Overtired Babies – How To Get Them To Sleep And Break The Overtired Cycle

Posted by Tara Mitchell on

When it comes to breaking an overtired baby sleep cycle, the first thing that needs to be done is to look at your little one’s sleep habits and understand the primary reason that they are overtired.

In this article we are going to look at typical behaviours and scenarios that cause a baby to lose their normal sleep routine and that can lead to an overtired baby who is extremely hard to settle.


  1. The cause of an overtired baby
  2. Are baby awake times the cause?
  3. What to do when your baby has a nap during the day and you can’t get them to sleep


My recommendation is to first look for the cause of the over-tiredness. For example, is it continuous cat napping? Too much awake time? Frequent night waking?

If your little one is experiencing frequent night waking or troublesome cat napping, we need to address sleep habits even when they are overtired. This is important. Some people are waiting for the perfect day before they will address changing their babies sleep habits.

Instead, starting to make changes as to how your baby associate sleep straight away – even if they’re tired is a better option, and one I recommend. When little ones have ended up in overtired sleep cycles, the solution is not to continuously encourage that vicious cycle by getting them to sleep with you again (or to use any other sleep prop), it’s making a change to your baby’s sleep patterns and habits around sleeping so they are able to have deeper, better quality, and greater amount of sleep.


If your little one is constantly fighting sleep, it isn’t always because of the wrong awake time. Many parents I’ve worked with have tried every awake time possible (even adjusting one or two minutes either side!)

If your little one is fighting sleep and you feel it’s because they’re always overtired, one of the more common reasons is that your baby using periods in their awake time to get zoned-out or drowsy, or have five minutes of downtime on feeds. It may seem inconsequential however, this little rest gives your bub a second wind, and is therefore a very common reason why they will then fight sleep.

If this is the case for you try keeping your baby with an awake time that is recommended for their age, and pair this with careful observation of your little one leading up to bedtime. Don’t put your little one down to bed early based off early tired signs – these can sometimes be deceiving. You’re sometimes better off sticking to around about the general awake time for their age and then making sure they’re not losing sleep pressure in the lead up to bed. See if that helps the settle.


If your little one has a failed nap (or had a short five-minute nap) and they are really irritable and grossly overtired, you can consider doing a reset. What this means is, if you can, get bub to sleep even if it’s in your arms, in a dark room, with some white noise on – however you need to. Try and preserve that sleep however you can, and then reset after that with the usual awake times etc. Remember that sometimes just a car, carrier or pram nap is okay, rather than trying to get them into bed if that just isn’t happening in this instance. These types of naps are a good way to reset bub and then try again on the next sleep without overtiredness being such an over-riding factor.

Babies who are overtired are overstimulated. Being in their face, rattling toys, and passing them around etc. will only exacerbate this sense of overwhelm for them.


Overtired babies who are not in a regular sleep routine is something that is very common with parents who come to our team for help.  It is exhausting for parents and baby alike, and not a pleasant way for families to be experiencing life on a daily basis. Luckily it is something that is quite straight forward to address for most families. The methods that have been discussed above are some of the more common causes for an overtired babe, however, each bay and family is unique.

If you have read this article and are still struggling with baby sleep and overtired babies, my team at The Gentle Sleep Specialist is available to help with a range of services to suit. Please check out The Baby Sleep Program for the online baby sleep consulting program which has helped thousands of families or, head to my packages page to review how you can work with our team on a one to one basis. We work with clients from all over the world and would love to help you too.

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