How to get an overtired baby to sleep.

If you’ve read my ‘Understanding Overtiredness’ blog, you’ll know that this ‘phenomenon’ is one of the main causes of sleep disturbances amongst babies and children. It causes frequent night wakings, bed and nap time battles, early risings, as well as nightmares and night terrors. It’s a myth that keeping a baby up during the day will make them sleep better at night – sleep really does breed sleep. 

The best thing to do is avoid overtiredness all together by following your little one’s specific sleep needs and teaching them independent sleep skills (see my ‘Understanding Overtiredness’ blog). But what happens when, despite your best intentions, your baby or child does become overtired? We know they need to sleep, but due to the high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone that keeps us awake), they find it more difficult than ever to settle and stay asleep. 

To help with this, here are my top tips to encourage an overtired little one to go to sleep:

1. Remove all external stimulation:

To reduce the high levels of cortisol, you need to calm the senses. The best way to do this is to put your little one in or create a very calm environment. This means:

  • Making the room dark (shut the curtains, use black out blinds, turn off all lights)
  • Blocking out unwanted sounds (use white noise – something consistent and natural at the volume level of a shower) 
  • Turn off all screens
  • Remove all toys from sight
  • Only use amber/red lights at a low level to encourage the production of melatonin

The general idea behind this is to remove all stimulation and signal to your little one’s body and brain that it’s time to sleep. 

2. Keep them cool:

Similarly to us, babies sleep better when the temperature is consistent and cool. The ideal temperature to put a baby to sleep is between 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. Regulating temperature also means that you shouldn’t overdress your baby. 

3. Clear the clutter:

Make your room or their bedroom a designated sleep area. This means, keeping all toys out of the room (or stored away at sleep time). Distractions in the room can confuse your little one and make it difficult for them to fall asleep. 

4. Swaddle young babies:

For younger babies who cannot roll yet, swaddling can be a great way of helping them fall asleep while the cortisol levels are high. The feeling of swaddling is like being back in the womb – it can have a calming effect by imitating your touch. Just remember, once your baby can roll, it’s time to transition them out of the swaddle. 

5. Rock to a drowsy state:

Particularly for younger babies, rocking can help induce a drowsy state. Just be conscious of putting your little one down when they’re in this drowsy state rather than fully asleep. They’re more likely to stay asleep for a longer period of time if they were aware of being put down in their cot and did the hard work of putting themselves to sleep independently. 

6. Use motion:

If all else fails, use motion to encourage your overtired little one to sleep. Get them into the pram or the car, and use the natural movement and/or gentle sway to get them to sleep. It’s amazing what a quick walk around the block can do! 

Need more help with your overtired little one?

Get in touch and book a free Discovery Call. Overtiredness is a very common sleep disturbance amongst the babies I work with. There is hope and you can avoid overtiredness all together!