig into a sleep debt. Then you can act proactively to avoid the struggle and fight overtiredness can bring. 

Consolidated sleep can help beat overtiredness for babies

Helping baby learn the skills to sleep independently allows them to more easily consolidate sleep cycles, especially at night. Consolidated sleep is when baby can connect their sleep cycles without a full wake up and sleep for a longer continuous stretch. Consolidated sleep is the best quality of sleep to help their bodies reset and feel refreshed each morning. This will help them be able to beat the cycle of overtiredness. Plus, well-rested babies are better able to handle those times when exceptions for a late bedtime and nap come up so that you don’t get sucked into the cycle again. 

Sometimes when baby has a good catch up day or two, it can seem like your sleep challenges have ended. Or whatever new technique or product you’ve been using is finally the magic solution you have been looking for. (You can learn more about these so-called magic solutions here.) However, if baby’s sleep habits aren’t helping them get good sleep on a long term basis, you will likely see a relapse once baby’s sleep debt builds again. 

Creating Healthy Sleep Habits

There are lots of methods, strategies, and schools of philosophy on how to help your baby sleep well. Sometimes the wealth of information can cause information overload and make it difficult to navigate in order to decide what is best for your family and your baby. When information overload becomes the reason you and your baby aren’t sleeping well, that is where I come in!

If you aren’t sure how to get baby sleeping well and out of the cycle of overtiredness, reach out to me today! Helping tired parents like you put the pieces of your child’s sleep together so you can feel confident baby is getting the sleep they need and avoiding their worst enemy for the days and nights to come is what I do every day! Schedule your free sleep evaluation call here to learn more about how we can make quality sleep a reality at your house!

Cheers to healthy, happy sleep!


46 thoughts on “Overtiredness in Babies”

  1. My 5 month old is in a sleep debt. You described it perfectly when you said it seems like her little body is working against her. 🥺 I’ve resorted to wearing her to sleep in my Ergo (in a dark room with loud noise) but even then she tosses and turns her head tons before finally going to sleep. Then of course, wakes up half an hour later. I’m becoming very impatient & irritated. What am I supposed to do when it’s just getting worse? Her wake times consists of her squealing, zoned out, uninterested in toys, seeming like she didn’t even want to be awake in the first place. I can’t spend all day baby wearing, it’s driving me and my back crazy.

    1. I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with your little girl’s sleep. It is very understandable that you are feeling impatient and irritated with the situation, especially when it is hurting your back! That turning her head to get to sleep can be a soothing technique for babies. Can you use another method to get her some naps during the day such as a car or stroller ride? Getting her caught up a bit here can then help with the rest of the day/night. Then you could start wearing her but sitting down while you do so while she falls asleep, then just sitting and rocking or just holding her to sleep to help transition from the ergo.

      If you are interested in chatting more, that is what I do when I work with families 1:1 — dive into these challenges to get babies sleeping well for nights and naps without having to baby wear all day long just to get her some sleep. You can schedule a free evaluation call with me to chat through more specifics, your sleep goals and how I can help you reach those sleep goals here – sleeploveandhappiness.com/scheduling I look forward to chatting with you soon!

  2. I’m pretty sure I’ve got an overtired 4 week old baby. She struggles to nap for very long in the day and takes ages to go down at night, but for the first part of the night she can sleep for a good four hours, but I’ve been advised my health visitor not to let her sleep longer than 4 hours without being fed. However, this means waking her before she is ready. It’s then a struggle to get her to go back to sleep for very long and the cycle continues in the day. Can I let her sleep for as long as she wants in the middle of the night to catch up or should I still be waking her to feed? We have had issues with weight gain due to my milk taking a while to come in and she was jaundice to begin with so for the first couple of weeks we were having to wake her every 2 hours to feed day and night. I’m not sure if this has had a knock on effect or not. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Marianna! I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with your little one’s sleep. When there are weight or feeding issues I always recommend following doctors’ advice on whether to wake babies to feed them. Focusing on contact naps (baby napping on you nursing, being held, baby carrier, etc) during the day at shorter intervals, around 45 minutes of awake time can help get through this period where you are struggling with weight gain issues. Short naps can be really common (and really frustrating) at this age, unfortunately. For nights, try to get some sleep while she is doing her 4-hour stretch and see if you can switch off with a partner or other person in your support system for helping her sleep the remainder of the night. This can be a really hard stage, especially with feeding/weight gain issues and I hope you have a strong support system! If the feeding/weight issues get resolved and you are still struggling with sleep and overtiredness, please reach out and we can chat more!

