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 it is 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.
Signs of a chronically overtired baby
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.
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 it is 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.
What to do when you see these signs of overtiredness
Act fast! That whole “baby will sleep when baby needs to sleep” saying is not true for many babies, especially those very alert and aware babies that want to be part of everything. 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 continuing 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.
In more extreme situations with a missed nap because baby was fighting it or it seems like there isn’t enough time for another nap before bedtime, you can put your baby to bed up to an hour earlier than their normal bedtime. This allows them to make up for that missed nap sleeps and can help with minimizing the overtiredness.
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.
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 be stressing over trying to remember what your baby’s sleep looked like yesterday or struggling to remember when they woke up from their last nap.
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 and having no idea what next steps are 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!
*Updated March 2023*
94 thoughts on “Overtiredness in Babies”
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
Hi Chrissie! Short naps are so hard. Check out my post on troubleshooting short naps and it should help you determine next steps in lengthening those naps so she doesn’t seem so overtired during the day. Glad to hear she is sleeping well at night, that definitely helps make up for it!
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!
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/
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.
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
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.
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!
Does this mean putting baby in cot awake at bedtime? Or just to nap in there full stop even if that means doing asleep on me first?
Hi Chloe! Ideally, helping baby learn to fall asleep independently by putting them in the cot awake at bedtime will help baby get the quality sleep to move past overtiredness. Hope that helps! If you need help figuring out how to put baby down awake and have them easily fall asleep on their own, please reach out! That is exactly what I do when I work with families one-on-one. You can schedule a free call if you are interested here – sleeploveandhappiness.com/scheduling – we can chat about what is going on and how I can help.
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!
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!
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!!!
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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?
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!
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!
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. 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!?
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.
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.
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!
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?
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!
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
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!
Hi! How long does it take for baby’s body to catch up on sleep or reset after being overtired? I have a very overtired almost 7 month old.
Hi Ana! It really depends on how overtired and how long it has been going on. Ideally once night sleep improves (falling asleep, staying asleep for longer stretches, sleeping later in the morning) then naps improve and you get out of the cycle. An early bedtime (30 min or so) can help with getting to sleep easier. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more in-depth about getting things back on track!
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?
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!
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.
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!
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?
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!
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.
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!
Hiya! Thank you for this article. Didn’t know much about sleep debt but this explains it really well. My 11 month old daughter was a pretty good sleeper until 8 months but the last few weeks have been terrible. She usually wakes up at 7am and has two naps around 10am and 2pm and then goes to bed at 7.30pm. But recently she has been waking at night and struggling to go back to sleep staying awake for a few hours at a time. It has got worse over the last few days and last night she was awake from 11pm-2am and then 4am-6.30am. I can tell she is absolutely exhausted but struggles to hit that deep sleep. We encourage the sleep and rock, take her in her pram, car rides etc but she will only sleep when she is absolutely exhausted. I’m at breaking point!
Hi Mandy! I’m so sorry to hear you are struggling with your daughter’s sleep and all the wake ups! Her schedule sounds appropriate for her age. Are there any big developmental milestones she is working on? That can definitely impact sleep and create wake ups. The other piece is helping her learn to fall asleep independently so that when she wakes up in the night (we all wake up 4-8 times a night between sleep cycles) she is able to get herself back to sleep quickly so that she doesn’t even know she was awake (just like we do!) Hopefully she is back on track and it was developmental milestones causing the issue, but if not, please reach out. Helping families come up with a plan to help their little ones learn to fall asleep independently is what I do. If you are interested, I’d love to chat more!
Hi! My 9 week old sleeps well if I we are at home all day and I can put her straight in the bassinet at the first sign of tiredness. But this is not realistic and I would like to be able to leave the house, even just to go for a walk! This doesn’t fit into her awake time which is about an hour, but she doesn’t sleep consistently in the pram.
How do I manage to leave the house without her becoming overtired which is what has been happening if I do leave to go for a walk or meet a friend? Thanks!
Hi Lauren! I know how frustrating it is feeling like you can’t leave the house. Let her practice naps in different ways. Practice will help her get used to being a bit more flexible. Naps in the baby carrier are also really great for helping her sleep by being close and comfy on you while letting you get out! If she does get overtired, try to help her make up for it with a slightly shorter wake window(s) for the rest of the day. Hang in there, it will get easier as wake windows extend! Hope that helps!
