‘Sleep Begets Sleep’: Preventing an Overtired Baby

Infant Sleep

It may sound counterintuitive, but we promise it’s true: babies who take good naps will sleep better overnight. Keeping a baby up longer during the day will not tire them out for a good night’s rest. In fact, one of the most important factors in sleeping through the night is a well-rested baby. 

Why won’t skipping naps help my baby at night?

Let’s think about our own sleep for a second. Have you ever stayed up later than usual and experienced a second wind? That surge of energy is from stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. Your body produces them because it senses that something is wrong. You did not go to sleep when your body clock said it was time. 

This is what happens to a baby who misses the right time to go down for a nap. The difference is that it is much harder for a baby to handle. When a baby’s body experiences stress, the increased energy makes it even more difficult for him to fall asleep. If he continues to miss out on restorative sleep, his body becomes overtired and exhausted. Meanwhile, the stress hormones keep him more and more alert. It’s a vicious cycle!

This cycle of over-tiredness is why little ones need our help. The primary goal of sleep training is a well-rested baby. 

How do I prevent overtiredness?

Ensuring that your baby falls asleep before the stress hormones roll in makes all the difference. A baby who was fully restored at their last nap will tend to sleep soundly and happily at each subsequent rest. Night sleep will come in longer stretches. 

Many people do not realize how short a time babies are meant to stay awake before napping. A newborn sleeps almost all the time. Even a four-month-old can barely make two hours before it is time to put her back in the crib. 

Refer to our infographic to see how much time awake time we recommend for infants.

What do I do if my baby is overtired?

Getting on a schedule and removing any props that may be interfering with independent sleep skills will help your baby sleep better and ultimately feel more rested. A severely overtired baby needs to recover from the massive sleep debt he has accumulated. This will take time and consistency.

If you are at the start of sleep training, you may notice that your baby suddenly sleeps so much! Despite all these new founded hours of sleep, he may still seem tired all the time. This is so common. Once he gets in sync with his schedule, and independent sleep skills begin to click, the stress hormones will clear his system. To his sweet relief, he’s catching up on the rest he needs. After a few days of recovery, he should get into a routine normal for his age.

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