  3. 7.5 month old. 3 naps but Only naps 30 mins as a time. Normally a good night from about 6.30/7pm to 7am with one night feed.
    Constantly fighting sleep and everything you have said definitely rings true with her.
    So so stuck on what to do with her naps. I know she needs longer naps but she just doesn’t seem to be able to. We have tried leaving her a while to see if she can drift back off but she just doesn’t

    Any suggestions???.

  4. Erycka Harriman

    My 1 year old is extremely over tired! She napped in the morning for about 45 min then didn’t go down again until 1:45. Its now 4:45 and I’m not sure if I should wake her up so she can sleep tonight or do I let her sleep because she has been fighting the second nap for over a week now and was EXTREMELY fussy all day. Help!

    1. Hi! I definitely recommend waking babies from naps (typically cap them at 1.5-2 hours when babies are taking more than one nap a day) to keep their bedtime on schedule. With your daughter being 1 and fighting her second nap frequently this week, you may want to look at some information on the transition to one nap as the average age to transition is 14-16 months so she may be getting close. Resisting 2nd nap for 4-5 days a week for 2+ weeks is one of the signs that baby is ready to go to one nap. Here are some more tips: https://sleeploveandhappiness.com/2018/09/21/dropping-to-one-nap/

  5. Terri L Braddom

    My 6 month old is only taking 2 naps a day and they last between 30 minutes to 2 hours. Then at night he sleeps well for the 1st 3 hours then wakes me fussing or crying anywhere from every 15 minutes to every hour and a half.

    1. Hi Terri! Sounds like overtiredness could be contributing those wake ups, but I also would look at how he is falling asleep. If he is having a lot of help falling asleep, he likely needs that help falling back to sleep in the night when he wakes between sleep cycles. Working on helping him fall asleep more and more on his own can help him stay asleep for longer stretches. I’d love to chat more about it and how I can help, feel free to schedule a free call here – sleeploveandhappiness.com/scheduling

  6. Hi Bonnie,
    I have a very fussy 7 week old. After 45 minutes of awake time I swaddle and go into a room with white noise and rock/shh/bounce her then put her down awake. I pick her up after a few minutes of crying and do it all again until she’s calm. I usually end up having to rock her totally to sleep and even with all that she still takes 45-60 minutes to fall asleep. By then she’s very overtired (crying/screaming) and then takes a very short nap and we start the cycle all over again 🙁 we don’t know what we are doing wrong.

    1. Hi Tory! At this age, if you are working on establishing independent sleep, I recommend trying for bedtime and one nap a day in the crib, usually the first nap of the day because tends to be easiest. For other naps holding her, rocking her or helping her to sleep can help her get sleep at appropriate times (wake windows) to avoid overtiredness. Once things feel good for nap 1, then try nap 2 and on. Also, you aren’t doing anything wrong ❤️ This stuff is just hard! Give yourselves both some grace, you are still getting to know each other!

    2. Jillian Lacher

      Hi Bonnie,
      I am currently on day 3 of an extremely overtired baby. He is 7 weeks old and I just cannot seem to reset him. When he finally goes down, he’s so overtired that he cannot stay asleep long enough to truly relax and recharge. All night long, he is jerking awake and whimpering, grunting etc. He is too tired to eat properly and this makes everything worse. I have tried absolutely everything – car rides, warm baths, wearing him, taking him in bed with me – everything. I feel so bad for him and just can’t break the cycle. Please help!