My daughter seems to have a huge sleep debt and everyone feels i overworry… He is always fussy, crying, clingy, loss of weight and appetite, cries all through d night, everyone around told me d more tired he is d better he will sleep so i relaxed…. 10 months he was taking 1 nap 11 _2 and bedtime 8pm.. Now he is always hyperactive and i cant read his sleep cues as much as before.. I was advised to let hum be dat hyperactivity is good but recently he can go from 12 to 2 nap.. Then bedtime 10pm depending…. He cries amd constantly wakes at night and wakes up 7am….i feel he isnt getting enough sleep i dont care if everyone feels i am obsessing… Please how do i fix it… Currently he woke by 2pm today by 6pm i did is routine and he slept off immediately.. I am worried i will ruin the whole thing and if 6pm isnt too early.. I just want him to catch enough rest.. Please help.
Hi Tayo! I’m so sorry to hear you are having a hard time with everyone saying your are worrying too much. That is so hard and frustrating when you are seeing these challenges and no one is validating them. Overtiredness is so hard. It becomes and cycle that is hard to get out of with early wake ups, hard to fall asleep, short naps and night wake ups. It does sound like she is very overtired. I recommend doing an early bedtime, 6:00 pm is fine in the short term to help her get caught up on sleep. 10 months is pretty young to be taking one nap, but since it has been going well, I would leave it. Just make sure to use the early bedtime if nap is shorter than the 3 hours. Typically at 10 months, I recommend a max of 4 hours of awake time, especially before bed. Until nap extends back to 3 hours, keep the 6pm bedtime and move it out as nap starts to extend. I also recommend reaching out to a pediatrician to chat through weight loss and feeding schedule. Hope this helps! Hang in there, this is hard and you can do this! If things aren’t improving in the next week or so, please reach out and we can schedule a call to chat things through more in depth.
Really helpful post!
My 11 wo is definitely overtired and I’m not sure where to start to help him. Night sleep is ok, but I’m still rocking/bouncing/patting/shushing to sleep, dealing with failed transfers, and generally taking 45 min+ after bedtime routine to get him to sleep. We’ve had 3 nights of false starts and this morning an early wake that he couldn’t settle after until I let him sleep on me.
Daytime sleep is not going well. I seem to miss his cues, try to either settle him like at bedtime and transfer unsuccessfully, or put him down awake and he doesn’t settle. I sometimes get a 30 min nap out of him in the crib but it’s well beyond the wake window when he falls asleep, if I do a contact nap he’ll sleep for 2+ hours, and car seat naps can be anywhere from 30 min to 2 hrs depending on what I do.
Any suggestions on how to get him back on track would be greatly appreciated!
Hi Kate! Learning cues this young can be hard! Setting some time before the end of his wake window to set him down and really observe what he is doing before those late sleepy cues (rubbing eyes, yawning etc) start happening. Record what you saw for a few days and then see what patterns emerge for early sleepy cues. This will help you nail down the timing of when it will be easiest for him to fall asleep. Also he may be getting ready for some big developmental leaps around 12 weeks and just need some more support for naps. Do some contact naps to get him caught up on sleep and out of the overtiredness cycle, then get back to trying to get him in the crib for nap sleep. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more!
Hi Bonnie! Like many I stumbled into your website and this incredibly helpful article as a very tired parent. We were in the throes of overtiredness sleep cycle for our 13 weeks baby and we are maybe starting to work off the sleep debt acquired. I now track his sleep and try to not let him be awake for more than an hour to 1.5 hours. I also obsessively look at his sleepy cues (which seem to come on so quickly!) and immediately move to try to get him to sleep. Since I’ve been doing that, he at least won’t scream at the top of his lungs and wail his fists and kicks at us. It now takes about on average 15-20 mins to get him to sleep if we hold him or on the carrier, not the 2 hours it used to take. He has shown that he’s able to fall asleep independently at times but it’s rare and I haven’t found exactly how or when yet. My question is this: he now wakes consistently at 4am, 5am, 6am and then 7am when we put him down at 8 or 9pm bedtime, how do I get him to consolidate this period between 4am-wake time? His longest stretches could be 3 or 4 hours from 9pm-1am or 12pm-3pm. He also trashes so hard because of the startle reflex that he now has friction burns on his arms! Any suggestions or advice you can give us would be really, really appreciated!!
