How To Break Overtired Baby Cycle – 8 Best Solutions For Exhausted Parents

It’s so common for new parents to find themselves in a challenging and exhausting situation, when their baby becomes overtired and struggles to sleep. It’s a picture that many of us can relate to: a tired, sleep-deprived parent desperately trying to soothe their crying, overtired baby, feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. The cycle of overtiredness can feel never-ending!

How To Break Overtired Baby Cycle

Article by Macy Tollefson – doula, breastfeeding specialist & prenatal yoga teacher

You may be experiencing a wide range of emotions – from fatigue, to worry, and self-doubt. It’s normal to question whether this is just a phase, if something is wrong with your baby, or if you’re doing something wrong as a parent.

Rest assured, you’re not alone, and there is support available!

We’ll share insights and practical tips to help you navigate through this challenging time.

From establishing a consistent sleep routine to creating a sleep-friendly environment, I’ll provide you with the tools and knowledge to gradually overcome the overtiredness and pave the way for peaceful nights and well-rested days.

Let’s embark on this journey together and discover the solutions that will bring calm and harmony back to your baby’s sleep!

This article is not a substitute for medical advice or consultation.

What Is Overtiredness In Babies & What Causes It

Overtiredness in babies refers to a state in which a baby is excessively tired and has long passed their optimal window for sleep. It may sound counterintuitive, but when a baby becomes over tired, it can be challenging for them to fall asleep – and stay asleep.

This can often lead to increased tears, fussiness, meltdowns, difficulty settling down, and disrupted sleep patterns. It can also lead to you, as the parent, feeling concerned, frustrated and overwhelmed with the situation!

There are many different things that can lead to an overtired baby. Some reasons may include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Extended wake windows
  • Overstimulation
  • Inconsistent sleep routine
  • Missed sleep cues
  • Growth spurts and developmental milestones

An overtired baby can bring about challenging moments for a new mom, with frequent night wakings, early mornings, and shortened naps becoming the norm1. It can feel like an endless cycle where precious sleep is disrupted, leaving both baby and mom longing for more restful moments.

This journey can be quite demanding and exhausting, but remember, you’re not alone! There are some things you can do to help your baby break the cycle.

During the first few months you may struggle with other sleep issues. In our other articles you can find lots of useful advices for dealing with: 6 week sleep regression, cat napping (when baby doesn’t nap for longer than 30 minutes) and fixing the day and night confusion in your infant.

How Do You Break Baby's Overtired Cycle

How To Tell If Baby Is Overtired – Common Signs

It can sometimes be challenging to determine if a baby is overtired, but there are a few signs and behaviors that may indicate this. Some of them may include2:

  • Difficulty settling down: An overtired baby may struggle to calm down and have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. They are often restless and/or agitated.
  • Increased fussiness: Overtired babies may become more irritable and fussy than usual. They may cry more frequently and be harder to soothe.
  • Rubbing eyes and yawning: These are common signs of tiredness in babies. If you notice your baby constantly rubbing their eyes or yawning frequently, they may be overtired. Overtired babies may also pull at their ears as a way to self-soothe or express fatigue.
  • Hyperactivity or overtired “second wind”: In some cases, babies may appear hyperactive or have bursts of energy when they are overtired. They might seem more active and alert, but this is often a sign that they are past their optimal sleep window.
  • Short naps, skipped naps or difficulty napping: Overtired babies may struggle to take longer, restorative naps. They might wake up frequently or have trouble settling into a deep sleep. If your baby is older and not having good naps during the day, it can disrupt their sleep cycle and affect their ability to sleep through the night.
  • Clinginess and increased need for comfort: When babies are overtired, they may seek extra comfort and closeness from their caregivers. They may want to be held, rocked, or cuddled more than usual.

It’s important to note that every baby is different, and signs of over-tiredness may vary. Understanding your baby’s individual cues and observing their patterns can help you identify when they are becoming overtired.

Will Overtired Baby Eventually Sleep?

Yes, an overtired baby will eventually sleep! While it may be more challenging for them to settle down and fall asleep when they are overtired, their need for sleep remains. Given the right conditions and opportunities, they will eventually be able to sleep and rest, it just may take a little bit more time!

The fastest way to help them get a good sleep is to create an optimal environment for them. Using a dark room free from loud noises can help get baby sleeping in no time. Do whatever they need to help them feel soothed and secured.

How To Get An Overtired Baby To Sleep At Night

How Do You Break Baby’s Overtired Cycle?