      1. Hi Jillian, I’m so sorry to hear that your baby is having such a hard time. At 7 weeks there is also a lot going on developmentally so that may be a factor. Lots of contact naps, keeping wake times short, and napping in a dark, cool room that limits stimulation can help. The eating in likely a factor too in not being able to get to sleep and stay asleep. Have you spoken with your doctor about your concerns with eating? That may be a first step on that front and then feel free to reach out and schedule a free evaluation call if you want to chat more 1-on-1 about getting things back under control! I hope baby starts getting some better sleep soon!

  7. Hi!! So my 6 month old is generally a great sleep. She does two 1.5/2 hour naps a day. Sometimes a quick cat nap to get her to bedtime. Tonight she didn’t do a catnap so I put her down 30 minutes earlier, 6:30pm. She woke from her last nap at 3pm. She’s been up since 9:30p and tossing and turning and crying. Like your article said, with the jerk reactions, she seems overtired? I have no idea how to get her back to sleep, I’ve tried everything. She’s learned to put herself to sleep at 3 months old, So this is very odd. I gave her the appropriate amount of Tylenol in case she’s teething. Any suggestions? Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Nasim, I’m sorry to hear that. Sounds like a very rough night. If she was up for a very long period of time, it is likely she was overtired. at least by that point. However, since she is normally such a good sleeper, something else may have been bothering her too. She is at the age where skipping the cat nap starts to happen more and more until it goes away completely and moving up bedtime earlier is what I recommend in those situations. I hope the rest of the night went better and that tonight is going better too! If not, please reach out and we can troubleshoot some more.

  8. My 8 week old become overtired and today I learned more about wake windows. Yesterday he only took 10-15 minute naps because we didn’t practice wake windows right or putting him to sleep right so he became very inconsolable and miserable. understand my baby should only be up 45-60 minutes at a time then back down. Today I practiced and finally put him down to nap successfully without too much issue like when he’s overtired. But he’s been awake only for a total of 3-4 hours today, one time he was up for an hour the other times were only for about a half hour. Is that okay and is that just him catching up on sleep from the exhausting day yesterday?

    1. Hi Emily! I’m glad to hear that things went better with the age-appropriate wake windows. It is possible that he is making up for missed sleep. I also recommend at his age, waking for feeds during the day when it is time to eat vs letting him sleep until he wakes up. This helps him consolidate his sleep more to night time as he gets older. Babies at this age still sleep A LOT!

  9. Hi Bonnie,
    I have a 6 week old baby that is extremely overtired. She doesn’t stick to a sleeping schedule her sleeping hours are unpredictable. To calm her down I swaddle her, rock, bounce, walk around with her but nothing seems to work specially at night. I’m out of ideas and my husband and I are becoming very frustrated not knowing what else to do to help her.

    1. Hi Karina! I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with your little girl. Sleep is very hard in the newborn stage. Sounds like you are doing great things to help calm her. Watching her wake windows by observing her and learning her sleepy cues is really helpful at this age so that you don’t miss those sleep windows, which can then make it harder to put her down. Making sure she has a full tummy is really helpful and don’t be afraid to do contact naps and get her to sleep in any way you can at this age. It is very frustrating but it should pass soon. If it doesn’t, feel free to reach out and schedule a call to chat about what is going on and how I can help.

  10. My 7 week old is waging war against daytime sleep. I can’t get her to sleep at all even when I try and rock and soothe as soon as she starts showing tiredness cues. The only way she will sleep is in the carrier on the condition that I am walking or occasionally the buggy. I’m walking 10km a day just to get her to sleep – I’m exhausted. She sleeps quite well at night, going down from around 9pm til 3amish and then 4am til 6am. How can I improve our daytime routine?

