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"Does Keeping Your Baby Awake Longer Help Them Sleep Longer?"

Updated: May 3

It makes sense logically… “If I keep my baby awake for longer, they will be more tired and it will help my baby sleep longer, right?” Although I wish it was that easy, the result is, unfortunately, quite the opposite! By keeping our babies awake longer than is developmentally appropriate, we are actually disrupting their sleep more. Cue overtiredness…

Overtired baby

What is Overtiredness:

Overtiredness occurs when a baby stays awake for longer than their little bodies can comfortably handle. This can happen due to various reasons, including missed naps, disrupted routines, or overstimulation. When babies become overtired, their bodies react by releasing more cortisol as a stress response.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is often referred to as the "stress hormone" because it's released in response to stress or discomfort. It plays a vital role in regulating our body's response to stress, influencing functions such as metabolism, immune response, and sleep-wake cycles. 

How Overtiredness Impacts Sleep:

The release of cortisol due to overtiredness can disrupt a baby's sleep patterns in several ways. Although in the moment during their awake time it will look like a “second wind” and you might not think your baby is actually tired, this cortisol will make a reappearance at the most inopportune times: during nap, bedtime, the middle of the night, or the early morning. Basically, since your baby has this extra cortisol pumping through them still, it will make it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is why in overtired babies, we often see them fighting bedtime, waking many times throughout the night, taking short naps, and waking early in the morning.


Breaking the Cycle:

Recognizing the signs of overtiredness in babies is the first step towards breaking the cycle. Parents should watch for cues such as yawning, rubbing eyes, or becoming increasingly fussy, indicating that the baby needs rest. Establishing a consistent sleep routine can also help regulate cortisol levels and promote better sleep habits. If you believe your baby is overtired, you can take a few days to get them the sleep they need however works (contact naps, stroller naps, car naps, etc.) to break the cycle, then start working on independent sleep once they are more regulated. 

How do you work on independent sleep? Is my baby overtired? How much sleep are they supposed to be getting? How do I teach them to stop fighting sleep? If you are asking yourself any of these questions, don't worry, I can help with that! My course- Compassionate Sleep Training will teach you everything you need to know! You'll go through 4 modules which will cover the sleep science basics, how to set yourself up for success in the areas that are proven to greatly affect sleep, how to respond to wake ups and teach independent sleep, and how to master naps which will, in-turn, help with nights too! All in the most gentle, responsive way that is based on child development science and a secure attachment theory. Check it out!

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