6 Signs You Have an Overtired Baby: A Guide
Little Yawn Collective - Oct 30, 2021
Let's be honest: babies are confusing little creatures. During the day, they're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, soaking up the new world around them.
After a long day of play, you might think that you have an easy-breezy baby beddy-bye time ahead of you. Your little buddy is so exhausted from not napping in the afternoon.
There’s no way they won't go down with ease, right?
Well, not exactly. In fact, an overtired baby is often too tired to sleep and will do what they do best when they're feeling out of sorts: fuss and cry—not exactly the winning combo for great sleep.
But don't worry, parents—Little Yawn Collective is here to the rescue!
In our parent's guide below, we'll give you the scoop on overtiredness to help you recognize the telltale signs of an overtired baby. Once you know the signs, you can prevent overtiredness from happening in the first place.
Are you ready? Sweet dreams, ahead!
How Much Should My Baby Be Sleeping?
There's arguably nothing better than watching your sweet baby snooze in their little cocoon of warmth and love. Lost in their own small world of dreams with no cares or worries, a baby sleeping peacefully is a sign of a job well done.
Sleep is critical for babies. In early life, a tiny tot experiences tremendous development that affects the body, brain, immune system, emotions, and behavior, setting the stage for their continued growth through childhood.
Without enough vitamin ZZZ, your little one may experience many icky issues that can put a major damper on their quality of life later down the road.
So, how much should a baby sleep, you ask?
Sleep patterns tend to change quite a bit as babies grow, including the number of hours of sleep needed and the duration of sleep periods throughout the day and night. To make things even more complicated—all kids are different, and some may need a little more or less than others.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended sleep guidelines for children is as follows:
- Newborns 0-4 months should sleep 14 to 17 hours per 24-hours (including naps).
- Infants 4-12 months should clock in around 12 to 16 hours per 24-hours (including naps).
- Toddlers 1-2 years should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24-hours (including naps).
- Young kids 3-5 years should snooze 10 to 13 hours per 24-hours (including naps).
- "Big" kids 6-12 years should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24-hours.
- Teens 13 to 18 years should aim for 8 to 10 hours per 24-hours.
The first few months of a baby's life can be really challenging for parents. While they do tend to sleep for most of the day, babies need to eat every few hours—day and night.
Waking your sleeping tot from a peaceful slumber may seem like a crime, but it's vital for healthy development.
What Happens When a Baby Is Overtired?
Overtiredness is that miserable spot between exhaustion and tiredness when a baby is too tired to drift off to snoozeville. Even if they manage to doze off, they may wake shortly after, and the struggle to fall back asleep starts all over again.
When a baby becomes overtired, they are so physically exhausted that their body's stress-response system gets activated. Hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, flood the bloodstream, making it extremely difficult to relax and find calm.
What's more, as your little buddy spirals further and further into a state of extreme overtiredness, the harder it will become for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep. If this sounds like a pretty miserable cycle, that's because it is.
The less sleep your little one gets, the more these hormones build, acting almost like a volcano—with cortisol and adrenaline levels spiking during the night, which of course, makes overtiredness even worse.
What Are the Signs of a Tired Baby?
Before your baby can become overtired, they will show a few signs of being tired. The key to combat overtiredness is prevention, so pay close attention to your little one's sleepy cues and act accordingly to prevent the dreaded overtired cycle of less sleep that leads to more tiredness that leads to even less sleep… yawn.
One of the first signs that your baby is getting tired is face touching. Your tiny tot may rub their eyes and cheeks or tug on their hair or ears.
Note: If your baby is rubbing their ears and is running a fever on top of being especially fussy, they may have an ear infection, and you should call the pediatrician for treatment.
Did your little buddy level up their clingy game all of a sudden? This is another sign your baby craves sleep. All babies are different, so clingy behavior can vary from tot to tot. For example, your snoozy baby might cry and beg for you to hold them.
Just like us, babies yawn when they're tired. Experts aren't exactly sure what purpose yawning serves, but they do know it's a sign of sleepiness. So when your tuckered tot yawns frequently, it's time to put them down for a siesta.
Lack of Interest
Rather than being attentive and alert to the curious world around them, a tired baby can start to lose interest in their surroundings. This includes rejecting their favorite toy or food as well as avoiding eye contact or staring blankly into space.
Whimpering or Crying
You're likely aware that your little buddy relies on different cries to communicate what they need—there's the "I'm hungry" cry, the "I'm wet" cry, the "I'm in pain" cry, and yes, the "I'm tired" cry.
The tired cry is a whiny, nasal continuous cry mixed in with whimpers and yawns. In fact, sleepy cries can often sound a lot like yawns, such as "owh, owh, owh."
Respond to this communication by putting your baby down for a snooze immediately. If you delay, those soft, whiny cries could quickly turn into a full-blown meltdown as they enter the realm of overtiredness.
What Are the Signs of an Overtired Baby?
Think your baby may have cruised right through tired-land and is now taking residence in overtired-ville, USA? While it can be a bit tricky to differentiate the signs between being tired and overtired, the list below makes it easier:
1. Hard To Calm Down
Remember those stress hormones we discussed a little earlier? These pesky culprits can render your many attempts to calm your baby pretty futile.
Babies are fussy. Overtired babies, however, are extra fussy. This amplified fussiness can summon a whole lot of tears, making it nearly impossible for a baby to find calm.
