Overtired-ness is one of the most common causes of problematic sleep behaviors, but sometimes the signs are not always easy to spot. If you are finding yourself dreading another bedtime, waking with the sun more often than not, or crossing your fingers that today is the day your little one will nap; your child is overtired.
When children become overtired, their bodies begin producing cortisol, a hormone designed to keep the body awake. Once this happens, sleep is not going to come easy because their body is fighting hard to keep them awake. The longer this goes on the more tired your child becomes and it can quickly become exhausting for parents as well.
Here are 5 common signs to look for in overtired children:
1. Frequent early morning wake-ups (any time before 6am)
2. Multiple wakings through the night
3. Naps are less than 1 hour
4. Extra energy or easily upset at bedtime
5. Taking longer than 15 minutes to fall asleep
So, what can you do to help?
1. Early Bedtime.
When children become too tired, they become more energetic, often referred to as "the second wind". The best way for overtired kids to catch up on sleep is to temporarily move bedtime earlier. This could be as early as 5:30pm or 6:00pm! Your goal is to catch them before they enter the energetic zone (before the body produces cortisol), so they have an easier time falling asleep AND staying asleep throughout the night. Do this for a few days, until they have caught up on some sleep. The more sleep your child gets, the more sleep they will want!
2. Set a morning “okay to wake” time and Stick to it.
Does your child's wake time seem to creeping earlier and earlier? This is because our body's sleep clock is set by exposure to light. Whether it be natural light or from a bulb, when we wake up in the mornings we are immediately exposed to light. This triggers the brain to begin producing cortisol to wake up for the day. The earlier you get your little one out of bed, that is the time the body will adjust to waking every morning. Normal wake up times for little ones is generally between 6:00am – 7:00am. Set a time that works for your family and do not get them out of bed any earlier than that time. Treat any waking before this time as a night waking. The more consistent you are the easier and more quickly your little one will adjust to sleeping until their set “okay to wake” time.
3. Be consistent and have patience.
Breaking current sleep habits takes time. Consistent routines and schedules bring children a sense of control and security. Your child will learn quickly when you are very clear with expectations. Be patient & stay consistent.
If you are feeling the burnout of a seemingly endless cycle of sleepless nights, I would love to connect with you. Sometimes a little extra support can go a long way and that’s exactly why I am here! Contact me to schedule a call so we can get your family back to feeling well rested.