Breaking a baby’s overtired cycle can be challenging, but with consistency and patience, it is possible. Here are some steps to help break the cycle:

1. Establish A Consistent Sleep Routine

Create a predictable sleep routine that includes relaxing, calming activities before bedtime, such as a warm bath, gentle massage, snuggle, or quiet reading. Consistency helps signal to the baby that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

2. Watch For Sleep Cues

Pay close attention to your baby’s sleep cues, such as yawning, rubbing eyes, or becoming less engaged. Responding to these cues promptly can help prevent overtiredness before it escalates. It’s important to recognize when your baby’s wake times are coming to an end, to help prepare them for sleep!

3. Provide A Sleep-Friendly Environment

Create a quiet, dark, and comfortable sleep environment for your baby. Consider using blackout curtains in your baby’s nursery, a white noise machine, or a cozy sleep surface to promote better sleep.

4. Stick to Age-Appropriate Awake Times

Understand and follow your baby’s age-appropriate awake times. Younger babies have shorter wake windows and need more frequent naps, while older babies can handle longer periods of wakefulness. For context, Taking Cara Babies3 lists the average wake window lengths are:

  • 0-4 Weeks: 35-60 minutes
  • 4-12 Weeks: 60-90 minutes
  • 3-4 Months: 75-120 minutes

5. Offer Regular, Longer Nap Opportunities

Ensure your baby has ample opportunities for napping throughout the day. Create a soothing nap environment and establish a consistent nap routine to help them unwind and rest. If your baby is stuck in an overtired cycle, it can be really helpful to help them stretch their naps out longer!

If you find that they are having shorter naps and you want them to sleep longer, go to them when they wake up and see if you can soothe them back to sleep!

6. Try Comfort Feeding

Comfort feeding can help babies fall asleep as it provides them with a sense of security, warmth, and comfort. For many newborns, the act of breatsfeeding or being bottle-fed is soothing and can help them relax and drift off to sleep.

The physical closeness and skin-to-skin contact during feeding will promote feelings of safety and contentment, which are essential for calming down fussy babies!

If you’re worried that your little one could get used to being nursed to sleep, here are our tips for breaking the breastfeeding-sleep association.

Nursing to sleep

7. Consider Sleep Associations

Help your baby develop positive sleep associations by establishing soothing rituals. This might involve using a pacifier, a favorite stuffed animal, or a gentle sleep-inducing motion, such as rocking or swaying. Having an item or activity that is specific to sleeping is a great way to help them develop good sleep habits and set them up for success.

8. Practice Responsive Settling

If your baby becomes overtired and struggles to settle down, respond to their needs with comfort and reassurance. Offer gentle rocking, patting, or soothing words to help them calm down and ease into sleep. If your baby feels safe and secure, they are more likely to fall asleep and stay asleep longer!

It’s important to note that each baby is unique, and different strategies may work better for different babies. It may take some trial and error to find the methods that work best for your overtired baby.

Remember, YOU know your baby best, so use your intuition!

How To Get An Overtired Baby To Sleep At Night

While working to break the cycle can take some time, your probably wondering “how to help overtired baby to sleep?”.

Here are some tips to help your tired baby sleep right now.

  • Create a calming environment for them

Make sure the area where they will be sleeping is quiet, dimly lit (or dark), and comfortable. Minimize noise and distractions that could overstimulate the baby, and focus on soothing them.

  • Provide comfort and security

Offer gentle physical contact, such as rocking, cuddling, or swaying, to provide comfort and reassurance for your overtired baby. This can help them relax and feel more secure.

  • Use white noise or calming sounds

Playing soft, rhythmic sounds like white noise, gentle lullabies, or nature sounds can create a soothing environment and drown out any background noise that may disturb the baby’s sleep or wake them up.

  • Swaddle or use a try using sleep sack

For some younger babies, swaddling can provide a sense of security and help them feel more settled. Alternatively, using a sleep sack can offer a cozy and comfortable sleep environment. With that being said, every baby is different and some do not like to feel restricted in a swaddle.

  • Try a pacifier

If your baby is receptive to a pacifier, offering it can provide additional soothing and comfort, helping them relax and settle down for sleep. If you’re concerned that weaning your baby off binky will be difficult, here are out tips for getting baby to sleep with pacifier.

  • Offer a feeding or comfort nursing

If your baby is hungry or seeks comfort through nursing, a feeding session or comfort nursing can help them relax and drift off to sleep. If your baby is really upset and crying, you may need to settle them down first, before attempting to feed them. Don’t try to wrestle a screaming baby to eat!

How Can I Prevent My Newborn From Becoming Overtired?

