Overtired Baby Won’t Sleep or Nap?

You know how important it is for your baby to sleep. You also know that by the end of the day, you’re often both exhausted. Why is your overtired baby refusing to get to sleep?

It’s frustrating to watch your baby suddenly turn cranky and start yowling instead of snoring. Here are some common reasons that your baby might getting overtired. We’ll also give you some tips on coping with an overtired baby so you can both get some much-needed rest.

How to Know if You Have an Overtired Baby

Babies give us clear signs to how they’re feeling. If you have a cranky, crying baby on your hands, you may be wondering if you missed a sign along the way.

She Avoids Sources of Stimulation

Your baby will try to shut out sounds and sights that are overtaxing her brain and her nervous system. She’ll start by closing her eyes, rubbing her eyes and trying to hide.

He Tries to Calm Himself

Your overstimulated baby may try to comfort himself. He may suck his thumb or hug a favorite toy. He may also close his eyes and turn away from the source of noise.

You See These Physical Symptoms

An exhausted, worn-out baby will eventually start shaking, hiccupping, sneezing and breathing rapidly. At this point, she may also start crying uncontrollably and writhing as if she’s in pain.

An Overtired Baby is a Frightened Baby

In simple terms, an overtired baby is a baby who’s overstressed and frightened. You need to take quick action to soothe your baby and help her get to sleep.

What Causes a Baby to Get Overtired?

She’s Getting Too Much Stimulation

Your baby might be getting too stimulated during the hours that she’s awake. Babies are extremely sensitive to visual stimuli, noise and movements. That’s why they prefer quiet, familiar surroundings where they’re not exposed to noise and commotion. They find it exciting, but it also stimulates a stress reaction in them after a certain point.

Most infants can only cope with about an hour a day of all this excitement. Babies who are about six months old can tolerate about two hours a day of visual and auditory stimulus. The stress reaction kicks in and leaves your baby overtired.

What to Do

Make sure your baby is left in a quiet room for a good part of the day. Don’t insist on having your baby with you during noisy, brightly lit activities.

Old-Fashioned Techniques Still Work

If your baby is too worked up and frightened to sleep, start with some old-fashioned techniques to calm him down.

  • Swaddling. Swaddling a baby can help him stop crying and feel secure enough to fall asleep. You should not swaddle any infant who is old enough to roll over on his own.
  • Rocking. Some parents don’t believe in frequent rocking. If you have an overtired baby on your hands, you need to do whatever works to help your baby calm down. Gentle, brief rocking can sometimes do this.
  • Soothing or shushing sounds. If your baby enjoys hearing you make soothing sounds, add this to your rocking or swaddling. If you normally sing to your baby, try this too.
  • If your baby is more than six months old, sit with her in your arms for several minutes before putting her into her crib. You can read to her, play music, sing or just talk softly to her. Let her rest with you until she seems to be getting drowsy.
  • Use a swing. A baby swing can calm down a crying, fussing baby without tiring you out. It provides both gentle rocking and a warm, secure feeling.
  • Avoid eye contact. An overtired baby might not fall asleep if she thinks she must engage with you visually.
  • Hold your baby. Hold your baby gently and make soft, soothing noises to him. Some parents like to walk around the room or the house to help babies get drowsy. If you do this, make sure you stay out of areas where there’s noise or lots of activity.

other tips to help a overtired baby

Often, simply feeding a cranky, overtired baby can help him calm down. Babies calm down when they’re nursing or drinking from a bottle. Filling your baby’s tummy can help your baby feel drowsy. A pacifier also works if your baby isn’t hungry.

Give Her a Bath

Baths make many people feel relaxed and sleepy. They work on babies, too. To make bath time soothing rather than scary, turn the bathroom lights low. Make the bath quiet, slow and gentle. Use warm water and avoid splashing or playing with your baby.

Set Up a Routine

A regular bedtime routine lets your baby know that it’s time to get ready for sleep. You can set up your own involving any of the following:

    • Lay out your baby’s pajamas or nightgown.
    • Talk about sleep in a soothing, cheerful voice.
    • Spend a few minutes holding your baby before putting him in his crib.
    • Turn off lights, close curtains and shut off music at every bedtime. Make these actions part of your baby’s nightly routine.

Keep Yourself Calm

Part of keeping your overtired baby calm and happy is keeping yourself calm. That isn’t always easy. Try to ensure that the time you spend with your baby isn’t stressful. Do whatever you need to keep yourself relaxed. Don’t transfer your worries or anxieties to your baby.

It’s Hormonal

Like the rest of us, babies are governed by hormonal action. When your baby starts to feel natural drowsiness, his levels of the sleep hormone melatonin go up. This hormonal surge causes your baby to fall asleep easily.

If your baby continues to get stimulation past that point, his body will release high levels of stress hormones. Those hormones keep your baby awake and prevent sleeping. The result is an overexcited, overtired baby.

Babies who are repeatedly put into stressful situations can develop poor sleeping habits. This can have long-term effects on their mental and physical health.

What to Do

Once your baby starts showing signs of being overstimulated and ready to sleep, allow them the quiet, soothing time to do just that. Settle your baby into her crib. Get her ready for sleep with your usual bedtime routine. Doing this regularly will help your overtired baby develop a good sleep schedule.

He’s Not Sleeping Well During Naptime

If your baby frequently goes out and about with you, it can be fun for both of you. It’s also a lot of stimulation for your baby. After a while, babies can’t cope with too much noise, attention and visual stimulation. He’s going to shut down and go to sleep as an escape.

You probably think that’s great. After all, your baby is napping and getting that all-important rest. The problem is that your little one isn’t getting deep sleep. That’s why you get home to discover that he’s grumpy and exhausted even though you saw him sleeping for several hours. He never reached deep sleep during those naps.

The same can be true for babies who go to sleep in other places. Sleeping in someone else’s home or in a daycare might upset your baby’s sleep cycle.

What to Do

Sometimes, you don’t have any choice when it comes to leaving your baby with other caretakers. If you enjoy taking your baby out with you or you have no option, make sure that your time at home is quiet and filled with familiar routine.

Help Your Overtired Baby Get to Sleep

The best way to cope with an overtired baby is to avoid letting your baby get overstimulated in the first place. Your baby should have a safe, quiet place to retreat to when sleep starts calling. Incorporate regular routines into your daily life to help your baby relax.

Create a Quiet, Soothing Environment

Make sure your baby’s room is quiet, cool and dark. Your baby will sleep best in room that’s between 65 and 70 degrees in temperature.

Dark rooms make sleep easier. Use curtains that block sunlight. Avoid leaving a TV or radio on in the baby’s room. Some people find that playing white noise or gentle music can help babies fall asleep.

Conclusion: Restful Routines Help Your Baby

An overtired baby needs a calm, soothing environment and some encouragement to fall asleep. Avoid overtiring your baby by setting up regular routines, ensuring that your baby’s sleep environment is restful and avoiding over-stimulation. You and your baby will appreciate the rest.