How To Get An Overtired Newborn To Sleep

Hearing your baby’s wails in the middle of the night and having to get up to try to calm them down is the most dreaded moment in a parent’s life. Parents often consider a baby’s cry quite a common thing and often assume that their inability to fall asleep at night is due to their fussy nature or separation anxiety for being away from their caretaker for a few hours. Although these could be valid reasons for infant’s difficulty to fall asleep, one of the most commonly overlooked cause for it is overtiredness- a common and easily avoidable condition that could be affecting your child’s sleep patterns at night.

What is Overtiredness in Babies

Understanding overtiredness in babies becomes easier when, as adults, we think of our own body’s response to being too tired to fall asleep. Often you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, struggling to keep your eyes closed after a long, tiring day at work. Babies experience the same feeling of restlessness from overtiredness – only, the condition is much easily induced in infants than in adults.

When an infant’s body is past the point of fatigue, stress hormones and adrenaline flows into their bloodstream, making them hyperactive and further reducing their chance of falling asleep, hence initiating a cycle of overtiredness that gets worse over time.

Why Infants get Overtired

Babies have a much shorter ‘awake time’ than adults, and it can vary widely according to their age. For instance, newborns can only stay awake for 45 minutes before they need a nap to give their brain time to recover from all the stimulation and information processing. A 6-month-old, on the other hand, can go up to 2 hours of being awake before they need a nap whereas a toddler’s awake time can be between 4-6 hours.

Toddlers don’t know when it’s naptime; and if it were up to them, they would stay up all day playing with their toys. Since infants need their rest time frequently throughout the day, it’s their caretaker’s responsibility to put them to sleep before they overfatigue themselves.

How to tell if your baby is overtired

Nap-skipping is often the culprit of overtiredness in infants. Unlike the contrary belief, tiredness does not equal sleep – at least not in the case of infants who increasingly become hyperactive once they go beyond the point of fatigue. This hyperactiveness is often deceiving and misleads parents into believing that their child is not tired at all!

Here are some common signs that your baby might show if s/he is overtired:

  • Frequent disturbance in sleep or waking up too early.
  • Resisting bedtime or refusing to take naps.
  • Behavioral issues such as crankiness and excessive crying.
  • Constant Yawning, hiccupping or sneezing.
  • Frequent rubbing of eyes, ears or face.
  • Thumb sucking.
  • Breathing too quickly.
  • Being overly attached to the caregiver and refusing to play by themselves.

Putting your overtired child to sleep

Now that you’ve determined that you have an extremely overtired child at hand, what next? Putting an overfatigued child to sleep can be a monumental task that most parents consider impossible. In the state of overtiredness, the infant’s brain releases a stress hormone called cortisol which inhibits them from falling asleep or staying asleep for too long. In order to decrease the effect of cortisol, the brain must secrete another chemical called melatonin which helps the body de-stress and prepares it for sleep. If your little one is having trouble falling asleep, try these brain-soothing tricks to help them calm down and finally put them to sleep:

  • Gently swaddle your baby in a dark room: 
  • Darkness gives the brain a signal to secrete melatonin which induces drowsiness. If your baby is too hyperactive or cranky, it may take a while and a few additional tricks to calm them down. Try to rock your little one slowly in a quiet, dark room to help their overtired bodies to fall asleep.

  • Make soothing sounds:
  • Gently singing a lullaby or making white sounds while rocking an infant can hasten the process of putting them to sleep. A recent study in the U.K discovered that white noise and lullabies induce a psychological effect in babies which lowers their stress level and alleviates pain.

  • Make sure your baby is well-fed:
  • Feeding time for babies has been a controversial topic among nutritionists; some believe that feeding infants before bedtime is more effective in putting them to sleep whereas others believe that feeding them when they wake up and putting them to sleep immediately as their nap time comes closer. In exceptional cases where your infant is overtired and finding it difficult to fall asleep, feeding them can do the trick, although, if practiced frequently, this habit of bedtime feeding can get in the way of sleep-training and can result in infants waking up frequently in their bassinets to search for their mothers.

  • Give your baby a warm bath before bedtime:
  • Nothing is more soothing than a warm bubble bath with lavender-scented bath soap. The relaxing properties of lavender help alleviate stress whereas the warm water and a nice massage can help relieve any muscle soreness or pain that your little one may be experiencing due to overtiredness.

  • And finally, make sure to put your baby to bed according to their age-appropriate naptime:
  • The best way to avoid overtiredness in infants is by making sure that they get plenty of naps throughout the day. If you’re not sure when to put your baby to sleep, you can check out the naps chart below which explains how long and frequent your child’s naps should be.



Did you find this article useful? We’d love to hear your thoughts! For more information on how to take proper care of your little one, check out other articles on our website or contact one of our child experts for queries. If you have any tips or tricks to prevent or cope with overtiredness in infants that were not mentioned in the article, let us know and we will consider your feedback.

Thanks for reading our article! Hope you enjoy the journey!


Hi! My name is Mayella, I am a mother of the 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, both of them are greatly lovely and active. My children have brought me a large number of enjoyable experiences when becoming a mother. As a heath consultant, I have also accumulated a host of useful knowledge about child care, it helps us a lot in the parenting process. With all of the love for my kids, I would like to share those things with you through this blog. Hope that it is able to assist you in having a wonderful time with your babies. Sincerely!

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