An overtired baby can bring about challenging moments for a new mom, with frequent night wakings, early mornings, and shortened naps quickly becoming the norm.

It can feel like an endless cycle where you and your baby’s precious sleep is disrupted, leaving you BOTH longing for more rest.

This journey can be quite demanding and exhausting, but please remember, you’re not alone!

How Can I Prevent My Newborn From Becoming Overtired

The key to breaking the cycle is to PREVENT the overtiredness in the first place! In order to prevent it, you firstly need to understand how much sleep your baby needs4.

Between sleeping at night and day time naps, here’s a general guide for how long your baby should sleep:

  • Newborns (birth to 3 months): Approximately 14 to 17 hours of sleep.
  • Infants (4 months to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours of sleep.
  • Toddlers (1 year to 2 years old): 11 to 14 hours of sleep.
  • Pre-schoolers (3 years to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours.

Keep in mind that overtiredness may be one of the reasons for baby constantly waking up after 45 minutes (which is called 45 minute intruder), and not getting into deep sleep cycle.

If your baby is not sleeping enough, then you should work to develop a good routine that may include feeding schedules and regular nap times. If you can help your baby develop healthy sleep habits and learn to recognize and respond to their sleepy cues, you’ll be on your way in no time.

One of the main ways to prevent your baby from being overtired, is to avoid overstimulation close to bed time. When they are nearing the end of their wake windows, start to transition to a relaxed state.

Pay close attention to your baby’s sleepy cues, such as yawning, eye rubbing, clenched fists or fussiness, and respond promptly by creating a calm and soothing environment for sleep. You don’t want to keep your baby awake for too long during the day (1), so responding to these cues promptly is key.

And finally, find a consistent schedule that works for both you and your baby. You may want to just go with the flow in the first few weeks with your newborn, but sticking to a regular wake time, nap time and bed time can really help.

How To Break Cycle Of An Overtired Baby – FAQ

It can be challenging to break the overtired cycle, but there are ways to do it! Keep reading to find some answers for common questions that you might be wondering.

How Do You Reset A Chronically Overtired Baby?

How Do You Reset A Chronically Overtired Baby?

This will take time and consistency! Work to develop a predictable and soothing bedtime routine and an ideal sleep environment. Pay attention to your baby’s sleepy cues and offer opportunities for naps BEFORE they become overtired.

Remember that it takes time for your baby to adjust to new sleep routines and patterns. Stay consistent, be patient, and allow for gradual progress. If you continue to face challenges or have concerns, consulting with a pediatrician or sleep specialist or sleep consultant can provide further guidance and support tailored to your baby’s specific needs.

How Long Does It Take An Overtired Baby To Recover?

The recovery time for an overtired baby can vary depending on several factors, including the baby’s age, temperament, sleep environment, and the consistency of sleep routines.

While there is no fixed timeline, most babies will start to show improvements within a few days to a couple of weeks with consistent efforts. However, it’s important to remember that each baby is unique and may require different amounts of time to fully recover from overtiredness.

If you are concerned that your baby is stuck in a vicious cycle of being overtired, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare professional! It’s important make sure there are no underlying issues that may need to be addressed.

Should You Let An Overtired Baby Cry It Out?

The decision of whether or not to let an overtired baby cry it out is a personal and parenting style preference. Different approaches to sleep training exist, and it’s important to choose a method that aligns with your values and comfort level.

Consider the individual needs and temperament of your baby. Some babies may find the “cry it out method” method distressing and may require more responsive and gentle approaches to sleep training.

Should You Wake An Overtired Baby For Feeding?

In general, it is not recommended to wake an overtired baby for feeding unless advised by a healthcare professional. Overtired babies often need quality sleep to help restore their energy and regulate their sleep patterns.

However, there are certain situations where waking an overtired baby for feeding may be necessary – particularly for newborns or if your baby is not gaining weight adequately. It’s important to consult with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant to determine the best feeding schedule for your baby’s specific needs.

If your baby is consistently overtired and not waking up for regular feedings, it can be helpful to establish a routine that ensures they are getting enough nourishment during their wakeful periods. Offer feeds during their more alert and active times to encourage feeding and minimize disruptions to their sleep.

Article By Macy Tollefson

Macy Tollefson is a full spectrum doula, breastfeeding specialist and prenatal yoga teacher. She is passionate about guiding the modern mama on her journey through the beautiful (and wild) transformation of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Macy envisions a world where every mother has access to the resources she needs, and follows her intuition to make the best decisions about what is right for her and her baby.

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.


About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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