If there’s anything that can send your child’s sleep off the rails, if there’s an arch-enemy for sleep, it is, without a doubt, overtiredness.
Kids, as with all adults, have a natural biological rhythm when it comes to sleep. Our bodies secrete hormones to get us up and running as well as keeping up going during the day. We also secrete a set of completely different hormones to help us sleep well at night. They do depend on a multitude of factors, but timing is the most important.
What happens when your Little Darling is still awake after their usual bedtime, the time when these natural cues to sleep are activated? Well, the body then assumes there’s a reason that it hasn’t been allowed to get to sleep, assumes there’s a need to stay awake, and fires up those daytime hormones again.
And that’s when the trouble starts.
Because once those signals to stay awake get fired up, they’re tough to shut down, and the Little Darling is already tired. So, less sleep leads to more daytime hormones, and the cycle perpetuates itself.
The best way to prevent this situation is to get your child to sleep before they get past that window of opportunity. But babies, especially newborns, are more difficult to read when it comes to signaling when they’re ready for sleep. However, if you know what to look for, it can be key in assessing the right time to put baby down.
Some good signs to watch for include tugging at their ears, or rubbing their eyes and nose, arching their back, and turning their face into your chest.
Now, those are all strong signs that your baby’s ready for sleep, but they’re also easily mistaken for signs that your baby’s hungry, so it’s best to combine your keen eye for signals with a keen eye on the clock.
Newborns can usually only handle about forty five minutes to an hour of awake time in a stretch, so make a note of the time when they wake up and set a reminder or make a mental note that they need to be headed down for a nap around 45-60 minutes after that.
They’ll be able to stay awake for longer stretches as they get older, but even toddlers should only be awake for around an hour and a half to two hours at a time, so stay aware of the schedule and edge on the side of more sleep, not less.
Whilst we are talking of toddlers, they have their own quirky little habit when they get overtired. The sudden influx of those daytime hormones can actually make them quite manic, so they might seem to be super happy and giggly for a while; just the opposite of what you would expect from a child who needs to get to bed. But you’ll see before long that their mood will take a big shift into crankiness, and then you’ve probably got a bedtime battle on your hands.
I know that this schedule can sound a little rigid for parents who aren’t used to it. After all, an hour at a time is barely enough time to get a nappy changed, a feed in, and a little bit of playtime before baby’s got to get back into their cot and down for another nap. But I can assure you, no client I’ve ever worked with has ever come back to me after implementing it and said, “I have a feeling that baby’s getting too much sleep.”
So give it a try for a couple of weeks and see how it works. I can almost guarantee you’ll be seeing a happier baby.
If you would like to discuss any sleep issues, I offer a free sleep evaluation call to talk through any issues that you are facing as well as how my services could help turn you from sleep deprived parents into well rested ones.
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