Hi Beatrice! Sounds like you are well on your way to getting baby out of the overtiredness cycle by watching cues plus wake windows. That is great! The 4AM and on time can be challenging. Our bodies are prepping to get up, sleep is lighter and easier to wake up from. When you are ready, working on independent sleep (you can work more intentionally on it around 4+ months old) should help so that he knows how to get himself back to sleep when he wakes up slightly. Early wake ups can be common in the beginning of the process, so keep that in mind, but with practice he should start being able to consolidate that time period. Hope that helps! Please reach out if you want to chat more!
Our 7week old is going down for bedtime fairly “easy” either by nursing or on his own, but around 4/5AM when he wakes to feed I cannot get him back down! He screams and screams for a few hours and nothing works, even trying to nurse. Which then offsets the whole day making it hard to even follow wake windows ! Do you have any tips for that period of time after 4AM to get baby back down to sleep?
Hi Brooke! Those early wake ups can be BRUTAL! You may need to push bedtime a bit later (9-10pm, around when you go to bed) at this age and that can shift the morning a bit. You also want to make sure he is getting burped etc so that he is comfortable to get back to sleep. Ideally you want to keep him in a dark, calm, quiet environment until at least 6AM. Do whatever you need to get him back to sleep during that time and he may not nurse if he is full so rocking or a pacifier could help in the newborn period. You’ll also want to make sure he isn’t overtired going down to bed as this can make it harder to get back to sleep in the early morning hours. Doing a good contact nap in the evening to get him an hour or so nap before you start bedtime can help. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out to me or my team if you want to chat more!
First time mama here and you described my little guy perfectly! He is most definitely overtired. He is 6 weeks old and had a great sleeping schedule for the longest. He was always up for at most an hour than would take an hour to 2 hour nap and at night he never had a problem with sleep and started sleeping half way through the night before needing to eat or change than back to bed. However, about 2 days ago we had a loud house and his last few naps where awful 30 min and or would keep getting woken up. Ever since then His last nap before bed is only lasting 30 min and he is completely fussy- last night he hit almost 4 hours of fighting his sleep- I feel so bad I can’t help him. How do I reset his sleep at this point? Does he need more sleep during the day ? Help! Thank you!
Hi Monica! I’m sorry to hear the last few days have been so rough! There is a lot going on developmentally at this age and it could contribute to those short naps. In addition, short naps can be common at this age even if he was previously doing longer naps. Watching his wake windows and tired cues can help him get the best sleep possible. You can also do some contact naps to get him sleeping past 30 minutes to get him a bit more sleep if you feel like he needs it during the day. This can help him get caught up and back on track. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more!
Hello, help please! My 11 month old normally goes to sleep lieing near me in the big bed and then I transfer him to his cot (we’ve had a rough few months of teething, infection, falls, and sickness so I’ve been a softy). Then in the night (usually between 2am – 4am) he wakes up and wants back in my bed, which I’m fine with. I just set him next to me and give him a dummy. He sleeps through to 6am for a feed and then usually has another small sleep next to me.
The last few nights he’s been waking up early and often. He now ends up in my bed around 10pm. Then for a few hours he wriggles often and has short cries. After 1am it starts getting bad. He wakes often and nothing will stop the crying, even with paracetamol. (I very strictly won’t feed him in the night, this has been established for a few months.) Holding him, dummy, walking with him, lieing next to him (like normal), talking. Nothing works. I don’t know how long he cries, but it feels like forever before he settles, and then repeats the process half hour to an hour later.
I want to sleep train him (I’m fine with this), but only if nothing is wrong. (His cot is near my bed, I won’t be changing that for a while.)
Given that he’s happy in the day I assume this is the case, but I don’t know if I’m missing something? Like if he’s too hot, or upset from a nightmare or something else?
Any help appreciated!
HI Laura! It does sound like your little guy will be able to sleep better once he learns the skills to fall asleep on his own. Right now he is dependent on so many things to fall asleep and back to sleep that it is likely a little frustrating for him. Helping him fall asleep on his own will help him sleep longer stretches in his cot. The other thing to keep in mind is that big developmental milestones can throw off sleep. Is he learning to walk or pull up or something similar? If so, he may be having more disrupted sleep because of that. Give him lots of practice during the day on those skills and it will help minimize the disruptions. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more!
I think this could be the case with our 11 week old girl but would love to hear your thoughts.
