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How to Get an Overtired Baby to Sleep: Tips, Tricks, and More!

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how to get overtired baby to sleep

An overtired baby can have a hard time falling asleep as they sleep only intermittently and wake up more often through the night. The fact is, the more urgent and necessary the sleep becomes, the more your little one will try to resist it. At this juncture, it’s okay to feel at a loss as to what to do.

We have brought together some facts about overtired babies and why they refuse to sleep. Read on to uncover the tips on how to get an overtired baby to sleep.

An Overtired Baby: Role of Hormones and The Sleep/Wake Cycles

Cortisol and melanin are the two hormones that govern sleep in humans. The former keeps us awake (its highest at 8 am and gradually drops as the day progresses) while the latter helps us fall asleep. The key to how to get an overtired baby to sleep is to train their brain to release melatonin. It is unwise to stimulate the baby when sleep is due because it could make the brain release cortisol and that will keep her awake.

Why is Your Baby Overtired?

Babies need to sleep to process everything they learned during their wake window. That is why they have very short awake times, i.e.,

Once this wake window starts to close, they tend to become drowsy and sleepy. If you let them sleep at this time, they will be out for hours (because the melatonin overrides the cortisol). If not, they become overtired.

What are The Signs of an Overtired Baby?

The first step in learning how to get an overtired baby to sleep is to figure out if your baby is suffering from exhaustion or not. Check out these signs of fatigue in your baby

1) Stage 1: When your little one starts getting tired, they will typically try to stay awake by turning away from stimulation, or rubbing their ears or eyes.

2) Stage 2: If you happen to ignore these signs, your baby will use more blatant signals that are supposed to be self-soothing such as looking for a dummy or sucking their thumb.

3) Stage 3: The next sign of an overtired baby is automatic signals, i,e., actions that they do unconsciously such as

  • Quick breaths
  • Sweaty palms
  • Slight blueness around the mouth
  • Sneezing
  • Hiccups

4) Stage 4: The ultimate signs of your baby being overtired are

  • Your overtired newborn will be crying for no visible reason, pulling their legs up or arching their back.
  • Your older baby will show grizzly miserable behavior, fight sleep, not want to be fed, and cry a lot.

How to Prevent a Baby From Getting Overtired?

The first thing to take care of while trying to prevent a baby from exhaustion is to make sure they get enough of their beauty sleep. Here’s how much a baby will need by age (according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF):

1) Birth to 3-month-old: The first 3 months of a baby’s life need them to nap for 14 to 17 hours a day (possibly tired of coming into the world). It means a nighttime sleep for 8 to 10 hours (approximately) with feeding every 2 to 3 hours.

2) 4 to 11-month-old: A four-month-old child will sleep for 12 to 15 hours a day with 2 or 3 daytime naps of about 3 to 4 hours. The same goes for 11-month-olds. Their nighttime sleep will be 10 to 11 hours with very few nighttime feeds.

3) 1 to 2 years old: By the time they are around one year old, they need to sleep for 11 to 14 hours a day. The nighttime feeding frequency will also be significantly reduced.

You could also be punctual in putting her to sleep by noticing her wake window and by creating a sleep routine. A consistent sleep schedule and enough time for your baby to settle down will make sure they sleep comfortably and well.

The Bottom Line: How to Get an Overtired Baby to Sleep?

Getting your baby to sleep might seem tedious but it’s not if you know how to trick them to sleep. Here’s what you need to follow:

  • Know your baby’s sleep pattern: Establish a pattern for them to sleep by putting them down half an hour before her usual time which gives the baby the time to settle down. This depends a lot on the age, i.e., newborns are alert for only 3 minutes of every hour. 1-month-olds can stay awake for an hour while 3-month-olds stay awake for 2 hours.
  • Create a bedtime routine: This usually means cuddles, lullabies, a book, a bath, or a feed. That’s their signal that it’s time for sleep. Try to stick to the same times for bedtime everyday to avoid confusion and to create a routine. 
  • Avoid stimulation: Swaddle your baby in a baby wrap or something of the same and hold her in a dark room with zero stimulation. This will help them sleep faster and better.

FAQs: How to Get an Overtired Baby to Sleep

1. How do you get an overtired baby to sleep?

An overtired baby can be fussy and may not do the necessary thing: sleep. Here are a few things you can do to make them feel sleepy:
  • Create a nighttime routine like getting in bed at a certain time, reading a book.
  • Make their room dark
  • Make them listen to some white noise
  • Give them pacifiers
  • Rock them on a swing
  • Arrange a baby pillow in their crib
  • Swaddle them while sleeping
  • Give them a warm bath before bed
  • Carry them around in a baby wrap
  • 2. Will an overtired baby eventually fall asleep?

    An overtired baby or a newborn might take a few minutes to an hour to fall asleep. The National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll called Sleep in America and they found that an overtired baby can take up to 20% longer to fall asleep.

    3. Why do tired babies fight sleep?

    Babies tend to feel separation anxiety at their bedtime. Have an 8 to 18-month-old child clinging to you all day? Remember that they will also fight sleep because they don't want you to leave.


    Reviewed By :

    Nimrat Sidhu - Pediatration

    Nimrat Sidhu - Pediatration

    Dr. Nimrat S Sidhu is a practicing pediatrician for about 5 years now and holds an MD pediatrics degree. She was the topper of her batch, has always had a keen interest in her core medical field, and is specially trained for neonatal resuscitation.

    She has published multiple research papers on pediatrics and is interested in topics like Neonatal care, skincare, baby growth, vaccination, growth, and development.

    On behalf of the editorial team at Parenthoodbliss, we follow strict reporting guidelines and only use credible sources, along with peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and highly respected health organizations. To learn about how we maintain content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.

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