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Overtired Baby: How to Get an Overtired Baby to Sleep

Is your baby waking within an hour of going to sleep? Here’s the most likely reason why: baby is overtired.

“Overtired” means your baby stayed awake for too long.

Don’t worry:

Overtiredness can be recovered, and I’ll explain how to recover it in this article.

Signs of Overtired Baby:

  • Baby is overtired when they wake up within an hour of going to bed or several times in the first 3-5 hours of the night.
  • Baby is overtired when they wake up upset after 30-45 minutes of going to sleep for naps or bedtime, or both.
  • Baby is overtired when it gets progressively harder to put your baby to sleep for naps as the day goes on.
  • Baby is overtired when they exceed their typical wake window.

A “wake window” is the amount of time that your baby can tolerate awake before they become tired and cranky.

How to Get an Overtired Baby to Sleep:

1. Shorten wake windows.

Shortening wake windows means shortening the length of time that your baby is awake.

Wake windows vary across ages and babies.

Always take wake windows as a guide TOGETHER with your unique baby’s cues.

Please note that babies who are six months old and older need their wake windows to extend as the day goes on. This helps build up sleep pressure which helps the baby get that solid stretch of sleep at the start of the night.

For more information on baby wake windows read Wake Windows and Sleep Cues: Unlocking the Mysteries of Baby Sleep. For the total amount of sleep, the required number of naps, developmental phases of when your baby’s sleep is disrupted because of development and more download your FREE copy of the NORMAL infant sleep guide.

Please Remember: Wake windows are a guideline only and examples are for illustrative purposes only. Always watch your baby and their unique sleep cues.

Examples of early sleep cues include:

  • Glossy or sleepy eyes
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Staring off into space
  • Slower motion and decreased mobility
  • Jerky movement of hands or feet

Examples of later sleep cues include:

  • Yawning
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Pulling on ears
  • Fussiness
  • Crying

Take your baby’s sleep cues together with their recommended wake windows. This practice can help you to find the sweet spot for putting your baby to sleep (and stay asleep!) quickly and effortlessly.

There is no one size fits all here and no bedtime that is ideal for all babies. The ideal bedtime range is between 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM, and it varies based on age, daytime sleep, and morning wake.

The best way to tell whether your baby is getting enough sleep is by looking at their mood and functioning.

Following wake windows rather than following a schedule is recommended. It is especially useful for younger babies since wake times and bedtimes can vary from day-to-day. In fact, they change frequently at first, approximately every 3 weeks.

How the naps are distributed is less important than the total amount of awake time (e.g. if your baby’s morning nap is short and the next nap is long, that’s okay!).

2. Use whatever method works for you and your baby for getting to sleep.

There are no bad habits with babies.

The use of a carrier, stroller, or contact nap are great options. Naps do not have to be in the crib unless this is important to YOU.

It might be that it works for you to have the first nap at home and the rest on the go – that’s completely fine!

How and where your baby naps do not have much to do with bedtime and overnight sleep (hurray!). Yes, really.

3. Help the baby back to sleep if they wake too soon.

Yes, it’s okay to help them!

Contrary to popular belief, you are not creating “bad habits.” You are also not interfering with their ability to sleep longer stretches.

Sleep is developmental much like walking and talking.

Adults can certainly help manipulate the environment to help your baby sleep better. However, the major sleep milestones can’t be rushed and will happen on their own in due course.

4. Consider a short boost nap.

Has your baby ever woken up too early to make it to bedtime but too late for another nap? Did you think it’s better to keep them up and make bedtime earlier?

This can result in baby spending stretches of wide awake time in the middle of the night. Also known as split nights, or “middle of the night parties.”

They can also result in endless early bedtimes and early morning wakes.

I recommend ditching the early bedtime or pushing your baby past their limit idea. Instead, try to give them a short “boost” nap and a slightly later bedtime (though you might be able to keep it the same, every baby is different). Your chances of better sleep overnight are higher with a rested baby than an overtired one.

2 More Tips for Your Overtired Baby:

  • The first nap is often easier to get so it’s a good one to have at home in baby’s sleep space (if that’s your goal). It is also a good one to help extend. The first nap’s sleep is restorative; it is almost like an extension of the night. Helping to lengthen it can help recover overtiredness faster.
  • Use all the extra tricks such as motion (stroller, carrier, etc.) to get those later in the day naps. Anything goes on the journey to recovery and rest!

If you are on the right track, you should see improvement within a few days, a week at most.

Don’t forget to grab your free copy of The Baby Sleep 101 guide for more!

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Overtired Baby: How to Get an Overtired Baby to Sleep

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