She has recently started to wake from naps after 20-30mins. She initially seems bright and happy but soon becomes grizzly again and shows signs of tiredness. We then try to get her down for a nap again. It takes a long time to settle her now and while this is not new, she has started screaming inconsolably until she falls asleep.
Night sleep is good when she finally falls asleep and we get blocks of between 3 and 5 hours, but the same screaming happens before she goes down.
I don’t know if there’s something I should be doing differently to help her. We pay attention to wake windows and try to spot her cues, have tried a dark room rather than downstairs, use white noise. The situation is overwhelming and unsustainable at the moment – is this something she will grow out of or should we be doing things differently?
Hi First Time Mum! Short naps are very common at this age unfortunately. The screaming inconsolably is definitely hard and it sounds like it may be partially caused by overtiredness. I’m not sure what wake windows you are using, but you may need to adjust shorter after a short nap so that she isn’t overtired going down. You want to make sure she is tired enough without being too tired. It can be a fine line. The good news is that as her stamina grows and she can handle longer wake time, it will help you be able to find the ideal sleep window a little easier without it being such a fine line. Hang in there! It will get better! Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more!
Evening Bonnie. My little almost 4 weeker is definately overtired! I just spent 3 hrs trying to get him to sleep from 5;30pm and its now 8:30pm and he was just crying, fussing, pulling on/off a bottle and is restless asleep on my lap – i will happily let him contact nap on me just to get some rest! Im hoping to put him to bed with me at around 11pm so going to let him rest for a bit first.
Anyway considering his wake time is approx 45mins-1hr, do you suggest after 45mins of being awake, i try to get him to nap? Im rubbish at spotting sleep cue’s! He is quite a windy boy so we spend a fair amount of time winding him after feeding, but i wonder if this could be overstimulating him aswell, and then causing overtiredness??
Hi Jemma! It is hard to find sleep cues at this age, they usually aren’t clear yet. I would follow the clock for now if you aren’t seeing sleep cues to determine when to try to get him back down for a nap. There are also unfortunately just babies who are fussier especially in those evening hours. If you try for a nap and you try for 15-20 minutes and he isn’t going to sleep, end the attempt and try again later. Otherwise it can be very frustrating for both of you, making it harder for him to fall asleep. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more!
Like the rest of the parents here, I’ve stumbled upon your site while trying to find solutions for my 3.5 month old bub (adjusted from prem) – he is almost 5 months actual. I’m a first time mum, so this is all new to me.
He sleeps fine at night (in a bassinet next to the bed), but his daytime naps are challenging. We are trying to get him to nap in the cot in his nursery. We’ve just had family come to stay over the festive season and they have just been holding him and cuddling him to sleep during the day so he has gotten used to this royal treatment…
So today we have started trying to get him to nap in his cot…. and so far we have failed miserably. I watched the clock, tried to get ahead of his sleepy cues, thought I nailed it and BAM the moment I went to put him down drowsy but still awake he cried and cried and cried…
So I reset and started again… and again… and again… and it didn’t work so he is currently sleeping in a bouncer. 🙁 It took me 2 hours from the initial time I tried to put him down for a nap!
How long should I continue to try and put him down into the cot for a nap? 2 hours is just ridiculous… Or, given his ‘royal treatment’, should i try for the bouncer for a few days and gradually introduce the cot again?
Hi Emma! Ugh this can be so hard. Continue to practice, but I recommend trying to get him to nap in the cot for 30-45 minutes and then take a break and do a motion nap if needed. Making sure you have a consistent plan that you follow when trying to get him down (there are tons so find one you are comfortable with as it will help you stay consistent), will allow him to learn what to expect and be able to adjust to the new routine of sleeping in his cot. Hang in there! It is really hard at this age, especially with preemies. Reach out if you want to chat more about how to get him sleeping in his cot easily!
Hi! I need help please. i have a 8 year old, a 2 year old and a 7 month old baby. My 7 month old baby has always only slept only 1/2 naps a day. We’re a busy household so during her younger months, she would sleep maybe 30 minutes in the morning around 830am while we took her big sister to school.
Her schedule used to be 630am awake, 830 30 minute nap. 11am-245/3pm nap and bed time of 7pm.
