Overtiredness. It can derail your child's sleep. It is also one of the top reasons why children don't sleep through the night.
Kids have a natural rhythm when it comes to sleep, as do all of us. Our bodies secrete hormones to keep us going during the day, and different ones to help us rest at night. Those hormones are dependent on a variety of factors, but timing is the most prevalent.
What happens when your little one stays awake past the time when these natural cues to sleep are activated? The body thinks there is a reason that it has not been allowed to get to sleep, assumes there’s a need to stay awake, and fires up those daytime hormones again. That’s when the trouble starts.
Once those signals to stay awake get fired up, they’re tough to shut down. So less sleep leads to more daytime hormones, which prevent baby from sleeping well, which leads to less sleep. See how it becomes a dangerous cycle?
The good news is, you CAN prevent this! The best way to avoid overtiredness is to get baby to sleep before they miss that window of opportunity. How do you know when that window is? Babies, especially newborns, are a bit ambiguous when it comes to signaling when they’re ready for bed. However, if you know what to look for, it can work wonders in assessing the right time to put baby down.
Some good signs to watch for include tugging at their ears, rubbing their eyes and nose, arching their back, and turning their face into your chest.
Those are all strong signs that your baby’s ready for bed, but they’re also easily mistaken for signs that your baby is hungry, so it’s best to combine your keen eye for signals with an eye on the clock.
Newborns can only handle about an hour of awake time, so make a note of the time when they wake up and remember that they need to be headed down for a nap around 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 a few hours at a time. Stay aware of their schedule and err on the side of more sleep, not less.
On the subject of toddlers, they have their own indications that they are overtired. The sudden influx of those daytime hormones can actually make toddlers quite manic, so they 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 that before long, their mood will take a big shift into crankiness, and it's likely that you'll have a bedtime battle on your hands.
I know that this schedule may sound a bit rigid for parents who aren’t used to it. After all, an hour at a time is barely enough time to get a diaper changed, a feed in, and a little bit of playtime before baby’s got to get back into their crib and down for another nap. But I can assure you, no client I’ve worked with has ever come back to me after implementing it and said, “I have a feeling that my baby is 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!