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An overtired baby is one that has been awake for far longer than they should be. Being overtired also means that they’re overstimulated and will face trouble sleeping. Having an overtired baby isn’t something you want, as it affects their health in the long term.
Taking cues from your baby is one good way of knowing when they’re tired and ready for bed. For instance, you can look out for these signs:
- Lack of interest in interactions and usual activities
- Rubbing face or eyes
- Fussing, which eventually leads to crying
- Wanting you to hold or cuddle them
- Being clumsy and unfocused
- Being hyperactive
Before you decide on a newborn, infant, or toddler sleep training in Singapore, what you can start doing on your own is to help your baby stop being overtired.
The Effects of Being Overtired on Babies
Scientifically, what happens when a baby stays up past their waking hours is that their body begins to go into stress mode. Cortisol, the stress hormone, and adrenaline are produced, making them go into overdrive.
Cortisol in particular is rather harmful to sleep, as it prevents babies from reaching Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is important for babies to:
- Develop memory
- Experience cognitive development
- Develop emotional coping skills
When there is too much adrenaline, it is very challenging to put them to bed as their brains go into active overdrive.
Eventually, they may lose sleep and affect their physical health in the long term. It can also lead to a vicious cycle of sleeping less, being overtired again, and then sleeping less the next day.
Throughout your baby’s initial growing-up years, they will face several periods where their sleep patterns change. This is due to their brain and body developing more complex sleep phases which they will carry into adulthood.It is therefore important to know how to help them through these phases and avoid anything that might disrupt their natural sleep patterns.
How Can I Avoid an Overtired Baby?
These tips will help you to encourage your baby to adhere to what their body are feeling, and avoid it going into overdrive.
Avoid overstimulation close to bedtime
Avoid active physical playtime after the sun sets, as this will produce adrenaline which may cause their bodies to have a harder time settling down. This includes activities where their mind is overstimulated, such as making them laugh out loud with tickling, playing loud music or cartoons and bouncing them up and down.
Instead, it is important to calm them down with soothing actions and activities. Examples of this include swaddling your baby, singing lullabies to them, or gently rocking them.
Have a bedtime ritual
Bedtime rituals help your baby’s mind register that it is time to wind down and go to sleep. These bedtime rituals are a set of actions that promote rest and relaxation.
For example, you could give your baby a warm bath and change them into comfortable pajamas. Additionally, you could swaddle them to provide more security and create a feeling of safety. Other examples include massaging them, changing their diapers, playing soft music or gently reading them a story.
Don’t keep them awake too long between sleep times
Look out for signs that they’re naturally ready for bed. These signs have been listed above in the first part. When you see them, place your baby in their cot or bed, and encourage them to lie down. Avoid engaging them in any further stimulating activities.
Additionally, you should learn your baby’s sleep patterns. According to experts, babies under 4 months should not stay awake for more than 45 to 60 minutes at a time. As they grow older, they might stay up longer. Here’s what baby sleep Singapore experts recommend when it comes to staying awake:
- 0–4 months: less than 45–60 minutes
- 4–6 months: 1 to 2 hours
- 6–12 months: 2 to 3 hours
- 12–18 months: 3 to 4 hours
- 18 months–2 years: 4 to 6 hours
Keep a consistent bedtime
Sleep hygiene is important at any age, especially for babies. One key characteristic of good sleep hygiene is a consistent bedtime. This means sticking to a narrow range of time when they should fall asleep and wake up.
Once bedtime comes around, you should try your best to carry out your bedtime ritual with your baby and then lay them down to rest, even if you’re traveling or outside your home. A consistent bedtime is important for their bodies to develop an internal clock which will help regulate their sleep patterns.
Don’t push them to wake up to drink
If your child is struggling with rather messy sleep patterns, it’s important to allow them adequate rest. This means not waking them up unnecessarily to drink. They will wake up if they are hungry. Having them develop their own sleep patterns may be challenging and time consuming. However, with patience, it will regulate itself eventually.
If you push your baby to wake up to drink, this can also cause them to be overtired and this will kick start another cycle of wakefulness.
What to Do if My Baby is Still Overtired?
Overtired babies need extra help in falling asleep. They may need you to soothe them and provide security. It is important to ensure that your baby isn’t exhausted. If they are, it is very difficult for them to develop a healthy sleep pattern.
There may come a time when you need to hire a baby sleep consultant to assist you. A baby sleep specialist in Singapore, like the one from Sleepy Bubba will be able to provide you the guidance and assurance you need as a parent. An overtired baby is worrying, but it is definitely something that can be overcome.