Last friday my mother in law started watching her. (only on fridays). She said she took a total of a 45 minute nap, which is very unlike her! normally she takes a 2-3 hour nap. Ever since then, she is increasingly fussy at night. Every day she has been waking up earlier and earlier. today was 5am! We put her down at 7pm as we always do. she wakes up 30 minutes later “startled and crying”. From then on, its a battle. She is fussy, kicking her feet, crying on and off every hour to two hours. sometimes not even holding her, settles her. At times she refuses to eat during the day and “cluster feeds” during these episodes at night.
Is she overtired? my 8 year old is my stepdaughter and my son never did this so this is all so new to me. I can’t change her nap times, as we have a busy schedule. I can put her to bed earlier if that will help her sleep debt however.
I’m going to try 630pm tonight instead of 7pm. please provide advice if you can. my husband and i work full time, we’re exhausted and we just want our baby to be happy/healthy. i’m so sad she’s so frustrated at night.
Hi Shea! I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with your daughter’s sleep. It can be so hard. It sounds like she is overtired – the wake up shortly after bedtime, extra fussiness are all signs of overtiredness. Doing an early bedtime should help her start to get caught up on sleep. Keeping her naps fairly consistent (within 30 min or so) will help keep her used to sleeping at the same time and start to extend her naps. It can take a few days to a week to get out of the overtiredness cycle. If it isn’t getting better, please reach out and we can do some more troubleshooting. Hang in there and hope this helps!
Hi! Thank you for your great contents. I really need help here! My son is 3 month and few days old now. I’m suspecting overtiredsness of him. He had been sleeping pretty well for almost 2 weeks, napped 1.5-2 hours each time and sleep well at night. Just when we thought we figured out his sleep schedule, he started napping shorter than 1 hour from a week ago, wakes up mostly around 45 minutes. I have a hard time knowing what to do when he wakes up way earlier than usual and still far away from feeding time, since I try to stick to eat-play-sleep. Do I try to get him to fall back to sleep? Sometimes he doesn’t fuss and stays awake in the crib, so I waited to see if he’d fall back asleep. Occasionally he would, but often he would start fussing so I’ll go pick him up. But then he can start showing tired cues as soon as 30 mins. Even if he has fallen back to sleep and wake up 1.5 to 2 hours later, he still looks tired after the longer naps. He usually sooths himself by suckling his fingers, and we can still hear him suckling a lot in his sleep, Does that mean he’s not really in deep sleep? And is all these possibly cause by overtiredness? Now I watched closely when he shows any signs of tiredness and put him in bed to prevent getting overtired even when he’s only awake for less than an hour, but he still wakes up after 45 mins. What am I doing wrong? I’m a first-time mom and I really need some guidance! Thank you!
Hi Jessie! This stuff is really hard! Two things – first, there is a lot going on developmentally at this age and can cause a ‘regression’ from what you were seeing. Additionally, sleep needs can start decreasing, while wake windows aren’t extending yet, leading to some shorter naps. Second – keep letting him fall asleep independently and if he isn’t crying when he wakes up from a shorter nap, you can give him a little bit to see if he falls back to sleep like you have been. The independent sleep practice is going to pay off! It can be really frustrating right now, but sounds like you are handling things well. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more!
I have a 7 week old baby. During the day he breast feeds perfectly fine, but once it gets to night time around 5/6pm, he gets SO FUSSY! He cries & cries when I try to give him my boob. I don’t know what’s happening. As soon as I put the pacifier in his mouth he calms down, then I try again and he is screaming bloody murder. I tried this for 3-4 hours on and off. It got to the point where I had to pump out my milk and give it to him in a bottle. After her took my breast milk in a bottle, he fell right asleep. This literally happened out of no where like 3-4 days ago 😭 I’m so sad that he doesn’t want to breastfeed at night. He used to LOVE it!!!! It’s breaking my heart. I don’t know what’s wrong with him.
Hi Susanne! I’m sorry to hear that it has been such a struggle, I know how hard that is! That fussiness can be very common in the evening with babies this age. There is a lot going on developmentally as well as overtiredness can have an impact. About 60 minutes of awake time at his age is what you should aim for to avoid overtiredness during the day. I’m not a feeding expert but hopefully it was a phase and he is back to breastfeeding now! if he isn’t, I recommend contacting a lactation consultant who should be able to help! Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more.