    1. Hi Lucy! Oof, that does sound exhausting…Glad she is sleeping well at night so you can get some rest. Sounds like you have identified her sleepy cues, but sometimes the most common ones (yawning, eye rubbing, etc) are late sleepy cues and can result in missing the sleep window by just a touch and then having a hard time getting her down to sleep. Take note of when those current sleepy cues are happening (how long since she woke up last) and then aim for 5 minutes ahead to get her to sleep. You can also spend some time observing in that 5-10 minutes before you see sleepy cues to try to identify early sleep cues such as turning head from stimuli, hands to ears, etc. Often it is a combo of cues that mean “I’m getting tired.” Sounds like you are well on the path to getting great sleep for both of you and with some fine tuning, you’ll be there with daytime sleep too!

    2. Hi, I started my 14 week old on a new schedule yesterday as we were following a very short wake window schedule and knew she needed more wake time. We’ve been doing 1hour/75min/75min/90min/90min (4 naps). Typically she has one long nap around 1-2 hours long each day and the rest are pretty sure naps less than 1 hour. Yesterday she did pretty well – first day of the new wake window schedule – but today she had very short naps all day, and had a really hard time falling asleep for bedtime – she cried for almost an hour, making her total wake window almost 2.5 hours . She has slept through the night since she was just a few weeks old but tonight she woke about an hour after falling asleep crying and put herself back to sleep. Then she woke 2 hours later crying and arching her back and head so much I got so worried. We usually do a dream feed so I took that as my opportunity to feed her which I also knew would help put her back to sleep (not something we make a habit, but desperate times call for desperate measures!) I got really worried about the back arching particularly- she looked like she was in pain. Before I decided to feed, I tried going in to comfort her back to sleep and tried repositioning her but she wouldn’t budge. Is that normal for overtiredness? Once I fed her and rocked her for a bit I put her back down awake and now she’s sleeping normally again. Do you think the new wake windows I’m using are causing her sleep debt? Should I try scaling back on them? Or do you think it was the hour to go to sleep at bedtime that caused this? She’s never done this before so I’m at a loss. Thank you!

      1. Hi Krista,
        I’m sorry to hear that. Sounds like pushing her wake windows so fast so quickly may have caused some overtiredness. I typically recommend at this age, pushing wake windows more gradually. 5-15 minutes longer for a few days before adjusting more. This allows you to see what works best because all babies are different and some need more sleep than others or shorter wake times than others. If her sleep is overall going well at the previous wake windows, you also don’t have to feel like you need to change it even if she doesn’t align with the average ranges. Those are just averages and some babies do not fall into them! She will tell you (shorter naps, longer time to fall asleep) when she is ready. 🙂

    3. This is exactly my situation with my 8 week old! I’m borderline obsessive looking for sleepy cues and still she fights tooth and nail every time even if I’m quick to remove her from stimuli. Did you find anything that helped? I really want to break the cycle but just can’t seem to.

      1. Hi Catrin! I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with you little one. It can be really hard to identify sleepy cues in babies that young unfortunately. My biggest advice is to take a step back, and try not to stress yourself out about it. I know…easier said than done, but I think if you can let go for a few weeks you will be able to identify sleepy cues better soon (babies get a bit more reliable so you know better what to look for.) Plus, if you are able to not stress as much that calmer piece can also help her get to sleep easier. It will get better! Hang in there. Please do reach out and schedule a free call if you want to chat more or troubleshoot more in depth. You got this!

