Being overtired is so often the cause of sleep challenges for babies and young children. You’d think being tired would lead to sleep, but being too tired actually makes sleep worse. In this week’s blog we’ll be exploring why being overtired is causing your little one to wake at night and how to figure out if your child is in fact overtired.
I know it’s counterintuitive, but when we get overtired, our sleep is worse. Why? Have you ever got so tired and for whatever reason you had to power through. And at some point, you just felt like you’d gone past it. And even though you hadn’t been to sleep, you didn’t feel tired anymore. Like a second wind.
That’s exactly what it is, a second wind. The brain tells the body it needs to keep going, so it releases hormones which are like getting an adrenaline boost. In other words, being overtired can leave you feeling quite awake and unable to get to sleep.
From birth, babies gradually manage longer and longer awake between sleeps. We call these wakeful windows, but most of us parents don’t know what the ideal wakeful windows are for our children. Plus, it’s a constantly changing target. Many babies and young children end up being awake for too long between sleeps and a sleep deficit builds up.
This leads to children filled with hormones at bedtime that are making it harder for them to settle to sleep. Or if they do crash out, the night sleep is disturbed or unsettled. And almost for sure, you get the 05:00 AM wake-up calls. If you know what I’m talking about, and you’ve experienced life with an early riser, like I have.
So how do we solve this? How do we get your little one to take all the sleep they need, so they don’t get overtired on a continual basis? Step one is, knowing those sleep and wakeful windows. This knowledge is true power. It will help you to know when to attempt to put your baby down for a nap and how long to aim for with the sleep.
It’s great to have a backup plan too because they often won’t sleep when or as much as we’d like. So you may need to bring the next nap a little bit earlier or get them to bed a bit earlier to top them up. Step two is, topping up the sleep tank. If you know your little one is already overtired, try some early nights or an extra power nap. If you can replenish the empty sleep tank, you’ll find your little one is better positioned to take better naps and sleep more soundly at night, which will further recover the overtiredness. If you’re experiencing sleep deteriorating for your little one after starting nursery or daycare, it may be because he’s just not getting the sleep he needs while there. I get a lot of messages from parents saying their child is overtired since starting in a childcare setting.
It’s similar to when children start school. The change and the emotional energy to be “brave,” is all extra tiring. In this case, do talk to the childcare provider to see if they can accommodate the sleep needs for your little one. And also make sure they’re getting to bed nice and early after those busy days. If your pickup time is right on top of nap time, consider tweaking your schedule for the short term, so he can get the sleep he needs at nursery, or once at home. Topping up with longer naps at the weekend or on home days will also really help. If your baby is overtired due to naps being very short and not replenishing, you can try working on extending the nap with some soothing back to sleep, rather than just getting your baby up the moment she wakes. Or you could head out for a motion nap in the pram or the car, just to help finish off that broken sleep.
For some, especially parents of two-year-olds who don’t want a nap, but really do need to, it can be such a battle and we just don’t want to fight every day. And we give up on the napping way before the child is ready to drop it. At first, things might seem okay with crash-out sleep at night, but it will catch up with you and before long you’ll experience the early rising at 05:00 AM. So decide which is more painful for you, persisting to get your toddler to take a nap in the day or the early wakings and possible unraveling of night’s sleep.
Avoiding overtiredness is one of the biggest keys to having a well-rested, healthily restored, and happy little one. And the same goes for you too. Until next time, sleep soundly and live with vibrance.
Book a discovery call and find out how we can help you with your little ones sleep.