I must first say that I appreciate you! I am quite sure I have an overtired almost 7 month old. After reading many of your posts, I think I have a pretty good idea on how to “manage” (if that is even a thing haha) my sweet little girl’s sleep situation! Please pray for me! 😉 My question is if I should wake her in the morning, after a night of all the overtired signs? She finally stayed asleep after a feeding at 2am. This has been going on for more than 2 weeks now. It doesn’t make sense to wake her with what you say about sleep deficits, but I also don’t want her days and nights all mixed up.
(Mother of a sleepy family)
Hi Amy! I’m so glad that you have gotten most of the information you need from my posts! I do recommend waking her in the morning if she sleeps past 7AM. This helps get her body clock on track and will help bring consistency to the rest of the day which can help get sleep on track overall. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more!
My LO is 3 months old (just turned about 4 days ago) these past I’d say almost 2 weeks have been awful. She used to get 1 long in the morning about 1.5-2 hours, now she only sleeps if we are lucky 45 min. Her naps range from 20-45 minutes. I try to watch for her sleep cues, but she just always looks tired now. She always has red eyebrows which was usually how I could tell she was getting tired. I just feel like I’m constantly battling to get her to sleep no matter the time. As much as I love snuggling her I’m only able to get her to sleep longer with contact naps but I feel like I’m creating a bad habit when she had no problems before.
We resort to all means necessary to get her to sleep ie rocking/bouncing, paci ( she doesn’t always take) and have been feeding to sleep.
Evenings have been even worse but I know that’s just because she’s overtired and exhausted by the end of the day.
Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated
Hi Maegan! This can be a tough age because there is a lot going on developmentally that can make sleep more challenging. Don’t worry too much of creating bad habits, you can always change those habits at 4-6 months when you can use sleep training strategies to help her learn to fall asleep independently. Continue to watch wake windows and do what you can to get her the sleep she needs through this developmental period. Then you can help her learn to fall sleep independently at 4 months. There are lots of different ways to do this but I recommend finding a strategy that feels comfortable for your family that you can be consistent with. Consistency is key! Working with families to find a method that fits each family is what my team and I do when we work with families 1-on-1. Feel free to schedule a free evaluation call to learn more about how we can help you get your daughter sleeping well and independently as she approaches 4 months. You can schedule a call here – sleeploveandhappiness.com/scheduling
Good afternoon! Question! My 2 month old does pretty well sleeping on his own in his crib and has for quite some time. Is it ok if when he had a bout of overtiredness and hits that second wind, that I let him do a contact nap just to reset? Will that cause an issue with his current independence? It doesn’t seem to have effected it so far!
Hi Joelle! If you do the occasion contact nap, especially in situations that are not ideal for sleep, such as being overtired, it shouldn’t have a big impact independent sleep. Of course, you will want to make sure that the contact naps stay occasionally and the independent sleep is the majority for him. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more!
I have an 3 month old that ever since about 5 weeks old have been fighting napping in the afternoon. She tend to start cluster feed, it’s constantly from about 3-4pm and won’t go to sleep until bedtime which is usually around 8pm . I think the feeding is more a comfort thing than hunger but we’ve tried a pacifier and she’s not interested.
She sleeps good during night mostly 6-7 hours stretch and then 3 hour stretch but do sometimes wake more often after her first stretch. She also self soothe we just put her down drowsy, however this does rarely work during day time naps, she wants to sleep on us or in pram/car seat/wrap. How can we change this? And is it bad for her to be awake for that long in afternoon?
Hi Alexandra! This afternoon fussiness is pretty common and there are lots of causes, but it can lead to some overtiredness. Does she get drowsy/doze off during the cluster feeding? This could help cut some of the overtiredness at this age. You also want to make sure you are following age appropriate wake windows – about 1-1.5 hours at 3 months and 1.25-1.75 hours at 4 months. This will help avoid overtiredness and should help cut down on some of the fussiness during the day. You also want to make sure she is eating well during the early part of the day too. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more!
Hi Bonnie, if short naps 30-45 minutes are so normal under 4 months, how are we to prevent overtiredness? I can’t put my 3.5 month old to bed early every night or shorten every wake window every day? Currently struggling to figure out if he’s over or undertired! Everyday I think differently. Can it take several days for baby to get used to a new sleep schedule with longer wake windows or if they get overtired the first day trying, should we assume they’re too long? He can’t seem to handle a 90 minute wake window and even if he’s had decent naps all day, he is always WIRED at bedtime. He’s also always happy and engaged in playing and only had a meltdown tonight for the first time, even though his evening hyperness seems like he’s overtired everyday. Since he hasn’t been crying like a typical overtired baby when trying to sleep I’ve thought he must be undertired and his wake windows needed to be longer, but then today ended with a bang and he hasn’t been eating well the last two days. He sleeps well overnight as well, recently some 8-10 hour stretches (after being out taking short naps at friends all afternoon and being late getting to bed — so I thought he then must need longer awake time since he wasn’t screaming from overtiredness!) but usually 6.5 hours. Thanks for any advice!
