8 Signs Of Overtired Baby And Tips To Put Them To Sleep

Yawning, clinginess, and fussiness are common signs of an overtired baby. Nearly 14 to 15 hours of sleep is needed for babies over six months during the day (1). A baby can become overtired if they don’t get sufficient sleep. Sometimes overstimulationiXA phenomenon where babies get overwhelmed due to being exposed to too many stimuli simultaneouslycan also be the reason for it. Usually, the sleep hours reduce or change as the baby grows. This is acute physical fatigue that makes the babies tired and exhausted. This may activate stress responses and further cause their sleep regression. Parents and caregivers struggle harder to soothe their overtired babies. However, avoiding long waking hours and sending them back to sleep may help some babies overcome this issue. Lullabies and avoiding eye contact also help them fall asleep. Read on to know more about the signs of overtiredness in babies and how to prevent it.

Why Do Babies Get Overtired?

Your little one is exposed to learning about several things during the daytime. To process all of them, they need regular naps. This can tire them, which is why babies are awake only for a short period during the day. This duration, however, extends as the child grows. For example (2):

  • At 3-6 months, your baby might be tired after being awake for 1½-3 hours.
  • At 6-12 months, your baby might be tired after 2-3 hours of awake time.
  • At 12-18 months, your baby might be overtired if they miss the morning and afternoon naps.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends a daily sleep duration of 14–17 hours/day from birth to three months, and 12–15 hours/day from four to 11 months (3). However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, 40.3% of infants aged 4–11 months slept less than recommended for their age. Most babies sleep according to their body’s requirements unless their sleep and wake cycle gets disturbed. Lack of sleep or sleep deprivation can trigger the production of more cortisol and adrenaline hormones making it difficult for the little one to sleep.

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Signs Of Tiredness In Babies

Overtiredness is usually the result of the baby not getting enough rest when they are tired. Here are a few common and early cues of tiredness in babies (3) (4).

  1. Looking grumpy, frowning, or grimacing to indicate that they are tired and not happy.
  1. Rubbing of the eyes, hair, and ears is among the most common signs of tiredness among babies. Sometimes, they are mistaken for signs of teething.
Baby rubbing eyes is a sign of overtiredness
  1. Yawning is one of the apparent signs of tiredness in babies. So, when your baby yawns frequently, it is time for napping or sleeping if it is nighttime.
  1. A tired baby tends to stare blankly into space and may not look directly at you or any other object. This could be because they are too tired to pay attention or focus on anything.
  1. The baby may stiffen the body and have rigid movements such as a clenched fist or tense hands and legs.
  1. The baby suddenly loses interest in the activities that they otherwise like to do, suggesting that they may be tired.
  1. If you ignore the early signals, the tired baby may try to self-soothe by sucking the thumb, cuddling their favorite soft toy, and so on.Some children start crying.
  1. After a while, your baby may exhibit autonomic signals that happen without conscious control. These include
  • Sneezing
    Overtired baby may exhibit autonomic signals, like sneezing
  • Hiccups
  • Sweaty palms
  • Quick breathing
  • Blueness around the mouth in infants

If you miss these cues, the chances are that your baby might get overtired and display the signs mentioned below.

  • Difficulty in latching: Overtired newborns have difficulty in latching and may cry when you try to feed them. Older babies may refuse to eat and even spit out food in retaliation.
  • Fussiness: At this stage, young babies cry hard or mimic colic symptoms of recurrent crying accompanied with wailing or screaming, whereas older babies may also throw things while crying to get your attention and communicate their discomfort due to lack of sleep.

If you are not able to identify these cues of tiredness or think they are due to a reason other than tiredness, then talk to the pediatrician. But if you think the baby is overtired and needs to rest, you should know about the different ways in which you can calm the baby down.

How To Calm And Put An Overtired Baby To Sleep?

Most babies are ready to sleep soon as they feel tired. Some of them might also fall sleep on their own if they know how to self-soothe (5). But some have difficulty falling asleep unless they are overtired. If the child is overtired but is having trouble falling asleep, here are a few things you can do to help them (6).