  11. I have no idea how I did it exactly, but my baby is only 4.5 months and already sleeps a good 10-12 hours at night without needing me to help her go back to sleep (unless she wakes up for food, which only happens once or twice a night). We’re still working on her naps… the first one in the morning always seems to be the hardest for her, but now that she’s taking at least two 1.5-2 hour naps (instead of 30-40 minutes like when she was overtired a few weeks ago) she’s so much happier and she can actually stay up a good 2~3 hours without showing tired signs. The only things I know I did for sure is that I refused to rock her to sleep because I didn’t want to have to do it all the time (we make the occasional exception when she’s overtired of course) and I also started a short bedtime routine really early that I modified for her naps later on. Oh, and when she does wake herself up at the 30-40 minute mark I leave her be unless she cries — if she cries I quickly go and offer her the soother (or food if she seems hungry… we had struggles with that before because I wasn’t producing enough milk and had to switch to formula around the 4 month mark) and either coax or cuddle her back to sleep. She also knows that we are there to cuddle during the day if needed and my husband and I honestly don’t mind the occasional nap on one of us during the day when she’s sleeping so good at night already.

    1. That’s wonderful to hear your baby is sleeping so well! The occasional contact nap can be really great 🙂 Sounds like you have really worked to help your baby sleep well, so I’m sure she will be able to continue these habits!

  12. Hi Bonnie,
    I’ve been struggling with my 4mo. She was sleeping SO well day and night because she had a dummy. We just weaned her off the dummy and now her sleep is all over the place. She can’t connect sleep cycles, and I feel that she is super overtired. She wakes up after 20 minutes constantly no matter what time (1.5 or 2hrs) I put her to sleep. I have a pretty good sleep routine with dark room, white noise, read a book and sing a lullaby before bed. She goes down pretty easily but wakes up again crying within 5-20 mins. I know this is a sign of overtiredness so I tried putting her to bed earlier at 1 hr but the same thing happened. I just don’t know how to help my baby or what is going wrong, especially because her sleep was so good before.

    1. Hi Vasilo! I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with your 4 mo’s sleep. It’s beyond frustrating when she was sleeping so well before. She may have hit the 4 month sleep regression, a reorganization of her sleep cycles which can create more wake ups, which coupled with removing the dummy have made it even harder. Sounds like you have a great sleep routine! This is a great place to be starting from. If you aren’t already, putting her down awake and letting her drift off to sleep (if this feels like it is impossible, I can help!) will help her connect sleep cycles. It may also take a week or two as she adjusts to the reorganization of sleep cycles for her to get back on track. Once she starts connecting sleep cycles on her own she will have a much easier time getting past that 5-20 minute mark! If you are still struggling in a week, please reach out to schedule your free discovery call with me and we can chat through what is going on and how I can help!

  13. Hi
    Thanks for this article, it explains my 4 week olds behaviour well. Today she is sleeping a lot which is making me think she’s catching up on sleep. And she’s just way less fussy!
    My issues is that I have a Velcro baby. She’s 4 weeks old and just won’t sleep in her cot. I can maybe get 30 mins out of her. My husband and I are taking shifts at night because otherwise I literally don’t sleep because she just wants to sleep on me. She even struggles to sleep on the best when I try co sleeping (safely) she just wants a body to sleep on. Happy to do this in the day at the moment, but really need some sleep at night. Any tips!?

    1. Hi Charlotte! I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with your 4 week old’s sleep. This is such a hard age and what you are describing is pretty common, although extremely exhausting and frustrating. You are not alone! Taking shifts at night is a great way to get through this stage. Babies are wired to want to be close to us and some seem to need that more than others, which is likely why she wants to sleep on you, she feels safe and secure with you! Trying to avoid overtiredness during the day with appropriate wake windows (between 45-60 minutes) and see if you can put her down in her ideal sleep window and have her drift off to sleep on her own (assuming she isn’t crying) at bedtime and it should help you get a longer stretch to start the night in the next few weeks. It can take quite a bit of practice, but once you nail that wake window, it’ll be great! If I can help more, schedule a free discovery call with me and we can chat about what is going on, your goals and how I can help.

  14. I’m really struggling with my 5 week old. I’ve tried getting her to sleep after 45 minutes of being awake, and often she fights it and it takes an hour to get her down.

    OR I try to follow her cues, miss them, and she still ends up being over tired. The drift off, jerk awake issue feels CONSTANT and it’s so disheartening.