Thankfully, a spritz or two of our Relaxing Pillow and Linen Spray directly onto your child's sheets or in their room before bedtime can help! Our gentle, melatonin-free formulation fosters a restful environment for kids to encourage sweet dreams and quality Zzz's.
2. Low Pain Threshold
When a baby is overtired, they won't be able to tolerate as much pain. This can spell disaster—especially if your toddler is teething. Ouch!
3. Low Frustration Threshold
In addition to pain, an overtired baby also won't be able to tolerate as much frustration. They may arch their back, flail their arms, and pull away while fussing up a storm the moment something causes them stress.
4. Short, Fitful Naps
Is your little buddy waking up early from their nap or shortly after being put down for bedtime?
While it may sound a bit counterproductive, overtired babies take short, fitful naps instead of full-blown naps—thanks to the spiking hormones swirling through their tiny bodies.
Unfortunately, these micro-snoozes don't recharge their little batteries.
5. Falls Asleep Randomly
Another surefire sign of overtiredness is falling asleep randomly throughout the day. For instance, your baby may doze off in the high chair when eating, or the moment they're placed in the stroller or car seat—even if it's not naptime.
6. Abundant Energy
You might interpret random bouts of energy as a sign your little sleepyhead is ready to play. But the truth is that abundant energy can also be a sign your baby is experiencing sleep difficulties.
When babies become overtired, it's not uncommon for them to get into a very hyperactive state, making sleep nearly impossible.
How Can I Help My Baby Sleep?
The moment you notice these telltale signs of overtiredness, you need to act fast to keep the vicious cycle from churning, ultimately making it even more difficult for your little buddy to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Already past the point of no return? Don't fret, parents—there are still things you can do to help your baby sleep.
Adjust Your Baby’s Sleep Patterns
First things first, adjust your baby's sleep patterns. While this can be a challenging feat all in itself, there's a lot you can do to make your little one's environment more conducive to sleep, including making sure they're fed with a clean nappy.
Try putting your baby down for naps and bedtime at similar times each day, adjusting the schedule as needed. For example, if their bedtime is generally at 8:00 p.m. and your little one always seems past the point of exhaustion, then move the time up earlier.
As you get to know your baby and their natural sleep patterns, spotting their sleep cues to prevent overtiredness will become much easier.
Reinforce Your Bedtime Routine
A predictable baby beddy-bye routine is key in keeping overtiredness at bay.
If your little one is already overtired, sticking to your bedtime routine can be tough—but don't give in! Good bedtime routines reinforce babies' natural circadian rhythms, helping to teach them the difference between day and night.
They also help little ones to slow down and prepare mentally for bedtime. Without a solid bedtime routine, your overtired baby can become overstimulated, making it just that much harder to find calm and get to sleep.
There's no one-size-fits-all bedtime routine that works for every baby—so be flexible and be patient. Cultivating a top-notch ritual to summon the sleepies can take some experimenting to find what works best for you and your tot.
A good baby bedtime routine is usually made up of a few calming activities, such as a warm bath with soothing shampoo and body wash, a relaxing infant massage with nourishing body lotion, a snuggly bedtime story, and kiss goodnight before lights out.
Swaddle Your Baby
Swaddling is an excellent way to soothe a fussy baby. It provides a snug environment similar to the one inside the womb and can help them feel safe, secure, and cozy. At first, an overtired infant may seem to hate being swaddled, but once they are snug-as-a-bug and feeling comfy-cozy, they tend to settle.
Note: As soon as babies start to roll over from their back to their tummies, it's time to put the swaddle away. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), if a swaddled baby rolls to their side or front, it can cause breathing difficulties.
Create a Calming Sleep Space
To help your overtired baby catch some much-needed ZZZ's, create a peaceful ambiance in their nursery to promote sleepiness rather than stimulation. Dim the lights, draw the blackout curtains, and turn on white noise.
We also recommended spritzing some of our Relaxing Pillow and Linen Spray directly into their room before bedtime to create a dreamy environment that helps with falling asleep and staying asleep.
How Can I Prevent My Baby From Becoming Overtired?
The ultimate goal is to keep your little one from getting to the point where they're overtired. But, the reality is that we're human and, therefore, not perfect. Babies are constantly changing, and sometimes, it's hard to keep up with all the different sleep cues.
That being said, the best way to prevent overtiredness in your tiny tot is to stick with a consistent bedtime routine. Routines and babies go together like peanut butter and jelly—establish a great routine that works for you and your little sleepyhead and enforce it.
Remember, consistency is key!
Beating overtiredness is certainly no walk in the park, and sometimes, preventing it from happening in the first place can feel like an impossible task. But don't worry, sleepless parents; we can help!
At Little Yawn Collective, we know how challenging sleep can be for babies. We also understand the power of routine. That's why we cultivated an incredible line of sleepy essentials to help you create an easy peasy lemon squeezy bedtime routine that actually works.
Our natural, safe sleep regimen is the perfect companion to your little buddy's beddy-bye time.
Using each of our four key sleep products, our simple, science-backed bedtime system can be adapted to your family's needs while creating the consistency that leads to better sleep.
With science, efficacy, and safety at heart, our formulas are developed with scientific experts and are clinically tested and approved by pediatricians and dermatologists.
ZZZ's you can trust—your little buddy is always safe with us!