Hi Allie! This can be a tough age. Yes, short naps can be common and sometimes babies still need a full wake window before their next nap even with the short naps. This is because their sleep need is only so much sleep in a 24 hour period and he may need to break it up more during the day with shorter wake windows that are appropriate for his age. Before bedtime does he go through a period of tiredness and then get hyper? If so that looks like overtiredness. If he just gets hyper, he may need a bit longer of wake time and the meltdown at bedtime could be a one time (or infrequent) thing relating to something else other than under or overtiredness. Hope that helps! Please reach out if you want to chat more about what’s going on and how I may be able to help!
My lo has been resisting sleep since 2 weeks old. She is now 7 weeks and since last week, she practically doesnt sleep at all during nap and getting her down for bedtime is not always successful. Even when doing contact nap she doesnt seem to be able to connect sleep cycle and her eyes are always half opened. Im not sure if this is chronically overtired and cant figure out what should I do to help her?
Hi Eve! I’m so sorry to hear you are struggling. There is SO much going on developmentally at this age and it can make sleep hard and elusive. Hang in there and keep doing what you are doing and things should improve as she gets a bit older. Making sure you have appropriate wake windows (about 1 hour at her age) is really helpful in avoiding overtiredness. Sometimes because some babies have a bit lower sleep needs than others (completely normal!) it can result in only needing short naps but they will improve over time. She may also be ready for a bit earlier bedtime as her circadian rhythm develops. Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more about what’s going on and how I may be able to help!
I think my 6months old baby is having chronic over tiredness. He becomes fussy, naps less than 30minutes and always hyperactive. He always wakes up soon or 30minutes few times after bedtime and early wakings. Tried to put him back to sleep (rocking, and pat) but he would wake up and cry hourly. He keeps rolling over then wakes up and cries. Should I help him to clear his sleep debt first? If so, how to clear his sleep dept? Try any way to help him sleep as much as possible during daytime and early bedtime? Or can just start sleep train him? But he keeps rolling and playing once I put him in his crib. Until he becomes fussy and hyperactive and he just can’t settle himself to get into sleep. What should I do?
Hi Shi wan! That can be so hard and frustrating. You can definitely start to sleep train and that can allow him to start to connect his sleep cycles better, especially at night. Short naps can still be common at this age but should start to extend especially when he transitions to two naps in the next few months. If he just started rolling and being more mobile, it is normal to practice in the crib but helping him learn to fall asleep on his own will help him be able to get to sleep once he is done practicing his new skills! Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out if you want to chat more about what is going on and how I may be able to help!
This is a great article, thank you for all this information. My little one seems to be overtired consistently through the day and at night before bedtime. He is 3 months old, and I’m having trouble getting him down to sleep. During the day he barely sleeps and shows signs like red at the eye brows, fighting when feeding, rubbing his eyes, fussy or crying, etc and when he does finally nap, it’s only for 30 minutes or less unless on a car ride going somewhere. I believe it’s because his routine has also been sporadic due to visiting family these past couple weeks. So now, he’s consistently fighting sleep during the day and at night after his bath and feeding, he fusses and cries consistently and rolls on his side while doing so, but when picked up and rocked his calms down and sometimes falls asleep until put back down. What would you recommend doing and what kind of a routine can I implement to start making changes and having him take longer naps throughout the day and easily going down at bedtime? Thank you for all your help and consideration.
Hi Iris! That can be so frustrating and exhausting. Trying to get into a consistent routine with a nap routine and bedtime routine before sleep and then feeding on a more predictable schedule as well as managing wake windows (1-1.5 hours for 3 months old) will help. Some contact naps can be helpful in getting him some better sleep during the day so he isn’t overtired at night. Once he is 4 months old you can start doing some more intentional sleep work if you would like to get him falling asleep independently which can help him connect and consolidate sleep cycles and get better sleep. Hang in there! Hope that helps and feel free to reach out if you want to chat more about what is going on and how I may be able to help!