    She’s also gone from giving us 3-5 hour stretches of sleep at night to waking every 45 minutes like clockwork all night long. Even after being overtired, we can usually get her a to hour nap, but I’m afraid I’ve made her chronically overtired and I’m at a complete loss in how to fix it.

    1. Hi Lauren! This is such a hard age. Newborn sleep cues aren’t always clear, so missing them (or having them be nonexistent) is common. You are not alone! You gantry adjusting her wake windows in 5 minute increments, so 50 minutes instead of 45 minutes and see how it works for a few days. Then keep adjusting from there if you need to. Don’t worry too much about being chronically overtired, she’s still very young and even if she is getting short sleep periods, it is likely what her body needs at this point. For those stretches at night, it can be so very challenging and exhausting. Do what you need to get through and likely in a few weeks (hopefully less than that!) things will get back to where they were. She may be getting ready to go through a growth spurt which can also lead to more frequent awakenings. Feel free to reach out and schedule a free discovery call with me if you want to chat more about what is going on and how I can help!

  15. I’ve now realized that my seven week old’s struggle with naps is overtiredness and our missing wake windows. Last night was particularly bad and he didn’t even fall asleep while eating his last bottle and I had to hold him to sleep. He ended up with a relatively decent night and his currently working (with some moaning) on a 4+ Hour stretch. Do we let him sleep in or do we get back on track with our desired wake time?

    1. Hi Sarah! Its great you’ve seen where you’ve missed wake windows and can adjust. At this age, during the day I recommend waking when it is time for a feed to help push those longer stretches to the night time by ensuring he gets as many calories as he can during the day. I hope nights continue to go well and improve too! If you have any questions or want to chat more, feel free to reach out!

  16. Once you have an overtired baby, because like you said, life happens. How do you get them caught up. Is it ok to let them sleep longer than the recommended 2 hours or should we be waking them at the 2 hour mark and hope it was enough?
    Baby is 11 weeks for reference

    1. Hi Elyse! The big thing is avoiding more overtiredness, by slightly shortening wake windows based on sleepy cues, doing slightly earlier bedtimes to make up for missed sleep. Morning wake time is controlled primarily by the body clock, so doing an earlier bedtime can allow baby to make up for some sleep while waking at about the same time. You can do slightly longer naps but want to make sure there isn’t too much sleep happening during the day as that can impact nights. 4-6 hours max of nap sleep until baby is 3 months old. Then 3-4 hours of total nap sleep for a 3-5 month old. Hope that helps!

  17. Hi

    I think my 11 month old had a chronic sleep debt and overtired, she shows sleepy cues right after wake up even after 1,5 hours long nap, I tried to put her down to sleep right after she shows sleepy cues, but she’’ll sleep 1,5 hours later and I used to rock her until she fall asleep. I did dark room, cool temp and white noise. I wonder What am I suppose to do when sleepy cues show, should I put her in the crib, since I’ve tried that before and overtired got worse? My baby weight is getting stuck due to the chronic overtired, should I catch up the body weight firsr or do the sleep train first?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Cika! I would definitely chat with your pediatrician about her weight gain. That is the first priority over sleep training. If overtiredness is impacting her eating so significantly, you may need to rock and hold to sleep to get her caught up so she can start eating better. Then focus on getting her sleeping independently. I’m wondering what the sleepy signs she is showing right after a long nap are. Depending on this, they may be more of her waking up versus needing to go back to sleep. At this age I recommend about 3 hours of awake time between naps. If she isn’t sleeping well at night or not taking naps, you can shorten slightly (15-30 minutes at most) so that she has enough sleep pressure to help her get a good nap. If you need more help, feel free to reach out and we can chat more about what is going on and how I can help. Hang in there! You got this!