  • Rocking
  • Swaddling
  • Holding
    Holding the baby can calm and put an overtired baby to sleep
  • Feeding
  • Playing white noise
  • Dimming the lights
  • Playing soothing soft music or songs
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These may not necessarily help in soothing older babies or toddlers, who should ideally be taught to self-soothe and to fall sleep on their own. But since the baby is overtired, they may not be able to self-soothe or fall asleep easily. In such cases, here is what you can try:

  • Rock the little one slowly, until they are drowsy.
  • Sing a lullaby or feed if it is feed time.
  • Avoid eye contact. Give them some quiet time.
  • Take them away from the noisy environment. No TV, no loud conversations, or lights.
  • Read a book to help settle the baby settle down. Use a soothing voice to calm them faster.

Note that when babies are tired, it is more likely for them to wake up sooner than usual. So be prepared to help your baby go back to sleep again.

Behavior Of A Constantly Tired Baby

If your baby is getting overtired frequently, you might witness some behavioral changes in them. But not all babies experience the same behavioral changes and may not exhibit the same or any cues at all. Hence, it is essential to figure out the specific behavioral changes in your baby and take necessary measures promptly. Some of the common changes are as follows:

  • Sleeps for less than the average time for their age
    Constantly tired baby sleeps for less than the average time
  • Does not sleep, instead gets hyperactive.
  • Wakes up to the slightest of noise and has short and fewer daytime naps.
  • Refuses feeds
  • Sleeps for unusually long hours during nights.
  • Does not want to get into the highchair, car seat, or crib. Instead, demands continuous patting or rocking.
  • Shows weird or irritating behavior

Should you find any of these signs, address them immediately, and seek pediatrician’s advice if necessary. Neglecting to check these behaviors could hamper the overall development of the baby. You could also try to prevent this situation by ensuring that the baby gets enough rest in time. We give you a few tips for that next.

5 Tips To Help Prevent Tiredness In Babies

Observe the baby for any behavioral changes and address them soon to prevent overtiredness. The sooner you notice these changes, the better the chances are to prevent overtiredness.

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  1. Have a fixed circadian rhythm and plan a bedtime routine with a warm bath (4).

Nikole, a mom and YouTuber, shares how she prevented her four-month-old from being overtired. She says, “I noticed that she gets really cranky when over tired. So, from the beginning, that is, three to four months after birth, we tried to be mindful of how long she stays awake and for how long she sleeps (wake window). Knowing this worked for us (i).”

Plan a bedtime routine for the baby with a warm bath
  1. Stay prepared and plan. For example, when you know that your baby goes to sleep at seven in the evening, be ready for her bedtime routine beforehand.
  1. Keep your baby comfortable in every way possible. For example, pick their clothing according to the weather and time of the day.
  1. Maintain room temperature and keep the lights dim.
  1. Settle your baby down at the first sign of tiredness.
  1. Do not stimulate or stress the little one during sleep time.

Following the above tips will help you to prevent tiredness and reduce the risk of overtiredness in babies. You can also have a customized plan depending upon your baby’s habits in general. In any case, have a plan and stick to it, while making minimal changes to it only if necessary.

Babies need about 12-15 hours of proper sleep during their first year to ensure healthy development and achievement of various milestones. However, if your baby is overactive or has too many night wakings, it might cause them to become overtired. Yawning continuously, being cranky, and losing interest in the surroundings are common signs that they exhibit during this period. Thus, it is advised that you maintain your baby’s sleep schedule. You can try rocking or swaddlingiXCovering or wrapping babies in a breathable blanket to provide them comfort and securitythem slowly in a quiet environment to put an overtired baby to sleep.

Key Pointers

  • Symptoms of an overtired baby include yawning, clinginess, and fussiness.
  • Babies need at least 14 to 15 hours of sleep each day, which may decrease as they grow.
  • Signs of tiredness in babies include yawning, eye-rubbing, and fussiness.
  • To soothe an overtired baby, avoid long awake hours, sing lullabies, and minimize eye contact.
  • Swaddling, playing, feeding, and rocking can also help soothe an overtired baby.

Parents might sometimes wonder if their child is overtired if they display signs of fussiness and tiredness, such as yawning, rubbing their eyes, and not wanting to play. Check out this video to learn about how you should regularize nap times to avoid overtiring your child.

Article written by Baby Plumbing

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