  18. Hi! Since my newborn turned 8 days I have a real trouble making her nap. I have confirmed with her doctor that she’s gaining the right amount of weight and we have no problem nursing. However, once the feed is over, we keep the awake time to about 10-20 min, then she sometimes gives a yawn or show minimal signs of tiredness. I try putting her down to sleep and sometimes she might fall asleep on her own after 30 min of being “in&out”. However, sometimes, she simply won’t fall asleep, after 30 min of calmly laying in the crib she starts getting fusssy, irritated, and if she falls asleep from that state she only naps for 15-30 min, which looks to me like overtiredness. We tried keeping wake time not too overstimulating because if we pack it with too much and we try putting her after an hour, she simply will not settle. At night, she does fine, since we put her down right after feeding and she’s able to soothe herself to sleep. She is now almost 3 weeks old and consistently fights each nap. Sometimes, if she skips a nap she stays awake for 5h and I refuse to believe that’s healthy even though the doctor did not seem too concerned about it.

    1. Hi Natalia! I know how frustrating those short naps are. Short naps can unfortunately be common for young babies and it can take some time to extend. It sounds like she may need her wake windows adjusted slightly. Even 10 minutes can make a difference at this age. If she is waking up happy typically making them a bit longer help and if she is waking up grumpy adjusting a bit shorter helps. Sounds like you are doing great monitoring her stimulation and when it is too much for her. It may be helpful to try some contact naps at her age for 1-2 naps a day. This can help her body get used to sleeping longer stretches at once and hopefully help her do it on her own. Even if not, it can help get out of the cycle of overtiredness as well as avoid those 5 hours long periods of being awake. Hope this helps. If you want to chat more, please do reach out!

  19. Really interesting read. My struggle is that my 4MO has stopped connecting his sleep cycles during naps and so is constantly tired throughout the day. I will leave him in his cot for up to an hour as he just kicks around or sucks his thumb, but he’s rarely going back to sleep. He can self settle and I always put him down awake with a dark room and white noise. Luckily at the moment he’s still sleeping through the night – but I don’t know how to get out of the overtired cycle everyday. The 40minute naps are not making him happy and we’ve had days of breakdowns and tons of walks to get him a bit of extra sleep!! Any tips on how to get him back to connecting the cycles during naps please?

    1. Hi Poppie! Ahh, I’m sorry to hear that your 4 month old isn’t connecting sleep cycles anymore at nap. Great to hear that he self settles to sleep, which is great. I’m wondering if it is possible that your little one is going through the 4 month sleep regression (progression) and he is getting used to his new sleep stages (2 new stages of light sleep). Depending on how long this has been going on, he may just need a bit more time to adjust to the maturation of his sleep cycles. Since he self settles to sleep, continue to let him settle himself to sleep and he should get back on track soon. In the meantime, you can shorten his wake windows by about 10-15minutes when he takes one of those short naps. It can help avoid more overtiredness as well as help extend the nap again. Hope this helps! If you want to chat more, please feel free to reach out!

  20. An interesting article. My almost 7 months old wakes up 30 minutes after each nap and now started waking up every 2 hours at night. I started holding her to sleep and then she will sleep for 1-2 hors at a time but I can’t seen to put her down, she wakes up right away. I’m tired of holding her everyday to sleep and now waking every 2 hrs at night. I she sleeps 2 to 2.5 hours awake times. I have tried early bedtime at night also late bedtime but nothing seems to work. She is very active and gets bored easily. She also fusses alot of time.

    1. Hi Rebecca! I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with your 7 month old’s sleep. It sounds like she is ready to learn some independent sleep skills so that she can more easily connect sleep cycles for naps and nights and you won’t have to worry about her waking up when you put her down. She also may need slightly more awake time between naps and bedtime bed to ensure she has enough sleep pressure to help her sleep easily and longer. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more about what is going on and how I can help. Creating personalized sleep plans to help babies learn to fall asleep and stay asleep independently for nights and naps is what I do when I work with families one-on-one. If you are interested, I’d love to set up a free call to chat more about it!

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